Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SE Asians may get new long-term visas Indian visas

In an attempt to boost tourism numbers to India, the home ministry is considering introducing new visas for Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) nationals that would allow them to stay in India for 5-10 years.

According to the Economic Times, regions such as Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei would be able to apply for multiple entry long-term Indian visas lasting 5-10 years. 

Further, the ministry is considering new Indian visas for selected 18 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, France and Japan, which would allow visa approvals on arrival.

The ministry is trying to boost the tourism industry, particularly after it took a massive knock from the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"The home ministry does not have any major disagreement over allowing long-term visas to ASEAN countries.  It is, however, apprehensive on granting visa-on-arrival due to security concerns," an official from the home ministry said.

A decision regarding the visa-on-arrival for 18 countries has been pending for some time now; however, ministry has approved a pilot visa agreement with a few countries offering reciprocity.

"Extraordinary situation requires extraordinary solution.  The foreign tourist arrival has already started falling and the trend needs to be checked," the official added.


The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in India visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, Worldwide Visa Bureau.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why Al Qaeda isn't gaining a foothold in Cambodia

The post-Khmer Rouge nation is a portrait of tolerance for Muslims, but the US worries that this could change.

In this village, and others like it throughout Cambodia, Muslims and non-Muslims live side by side in harmony, their existences unmarred by the toxic cocktail of government repression, separatist ambitions, and growing radicalism characteristic of many neighboring countries.

"I've been living with Muslim neighbors since I was young," says resident Ouk Ros. "When there's a marriage, we join together in the party."

Still, as money and influence from the Persian Gulf pours into Cambodia, many fear that pockets of the 400,000 strong Muslim community could fall into the orbit of a less-tolerant form of Islam.

"There are some organizations here from the Middle East that are very radical and that are very intolerant, and they are trying very hard to change the attitude and the atmosphere of the Muslim population here," the outgoing US Ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli warned in August.

A unique confluence of modern history, geography, and government initiative have combined to foster tolerance in Cambodia, many observers here say.

In Thailand and the Philippines, Muslim communities are concentrated in separate – and often disadvantaged – territories, which are byproducts of ancient kingdoms to which Muslims once belonged. Separatists in Thailand's south have been fighting for greater autonomy since 2004 and in the Mindanao area of the Philippines since the 1970s.

But Cambodia's Muslims, sometimes referred to as Chams – a reference to an ancient empire of warriors, the Kingdom of Champa – have always lived dispersed throughout the country.

"We don't have any separate lands, and we don't want any separate lands," says Osman Ysa, the author of two books on Cambodia's Cham population. "We consider this country as our own."

To date, Muslims here have also eschewed radical politics, although not without exception. In 2003, authorities arrested a Cambodian citizen, as well as an Egyptian and two Thai nationals, all suspected of ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al-Qaeda affiliate based in South Asia.

Cambodia's unique and dark modern history helps explain why the dominant form of Islam remains both peaceful and accommodating, Muslim leaders say. When the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, they outlawed religion and set about decimating the Muslim population. By 1979, when the Khmer Rouge fell, about 500,000 Muslims had been killed – nearly 70 percent – according to one of Mr. Ysa's studies.

As a result, the violence of Al Qaeda today reminds Muslim leaders of the Khmer Rouge of yesterday.

"When Cambodia was controlled by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge look liked Al Qaeda," says Sley Ry, the director of religious education at the Cambodian Islamic center, Cambodia's largest Islamic school, located near Phnom Penh.

"We've already suffered a lot.... We are very disappointed by Al Qaeda because God tells: 'Don't kill people,' " adds Yousuf Bin Abetalip, an elder of Choy Changua, a village just outside of Phnom Penh, where about 300 Muslim families live.

Buddhism is the state religion in this country of 14 million, but the country's constitution enshrines freedom of worship. Unlike in China, where the Communist government has been accused of limiting the freedom of Muslims to worship, the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has built large mosques and provided free radio airtime for Muslim programming.

Beyond such overtures, Muslims enjoy real political power. About a dozen serve in top political offices. Mr. Sen even has his own advisor on Muslim affairs.

But there are fears that Cambodia's moderate form of Islam could be contested. In recent months, ties between Cambodia and the Persian Gulf have grown as the Gulf States look to Cambodia as a potential buyer of oil and supplier of food. In September, the government of Kuwait pledged $546 million in soft loans, while Qatar pledged $200 million. Kuwait has also earmarked $5 million to refurbish a mosque in Phnom Penh.

There are fears that the money could open the door to private individuals and foundations who seek to influence the Muslim community here. Whether founded or not, in January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened its first office in Cambodia, citing the potential for terrorism.

"Cambodia is an important country to us for the potential of persons transiting Cambodia – using Cambodia as a spot for utilizing terrorism," FBI director Robert Mueller said, inaugurating the new office.

In September, the prime minister announced a new law to more tightly control nongovernmental organizations. Sen's reasoning: "Terrorists might come to the Royal Government of Cambodia and hide themselves under the banners of nongovernment organizations."

Some critics contend the law is not aimed at terrorists, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that routinely criticize Sen's administration.

"It's not only to control the terrorists groups, but also to control NGOs in general," says Thun Saray, the director of Adhoc, a human rights organization based in Phnom Penh.

As concern over terrorism grows, Muslims here, including Mr. Abetalip, say they will be the first to prevent it. "If there's any Cambodian people who want to follow Al Qaeda, we will straight away arrest them and bring them to the government."

RELATED STORIES

Sunday, December 28, 2008

CAMBODIA 7 January 2009 Khmer Rouge regime overthrown 30 years ago

On 7 Jan 1979, invading Vietnamese troops seized Phnom Penh and sent the Khmer Rouge fleeing to remote jungles. Thirty years on, the country is still wrestling with its Khmer Rouge legacy while being courted by economic superpowers, such as India and China, for its oil potential and trade possibilities.

The Khmer Rouge forced the population out of cities as it tried to establish an agrarian state, killing an estimated 1.7 million people through starvation, disease or execution. Its leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 without being brought to trial. In 2008 five aging former Khmer Rouge leaders are in prison awaiting trial before an unusual hybrid tribunal, administered jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government. The approach of the 30th anniversary could be the needed prompt for the trial to begin.

Cambodia recently granted China the permission to develop offshore oilfields in exchange for a US $600 million credit for bridges near the capital Phnom Penh. For India, Cambodia serves as an important element of its “Look East Policy.”

An International Herald Tribune story notes that two-thirds of Cambodia's 12 million citizens were born after the Pol Pot era, so most young Cambodians know little or nothing about the horrors their parents and grandparents experienced. The IHT said that in a 79-page textbook on Cambodian history published for ninth-graders by the Ministry of Education in 2000, the Khmer Rouge era rates two sentences. It has been excised from a later edition.

The overthrow began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. Nonetheless, UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government. Jun/08

ARTICLE SUPPLIED BY CORRESPONDENT C.BALAJI, WHO IS AVAILABLE FOR FREELANCE ASSIGNMENTS IN INDIA AND THE REGION. email: mohan balaji
RELATED READING:

Khmer Rouge victims given a voice in Cambodia trials (IHT 16 Jun 2008)
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/16/asia/cambo.php

Chronicle of Choice ( PBS Frontline Oct 2002)
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/cambodia/tl03.html

1979: Vietnam forces Khmer Rouge retreat (BBC)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/8/newsid_2506000/2506533.stm


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Indian investor plans to open pharmaceutical plant in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua): An Indian investment group has tabled a plan at the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce to recruit private partners to build a new pharmaceutics manufacturing plant in the kingdom, national media said on Friday.

The investors prepared to devote some 1 million U.S. dollars to the new facility in a push to help curb counterfeit drugs in Cambodia, said English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

"They are interested in this sector because they don't want to see Cambodia rely on imported drugs," said Nguon Ming Tech, the group's local representative.

Yim Yann, president of the Pharmacists Association of Cambodia (PAC), said that "a new pharmaceutical factory will bring new technology to Cambodia and will be able to take advantage of local resources."

"Thousands of pharmacies in the country offer imported medicine, much of which is counterfeit," he added.

Cambodia has about 1,000 registered pharmacies, with an additional 1,000 pharmacies operating illegally, according to PAC.

'Airport Club' now open in Sihanoukville!

By Casper | December 26, 2008

Finally, the ‘Airport’ has opened in Sihanoukville. Sadly, it’s not the Sihanoukville International Airport, it’s the new ‘Airport Club’ on Victory Beach.

Run by the son of the owner of the Snake House Bar, Restaurant and Bungalows, the new Aiport had it’s grand opening on Christmas Eve 2008. To be honest, despite having over 100 people there at the time we arrived, it didn’t look ‘busy’, certainly nowhere near it’s capacity. A reasonable mix of people where there though, including probably 30% ‘well to do’ Khmers, most of the French Contingent from Victory Hill and smatterings of Bar Owners and resident expats. What the place didn’t have though, is much of a visitation by the backpackers that are currently filling the town.

One possible reason for this could be that they, like me, thought the bar prices were going to be a ‘rip’. The weren’t. Draft Angkor and Anchor is available for 1 dollar, even RedBull which is normally 1.50 at many Ochheutel beach bars, is only 1 dollar.

Obviously, by the name, you’d imagine the place to carry an Aviation theme, and since the centerpiece of the whole place is a full size passenger aircraft! I have to say, the place is extremely well done and very impressive on your first visit. Yes, some touches are a little too much, like the ‘business class’ VIP areas on the upper levels, the sliced up BMW’s hanging from the walls etc, but it would be wrong to criticise the place on these details. Like I said, it’s impressive, very impressive.

I honestly don’t know what the future is going to hold for the place, it’s opening night was pretty lacklustre, unless it was just a ’soft opening’ as it wasn’t particularly well advertised, more by word of mouth. But we’ll see how things turn out, personally though, i’m not sure if the target customers are here in enough numbers at the moment, and with the global downturn, they may not be for sometime.

Cambodia's crackdown on Poipet touts


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Written by May Kunmakara   
FRIDAY, 26 DECEMBER 2008

Tourism Ministry issues new guidelines for tour operators
ProntPage.jpg
Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Poipet Deputy Tourist Police Chief Prum Chandy says after recent complaints, his department has targeted tourist harassment. 

CAMBODIA'S Tourism Ministry this week reached an agreement it hopes will end aggressive tactics by private tour operators at the Poipet border checkpoint that have tarnished the Kingdom's image and led to complaints by tourists.

Problems first arose in late November after political unrest in Bangkok led to the closure of Thailand's two principal airports, increasing the number of tourists passing through the Poipet checkpoint by more than 11 percent, said Chhung Lim, director of the Tourism Bureau in Banteay Meanchey.

The increase in border traffic led to rival tour operators fighting for business, which escalated earlier this month with tourists being shouted at, having their luggage snatched from them and being forced into vehicles by five competing tour companies, border officials told local media at the time.  

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the new agreement would require private tour companies to operate on a fixed schedule that would eliminate unruly competition for clients and provide transparent fares and fixed visa prices in US dollars.

"I have offered them a schedule whereby tour associations work in shifts - one per day - to avoid problems and improve their image among foreign tourists," he said. 

Prum Chandy, deputy chief of the Poipet Tourist Police, said he has seen tourist security and services increase dramatically in his three years of service, and complaints from tourists overall have decreased nearly 95 percent.

The frequency of the once daily complaints of pickpockets, visa and money changing scams, as well as hassles from transport companies, have dropped  to an average of less than one per month, he claimed.

But Prum Chandy said the increase of tourists in late November posed a threat to safety and order at  the crossing, so his department has been working with immigration police to get rid of pickpockets and the forceful tactics of private tourism companies.

"We completely cracked down 100 percent," he said. "This doesn't happen anymore."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

36 Hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia


The New York Times
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December 28, 2008


AS captivating as the temples of Angkor may be, Cambodia’s scorching sun, gritty air and pot-holed roads inevitably take their toll on even the hardiest travelers. Perhaps it’s by necessity, then, that Siem Reap, the town that lodges and feeds Angkor’s million annual visitors, has evolved into a chic haven of rest and relaxation. An international group of chefs has set up the country’s finest tables there, and bartenders in the vibrant night life are versed in sophisticated cocktails. Contemporary art has also found itself a home, with a gallery scene intent on nurturing local artists. It’s as though Siem Reap is finally picking up where the Angkorian kings left off some 600 years ago, resurrecting itself as the center of Khmer taste and culture.

Friday

5 p.m.
1) ANGKOR ART

With Angkor Wat’s inspiring beauty just five miles away, it’s not hard to see why Siem Reap is at the heart of Cambodia’s flourishing art scene. Galleries are popping up in renovated shop houses, and hotels now exhibit the work of young Khmers and regional expats. Art Venues, a free brochure available in upmarket hotels, maps out walking tours to the town’s best spots. McDermott Gallery (FCC Complex, Pokambor Avenue; 855-12-274-274; www.mcdermottgallery.com), known for its emotive, dreamlike photographs of Angkor, takes Asia’s cultural heritage as its curatorial focus. At the Arts Lounge inside the fashionable Hôtel de la Paix (Sivatha Boulevard; 855-63-966-000; www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com), contemporary works fill the minimalist space, where well-heeled guests sip designer cocktails like the Oolong Kiwi Sling, made with tea and vodka.

7 p.m.
2) SWINGING CURRIES

Cambodian cooking doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially compared with the fare of its food-trendy neighbors, Thailand andVietnam. Though the basic ingredients are similar — lemongrass, garlic, ginger, fish sauce — Khmer cooking is subtler and lighter, employing less chili, pungent herbs and coconut milk. For an innovative lesson on local flavors, sample the seven-course Khmer tasting menu ($31) at Méric, a dimly lighted Art Deco-themed restaurant, also at the Hótel de la Paix (note: dollars are widely accepted in Siem Reap). Dishes, which change daily, might include chicken and pumpkin saraman (a type of Khmer curry) and stir-fried frog’s legs with holy basil served in hollowed-out bamboo reeds and miniature woks. To heighten the experience, dine on one of Méric’s hanging cushioned daybeds, which swing alongside a flame-lighted pool.

9 p.m.
3) FLOWER BATH

Prolong the post-dinner buzz with a pre-slumber rubdown at Frangipani Spa (617/615 Hup Guan Street; 855-12-982-062;www.frangipanisiemreap.com). With modern art on the walls and fresh orchids in vases, the spa feels like the plush digs of a fashionable friend’s home. Sink into the low sofa as you sip tamarind juice while your feet are bathed in a frangipani-filled tub, the prep to a glorious 60-minute massage (from $22).

Saturday

5 a.m.
4) VIEW FROM ON HIGH

It might be brutal, but it’s worth getting up this early to experience the famous Buddhist temples of Angkor Archaeological Park (admission, $20), the 155-square-mile area that counts Angkor Wat among its more than 100 temples. Less crowded at this hour is the ninth-century Phnom Bakheng, a five-tiered, rectangular temple built on a hill. The few lotus-shaped towers that remain are testament to the 108 that once stood. You’ll have to work for the view: it’s a 15-minute hike up to the sandstone terrace, which overlooks an endless expanse of jungle and mist-shrouded hills. It’s a mesmerizing spot from which to watch the sun paint the sky in blues and oranges.

11 a.m.
5) MINING FOR HISTORY

It’s on an idyllic country road lined with stilt houses and lush, neon-green rice fields, but the Cambodia Landmine Museum (20 miles northeast of Siem Reap on the road to Banteay Srei; 855-12-598-951; www.cambodialandminemuseum.org) is a jarring reminder of the country’s three decades of war. Established by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier named Aki Ra, the museum provides a detailed account of Cambodia’s political and social upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge insurgency, which ended only 10 years ago. Efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and millions of land mines have been made since the 1990s, yet it’s estimated that fewer than half have been cleared. Mr. Aki Ra has deactivated about 50,000 of them; many are on view.

12:30 p.m.
6) COLONIAL COOKING

Cambodia’s heat and intensity demand long, replenishing lunches. Only a Frenchman could dream up Chez Sophéa (across from Angkor Wat; 855-12-858-003), an open-air restaurant with wooden tables and white linens that serves rillettes de canard, charcoal-grilled steaks and crème de chocolat — all next door to the temples. The owner, Matthieu Ravaux, lives on the premises, so you’re technically eating in his dining room. Set menu for $18.

4 p.m.
7) FAIR-TRADE SHOPPING

After a lunch-induced nap, it’s time to put your dollars to good use at some of Siem Reap’s community-friendly shops. In the center of town, Senteurs d’Angkor (Pithnou Street; 855-63-964-801; www.senteursdangkor.com) sells spices, coffee and bath products, wrapped in palm-leaf packages. For flirty frocks and custom-made quilts, try Samatoa (Pithnou Street; 855-63-96-53-10;www.samatoa.com), a fair-trade label that specializes in silk. The hand-painted cards and cute canvas bags at Rajana (Pub Street; 855-12-481-894; www.rajanacrafts.org) are produced by Cambodians down on their luck.

7 p.m.
8) COMMUNIST KITCHEN

There’s no need to reserve a table at Restaurant Pyongyang (4 Airport Road; 855-63-760-260) — it seats over 400. Besides, it would be anti-Communist. Every evening, between servings of fantastic bulgogi ($8.70) and bibimbap ($6), pretty North Korean waitresses in short red dresses put on elaborate song and dance routines. Though the tile floors and faux-wood paneling aren’t exactly impressive, the cultural pageantry is. With a karaoke screen displaying waterfalls and snow-capped mountains, the girls perform peppy propaganda tunes to a compliant and clapping audience.

10 p.m.
9) RED LANTERN DISTRICT

With a name like Pub Street, you won’t have any trouble finding Siem Reap’s prime night-life drag. But if beer girls, big-screen TVs and $3 pitchers aren’t your style, head a block north to Miss Wong (the Lane; 855-92-428-332) for a taste of vintage Shanghai. The cherry-red lantern that dangles from the doorway beckons passers-by. Inside, slip into one of the intimate leather booths for an Indochine Martini, a mixture of vodka, ginger cognac and fresh pineapple juice ($4.50). For dance beats and late-night snacks, take the party two blocks to trendy Linga Bar (the Passage; 855-12-246-912; www.lingabar.com), a mixed, gay-friendly lounge with killer mojitos.

Sunday

7:30 a.m.
10) BARGAIN BREAKFAST

Early morning is social hour for Khmers, with men filling outdoor cafes to sip iced coffee and women gathering at local markets to shop and eat breakfast. At Psar Chaa, or Old Market, the butchers and produce sellers will be in full force, peddling dried fish, fruit stacked in neat pyramids, and freshly pounded kroeung (an herbal paste used in many dishes). Pull up a plastic stool at one of the food counters and order a bowl of baay sac chruuk — superthin pieces of grilled pork served with white rice and a tangy cucumber and ginger salad (about 5,000 riel, $1.27, at 4,029 riel to the dollar).

11 a.m.
11) SLEEPING BEAUTY

Until a few years ago, tough road conditions meant that only the bravest travelers ventured to Beng Mealea (45 miles from Siem Reap on the road to Koh Ker), a sprawling sandstone temple that has been nearly consumed by the jungle. But a new route replaced the single-plank bridges and motorbike-only track, cutting the travel time from a half-day to just under an hour by car. Built in the 12th century, this forgotten sanctuary is nearly as big as Angkor Wat but gets a fraction of the visitors. The destruction is breathtaking: towers reduced to tall mounds of rubble, thick webs of tree roots snaking through the walls, and faceless carvings, their heads cut out and sold. Still, the place has seen worse: until 2003, the surrounding grounds were littered with land mines. Now it’s ripe for a fresh start.

THE BASICS

Flights to Siem Reap from the United States require a plane change. A recent online search found an Asiana Airlines flight fromKennedy Airport to Siem Reap, via Seoul, starting at $1,200 for travel in January. From Siem Reap Airport, it’s a $5 taxi ride into town.

The Khmer-chic rooms at La Résidence d’Angkor (River Road; 855-63-963-390; www.residencedangkor.com) have hardwood floors, silk and bamboo accents and giant whirlpool tubs. Rooms start at $175.

With its minimalist aesthetic, neutral palette and saltwater pool, the seven-room Viroth’s Hotel (0658 Wat Bo Village; 855-63-761-720;www.viroth-hotel.com) provides a welcome respite from temple overload. Rooms from $80.

Cambodia: Buying a private piece of paradise


International Herald Tribune
By Alex Frew McMillan
Thursday, December 25, 2008

No man is an island. But plenty of people fancy the idea of owning one.

It may seem that Asia would be a magnet for "islomaniacs." Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with 17,000 islands. The Philippines has about 7,100 or so, depending on the tides. Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam all have extensive coastlines.

But real estate laws do not make it easy for foreigners to own property in Southeast Asia, and most islands either do not have clear ownership rights or are already settled. Also, the few places that do come on the market can have prohibitive costs, thanks to demand from hotel developers.

Given all those difficulties, several new developments are selling villas on private islands that are adjacent to high-end hotels. Owners can have their island retreat without having to absorb the total cost of keeping it habitable.

Aman Resorts is selling villas that start at $3 million on a private island in the Philippines. Owners have unfettered access to the resort's facilities and can live at their property, use it as a holiday home or include it in the company's rental pool.

Similarly, Soneva Kiri, a resort run by Six Senses on the Thai island of Koh Kood, is selling villas starting at $4.5 million. There also is a private island for sale nearby at $38 million.

And the Jumeirah Private Island project in Phuket, Thailand, is selling private residential villas and estates next to a resort, with prices starting at $3.2 million.

The developers of all these projects say it is too early to tell how the global real estate slump and credit crisis will affect sales - or whether persistent political problems in Thailand will take a special toll on that country's projects.

There are options for buyers with smaller budgets, like The Village at Coconut Island, a private island just off Phuket, with prices starting around $610,000. Also, a startup called Barefoot Investments is beginning its first project on a private island in the Philippines, the Cacao Pearl in Palawan, with homes starting at $210,000.

"There's a wide selection of interest for private islands that would support a development that's a hop skip and a jump from a five-star resort," said David Simister, chairman of CB Richard Ellis for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. "It's the ideal balance."

Marlon Brando's experiences in the South Pacific while shooting the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" inspired him to buy Tetiaroa, an atoll surrounded by 13 smaller islands, which he owned until his death in 2004.

In recent years, Dick Bailey, an American hotelier based in Tahiti, has been trying to develop a luxury hotel, The Brando, at Tetiaroa. But the controversial project has faced legal wrangling over Brando's will and wishes for the atoll as well as delays.

Brando had many ideas for his sanctuary, but few came to fruition - a common problem for island owners. Getting enough potable water is a significant problem. So is access, if the island is remote. And owners have to import all their household goods and building materials.

"If the island is too small, just a palm tree and a beach, you can't do anything with that because there is no water," said Charlotte Filleul, general manager of resort property for CB Richard Ellis in Thailand. "It has to be a certain size, and once it is a certain size it is impractical. It is not easy to make it work."

But, with enough money, there are ways to get around the problems.

Six Senses is offering the Thai island of Koh Raet, with a 10-bedroom villa and full management services, for $38 million. It says the spot, opposite Koh Kood and the Soneva Kiri resort, has drawn interest from potential buyers in the Middle East, Taiwan and Russia, but no one has committed.

"There are only so many private islands you can buy, and this one is fully managed and serviced by Soneva," said Adam Taugwalder, the sales and marketing director for the company's residences division.

As required by Thai law, it would be sold on a 30-year lease, with two extensions of the same duration; the company promising additional extensions, if possible.

Six Senses made its name with its flagship resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili. The expansion into private property is something of a gamble for the company, but the founders - the chief executive, Sonu Shivdasani, and his wife and creative director, Eva Shivdasani - say they started their hotels so they could have their own house at Soneva Fushi. Now, they are offering such access to others.

The TGR Group is developing a similar project with Jumeirah Private Island, which the owners had originally planned for their own use.

"It grew from the idea that it would be fantastic to have a private island in this region," said Anthony Franklin, a TGR partner and its marketing director. "And then once you start to work on the logistics, you realize you need service."

TGR is a syndicate of European investors that started looking at Thai property, particularly Koh Samui, after the 2004 tsunami. They took on a local partner in Dilokpol Sundaravej, the former Thailand manager of Bovis Lend Lease and nephew of Samak Sundaravej, who stepped down as Thai prime minister in September.

The partners decided Phuket had the international schools and amenities they required, and, with undeveloped beachfront in very short supply there, they decided to expand to nearby islands. But few are suitable, and most are controlled by the Thai Navy.

Jumeirah Private Island sits in Phang Nga Bay, just northeast of Phuket and near its international airport. TGR drilled a tunnel under the seabed to put in fiber-optic cables, electricity and water pipes, to turn the island - also called Koh Raet - into a developable site. It also dredged the marina, put in roads and hired the Jumeirah Group, best known for running the sail-shaped Dubai hotel Burj Al Arab, to operate the resort, which is due to open in 2010.

The project has three types of private property for sale: 15 estates that start at $6 million, 34 large residences and several smaller, two-bedroom villas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Angkor, Cambodia-A world wonder

Angkor, Cambodia












Angkor, in northwestern Cambodia, is the site where Khmer kings established their capitals from the ninth to the twelfth century. Angkor was a highly developed civilization, as demonstrated by its temples, sculpture and bas-reliefs, as well as its elaborate irrigation system. Today, Angkor is an extensive archaeological site covering more than 400-square kilometers. More than 100 temples can be seen there. However, civil houses, including palaces, which were built with wood, no longer exist. Up to the twelfth century, kings were Hindu. At the end of this century, a Buddhist king built a number of temple complexes.

The archaeological site includes many treasures, the most beautiful of which is the Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, constructed during the first half of twelfth century. The last capital was Angkor Thom, a city of nine-square kilometers, in the middle of which was built the Bayon, around 1200. It underwent important changes until the end of the century. At this time, Angkor kings were the masters of the most important empire in Southeast Asia.

The power of the Khmer kings gradually decreased, and after the middle of fifteenth century, Angkor was just the center of a small kingdom until the end of sixteenth century.

Threats to the archaeological site of Angkor include looting, vandalism and natural forces. In 1860, French explorer Henri Mouhot encountered Angkor and drew the attention of the western world to the site. Soon after, there were several expeditions which occasionally removed sculptures from Angkor and other sites in Cambodia, and brought them back to Paris, along with many mouldings shown presently in Musée Guimet. From 1908 to 1970, the Conservation d'Angkor protected Angkor. During the genocide and years after, Angkor was inaccessible and the site suffered from neglect.

Cambodia's Inmates Call for Fair Play

Cambodia's 10,892 prisoners held in 24 prisons have to turn to family or NGOs when mistreated in prison, while the government makes no serious promise toward change. Human Rights workers stress that even convicts should not be deprived of their human rights.

PHNOM PENH - There is only one visit a week from a local NGO to Prey Sar's Correctional Centre 2, and Pov Chanthy, a 38-year-old female inmate with a 2-year-old daughter, always welcomes it enthusiastically.
As one of the 50 female prisoners in one room, with mats rolled up so that everyone can move during the day, Chanthy confronts poor prison living conditions with an overcrowded cell, starchy food with no nutritional value, and a notoriously corrupt system in the prison.
“I don't eat enough and things here are three times more expensive than outside, so only those with money live without worries,” she says.
The 38-year-old was sentenced to 20 years for allegedly dealing drugs. She has spent the last two years behind bars and already wishes she had never gotten near where drugs were being raided.
“My life is so difficult here--I want to cry every day,” Chanthy, pale, says in the prison.
Such a story is typical among Cambodian inmates who are provided two meals per day worth 1,500 Riel (38 cents), including soap and other living necessities.
The Ministry of Interior has allocated the Prison Department 1,500 Riel (38 cents) per prisoner per day since 2006, yet it is obvious that “this small amount can barely cover the inmate's meals and it is the prisoner who ultimately suffers,” says the recent report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, Licadho.
“We have proposed to the government that they improve the prison system by increasing the food budget for prisoners,” says Svay Thy. “But the government and the prison department only say they will do something.”
The government's low income tax and lax rule in practical justice to prisoners are real obstacles for prison system reformation, stresses Svay Thy.
But Licadho is also apprehensive about another obvious issue. One fifth of all the inmates in Cambodia, that is 2,793 prisoners, are still remanded, spending several years waiting for being sentenced, which has prompted rights groups to be concerned with justice in the country.
Lack of Key Standards
Every day, they are allowed less break time to go outside their cell in order to stretch their arms and legs, explains Svay Thy, prison supervisor of Licadho.
With a doubling up in cell occupancy in old prison buildings, each inmate is allowed little space to sleep and there have always been complaints about lack of nutrition, water, and break time outside the cells, according to Licadho.
“Even though prisoners have been sentenced to jail, they still have the right to live decently. Only their freedom is confined to one place according to basic human rights,” explains Svay Thy.
“Besides what the human rights universal declaration states, the prison regulations and the country's constitution state that whoever you are and wherever you are from, your basic human rights still remain and can't be deprived.”
This prison activist continues saying that compared to others countries Cambodian prisons still lack some important elements regarding the accommodation, break-time outside the cell, and vocational training for prisoners.
The rate of torture and physical and sexual assault is declining, however he warns that prisoners' rights will be more violated if the prison conditions deteriorate.
Already, the lack of food and other facilities such as water and medical care in prisons cause prisoners to depend on their better-off relatives to visit them once a week, so that the family can bring in supplies.
In contrast, poor prisoners who account for 80 percent of the population in prisons, have to live on what the state provides. With food and fuel prices rising, many get fewer visits from their families.
Like other poor inmates, Chanthy gets one visit from her disabled husband every two or three months.
“It would be unfair to turn to my husband when he can hardly support himself,” says Chanthy. Widespread Corruption
While corruption may be frowned upon, it is often a saving grace for prisoners who can afford to buy the food that they need to survive from the guards, observers from Licadho say. Bribing prison guards is common practice among visitors for the prisoners' survival, a Licadho report released in January 2007 points out.
Mong Kim Heng, the director of Prey Sar Correction Centre 1,25 km north of Phnom Penh, plays down the accusations of bribery, instead saying that “to give a little money to prison guards is a normal and generous offer from visitors.”
But, the acknowledgment of “little gifts” by this official is in contradiction to the reports of visitors who were refused entry into some prisons in late October this year unless they paid between 25 to 50 dollars in exchange for visitation rights.
Prison not home
Most of the prisons are in a deteriorating state, with dilapidated buildings and do not provide any vocational training. Only three prisons which were turned into national “model” correctional centres, have agri-industrial programs and job training.
“Prisons located in Phnom Penh receive more attention than prisons in the provinces, where the provincial prisons are largely ignored. Inmates' cells in the provinces are close together, which causes fear of physical abuse to the weak, especially to women and children,” Svay Thy says.
Prisoners in the model correctional centres have opportunities and more privileges than others with access to agri-industrial programs, so they have a chance to leave their cells for some exercise and fresh air, Svay Thy says.
“Staying in all the time can cause exhaustion and depression.” But the government officials point out and accept the hard conditions of the Cambodian inmates and say prisoners are treated the same everywhere.
“We see all the problems here in the prison, but if the prison is like home, it's not a prison at all,” says Mong Kim Heng, director at Correction Centre 1.
“Normally, no luxury of good food or rooms can be found in a prison.”
Chab Si Neang, director of Correctional Centre 2, agrees with Mong Kim Heng. “
I admit that the cells are very narrow and the 1,500 Riel-meals can't provide sufficient nutrition but this is because Cambodia has been tightening its laws and we are discussing the problems,” says Chab Si Neang, claiming that more people have to cram into a tiny cell as a punishment for the crime they committed.