Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cambodian PM and 3 ministers treated for swine flu

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and three other Cabinet ministers have contracted swine flu and the premier is recovering after several days of medical care, the health ministry said.

Hun Sen, 59, required "urgent treatment" after Friday's weekly Cabinet meeting, the Public Health Ministry said in a brief statement released late Tuesday.

"After receiving treatment from medical specialists, the health of Prime Minister Hun Sen is back to normal," the statement said.

The prime minister publicly mentioned last week he had come down with fever and flu-like symptoms, and he was absent from the 59th anniversary of his ruling Cambodian People's Party on Monday.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen has canceled some of his schedule because of his health," said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

He said Hun Sen was still receiving medical attention, but gave no details.

The statement also said that Yim Chhay Ly, one of several deputy prime ministers, and two other Cabinet-level ministers -- Chhay Than and Tao Senghour -- had caught the H1N1 virus. It did not give details about their condition.

At least six Cambodians have died from swine flu and at least 600 have contracted it since the virus was first detected in the country last June.

Hun Sen has been at the center of the country's politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power

Friday, June 25, 2010

Japan provides Cambodia $131 million for Mekong bridge

PHNOM PENH, June 25 (Reuters) – Japan signed an agreement to provide a $131 million grant to Cambodia to build what will be the longest bridge across the Mekong River and a major link in a regional transport network.

Construction of the bridge over the Mekong, at the town of Neak Leoung, southeast of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, is expected to begin soon and should be completed by 2015.

''It's to contribute to the transfer of people and goods for Cambodia and all the Mekong region,'' Japan's ambassador to Cambodia, Masafumi Kuroki, told reporters at the signing ceremony.

Cambodia is still rebuilding its infrastructure, with the help of foreign aid donors, after decades of war and turmoil that ended in the 1990s.

Travellers now have to use a ferry to cross the river at Neak Leoung, a major bottleneck on the main road between Phnom Penh and Vietnam.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the bridge would facilitate the transport of goods and people between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China.

''This bridge is very important, not only for Cambodia, but also for all countries in the Mekong region,'' the minister said.

Japan took the lead at an aid donors conference this month when Cambodia was promised a total of $1.1 billion in aid for 2010, more than the government had been expecting, to support a goal of 6 percent economic growth for the year.

Southeast Asia dolphins near extinction

A rare breed of dolphins in Southeast Asia is on the brink of extinction, according to a conservation group.

An Irrawaddy Dolphin

The Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are oceanic dolphins located in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. In a 2009 report released by conservation group, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there are an estimated 64 to 76 dolphins remaining in Cambodia’s Mekong River. The river runs over 100 miles through parts of Cambodia. It is also considered one of the major rivers worldwide.

Pollution, inbreeding and accidentally net deaths are cited as reasons for the decline of dolphins along the Mekong River.

“With such a high and unsustainable mortality rate, and marginal recruitment due to the large proportion of calves dying, the Mekong Population is likely to be the most critically threatened population of freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. With this population in serious decline, they face extinction in the near future, if immediate conservation action is not taken,” the study reported.

“These threats may all be additive or synergistic in their complex relationship to each other, making the overall conservation solutions very difficult. Integrating these health issues as one component of conservation, into policy development, will be crucial to the overall success of this project, to reverse the population decline and save the Mekong River dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) from extinction.”

Monks hanging out by the Mekong River in Cambodia

However, the Cambodian government disagrees with the WWF’s 2009 report. Touch Seang Tana, the chairman of Cambodia’s Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-tourism, strongly opposes the WWF’s findings. “It’s big trouble — they (the WWF) should resign. They should leave Cambodia,” Tana told AFP.

“They published this without consulting me, and I’m the authority here.”

In 1995, the Cambodian, Vietnam, Lao and Thailand governments created the Mekong River Commission to manage and conserve the river and its resources, such as the Mekong Dolphin.

“The Mekong Dolphin is an icon of the region, symbolizing the vitality and spirit of the Mekong River, but unfortunately it is now only found in a few areas of the river and is considered an endangered species,” reported the commission.

Map of Mekong River

In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the dolphins as critically endangered species in the region.

According to Nicole Frisina, communications manager for WWF Greater Mekong Programme, the 2010 Mekong River dolphin report will be released soon. “There is no new information as yet, the team is currently conducting a population survey of the dolphins in Cambodia with results due to come out around August this year,” Frisina told Newsdesk.

Lemery Reyes/Newsdesk

Touch Seang Tana, AP


Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris)

International Union for Conservation of Nature

Mekong Dolphins on the Brink of Extinction

World Wildlife, 6/18/2009


The Mekong River Commission, December 2006

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cambodia's honey collectors sign sales contract to promote market development

12:50, June 23, 2010

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Honey collectors from four provinces in Cambodia signed an agreement with the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) in order to bring more to market, local media reported on Wednesday.

CEDAC President Yang saing Koma said that under the agreement bee-hunting communities would supply 4,000 litres of pure forest honey per year for sale in 10 shops across Phnom Penh.

"We hope that, through this agreement, CEDAC and forest honey hunter communities will benefit from both increasing their income and preserving natural resources for each community," Yang Saing Koma was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Pich Phony, president of the Cambodian Honey Hunter Community, which represents about 300 members in Mondulkiri, Koh Kong, Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces, said that honey would be sold to CEDAC for 9.70 U.S. dollars per litre.

He added that the honey hunter communities in the four provinces are able to collect from 5,000 to 8,000 litres of honey in total per year at present.

According to the figure, only 10 percent of the 500,000 litres of honey demanded domestically each year is currently supplied by Cambodia's collectors.

It is hoped the deal will also help strengthen community conservation of hives and natural forest resources.

"Previously, we collected honey by cutting tree branches and then taking the whole nest, but we no longer do so now," Pich Phont was quoted as saying, adding that "We collect only the honey, and we leave the nest and young bees there so that they will produce honey again."

CEDAC hopes to buy honey from collectors in three more provinces if the scheme goes well.

Calif. man in attempted Cambodian coup gets prison

(AP) –

LOS ANGELES — A California accountant was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday in Los Angeles for orchestrating a failed attempt to overthrow the Cambodian government in 2000.

Yasith Chhun, 53, of Long Beach, was found guilty in 2008 of three counts of conspiracy and one count of engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.

Chhun, a naturalized U.S. citizen who fled Cambodia as a refugee in 1982, grew frustrated with the lack of free elections under what he viewed as the oppressive regime of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former member of the Khmer Rouge under dictator Pol Pot, said Chhun's attorney, Richard Callahan.

"He saw Hun Sen as on an even par with Pol Pot," Callahan said.

Chhun also wanted to avenge the death of his father, who was beheaded by Khmer Rouge soldiers as Chhun looked on.

Chhun was found guilty after a two-week trial, during which prosecutors said he had planned "Operation Volcano" to Sen's government.

"We're here because a jury found that the defendant deliberately tried to kill other human beings," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lamar Baker.

Chhun headed a group known as the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, which accused Sen of being a dictator and helping rig elections so he could stay in power.

Prosecutors said Chhun had planned the operation for two years and had traveled to the region to assemble a rebel force. He raised money by holding fundraisers at the Queen Mary, which is permanently docked in Long Beach.

Prosecutors also believe Chhun was behind a February 1999 bombing of a bar in Cambodia that injured several people.

"Operation Volcano" was launched on Thanksgiving 2000 at the direction of Chhun, who was across the border in Thailand.

About 200 rebel troops showed up to fight, and they were quickly subdued after attacking various government buildings in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

In a rambling statement before his sentencing, Chhun told the judge that he started his movement as a nonviolent protester.

"The result is, nothing happened," Chhun said, adding that his approach changed as he saw Sen's troops "kill more people."

Callahan said the prosecution of Chhun was politically motivated because the U.S., which at the time was expanding its war on terror, was seeking international cooperation from countries in Southeast Asia.

"He was a sacrificial lamb to make sure everything went well in Southeast Asia," Callahan said. "Otherwise, the story doesn't make sense."

Callahan said he planned to appeal.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cambodian building materials plant opens

CAMBODIA — A US$5 million construction materials plant has opened in Cambodia's Sihanoukville Province with Viet Nam as an investor.

The plant is financed by Vinacomin Reththy, a joint venture between the Viet Nam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group, Au Viet Industry Joint Stock Co and Cambodian group Mong Reththy.

The plant will provide 80 million products in the first phase using modern brick-making technology which has little impact on environment.

At the plant's opening last Friday, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Kiet Chun said the project would help foster economic development and job creation in the area.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Le Duong Quang applauded the effort to put the plant into operation ahead of schedule.

Quang, who is also Vinacomin's board chairman, said the project was a sign of growing investment ties between the two countries.

Viet Nam is Cambodia's biggest source of foreign investment at $900 million. — VNS

Monday, June 14, 2010

Enigmas of Khmer History revealed by “Stories in Stone”

After years studying a remote temple hidden on the Thai-Cambodian border, author John Burgess reveals new insights into the ancient mysteries of the Khmer Empire.

Bangkok, Thailand – In 1052 AD, ancient Khmer priests carved a sandstone monolith with an extraordinary royal history at the temple of Sdok Kok Thom. By the 14th century, however, war and political upheaval caused the collapse of the once-might Khmers, and this story was lost to the world for centuries. As a reporter for the Washington Post in 1979, John Burgess was covering the Cambodian refugee crisis when he first entered this obscure temple.

His tenacious pursuit of its historical mystery are now available in his new book, “Stories in Stone - The Sdok Kok Thom Inscription & the Enigma of Khmer History.”

Burgess Stories in Stone 500 Enigmas of Khmer History revealed by Stories in Stone

"Stories in Stone - The Sdok Kok Thom Inscription & the Enigma of Khmer History" - 2010 - Riverbooks

Stories in Stone – The Sdok Kok Thom Inscription

The founding of an empire, the settling of frontier lands, a king’s gifting of gold pitchers and black-eared stallions to a Brahmin priest – these and other remarkable stories come down to us in the Sdok Kok Thom Inscription, one of the world’s most important ancient testaments.

Recovered at a ruined temple in Thailand close to the Cambodian border, the 340-line chronicle unlocks the early history of the Khmer Empire. Yet temple and text have remained little known outside expert circles.

In this full and highly readable account, former Washington Post correspondent John Burgess traces the impact of the great inscription, which was carved onto a sandstone monolith around 1052 AD, abandoned to the wild for centuries, then decoded by French colonialists. He relates the temple’s surprise emergence in 1979 as a haven for Cambodian refugees and resistance fighters during the war in their homeland. Today Sdok Kok Thom is again at peace, its mission of preserving history accomplished.

The detailed book includes photographs of the temple, past and present, Refugee Camp 007 and its refugees and militias; extracts from previously unpublished letters of French savant√Čtienne Aymonier, the inscription’s first translator, written during his months of travels around Cambodia in 1882-1885; a revised English translation of the full inscription by the University of Hawaii linguists Chhany Sak-Humphry and Philip N. Jenner; a glossary of terms; and suggested further readings.

‘While reporting on Cambodians fleeing war and revolution in 1979, John Burgess came across an ancient Khmer temple hidden in the bush… 30 years later he returned to that temple to decipher its history. The result is this lovely book that tells the story of the temple and the larger Angkor Empire leavened with Burgess’ own odyssey to recover that history.’

Elizabeth Becker
Author of When the War was Over

About the Author

John Burgess worked at the Washington Post for 28 years, most recently as Deputy Foreign Editor in charge of Europe, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. John’s career as a journalist began in Southeast Asia and he later served as Tokyo bureau chief for The Post in 1984-87. Since retiring he has been able to devote more time to his passion for historical study, with a month of research in Thailand and Cambodia allowing him to complete his work on the mysteries of Sdok Kok Thom.

John Burgess at Sdok Kok Thom 500 Enigmas of Khmer History revealed by Stories in Stone

John Burgess at Sdok Kok Thom


Available now from Riverbooks in Bangkok

Available for advance order on Amazon in the USA

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