Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tuk tuks, gay bars & chillin' in Cambodia

 via CAAI

Noreen Fagan
Monday, December 27, 2010

The air is heavy with heat and the lingering smells of the day. It is nearly midnight when my partner and I walk down the dusty road, hopping on and off the pavement to avoid open sewers, discarded food and parked tuk-tuks. As we get to the end of the street we hear the unmistakable thumping of techno music, the trademark of Blue Chili — one of Phnom Penh’s oldest gay bars.

It is the Mr Blue Chilli competition and slender Cambodian men are strutting their stuff down a makeshift catwalk erected in the middle of the street. They swagger, smile and preen to the cheers of people crammed inside the bar while dozens of Cambodian and foreign onlookers on the street peer over the fence to get a good look.

We join the street gawkers, watching the boys, then the drag queens perform before making our way back down the street. It is our second week in the city, and once again we are struck by what a country of anomalies Cambodia is.

In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge, who ruled for three years and eight months, nearly destroyed the country. Pol Pot spearheaded an agrarian revolution that led to families being torn apart and many of Cambodia’s educated being brutally murdered. It is still not known how many people were killed, although estimates range between one and two million, in one of the worst genocides in history.

Tuol Sleng genocide museum - documentation of prisoners.(Noreen Fagan)

After two decades, Cambodia is still trying to get back on its feet and notable improvements are coming rapidly. Foreign aid has poured into the country, the Chinese have built bridges, the Japanese are helping restore infrastructure and international and domestic NGOs are ubiquitous, working on everything from safe water to healthcare.

That’s what makes Cambodia a fascinating country. It is led by the Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), a Communist government that has received some criticism for its weak human rights record. Opposition party followers cannot advance their careers and party members must kowtow to the party’s philosophy. But the sociocultural environment, perhaps because of the Theravada Buddhism practiced by most of the population, is one of tolerance for diversity.

Which brings us back to the gay thing.

Homosexuality is legal. Gay pride has been held annually in Phnom Penh since 2004, and King Sihanouk supports gay marriage, although he holds no executive power and so his opinion is, well, just his opinion. But, on the other hand, discrimination based on sexuality is not prohibited, and in 2007 Hun Sen, the prime minister, made his view publicly known by disowning his adoptive lesbian daughter.

But gay tourism is up and coming.

In Siem Reap, the base for visiting Angkor Wat, gay bars with the gayest of bartenders can be found on the main drag in between the sports bars and the Khmer restaurants. The town is becoming an international queer tourist destination and boasts a number of gay-owned guesthouses and an active nightlife.

South entrance to Angkor Thom.(Noreen Fagan)

The countryside around Siem Reap is home to the oldest Buddhist temples in the world. The temples in Angkor Wat date back centuries to the Angkorian period from AD 802 to 1432. At its height the city of temples boasted a population of more than one million people. Visiting the temples is awe inspiring and somewhat humbling. The only drawback of the temples is that they are popular, and it is not unusual for busloads to descend en masse. Yet the area is very large, and without too much effort it is usually possible to find yourself alone contemplating this fascinating civilization.

Stepping back from the temples and the gay bars there is another tempting side of Cambodia — the spas. They are ubiquitous and cheap. On every street manicures and pedicures are offered, from $3 USD upwards, and massages — from head to full body — are offered at a variety of prices, with the average massage at around $10 an hour.

Our favourite spa, the Daughters of Cambodia, is a national (albeit faith-based) NGO that helps women sold into the sex trade find alternative means of living.

The sexual exploitation of children and young men and women in Cambodia has escalated over the last decade, and sex trafficking is a major problem. Cambodia is both a destination and transit country, bordering Thailand and Vietnam, for sex traffickers and sexual tourists.

In 2008, the government passed a law called the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, in an effort to crack down on the trade. The crackdown has extended to the tourism industry, where in fact, many hotels explicitly state that they do not welcome sex travellers.

At Daughters of Cambodia, the girls run a café, where they are trained by visiting chefs; they produce clothing and small goods for the store and run a spa, which is a treat after spending the day traipsing around the city.

Getting to Cambodia is expensive, but once you are there the dollar goes a long way, and it is possible to spend a luxurious couple of weeks exploring the country. It is rare to find a country in the Southern Hemisphere where queer life is accepted. To find it flourishing, well that is just a turn-on.

Tuk Tuk - the only way to travel.(Noreen Fagan)

Reporter's Picks.

Phnom Penh:
Tuol Sleng Museum: Visiting the Tuol Sleng museum is a harsh reminder of the Pol Pot era. The old school was turned into a concentration camp where Cambodians were systematically tortured and murdered. It is now a genocide museum where the photos of victims line the walls of the old classrooms — one of the eerie remnants of the Khmer Rouge is their obsession with documentation — and hundred of skulls are piled in a heap, a sad reminder of violent times.

Grasshopper Adventures: Take a tour of the Mekong Islands on a bike. You don’t need coffee to wake you up, as the day starts with a quick cycle through the streets of Phnom Penh: best to keep Zen as there are no obvious traffic regulations.

The Blue Chilli: A fun place to be, but one of many funky bars across town with great happy hours.

Siem Reap:
Temple-hopping: We hired Mr Kim, our tuk-tuk driver, for the time we were there to take us to the different temples. The first day we started off at 4:30am to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat and came back to the hotel at 2pm.
Linga Bar: Hip gay bar with sexy gay men behind the bar serving divine cocktails.

Where to stay:
Cambodia is full of inexpensive places to stay — from guesthouses to hip boutique hotels. In Phnom Penh we stayed at the Blue Lime Hotel (around the corner from the Blue Chilli bar). In Siem Reap we stayed at the La Noira Hotel.

Getting from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap:
Options are endless — boat, bus, plane, taxi or bike. We took a boat to Siem Reap, which cost US$35 for a six-hour journey. On the way back to Phnom Penh we took the bus back for US$10.

Getting to Phnom Penh:
There are no direct flights to Phnom Penh from Canada. We flew Air Canada from Vancouver to Seoul then by Korean Air to Cambodia. On the way back the route took us through Beijing where we caught a direct flight to Toronto.

Vietnam, Cambodia enhance cooperation in legislature

via CAAI


Vietnam and Cambodia wish to promote cooperation legislatures to fulfill their tasks.

This was stressed by Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam National Assembly Nguyen Duc Kien and Vice President of the Cambodian National Assembly Nguol Nhel during their talks in Phnom Penh on December 27.

They informed each other of their respective parliaments’ operations in 2010 and expressed their desire to enhance and strengthen the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

They said more efforts should be made by the two governments to complete land border demarcation and landmark planting by late 2012 and build a sustainable peaceful borderline between the two countries.

After the talks, the Vietnam National Assembly’s decision to ratify a project on information technology infrastructure worth VND23 billion (over US$1 million) was handed over to the Cambodian National Assembly’s Secretariat.

The project, which will be carried out in 2011, is expected to equip the Cambodian parliament with an electronic information system linking the NA to provincial NA deputy delegations nationwide.

The Vietnamese legislature presented its Cambodian counterpart with a security scanner and an electricity generator.

During his stay in Cambodia from Dec. 26-29, NA Deputy Chairman Kien paid a courtesy visit to NA President Heng Samrin and Vice President of the Senate Tep Ngorn and met with the Phnom Penh authorities.

Kien and his entourage are scheduled to visit several localities to meet with parliamentarians and inquire into Cambodia’s economic development.

Cambodia's legislature passes ASEAN transport service agreements

via CAAI

Monday, December 27, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 27, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- The Cambodian National Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted the draft law of the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of air freight services and the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of passenger air services.

Nin Saphon, chairwoman of the commission on public works and construction of the National Assembly, said during the debate that the two agreements were to create air freight and passenger services freely, transparently and competitively with high effectiveness among ASEAN countries.

"The agreements will accelerate open sky arrangements and advance liberalization in air transport services, especially air freight services and air passenger services," she said.

"The two agreements will help Cambodia to attract more tourists and investment through air transport services from countries in the region and in the world," she said. "It will also build more confidence from foreign airline companies, especially airlines in ASEAN."

Mao Havanal, secretary of state of the secretariat of civil aviation, said during the debate that the agreements were committed to deepen and broaden the internal economic integration and linkages with the world economy to realize an ASEAN Economic Community.

"The agreements are to remove restrictions, on a gradual basis, so as to achieve greater flexibility and capacity in the operation of air freight services and air passenger services in ASEAN with a view to building a single unified aviation market of ASEAN by 2015, " he said.

The two agreements were signed on May 20, 2009 in Manila, the Philippines by the heads of the civil aviation of the 10 ASEAN countries.

ASEAN countries consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(Source: Quotemedia)

Aid Dependence May Hurt Successes in HIV, AIDS

via CAAI

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Dec 28 , 2010 (IPS) - Thanks to a healthy cocktail of foreign aid and a pragmatic condom policy, one of South-east Asia’s poorest countries is well on course to meeting an international target aimed at reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

But even as Cambodia’s basks in praises for its achievement – completing one of the eight U.N. backed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 – it is facing a steady trickle of troubling questions about a possible reversal of the kingdom’s success.

Cambodia’s continued dependence on foreign donor assistance is not the best prescription for sustaining the country’s "remarkable history in driving down HIV infections", warns a new report, co-authored by Cambodian public health experts, released in December.

"Future success is not guaranteed and the government needs to focus increasingly on wise prevention tactics and assume more of the financing of its AIDS programme," reveals the statement accompanying the Dec. 21 report, ‘The Long-Run Costs and Financing of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia’.

The Cambodian government’s initial response to the report has been conciliatory. "We welcome this in-depth and forward-looking report for our country," says Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng. "Cambodia has a long history of fighting HIV/AIDS head-on, with effective prevention strategies."

The report, which has the backing of the Results for Development Institute (R4D), a Washington DC-based think tank, argues that a gradual increase in a funding role by the Cambodian government would help prevent a worse-case scenario of the virus infecting four times more people in 2031 than has been anticipated.

In a best case scenario, with proper funding, Cambodia could reduce infections to 1,000 people a year in 2031, reveals the report, but warns that if the country’s AIDS efforts "stall and current coverage of key services declines, especially in carefully targeted prevention, the number of infections could climb to 3,800 a year in 2031."

Cash-strapped Cambodia’s recognition as a success story can be seen in its two-decade achievement since HIV/AIDS was first reported in 1991. By 2000, this country, struggling to rise from nearly 20 years of civil war and the impact of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, was reporting 15,000 new HIV cases a year.

In 2000, when world leaders announced the eight time-bound development targets, the MDGs, at a U.N. summit in New York, the prevalence rate among adults in Cambodia was close to two percent. Yet by 2009, it had dropped to 0.7 percent.

Besides the call to roll back the spread of HIV in the developing world, the MDGs also targeted countries like Cambodia, where a third of its nearly 15 million population live below the poverty line, to slash the number of the poor, ensure universal primary education and reduce child mortality.

Cambodia’s achievements have been built around a highly publicised 100 percent condom use campaign for sex workers since 1997. Consequently, HIV rates among sex workers have gone from over a 40 percent prevalence rate in 1996 to 14 percent by 2006, according to a national survey.

At the same time, the country has taken strides to provide life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for people living with HIV. Currently, 40,000 people with HIV are on the anti-AIDS drug therapy, a number that accounts for over 85 percent of those who need ARVs. A decade ago, only 71 people were on this once costly treatment.

"The issue here is a question of long-term sustainability and predictability," says Tony Lisle, Cambodia country coordinator for the Joint U.N. Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS). "In the medium and short term, the Cambodian government can’t be expected to meet overall costs."

"We need cost-effective, high-impact, low-cost interventions that avert new infections," Lisle said in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh. "Donors need to ensure that as donor resources decline, the government share of resources increases as Cambodia’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) increases."

According to Lisle, Cambodia will need 500 million U.S. dollars for its HIV/AIDS programme between 2011 and 2015. "The government already has 263 million dollars in the pipeline."

International donors fund close to 90 percent of the country’s HIV programme, whose resources have ballooned from 21 million dollars in 2001 to nearly 52 million dollars by 2008.

Such assistance, including substantial grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has been a lifeline in helping Cambodia develop since the 1991 peace accords in the country. In June, international donors pledged 1.1 billion dollars in aid for 2010, up from the 950 million dollars in 2009.

To avoid a second wave of HIV infections, more funds should go toward the populations with the most risky behaviour, ranging from sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and injecting drug users, says Ly Pisey, a member of Social Action for Change, a women’s activist group based in Phnom Penh.

But she cautions against the emphasis international donors put on targeting only a select slice of Cambodian women at risk of HIV and AIDS. "This policy has seen discrimination, since it has just focused on brothel-based sex workers, while sexually transmitted infections and HIV are issues of everyone, including clients and housewives," Ly said in an interview.

Likewise, the Cambodian government’s continued dependence on international aid for a substantial number of its development programmes reveals that Phnom Penh is far from ready to shoulder more funding for HIV programmes, she added. "Without political will, this will never be possible, where Cambodia could walk or run on its own."

Vietnam, Cambodia to open more border gates

via CAAI

December, 28 2010

CAN THO - Viet Nam and Cambodia will open three new international border gates early next year to fulfil an agreement on road transportation between the two countries.

They will be in Le Thanh (Gia Lai Province, Viet Nam) - Oyadav (Andong Pich-Rattanakiri, Cambodia), Hoa Lu (Binh Phuoc) - Trapeang Sre (Snoul-Kratie), and Bu Prang (Dak Nong) - O Raing (Mundulkiri).

The plan was agreed upon at an annual conference between the leaders of Viet Nam's Directorate for Roads and Cambodia's General Department of Transport yesterday in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

With this development, there will be a total of seven international border gates linking the two countries, a target set by a bilateral Agreement on Road Transport signed in 1998.

At the conference, officials also signed an agreement to double the number of vehicles allowed to travel through the two countries' common border gates from 150 to 300 to boost bilateral trade and tourism.

They also agreed to expand the types of non-commercial vehicles allowed to travel through the border gates, and a plan to co-operate on route management projects.

A total of 32 transportation enterprises and units with 150 vehicles currently operate on Viet Nam-Cambodia routes. Of the 150 vehicles, 60 run the four major routes from Viet Nam's provinces of Tra Vinh, An Giang, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia. VNS

Cambodia Cruising Tours, Cruises in Cambodia, Cambodia cruises


via CAAI

Cruising from Phnom Penh – Kôh Chen - Oudong - Visiting villages on the banks of river - Kampong Tralach – Kampong Chnang - Chnok Trou – over Tonle Sap Lake - Siem Reap

Day 1 - Phnom Penh – Kôh Chen / Oudong

Day 2 – Kampong Tralach – Kampong Chnang

Day 3 – Chnok Trou – Siem Reap

Day 1: Phnom Penh – Kôh Chen / Oudong (L, D)
12:00 Toum Tiou II is open for embarking. We will have some instruction for security on board. Our Lunch will be served lunch on boat on the way to Kôh Chen (Chinese Island).

15:00 Arrival to Kôh Chen, We will visit this small village of whose inhabitants specialize in silver and copper smiting. They make ornamental items, including delicately engraved tropical fruits, used in traditional ceremonies at the pagoda or for marriages.

Then we will explore the distant hills of Cambodia's old capital, Oudong, and its royal stupas can be seen a few kilometers away from the ferry. At the top of the hill, the ruins of Anthareu temple.

18:00 We will re-embark the Toum Tiou II. And we will leave Kôh Chen for Kampong Tralach. Then our cruise will drop anchor close to village.

19:30 We will enjoy our welcome drink and info meeting about cruise, crew introduction. After that we will have our welcome dinner. Tonight we will stay overnight on boat.

Day 2: Kampong Tralach – Kampong Chnang (B, L, D)
07:30 Our breakfast will be served during navigation, we then departure for Kampong Tralach to visit its wonderful Vihara belonging to Wat Kampong Tralach Leu pagoda. To get to it, we cross Kampong Tralach Krom village along a small road perpendicular to the river, crossing some gorgeous stretches of emerald rice paddy as we leave the river behind.

The Vihara dates back to early last century. It was probably built on an older site, as indicated by the latérite foundations, and is home to some outstanding mural paintings. These, however, are starting to suffer from weathering. They remain one of the last survivors of cultural destruction that continues unabated due to widespread indifference.

Standing by itself in the middle of rice fields, it is a modest pagoda that receives very few visitors. Its isolation may well be its undoing, as was the case for Wat Tani Pagoda in the province of Kampot.

10:30 We will re-embark the Toum Tiou II. And our Lunch on boat on the way to Kampong Chnang.

14:30 Arrival at Kampong Chnang. We will visit the village and its environment. Located some 90 kilometers from Phnom Penh, the town of Kampong Chnang is one of the largest fishing ports on the Tonlé Sap. Fish farming is also widely practiced in the area. The area is famous for its pottery ware, unchanged in style for centuries, which is produced in sufficient quantities to supply the entire country. And not to be overlooked are the products of the Thnot tree (sugar palm – a real national symbol) that abounds in the area: a mellow tasting, caramel-colored sugar sold in large cakes and palm wine.

18:00 we will re-embark the boat, Toum Tiou II leaves Kanpong Chnang, the going on the direction the Tonle Sap Lake. Toum Tiou II will drop anchor for overnight at the entrance of the Grand Lake Tonle Sap.
19:00 We will have dinner and overnight on boat.

Day 3: Chnok Trou – Siem Reap (B, L)
07:00 Our breakfast will be served during navigation.
08:00 We will transfer to local boats to visit Chnoc Tru
Low water (January – June) program
For visiting Chnoc Tru

Almost totally overlooked by tourists because of its remoteness and difficult access, the village is completely self-sufficient. A floating school, factories to make ice for fish preservation, church, pagoda, service stations, pigsty, stores, boat or television repair shops, video club, karaoke bar, police station... everything is on the water. All trades are represented and everybody from children to grandparents goes by boat through the network of canals that cross this little town.
0:30 we are back to the Toum Tiou II and have our lunch on boat.

13:30 We will departure with charter speedboat for our passengers to cross the Tonle Sap Lake.
* Towards the end of March, it is impossible to visit Floating village.

17:30 We will arrive to Phnom Krom, pier of Siem Reap, and then we will transfer to city.

18:00 Arrival to FCC Hotel, the final destination point of our trip.

* Note: At the end of the low water period, (around late March to June) the water level may not allow anymore speedboats to cross the lake. In this case, passengers will be transferred by our convenience from/to Siem Reap by land or river way. (5-6 hours).

* Including Services:
- Full board accommodation, including meals, coffee, tea & drinking water
- French or English speaking guide
- Visits mentions in the programs
- Entrance fees and permits
- Transportation from departure port to arrival port

* Excluding Services:
- Personal travel insurance
- Tours and Meals other than those mentioned in the programs
- Transfer from/to airport and hotel
- Personal expenses
- Tips and gratuities

To obtain our special quotes for this tour, please go ahead to email us at sales@dnqtravel.com  or visit at http://www.dnqtravel.com/Cambodiatours/49/507/Cambodia_C ...  then send us an enquiry. To find more our cruising tours in Cambodia, please take a look at http://www.dnqtravel.com/Cambodiatours/49/Cambodia_Cruis  ...

Preah Vihear group spurns relocation

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

OVER 250 families living near Preah Vihear temple say they will ignore an eviction deadline set for next week, claiming a proposed relocation site is strewn with landmines.

In an announcement dated Sunday and written by Sok Hay, governor of Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, 253 families in Kantuot commune’s Svay Chrum village were ordered to vacate their homes within seven days.

The families have been promised 50 by 100 metre plots in nearby Thamacheat Samdech Techo Village, or Samdech Techo Nature Village. The village has taken in hundreds of other families who have been moved to make way for development at Preah Vihear temple, which was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

“This place has no road and it is full of mines,” Svay Chrum resident Sao Yath said. “We are very disappointed that they are trying to confiscate our land and force us to settle in a new place.”

Svay Chrum village sits roughly 12 kilometres from the temple. Sok Hay’s letter said that if the villagers do not leave voluntarily by next week’s deadline, they will be removed by local authorities and the government will not be liable for any property lost.

Kim Sophy, 38, another Svay Chrum resident, said that in addition to concerns about the relocation site, villagers were suspicious of the local officials who had ordered the move.

“We will continue to stay here unless Prime Minister Hun Sen announces publicly that we must leave,” she said.

Hang Soth, secretary general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said the villagers were being needlessly obstinate.

“Why don’t they believe the government’s letter? It is an official letter,” he said.

“There is no need to write about these people because they are living apart from civilisation,” he advised a reporter.

Toll decreases: Lightning deaths down on 2009

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

Toll decreases

THE number of people killed by lightning strikes this year fell by 26 compared to last year, largely thanks to education campaigns instructing people to remain indoors, keep away from trees and unplug electrical items during thunderstorms, an official said yesterday.

Keo Vy, chief of cabinet at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said 114 people were killed by lightning strikes during rainy season storms this year. A further 58 people were injured, 65 head of cattle were killed and three houses were destroyed, he said.

“The number of deaths is lower than last year, when 140 people died, 59 were injured, and 38 cattle were killed,” he said. “We keep on educating and explaining to the people about how to avoid the lightning.”

Identity theft: Teacher to face counts over fraud

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Identity theft

A HIGH school teacher in Phnom Penh was charged on Sunday with embezzling thousands of dollars from two people by impersonating the brother of Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, said Sok Roeun, deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Men Thareth, 40, is accused of lying to the two victims and promising them prominent government positions in exchange for considerable bribes. Three other accomplices have also been charged with the crime but have yet to be apprehended.

“I have charged Men Thareth and his three accomplices with cheating people out of money by using the name of this high-ranking government official. He has now been sent to prison and is awaiting trial,” Sok Roeun said.

Yin San, chief of police in Prampi Makara district, said Men Thareth was arrested after his victims reported that they paid US$2,000 to secure government jobs.

When contacted yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An said she had no idea who the man was, since she had no brother. “I only have three sisters and I am the eldest in my family,” she said. “I would like to appeal to the court to strongly punish this man and those who have used my name, as well as my family’s name, for financial gain.”

National search on to identify woman

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

SVAY Rieng provincial police have launched a nationwide search to find the identity of a woman whose beaten body was discovered in a shallow pond in Svay Rieng’s Bavet town on Friday.

Mao Phin Phirum, the police chief of Bavet commune, said yesterday that officials had estimated that the woman, thought to be in her 20s, had been dead for about 10 days before her body was discovered swollen and unrecognisable.

“The dead woman was packaged in a sack and thrown into the pond,” he said, adding that the sack had been weighed down with a stone.

He said nothing that could help identify the woman had been found with her body and that police had widened their search after learning that no one had reported any family members missing from Bavet town.

“We suspected that the deceased was killed at another area and the suspects took her dead to throw her in the pond in our area,” he said.

He said police would also search for the woman’s killer, but had not identified any suspects so far.

Man held over rapes of wife’s daughter

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Sen David

BATTAMBANG provincial court yesterday charged a man with raping his stepdaughter dozens of times over a more than 10-year period, police said.

Ros Saravuthy, 40, was charged of raping his stepdaughter more than 30 times between the ages of six and 16, said Koy Heang, director of the province’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau. The alleged victim is now 19.

According to a police report read out in court, the suspect, a tour guide who lives in Battambang’s Banan district, began abusing his wife’s daughter in 1997. It added that the girl had become pregnant at one point and had an abortion.

“The victim and her mother didn’t dare report the crime until now because the suspect threatened to kill them,” Koy Heang said. He said the mother was also initially afraid no one would support her family if she reported the crime.

The victim got married and had a daughter with her husband, but her stepfather continued to harass her by calling her for sex, said Buth Sambo, police chief of Banan district.

“The victim said her stepfather destroyed her life,” Buth Sambo said.

Kroch Chanpov, a provincial investigator in charge of women’s issues for rights group Adhoc, said rights groups had helped persuaded the victim and her mother to file a complaint.

In an unrelated case in Battambang, the mother of a 7-year-old girl on Saturday accused three boys under the age 11 of raping her daughter while playing behind her house.

Police said there was no proof that a rape had occured and suggested the mother reconcile with the boys’ families.

Police Blotter: 28 Dec 2010

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Phak Seangly

Man kills brother-in-law with samurai sword
A 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his brother-in-law with a samurai sword in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town. Police said the suspect concealed the sword beneath his jacket and caught a moto-taxi to the home of the 39-year-old victim on Monday morning after receiving a distressed telephone call from his sister, who claimed her husband was destroying the house in a drunken rage and threatening to beat her. The suspect allegedly confessed to police that he had killed his brother-in-law by “chopping him several times in the body”. The suspect claimed the victim was often drunk and violent toward his wife, police said. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Wedding party disturbed by axe and rake attack
A 31-year-old man sustained serious head injuries when three youths attacked him with an axe and rakes during a wedding in Pursat province’s Kandieng district on Wednesday. Police said the three suspects were drunk and that the attack on the victim and two other guests appeared to have been unprovoked. Police arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the assault and are searching for two other suspects. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Thieves make off with US$79,000 in robbery
Police are searching for four men accused of raiding the home of a money changer and jewellery seller in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Friday afternoon. Police said the suspects escaped on two motorbikes after robbing the residents of the house of about US$79,000 worth of jewellery and cash at gunpoint. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Teen arrested after violent motorbike theft
An 18-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the violent robbery of a motorbike from a moto-taxi driver in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town on Saturday. Police said three men had asked the driver, also 18, to take them to a quiet place where they strangled him before taking off with his motorbike. The arrested suspect allegedly confessed to his involvement in the crime, and police are searching for the other two suspects. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Son learns of forced marriage, hangs himself
A 23-year-old man was found dead in a rented room in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Sunday. Police said the man had been drinking heavily with friends on Saturday evening after learning that his parents intended to force him to get married to a girl from his hometown in Prey Veng province, and had hung himself when he returned to his room later that night. KOH SANTEPHEAP

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via CAAI

WFP employee to challenge conviction

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun and Thomas Miller

A LAWYER representing Seng Kunnaka, a United Nations World Food Programme employee convicted of incitement and jailed for six months, said yesterday his client would appeal against the court’s decision. “We will appeal the conviction to the Appeal Court this week,” Chou Sokheng said. Seng Kunnaka was jailed in a rapid-fire trial on December 18, after he handed out two copies of a web article critical of the government. Jean-Pierre DeMargerie, WFP’s country director, declined to comment yesterday.

Villagers to face court for property damage

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 May Titthara

THREE villagers involved in a land dispute with a firm owned by ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat are expected to appear at Kampong Speu provincial court today, accused of damaging company property. The villagers are part of a group of more than 2,000 families from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune that rights organisations say will be displaced by a 8,343-hectare land concession granted to Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company. More than a dozen Omlaing villagers, who have been locked in the dispute with Phnom Penh Sugar since February, have so far been summoned for questioning by the provincial court in connection with the land spat.

GI drives palm sugar exports

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

CAMBODIA’S palm sugar exporters plan to ramp up exports in 2011 on the back of increased domestic and international demand, after receiving Geographical Indicator status earlier this year.

Sam Saroeun, president of the Cambodian Sugar Association, said Cambodia’s three largest palm sugar exporters plan to increase the amount of sugar purchased in the Kampong Speu area for export.

“This year, the members of our association have sold between 20 and 30 tonnes, but more will be sold in 2011,” he said.

Cambodia contains some 2.5 million sugar producing palm trees, with about 500 people employed in production, according to the association.

The President of Confirel Company, Hay Ly Eang, has said that about one million palm trees are worked, largely by poor Cambodians.

Confirel exported 16 tonnes of palm sugar this year for US$2.50 per kilogram, but plans to export between 30 and 40 tonnes next year.

“Japan alone has ordered 10 tonnes of palm sugar for 2011,” said Confirel general manager Chhorn Ravuth. “This is good news for us.”

The firm claims to have received orders totaling more than 20 tonnes from buyers in Japan, Australia, France and Taiwan for 2011, he said. The firm buys palm sugar from farmers in Kampong Speu for exporting.

Kampong Speu palm sugar was granted geographical indication (GI) status this year, under the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The GI status brands products based on the areas for which they are famous, as in the case of Champagne from France and Cambodia’s Kampot pepper.

The Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture plans to purchase 11 tonnes of palm sugar for export next year, up from seven tonnes shipped abroad in 2010, according to enterprise manager Chhim Sokutheary.

SME’s hit by unofficial fees request changes

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Rann Reuy

CAMBODIA’S Small and Medium Enterprise Association has asked for the government to open bank accounts to receive payments from businesses, intending to cut down on unofficial payments demanded by some officials.

In discussions between the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy and SME representatives late last week, the SME association’s executive director Lun Yeng said officials often asked for extra fees beyond those laid out by government guidelines.

“Generally, and honestly speaking, when officials and businesses meet, they demand money,” he said. “It is not a problem if they do not meet [face to face].”

Opening bank accounts would create a paper trail for payments to MIME, making it easier to trace corruption by government officials, he said.

“We [the association members] already comply with the law, we just want to pay into state-opened accounts to reduce corruption,” he said, adding that corruption was not only a problem among public officials, but also the private sector.

Employees often made unofficial payments without business owners’ knowledge, which were difficult to confirm at present.

Meng Saktheara, director general of the Ministry’s General Department of Industry, said he supported opening bank accounts for SMEs, but cautioned it could take some time for the initiative to become a reality.

Implementing the bank accounts initiative would require discussions with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The banks also often charged fees, and restricted smaller payments, which he said would need to be addressed before accounts could be open.

“A few officials are bad, but lots are good,” he said. “We do not think it is good for officials to ask for money.”

Rajana Handicraft Association administrator Heang Sopheara said she supported the initiative to pay into government accounts, because officials often demand money in private meetings.

“I think the sooner this initiative is implemented, the better. It will make it easier for companies and other enterprises,” she said.

Om Yentieng, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, claimed he was too busy to discuss the issue.

Sek Borisot, director of Pact Media Program – which monitors issues surrounding corruption – said he did not yet have an in-depth understanding of the issue, but added any move that was likely to reduce corruption would be beneficial.

Kingdom borrows for budget

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

THE National Assembly has voted to allow the government to borrow more than 200 million Special Drawing Rights, or US$306 million, from foreign countries to meet budgetary demands, despite opposition concerns about repaying the debt.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit, said the decision to borrow more money was two-pronged: the impact of the global economic crisis and the encroachment of Thai military.

“We decided to allow the government to borrow money from foreign countries because we think that the government needs to spend for national benefit,” he said at a plenary session of the National Assembly yesterday.

However, opposition Sam Rainsy Party senator Son Chhay expressed concern, claiming bilateral borrowing was often inappropriate and future repayment may be difficult.

“We want the government to maximise effectiveness in collecting domestic revenue, and if necessary should avoid borrowing, which we have to pay back in larger amounts,” he said.

He claimed the interest payments could reach as high as $300 million in ten years.

The government requested to borrow 30 million SDR for the 2009 budget and 170 million SDR in 2010, according to a government statement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The SDR is based on a basket of four international currencies, and can be exchanged for freely usable currencies.

Hope for traditional silk farmers

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Above, silk cocoons develop amid mulberry branches. Below left, silkworms feed on mulberry leaves before they weave their cocoons.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

SITTING under her wooden house in Banteay Meanchey province, 73-year-old Phiv Pi patiently unwinds fine threads using wooden spinning tools from silk cocoons raised in her home.

Boiling the cocoons in a pot, Phiv Pi says that her family has traditionally been silk farmers – one of a dwindling number in Cambodia to make their living this way.

“We never make much money from silk, but the money we make from selling it can sometimes help cover extra expenses,” she says in her home at Paoy Snoul village, Paoy Char commune, in the province’s Phnom Srok district.

Only two areas in Cambodia – this and another in Srei Snam district in Siem Reap province – still make golden silk for weaving. They produce just three tons of silk each year, with buyers in Japan, Germany, Greece and Australia.

Most of the raw silk used for textile production is imported from Vietnam, but Cambodia’s golden silk is known for its quality and its traditions date back to the Angkor era.

Silk and textiles have been a focus for life in Paoy Char, about 45 kilometres from Banteay Meanchey, for the past 60 or so years. Mulberry-tree farmer Sou Le, 65, says about 90 percent of village families used to produce silkworms in the 1960s, but that number has decreased markedly.

“Even in Khmer Rouge times, people still produced silk here,” he says. Last year, however, the price of golden silk dropped to 120,000 riel (US$29) per kilogramme, forcing more farmers to switch to growing rice.

But now the price has rebounded to 200,000 riel (US$50) per kilogramme, and Sou Le hopes for a good year ahead. It’s a steady income, he says, because silkworms mature into cocoons every six weeks, so the cocoons can be harvested for silk eight times a year.

Patience and hard work are needed for the job, he says.

First, villagers have to select silk cocoons by shaking them to find out whether the worm inside is male or female. Heavier cocoons are normally female.

Sou Le’s village keeps about 400 cocoons for breeding thousands of silkworms, which lay eggs and take about 10 days to mature into a worm. These are fed on mulberry leaves, cut into small pieces.

“When we raise silkworms, we never put any chemical poisons or smoke next to them. We have to protect them with mosquito nets. When the worms turn golden, we make piles of branches for them to ascend to make their cocoons,” Sou Le says.

To get silk thread, farmers boil the cocoons and untangle the threads with their traditional wooden tools. Each cocoon can produce about 700 to 800 metres of silk.

“Silk is not so easy to make. When cocoons get moist from the rain, it’s hard to untangle the threads, so we always raise silkworms in a good dry place that’s not too hot or too cool,” says Sou Le.

Paoy Char commune chief Peng Bunthara, 50, says that about 50 out of 2,000 families in his commune are still making silk.

Photo by: Roth Meas
Silk farmer Phiv Pi boils silk cocoons before extracting the threads.

Additional help has been given by the European Union, which founded Economic and Social Relaunch of the Northwest Provinces in Cambodia. This group has trained 478 silk farmers in new techniques. They have introduced a new species of mulberry tree to the area which has larger leaves, enabling farmers to feed more silkworms, and brought new tools to help unwind the silk threads and weave them into cloth.

Several demonstration farms are also being set up across Cambodia to improve silkworm techniques by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. If the industry develops further, it will create jobs for about 25,000 people and save around $10 million annually in silk import costs, the FAO estimates.

Golden silk is sold at the Khmer Silk Village Communities shop at 26 Street 55, Phnom Penh.

Holding out

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Uong Ratana

Lim Mov, 65, a resident of Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak II commune, walks past a house marked for demolition yesterday. Yesterday, 18 affected families rejected a compensation offer of US$1,235 cash and a 5-metre by 12-metre replacement land plot in Dangkor district. Residents are asking for $1,000 per square metre in compensation for their homes, which are to be razed to make way for an access road to the adjacent Boeung Kak lakeside development.

Catch of the day

Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:01 Pha Lina

Leap Daling, a young resident of Kandal province, uses a bamboo basket to catch fish in a pond in Kandal Stung district of his home province.

Mobile banking: WING signs agreement with AMK

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

Mobile banking

WING mobile banking provider has launched a pilot program which will see branches of AMK micro-finance institution also operating as WING outlets, according to AMK CEO Pete Power.

“Ultimately we want to offer a much wider array of services [with WING],” he said yesterday, adding further steps would be subject to approval from the National Bank of Cambodia.

AMK claims a loan portfolio topping US$30 million, while ANZ Bank-owned WING was the first company to offer mobile phone banking in Cambodia.

Mobile phone banking can reach more of the Kingdom’s unbanked population, while reducing some costs such as opening new branches, said Pete Power.

“Hopefully we can avoid the bricks and mortar investment that had to be made in the past.” he said.

Two new companies given licence to fly in Cambodia

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodia Angkor Air could face two competitors on domestic routes in the new year.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA will licence two more aviation companies to fly passengers on domestic routes, according to Mao Havannall, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation authority.

Speaking at a plenary session at the National Assembly yesterday, he said the two firms – Tonle Sap Company and Indochina Company – would be cleared to fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

“We are preparing the procedures for both private firms, and hope they will begin operating early next year,” he said.

The two companies are set to receive their licences in the next few days, he said, adding that the firms were to partner with companies based overseas, and fly medium-sized planes such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

The Civil Aviation authority has not yet released a flight schedule for the two firms.

Currently, Cambodia Angkor Air is the only firm that operates a regularly scheduled passenger service on domestic routes in the Kingdom.

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Yim Sovann said he welcomed more flights, as it would encourage competition in the domestic aviation sector.

Increased competition will result in cheaper tickers for passengers, he said.

“We support more flights in the nation because we think that it will be more competitive and provide more benefit to the Cambodian people,” he said.

Mao Havannall said that licensing the two new companies was due to speculation that the number of international tourists will continue to increase.

Cambodia has signed a number of agreements with foreign nations to operate direct flights to the Kingdom, aiming to increase the number of visitors from overseas, he said.

On Friday, the National Assembly approved two multilateral agreements with ASEAN, and eight protocols on air transportation and shipping, to contribute to the goal of a common ASEAN flight market in 2015.

Axiata sells Thai stake

Photo by: Will Baxter
An employee of Axiata Group’s Cambodian mobile service provider Hello works at the company’s service centre in Phnom Penh yesterday. Axiata has sold its stake in Thai mobile multimedia and I&T company Samart Corp to focus on its ‘primary business’.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 11:35 Jeremy Mullins

Axiata Group Berhard – the owner of domestic mobile provider Hello – has sold its 18.9 percent stake in Samart Corporation Public Company to existing shareholders.

Originally acquired in 1997, the stake fetched US$34.8 million from Samart shareholders late last week. It was sold as part of Axiata’s plan to better focus on its “primary business”, according to company officials.

“This divestment reinforces our commitment to focus on our primary business of mobile communications,” Axiata president and CEO Dato’ Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim said in a press release.

In Cambodia, Thailand-based Samart operates Cambodia Air Traffic Services and Kampot Power Plant Co, as well as regional mobile multimedia and ICT-related business, according to its website.

Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation entered into a 22-year exclusive agreement with Samart to develop and operate the domestic civil air traffic control and navigation system in January 2001.

Axiata, which is Malaysia’s second-biggest mobile phone operator, will retain its 24.4 percent stake in Samart subsidiary Samart i-Mobile.

Samart officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Axiata shares rose to a two-week high in Kuala Lumpur trading after announcing the Samart sale.

The shares added 0.4 percent to 4.72 ringgit, the highest close since December 14.

Assembly Approves Loans to Correct for Overspending

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Monday, 27 December 2010

via CAAI

Photo: Taing Sarada
The move was passed by a vote of 80 lawmakers of 102 present, in a session to recorrect the national budget for the last two years.

“Cambodia needed more money to equip Cambodian soldiers to defend national sovereignty and territory.”

The National Assembly on Monday approved the borrowing of foreign loans worth more than $300 million, after the government spent beyond its budgets for 2009 and 2010.

The move was passed by a vote of 80 lawmakers of 102 present, in a session to recorrect the national budget for the last two years.

Loans will be taken from the foreign community to refill the coffers for $46.8 million and $265 million for 2009 and 2010, respectively, according to a request from the administration to the Assembly.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the Assembly Monday the government has a clear policy for concessionary loans for investment in infrastructure and to promote economic growth.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and head of the National Assembly’s finance committee, said the loans would make up for deficiencies in revenue stemming from the 2008 economic crisis and from overspending from the military standoff at Preah Vihear temple.

“Cambodia needed more money to equip Cambodian soldiers to defend national sovereignty and territory,” he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman and lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Cambodia must be careful with foreign loans.

“If we depend on the loan holder who looks at hour natural resources, land, oil and mining resources, and come to violate Cambodia’s rights, and destroys our environment, we must absolutely avoid the loan,” he said.

Opposition members did not support this loan initiative because it was not clearly allocated, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote in a statement to the Assembly the amount of these loans “will not bring Cambodian loans to a worrisome situation.”

Killing Fields orphan tries to overcome agonies from childhood

via CAAI


LOS ANGELES ― He spent much of his life consumed by what the three men on the screen before him had done.

He stared at the glossy, bloodshot eyes of the man in the middle, the one who had so casually demonstrated how he slit his victims’ throats, who explained how his hand grew so sore he often switched to stabbing them at the base of the neck.

They were gaunt figures now, impoverished men trudging the rice ponds of northwestern Cambodia. They had agreed to confess their roles in the Killing Fields, first for a documentary film, “Enemies of the People,” and then here, in a video conference with survivors in Long Beach, California.

Bo Uce, 39, listened to them explain that they had to obey orders or they too would be executed. He knew they would say this, and they were right. But it didn’t matter.

Uce wasn’t there to understand their rationale. Since landing in New Jersey as a 12-year-old refugee in 1983 and going on to graduate from Dartmouth College, he had scoured history and psychology books and world literature to try to comprehend the sadism and indifference he had witnessed as a child in Cambodia. He read “Crime and Punishment” three times to understand Dostoevsky’s character Raskolnikov, who cooked up wispy moral justifications to murder a pawnbroker, only to careen through a whorl of anguish after the act.

Uce came out on this damp Sunday night to make sure these men did not think time had diminished their deeds, even as they roamed free after taking part in an atrocity that killed more than 1.5 million people. He would not let them escape their own anguish.

But he would try to escape his own.

Bo Uce was 4 in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge, with its deranged vision of communism, took power. It purged the country of teachers, doctors, lawyers and writers and forced the population into hard labor on farming collectives.

Most of Bo’s recollections are far-flung moments he struggled to string into coherence later.

He could not recall his father, Kharn, but preserved a few warm memories of his mother, Lah Sok. When the family was forced into the re-education camps, she worked the rice fields in a women’s brigade within walking distance of Bo’s children’s regiment. When they could, he and his older brother, Roth, would sneak away to see her. She looked emaciated and tired.

His mother sat with him on the berm next to a rice paddy one day and pointed to a crab hole. She said there was a water-lily snake in it. Bo pulled it out and she whacked it dead with a rock. He laughed at her sudden ferocity; she was a gentle, devout Buddhist he’d never seen hurt a bug. They cooked it over some sticks for dinner.

Then one day she was no longer there. There was no grown-up to explain her absence.

When Bo was about 7, a Khmer Rouge guard ordered him to climb a toddy palm one night to get some sap. He scaled the tree but dropped the piece of bamboo he needed to tap it. When he climbed down, the brigade leader, a young man named Chorn, struck him on the head with a heavy piece of bamboo. Bo woke up tied to a pole, bleeding and freezing, crying for his brother to bring him a blanket.

The Khmer Rouge sent him back to work. His brother daubed clay and leaves on Bo’s wound. The throbbing lasted for two years.

Bo Uce, 39, of Long Beach, California, holds a portrait of his family including his father Kharn Uce (left), mother Lah Sok (right), and siblings Roth Uce (left), Bo Uce (center), Neak Say and baby Scinda Sok on Oct. 30. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

On days when his brigade moved to new fields, Bo hunted or stole whatever food he could find on the way. When the Khmer Rouge caught him pulling up some yams and scallions, they beat him and branded him an enemy ― “Khmaong!” ― then took him to a prison.

Bo spent most days there confined to a raised bamboo hut with other boys, trying to get at a pile of rice below, hoisting up single grains with wetted threads through the floorboards.

These are his snapshots of the Khmer Rouge, the images he still struggles to understand.

When Vietnam liberated the country in 1979, he and his brother moved to an orphanage in Phnom Penh, then to a refugee camp on the Thai border. In 1983, they were adopted by Gordon and Mary Godly, who had grown children and lived in New Jersey.

Bo grasped English quickly and grew to feel loved by his new parents. Mary stayed up late with him as he struggled with homework and she tacked bits of poetry on the walls of his room.

He excelled in school and learned martial arts, letting bullies know not to mess with him. He never became a bully himself. But as he began to ponder the cruel hoax of his childhood, he knew he could not let it go.

Why did those people do what they did? Were they born evil?

Slowly he pieced together what happened to his family. A cousin confirmed what he could only assume by their absence: His mother and baby sister were killed.

He knew it was his responsibility to avenge them, as well as his lost boyhood.

Bo was accepted at Dartmouth College a mere seven years out of the refugee camp. He majored in Russian and devoured Chekhov, Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn. He worked as an assistant at the library at Tuck School of Business and sent as much money as he could to his surviving siblings and cousins in Cambodia.

When Bo graduated, he planned to go to law school. But he was devastated when Mary Godly unexpectedly died of complications from diabetes. He decided to go with his brother Roth back to Cambodia. There needed to be a reckoning.

Bo was a man now, strong and lean, with a pugilist’s hard brow. Within hours of arriving in his mother’s village in November 1995, he set off alone from his family farm. He passed water buffalo and oxen as he headed into the paddies. The rice was ripening and he inhaled the jasmine smell, both plaintive and nostalgic. He found a spot on a berm to sit and listen to the birds and frogs and gurgling water.

This was where he secretly met his mother and caught the water lily snake. He felt as if that boy of long ago sat beside him.

“I love you, Mama,” Bo whispered. “I miss you. I will do nothing to shame you.”

His mind careened through disconnected memories and questions. He wondered how his parents were killed. Did they scream? Were their throats sliced with knives, or the sharp serrated edges of the palm fronds?

Roth came behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go, brother,” he said.

Bo stood and could feel the weight of the Glock 17 in his jacket pocket. He had seen Chorn when they first arrived. Bo could still feel the dents in his cranium where the brigade leader had hit him with a bamboo pole. He was a peasant farmer now, as poor as anyone in the village. He had stayed at bay when other villagers flocked around the returning brothers.

Bo and Roth walked back to the farm, where the family now had three sturdy homes on stilts. Roth quizzed his relatives, trying to find out who knew about the killers of their parents and baby sister.

“Forget it,” their cousins said. “Let their karma take hold. Let it go.”

Bo ignored them. If he could not find the killers, he still had Chorn. He needed to see the man’s house and plot the best way to go about the execution. He wanted to kill him slowly while interrogating him to find where he had tied an unconscious child to a post. Bo hoped to finally see that it was just a place like any other, not the monstrous landscape of his memory.

When he saw Chorn’s hut, he felt a flicker of pity. The thatch roof was ragged, clearly leaking, and the house sat without stilts on the muddy ground.

A group of his female cousins came running to him and fell on their knees. “Don’t do it, cousin!” they said. “Look at what he has now. His dharma has caught up to him!”

Bo got down on his knees with them and cried. He did not know how they knew of his plans. He was twisted with anguish.

“He has children now,” his cousins said. “His children don’t have anything to do with it. You don’t want to make them orphans like you.”

He felt ashamed. He could not do it.

When he returned to America, Bo moved to Southern California to go to Whittier Law School but dropped out when he ran out of money. He bused tables at a Cambodian restaurant in Long Beach, then was hired by the nonprofit Cambodian Association of America to help the large refugee community in the city. He managed a martial arts school for a while, did investment management and became a court interpreter, often working two jobs to keep his family in Cambodia afloat.

He wanted to return to law school, but his mind was still on Cambodia. He was riven with guilt over the answers he could not find and the acts of revenge he could not commit.

He got married in 2000, had two daughters and bought a little bungalow in North Long Beach.

He was approached in October by Rob Lemkin, a British producer of an award-winning documentary called “Enemies of the People,” to help with translation for several movie-related events. The movie chronicled the work of Thet Sambath, a journalist and orphan of the Khmer Rouge, who tracked down one of the regime’s highest leaders and two foot soldiers to learn why the killing occurred.

Lemkin wanted to show the film to survivors in Long Beach and set up a videoconference the next week with the two soldiers.

Bo and his family saw the film at the community center in Long Beach’s MacArthur Park. He watched coldly as Nuon Chea, the highest ranking Khmer Rouge still alive, said that he did not know about all the killings in the countryside and that any people he had ordered to be “solved” were traitors to the nation.

Bo became outraged as he watched the two foot soldiers, identified only as Khoun and Suon, stand by a rice paddy and point to where they dumped bodies. “Thirty to 40 in each ditch,” said Khoun. “We didn’t want too many bodies in each ditch.”

Suon, the one with the bloodshot eyes, was asked to demonstrate, on camera with a plastic knife, how he killed. He smiled sheepishly and first said he could not do it, but then agreed. A man lay face down on a bamboo table with his hands behind his back. Suon knelt over him and pulled his head up by the chin.

“You hold his head up like this so they can’t scream,” he said. “Sometimes I did it another way. Because after I slit so many throats like this, my hand ached, so I switched to stabbing them in the neck.”

Bo saw his mother on that table. Her killers were walking around as free as these men.

Suon described how he ate his victims’ gallbladders because he was told they were medicinal.

“I don’t know what I’ll be reborn as in the afterlife,” he said. “How many holes of hell must I go through before I can be reborn again as a human? I feel desperate, but I don’t know what to do. I will never again see sunlight as a human being in this world.”

Bo saw no true remorse, just a killer seeking sympathy.

When the film was over, Bo translated for Lemkin as the producer gauged reaction. Some in the audience said they wished they had not come. The movie was too raw. Others were grateful.

“Can I ask a question myself?” Bo asked, suddenly overcome with emotion.

“Why did these people not kill themselves?” he asked. “If they feel so bad about what they did, why didn’t they kill themselves right after they did it? How are they able to live after they killed my family, all these families?”

He started tearing up, and could barely speak through his grief and anger. “I’ve got to go. I’m sorry.”

Bo had to steel himself to face the killers the next Sunday.

That damp night, he went to a high-rise in downtown Long Beach to help translate at the videoconference. Several dozen Cambodian emigres took part.

Suon and Khoun were up on the Panasonic flat screen, sitting in a law office in Bangkok, looking relaxed. Another confessed murderer had joined them.

The questions started after formal greetings and blessings. “If (they) ordered you to kill your parents, your son and father, your siblings, would you be able to do it? Can you do it?

“If I received an order to do it,” Khoun said, “and I didn’t do it, I would be killed.”

One woman asked why they did not rebel.

“We had only our hands,” Suon said. “The people to be killed were brought from other places. If I had tried to rebel against the Khmer regime, all my people would be killed, my own family.”

Again and again, the killers said they had no choice. They did not know where the orders came from. They were speaking now so that people would know what happened, so that it would not happen again.

The three men seemed to be almost charming some in the crowd.

As Bo translated for several observers who did not speak Khmer, he worried that this exchange might ease their consciences. At one point, one man said he would love to host them in Long Beach. Their confessions were taking on strains of heroism.

Bo picked up the microphone. He was cool now. He wanted to ask something that would unravel their defense a bit, reveal its absurdity.

“Greetings from a distance, proud uncles,” he said. “I’m an orphan. I want you to know that I already forgive you.”

The men thanked him and smiled.

“Uncles, you used to eat human liver or gall bladder,” he said. “Did you do that on your own or were you ordered?”

The men glanced at each other, looking uncomfortable. There was a long pause. Suon kept his hands clasped in front of his mouth.

Finally Khoun took the microphone.

“I only saw ... I saw it a bit and I tried it to test it, I tried it out. The gallbladder was for medicine so I wanted to try it. Just a little bit. That’s my honest answer. Just one bit.”

Bo handed his microphone off, frustrated at the flatness of the exchange.

On the drive home, he wondered if he had been searching for an answer that was not there.

He opened the front door, kissed his girls goodnight and stepped into his backyard alone. He looked at the cloudy sky, glowing above the city lights.

Answers would not bring closure, revenge would not bring closure. Nothing would.

Perhaps there was a certain peace in this.

He would try to let go of the anguish. He would forgive himself now.

By Joe Mozingo

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)

(Los Angeles Times)