Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rep. Chris Smith 4-28-09 Congressional Record Statement on Vietnamese Refugees Day

Posted by Independent
April 30, 2009

Support “Vietnamese Refugees Day,” H Res 342, Legislationby Joseph Cao, the First Vietnamese-American Congressman
Click here to read the presentation

Rep. Lofgren Urges Administration to Question Vietnam at Universal Periodic Review

Letter Calls on Government to Press Vietnam on Human Rights Record
April 28, 2009

Washington, D.C. – Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently authored a letter that was also signed by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA), calling on the Obama Administration to actively participate in the UN Human Rights Council's review of Vietnam during the current session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, which is co-chaired by Reps. Lofgren, Smith, Sanchez, and Cao, worked with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and various non-governmental organizations to develop a list of suggested questions for the review. This list accompanied Rep. Lofgren’s letter, which was sent to the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Click here for a pdf of the letter to United States Mission to the United NationsClick here for a pdf of the Vietnam Caucus Questions.

April 24, 2009
The Honorable Susan RicePermanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations140 East 45th StreetNew York, NY 10017

Dear Madame Ambassador:

As Members of the United States House of Representatives and Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, we write to urge the United States Mission to the United Nations to participate actively in the Human Rights Council's review of Vietnam during the current session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The UPR process offers a unique opportunity to assess publicly the human rights records of UN Member States. On May 8, 2009, Vietnam will come before the UPR for the first time. As you know, any Member State can pose questions of the Government of Vietnam during the review.

We believe it is imperative that the UPR include a full accounting of human rights conditions in Vietnam, including the multitude of abuses detailed in the State Department's 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices. Toward that end, the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam has worked with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and various non-governmental organizations to develop the enclosed list of suggested questions for the review of Vietnam. These questions cover a wide range of critical issues and abuses, including the Vietnamese government's continuing crackdown on democracy activists, journalists and other dissidents, its restrictions on religious freedom, its pervasive censorship of the internet, and widespread arbitrary detention and deprivation of due process.

We respectfully request that the United States Mission consider submitting the enclosed questions during the UPR session for Vietnam. Given that the UPR considers the human rights record of each country only once every four years, it is crucial that this opportunity not be missed.

Sincerely,

ZOE LOFGREN CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

Member of Congress Member of Congress

LORETTA SANCHEZ ANH "JOSEPH" CAO

Member of Congress Member of Congress

cc: Acting Assistant Secretary of State Karen Stewart, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborActing Assistant Secretary of State Glyn Davies, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

KKFYC: The Power of Youth - Safeguarding the Khmer-Krom Identity

Posted by Freedom
April 30, 2009

On behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation Youth Committee, we would like to invite you to participate at our 3rd World Youth Conference entitled, The Power of Youth – Safeguarding the Khmer-Krom Identity.

For the first time ever, the conference will be hosted at the National Constitution Centre on Saturday 23rd May 2009 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The conference will start at 9am until 5pm with meals included. All youths are also invited to a party after the conference.

The international conference provides an opportunity for Khmer and Khmer Krom youths from all corners of the globe to meet each other and learn from human rights scholars. It aims to explore and discuss in an open forum the power and responsibility that youths have to protect their Khmer identity.

Meet also the young human rights activists who are making a difference to the lives of their beloved voiceless people in Kampuchea-Krom (mostly in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam).
Lunch will be provided, please register with us so we can prepare for foods. To register, please call/email our youth representatives in Philadelphia in the flyer below.

We look forward to meeting you at the conference!
KKFYC Team

PM asks for ASEAN meet on swine flu

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Phnom Penh Post

PRIME Minister Hun Sen requested Wednesday that the ASEAN secretary general summon all member-state leaders to an emergency meeting to discuss swine flu prevention measures.

In a speech to over 500 students at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said that the regional bloc must work together to fight this new disease.

"I want the chairman of ASEAN, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister of Thailand, to consider a summit to decide on emergency measures to control the spread of this disease in ASEAN countries," Hun Sen said.

"A meeting between ministers may have difficulties making decisions that are responsive to the spread of this disease.

But if there is a meeting between the top leaders of each country, accompanied by public health and agriculture ministers, I will support it," Hun Sen said.

He added: "We cannot fight the disease alone because it may affect our trade with our neighbouring countries."

Hun Sen also ordered Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce, to meet with Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of ASEAN, to discuss a summit on swine flu.There have been no suspected cases of swine flu in Cambodia yet, but the government has implemented precautions to prevent its spread into the Kingdom.

Chan Sarun, the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said Wednesday that officials from the public health and agriculture departments are setting up checkpoints where pigs are stored and slaughtered to monitor the disease.

"We are cooperating with the Ministry of Public Health to think of measures to prevent the spread of this disease," Chan Sarun said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Schools famous, students unhappy

By VietNamNet/TP
April 29, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – As VietNamNet has reported, a lot of parents have been soliciting for their children to get seats at famous schools, ready to pay several thousand dollars for the seats. But many of them have regretted doing this.

$3,000 for a seat at a ‘star’ school?

Going and then running

Students of Thang Long Primary School during the playtimeParents say that there exists a gap in the teaching quality between famous and less famous schools, but the gap proves to be not as big as rumoured.

The story of T’s soliciting for a seat at T. secondary school in Hoan Kiem district for his son has become well known among parents who have children going to primary school.

T is a pilot who has a high income but does not have much time to take care of his son. Therefore, T wanted to send his child to T. secondary school as he heard that this was the best school in Hanoi.

However, T’s son had to leave the school after the first year of studying there, because his son got ‘too much care’ from the teacher.

T related that his wife one time received calls from the teacher asking to meet to discuss the child’s studies. His wife found out at the meeting that her son had made some petty mistakes. At first, T and his wife felt happy because they thought the teacher was showing their son special attention.

However, T and his wife felt unhappy later as the teacher continued calling and asked them to come to see her repeatedly. Every time T’s wife went to see the teacher, she had to bring gifts and ‘envelopes’ for the teacher.

T said that his son is an active boy, but he is not naughty and he never does anything seriously wrong. Therefore, he did not think that his son needed the special attention of the teacher. After the first year, T decided to send his son to Ngoc Lam Primary School, a less famous school, located near his house.

In 2008, a stewardess of Vietnam Airlines also decided to take her son out of K Primary School just after a few months of studying there.

The stewardess said that she initially did not intend to send her son to a state-owned school, but his grandfather, a former official of the Ministry of Education and Training, insisted he go to K school.

She said that she felt unhappy with the son’s studies at the school, because she had to contribute money to too many funds which were set up to collect more money from students’ parents.

Schools famous, students unhappy

H can send her son to a famous school in Hanoi because she has a relative who is a senior official in the organ of justice. However, H is unhappy because of the unfriendly relationship between her and her son’s teachers.

When the son went to the first class, the teacher met H and complained about the weak learning capability of H’s son, suggesting that the boy attend an extra class run by the teacher herself.

However, H did not want to send her son to the extra class, deciding to give extra lessons herself to her son. This made the teacher unhappy and she always complained about the child.

“Star” schools have been praised for high achievements (they have excellent students at district and city levels). However, the problem with the schools is that they all suffer from “achievement diseases” (trying to obtain achievements at any cost). Moreover, the numbers of pupils in a class at these schools is always very high.

Kim Lien, Nguyen Truong To, Giang Vo and Dong Da schools, for example, have 55-60 students in every class.

Other schools, though famous for study achievements of students and good teaching quality, have poor infrastructure and material facilities. Thang Long Primary School, for example, has headquarters on Ngo Tram street, but it has to hire other places as classrooms for its students.

Educators have called for a stop to the trend of soliciting for seats at “star” schools, saying that it is unnecessary for parents to pay so much money just to get seats at well-known schools, and it is unreasonable to put pressure on small children.

But what can be done to stop this?

It's time to help Cambodia diversify

Written by Brendan Brady
Wednesday, 29 April 2009

New European Commission head of delegation to Cambodia, David Lipman, speaks to the Post’s Brendan Brady about agriculture, the economy and his plans in the Kingdom.

Last year, the Cambodian government requested food relief from development agencies even as it signed contracts to export significant stocks of rice to foreign governments. Should the government abstain from selling food stocks if it is simultaneously requesting food aid?The basic problem in Cambodia with food production is that they don't have a lot of storage capacity, and unless you have the storage capacity, you can't keep the food in the country.

So, often, it is wiser to export because you can't stock it. One of the things we will be doing with the food facility will be to help them increase storage.

Does Cambodian agriculture require an overhaul?
I think the main problem is to try to help them increase production because, according to statistics, 65 percent of rural households in Cambodia are net food buyers, which is enormous.

Does Cambodia have a food security problem?
There's a problem. The very fact that we have this food facility which is going to help with production means there is a serious production problem. I wouldn't say food crisis, but help is needed. A common criticism of the economy is that it relies on two sectors: tourism and garments.

How resilient does the Cambodian economy appear in the face of the global downturn?
We need to help Cambodia diversify. It only has two export sectors. Garments make up 80 percent of exports; manufacturing of shoes makes 11 percent.

They need to do other things and we want to help them diversify into light manufacturing. And there's more that can be done in the agricultural field, with processed agricultural products.

Has the EC identified Cambodia as a country that may be in need of a bailout in response to local fallout from the global recession?
Bailout is not the word we would use. We are focusing on helping the poorest Cambodians - in terms of food supply and primary education. In fact, the EU as a whole - that means the EC plus its member states - have programmed assistance between 2009 and 2011 of the order of €600 million. So we are giving a great deal of assistance to Cambodia.

We need to help cambodia diversify. it has only two export sectors.

They are the major beneficiary per capita in the whole region.

We're focusing on rural, agricultural development.

We're focusing on working with the government on its strategy; what's important is ownership. We don't want to do things that the government doesn't want us to do. We want to focus on things the Cambodians are doing themselves.

We're helping with primary education. We have a €35 million program for education. We're focusing on helping with public financial management, which is very important - helping them to manage their finances better than they do at the moment. Human rights and democracy is an area of great importance, as well. We've got a huge program of €10 million that's up-and-coming, including supporting the tribunals, judicial reform, areas like that.

The story of Cambodia's oil prospects has attracted a lot of attention. Critics warn of a textbook "oil curse" while the government has told critics to ease off as oil extraction has yet to start. Do you believe Cambodia is well positioned to manage its potential oil resources?
What's important in all of these processes is accountability and transparency. We - within the framework of our various programs for assistance, budget support - are taking into account the questions of transparency and accountability in these areas, and we attach great importance to this.

They haven't started production yet and won't start yet until 2011, according to my understanding.But we are working with the government of Cambodia to ensure everything is done in a transparent and accountable manner. We have not been involved in the preliminary contracts [with the companies concerned].

City agrees to help Mekong provinces with development

By Tuan Son – Translated by Hoang Thi
Posted at http://www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn/
April 29, 2009

Ho Chi Minh City signed agreements with the Mekong Delta provinces of Bac Lieu and Soc Trang on April 27 to help them develop their economic potential and expand their market through 2015.

The pacts were signed during a visit to the provinces by a delegation of city authorities and entrepreneurs headed by and HCM City Party chief Le Thanh Hai.

Bac Lieu Province will get assistance in developing agriculture and rural areas; industry; trade and service; information technology and communications; natural resources and environment; investment and urban management; health, education and training; and culture and society.

Mr. Hai said the agreement would help develop each locality’s strengths on the basis of mutual interest. In Soc Trang Province, speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr. Hai said: “For the cooperation to be effective, the implementation of the agreement has to be monitored closely. Besides, administrative reforms have to be carried out and investment procedures simplified.”

The two sides would organize promotions in the city to attract investments to the province from foreign and domestic companies, he said.

“The cooperation [aims] to reduce the wealth gap between localities. “It stems not only from the two sides’ developmental needs but also, more importantly, from the duty of the city’s Party and people. “Soc Trang has nearly 500,000 Khmer families, 30 percent of them poor. Therefore, our joint care and help for them to improve their lives is very meaningful.”

During the visit, some other agreements were also signed between agencies and companies belonging to the city and two provinces.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Students learn English while working

April 26, 2009
VietNamNet//SGGP

VietNamNet Bridge - Some students go to foreign language training centers when they need their language skills improved. Others find jobs in backpacker districts, which not only help their speaking improved but help them financially.

“My speaking skills have improved a lot since I began working at backpacker district and I have been able to make a living without my parents’ support,” Dau Anh Thu, a souvenir shop assistant in Hue said.
Tran Thi Mai Huong said that she tried to improve her English through several books and documents but failed to make any progress. Her speaking has become more fluent after just one month working at Ngoc Anh restaurant.

Even some students who knew no English are able to talk to foreigners confidently after working here for sometime.

“It was hard for me to find a job in backpacker district because I didn’t know a single foreign word. Finally, a restaurant recruited me as a waitress,” Hoang Thi Tuyet recounted.
“My English restaurant vocabulary is great now and I feel more confident as I have to talk to foreigners everyday,” she said happily.

“The students’ eagerness in studying foreign languages has persuaded me to recruit even people speak no English” said Thu, Ngoc Anh restaurant’s owner, adding that they have made an obvious improvement through their jobs.

“I‘ve learnt a lot from real circumstances,” said Ngoc Anh, a junior of Hue Foreign Languages University’s Faculty of Chinese and Japanese.

“What I was taught at school sometimes is not really attached to reality. For example, I didn’t know tomato sauce is ketchup until a customer told me,” she added.

She also revealed that she recorded every conversation with customers and listened to them again to practice speaking.

“I’ve made an incredible advance in communicating with foreigners,” she proudly said.

UN warns Vietnam of food insecurity

By VNA
April 26, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - The United Nations was quoted by Malaysian news agency (Bernama) as reporting that Vietnam was among the eight Southeast Asian nations in the danger of food insecurity.

The report released by the international body on April 24 also named Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.
Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Committee in the Asian-Pacific region, where a total of 26 countries are included in the warning list, said despite high economic growth rates, the region accounts for 62 percent of the world’s famine-affected population.
The hotbed countries have a total population of 2.2 billion, making up 53.8 percent of the world population.Heyzer said the global economic crisis would not be contained if efforts to solve food crisis fail. She emphasised that the food crisis in the region have even turned into food crisis.
The UN expert raised worries that food prices remained high as the economic downturn has driven an increasing number of people into unemployment and low incomes.The UN April 24 report has rung an alarm to the world against a fact that food crisis pose a real risk along with the current economic crisis, said Heyzer.
Experts are worried over a relapse of a pressure on food price hike once the global economy rebounds. They also warned that protectionism policies would lead to a surge in food prices, causing a reverse impact on food security in Asia-Pacific as most of regional countries have to import food to meet domestic demand.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Malaysia To Probe Abuse Claims

By Sarah Jackson-Han
April 25, 2009

A new report prompts Malaysia to investigate persistent allegations that Burmese migrants have suffered gravely, while traffickers act with impunity.



Burmese refugees protest in front of the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 21, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysia’s prime minister says his government will investigate a blistering report by a U.S. Senate panel that says thousands of Burmese migrants have been handed over to human traffickers and sent to work in the Thai sex industry.
"We will take appropriate action," Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. "We do not want Malaysia to be used as a point for human trafficking ... but we need to know more facts."
In Washington, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations issued a report—based on a year-long review—saying illegal Burmese migrants have been deported from Malaysia, handed to human traffickers, and forced to work in brothels, fishing boats, and restaurants in Thailand if they didn’t have enough money to buy their own release.
According to the Senate committee report, "a few thousand" Burmese migrants in recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand.

Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants," the report said.
One unnamed migrant is quoted as saying that women "are sold at a brothel if they look good. If they are not beautiful, they might sell them at a restaurant or housekeeping job.
"The report called on Malaysia to investigate and prosecute "the trafficking, selling and slavery of Burmese and other migrants… The prospect that Burmese migrants, having fled the heavy hand of the Burmese junta, only to find themselves in harm’s way in Malaysia seemed beyond belief.
"Malaysia’s former home minister, Syed Hamid Albar, earlier dismissed these claims as "wild allegations." But national police chief Musa Hassan said earlier this month that Malaysian and Thai police and immigration officials were investigating the claims.In a statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Malaysia to "act on this U.S. Senate report to protect the rights of refugees and victims of human trafficking."
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cites the presence of more than 42,300 Burmese refugees in Malaysia as of late March.Victim describes impunityWunna, a 27-year-old Burmese trafficking victim from Rangoon who worked for his traffickers for four months, said his captors appeared to have no fear of the authorities.
"The traffickers maintain bases in Alor Setar, Jitra, and Chunglum," he said in an interview in April, referring to three districts in Malaysia’s Kedah state."They said their boss was highly connected to police in these regions. They said they could do whatever they wished," Wunna said.
"When we were handed over to them [by immigration officials], they said they could kill us anytime. One of them said he wouldn’t be charged, arrested, or imprisoned for killing me. He said someone would just come and collect my body, and clean up, and he would stay and work."
Abuses alleged
As RFA's Burmese service reported in January 2008, Burmese migrant workers in Malaysia live at the mercy of international human-trafficking gangs who sell them back and forth as slave labor with the full knowledge of Malaysian and Thai immigration officials.
Thousands of Burmese migrant laborers find themselves stuck in a human rights no-man's-land after losing their legal status, often because employers withhold passports or refuse to pay their return airfare.Reports of mistreatment and substandard living conditions within Malaysia's little-known immigration prisons are rife, as undocumented migrants are detained for indefinite periods.Conditions in the detention centers have sparked protests, complaints to Malaysia's human rights body, riots, and breakouts.
Immigration officers often stage raids on suspected illegal immigrants using volunteer security forces, the People's Volunteer Corps (RELA), who have wide-ranging powers, the right to bear arms, and little professional training.
Rights groups say children, pregnant women, and United Nations refugees awaiting resettlement to a third country have all been recently detained in such raids.
Human rights lawyers say that Malaysia's legal system lacks clear distinctions among illegal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and that immigration officers can imprison anyone without papers.
New tactics?
Irene Fernandez, the founder of Malaysia’s human rights group Tenaganita, said her organization has seen some recent tactical changes.
"Trafficking is continuing," she said, but added:
"In raids [by RELA or immigration police], not all family members are arrested. They leave one or two. So they can go back to them to ask for money to release their relatives. That’s another strategy. They are also already negotiating deals while in detention."
Latifah Koya, a lawyer working with Malaysia Bar Council’s legal aid program, said it was impossible to confirm a reported reduction in trafficking "because the border is tightly controlled—no one is there."
"What we can say is that those who were arrested are still paying to come back,” she added.
U.S. $200 per person
In its most recent report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department said reported abuses by RELA "included rape, beatings, extortion, theft, pilfering homes, destroying UN High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) and other status documents, and pillaging refugee settlements.
"It also cited "credible allegations of immigration officials' involvement in the trafficking of Burmese refugees … along the Malaysia-Thai border."
"Immigration officials allegedly received [about U.S. $200] per person. Several local NGOs estimated immigration officials handed over a significant number of Burmese refugees transported to the border to traffickers," it said.
Informed sources said 20 percent of the victims were unable to pay the ransom and were sold for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation, it said.

Original reporting by Kyaw Min Htun for RFA's Burmese service. Additional reporting by the Associated Press. RFA Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Viettel provides internet for Cambodian schools

April 25, 2009
VietNamNet/VNA

VietNamNet Bridge – The army-run mobile phone operator Viettel will provide internet services to 300 schools in Cambodia this year, according to the corporation’s General Director Hoang Anh Xuan.

Xuan made the statement while he was being received by the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, in Phnom Penh on April 22, adding that his company wants to offer Cambodia access to modern technologies to help solve its humanitarian and social issues.

Viettel has already donated 500,000 USD to provide poor Cambodian children with heart and mouth surgery.

The company also plans to introduce a landline phone service for households in Cambodia, he added.For his part, the Cambodian PM promised that his government would create the right environment to enable Viettel to develop its business there in the future.

Radio Veritas, the voice of the Church in Vietnam and all of Asia for the past 40 years

April 24, 2009
by J.B. VU

For Catholics RVA is often the only source of news of and about local and the universal Church. The Vietnamese are particularly proud of Mgr Nguyen Van Tai, who has worked for the broadcaster for the past 31 years, and contributed to the training of priests, nuns and lay people studying in the Philippines. Monsignor Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, took part in the celebrations.

Nguyen Vu (AsiaNews) – Radio Veritas Asia is the only Catholic radio broadcaster on the Asian continent. Created in 1969 it now reaches the faithful in 20 Asian countries in Chinese, Vietnamese and 20 other languages. It is based on a pleasant hill in Quezon City, Metro manila.
Vietnamese Catholics are especially proud of Mgr Nguyen Van Tai, the station’s programming director who has a career of 31 years at the radio.

Father Tai, who has received the Radio Veritas award from cardinal Sin, not only has left his mark on the station, but has been of great assistance to hundreds of priests, nuns and lay people who spent time studying in the Philippines.

In the 1970s and 1980s Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world, faced with extreme shortages, natural disasters, widespread disease and social problems and had about half a million children in difficult situations.

The Church can boast of 50 medical doctors and 300 highly trained specialists who graduated in the Philippines.

The celebration of the radio’s 40th anniversary (pictured) was held on 16 April. Archbishop Claudio M. Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, celebrated Mass with two cardinals, 17 bishops and Mgr Nguyen Van De, president of the Social Communication Commission of the Bishops’ Council of Vietnam, plus numerous priests and 300 guests.

On this occasion priests, nuns, the elderly and parishioners from cities, the countryside, and mountain provinces told AsiaNews that they listened to Radio Veritas every day.

They love “listening to the news about the local and the worldwide Church because local Catholic news and religious ideas are limited or are selected by someone for information purposes.”
“We feel close to the Church when we hear the voice of Dang The Dung. We understand the Bible from Rome when Linh Tien Khai speaks. We are very moved when Mai Huong tells us about the Church, Catholic events and important writings.”

“Radio Veritas travels with Vietnamese Catholics and those of other Asian countries on the journey of our faith in God around the world.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Champa antiques handed over to museum

By Tra Giang
April 24, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – Police of the central province of Quang Ngai on April 22 handed over some Champa antiques to the Quang Ngai Museum.

The antiques include some jewellery, worshipping objects made of gold and silver and some pottery products.

The local police reclaimed these antiques from a man named Nguyen Thanh Lam, 79, in Thach Tru village, Duc Lan commune, Mo Duc district, Quang Ngai province.

The Deputy Director of the Quang Ngai provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyen Dang Vu, said that preliminary tests show that these things are Champa antiques dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries.

Nguyen Thanh Lam and some men dug up a jar, containing gold, silver and pottery-made jewellery and worshipping objects while they were searching for scrap iron in September 2007.

Lam sold around 2kg of the antiques to a strange man for US$2,200. He changed $1,700 into Vietnamese dong at a local bank and gave some money to others.

The case was detected and local police seized the remaining antiques.

Vietnam’s human rights report posted on website

April 24, 2009
By VietNamNet/VOV
VietNamNet Bridge - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made public on its website the National Report to Review Implementation of Human Rights in Vietnam.

The 22-page report will be presented to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on May 8.

The report covers basic information about Vietnam, protection and promotion of human rights at the national level, including civil rights, political rights, socio-economic, and cultural rights, and rights of vulnerable groups like children, women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

The report also includes five points concerning implementation of human rights in Vietnam. One states that the public should be put at the centre of the country’s development, and another says that implementation of human rights should not be separated from national independence and national sovereignty.

The report says the State of Vietnam considers humans the target and motivation of all socio-economic development policies, and persists in assuring and promoting human rights.

According to the report, after more than 20 year of national renewal, Vietnam has gained many important socio-economic achievements.

All economic sectors have been given a boost to develop, thus considerably contributing to national development.

On civil and political rights, the report shows that since 1986, Vietnam has issued and revised 13,000 legal documents and sub-documents in connection with civil and political rights.
Regarding the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and information and other rights of the Vietnamese people, the report indicates that by the end of last year, the country had more than 700 press agencies, nearly 15,000 journalists, 68 television and radio stations and 80 online newspapers, thousands of news websites and blogs and 55 publishing houses.

According to the report, Vietnam now has about 20 million people following different religions and 80 percent of people have religious belief in lives. The State of Vietnam considers religion and belief a legitimate demand of people. There are 12 religions in total, the most dominant of which are Buddhism, Catholicism and Protestantism. Religious activities and services, especially annual ceremonies, are held with the participation of hundreds of thousands of followers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mekong dredging continues

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 23 April 2009

Villagers living near the Neak Leung ferry in Prey Veng say authorities have ignored sand-dredging operations they claim are causing riverbank collapses.

THE homes, warehouses and farmland of 138 families in Prek Ksay Kor commune in Prey Veng province's Peamro district continue to be threatened by riverbank collapses resulting from sand-dredging operations in the Mekong River, say affected villagers.
Mel Oun, 54, a villager representative, said Wednesday that sand-dredging companies, including the Phal Sareth Import-Export and Tourism Co, had increased their activities along the Mekong close to the Neak Leung ferry crossing, worsening seasonal erosion along the river's banks.
"My banana and cassava farms and the farmland of other villagers has collapsed into the river because of the sand dredging, but no authorities have opened their eyes to the operations, which has caused riverbank collapses and has almost destroyed National Road 11 in this area," he said.
"They are dredging sand for export to Vietnam, which is destroying the homes and farmland of the people."
Uth Thay, 47 a villager in Prek Ksay Kor commune, told the Post that Phal Sareth Co was filling five or six barges per day with sand from the Mekong and was operating within 300 metres of the riverbank.
"My rice paddies and cassava warehouse collapsed into the river because Phal Sareth Co is dredging in this area," she said, adding that authorities were yet to find a solution.
Company and govt ‘conspiring'
In a March 17 speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned authorities in Kandal province to advise riverside residents to remove their homes in anticipation of riverbank collapses in the province that locals have blamed on dredging.Seng Sovann, who owns a rice paddy and cassava warehouse on the riverbank, said sand-dredging operations in Prek Ksay Kor had increased since the prime minister's announcement.
"[The company] brought a little bit of milled rice to give to the people who lost their homes and farmland in the river," he said, but said the gift of 20kg of rice and 10,000 riels (US$2.44), handed out by the company in early March, did not compensate for the loss of land.
"The authorities and company have conspired with each other, and they don't care whether the people benefit," he added.When contacted Wednesday, Peam Ro district Governor Sao Prasith said only that the case depended on the central government, not the lower authorities.
But Phal Sareth Deputy President Bunchan Kreusna told the Post the company had the proper government licences and it was operating according to the technical regulations laid down by the relevant ministries.
He added that the company had helped many local people. "[The company] has built a hospital, school, streets, [and provided] foods, petrol and fertiliser to villagers in this commune," he said.
"I believe that people are angry with my company because they listened to warehouse owners who incited the people."Mao Hak, director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the company had already been warned and that he would open new investigations.
"We will examine this case next week or next month. We will stop their activities temporarily if we find they have made mistakes," he said.

KR momentos up for sale likely fake, officials insist

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 23 April 2009

Former Tuol Sleng photographer Nhem En is trying to sell what he says are Pol Pot's sandals, Tuol Sleng cameras.

GOVERNMENT officials and members of civil society have expressed doubt over the authenticity of sandals supposedly worn by Pol Pot and a pair of cameras that former Khmer Rouge photographer Nhem En says come from Tuol Sleng prison.

On Sunday, Nhem En said he wanted national and international companies to bid on the shoes, made from tyre rubber, and cameras at a starting price of US$500,000, even though outside sources have not confirmed their provenance.

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said it would be difficult to determine if the sandals were actually worn by Pol Pot, for the simple reason that many sandals look the same.

Nhem En was unable to provide the Post with any evidence that the shoes were Pol Pot's or that his cameras had come from the infamous torture centre.But he disagreed with Youk Chhang, saying that their authenticity could be proven "with modern technology".

The former Tuol Sleng guard who photographed prisoners said he received the shoes in 2000 from General Khim Tean, a former Khmer Rouge army commander, and that he had personally brought the cameras from Tuol Sleng to his father's house in 1977. Many, however, remain sceptical.

"I do not believe [the shoes and cameras] are real, because I have not seen them yet," said Culture Minister Him Chhem.Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and editor-in-chief of Rasmey Kampuchea, turned down Nhem En's request to hold a press conference announcing the sale. Nhem En said he will hold his own press conference on Friday in Siem Reap.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The dream of a dormitory room

April 22, 2009
By VietNamNet/SVVN

VietNamNet Bridge – In many state-owned universities, only one of every 18 students has a bed in a dormitory. Many people-founded universities do not have dormitories, including ones which have several thousand students and ones which calculate tuition fees in dollars.

Dormitories? The universities are working on it...

Only one of every 18 students has a bed in a dormitoryThang Long People Founded University plans to enroll 1,900 students in the 2009-2010 academic year, raising the total number of students of the university to several thousand. However, 100% of its students have to seek accommodations themselves, as the university does not have dormitories.

The Open University, which has 3,300 students (2,700 for the university training and 600 for the 3-year training), also has no dormitories. It does not even have its own classrooms; students now go to the hired classes.

Similarly, any new student who plans to study at the Dong Do People Founded University, will also be discouraged if he wants accommodations, as it is clearly stipulated in the universities’ enrolment handbook that students of Dong Do University have to arrange accommodations themselves.

The Van Hien and Chu Van An People Founded Universities all have given the same announcements. The students of Hoa Sen University, which provides training in three training groups and eight fields, have also been facing the same problem, as the university only promises to introduce boarding houses to students.

There are some universities which calculate tuition fees in dollars, but their dormitories remain on paper. The Huu Nghi Private Technology and Management University, for example, sets the tuition level at $5,000 per annum. Meanwhile, it does not have dormitories to provide accommodations for students.

When asked about the accommodations, the university said that it was enrolling 300 students for the first training course this year, while it will offer full scholarships to the students who have good study results. The university will arrange good accommodations for these students.

The tuition fee the students of the HCM City Economics and Finance University have to pay is VND45mil a year, which means the total tuition of VND180-215mil for the 4-year training course. Meanwhile, when asked about dormitories, the university said that it is still building dormitories, and that maybe the new students enrolled this year will be able to live in the dormitories.

Even the University of Odonto-Stomatology, which enrolls 100 students only per annum, also cannot arrange accommodations for students, and students have to seek boarding houses themselves.

One in every 18 has a bed in dormitories

While people-founded universities do not have dormitories, state-owned universities have, but don’t have enough rooms for all students.

Students of the Thai Binh Medical University, for example, never hope that they will have seats in dormitories, because the rooms here are reserved for special students (who come from poor families, from families who participated in revolutions) and students from mountainous areas. The university enrolls 3,500 students this year, but there are only 450 seats in dormitories. It has 10,000 students in total, but it has 2,000 beds only.

The Trade University enrolls 3,470 students this year, but it has 200 places in dormitories only. The Hanoi Law University plans to enroll 1,800 students, but the dormitory’s rooms are enough for 100 students only.

Weapon market in southern border area

VietNamNet Bridge – Swords, knives, electric rods, gas and iron-ball guns and slings are sold like food at Go Market, in Takeo province, Cambodia. Notably, this market mainly serves Vietnamese customers.

Go Market can be reached in around 30 minutes by boat from Chau Doc town, southern province of An Giang, Vietnam. The market is known as the “warehouse” of smuggled goods and weapons, serving Vietnamese customers.

At 7am on a Saturday, we left Chau Doc town, An Giang province in a small boat, with five other people, for Ta Keo province, Cambodia, without passports or visas.

An old man asked me: “You going there for money or shopping?” A little surprised, I answered “Both”.

“So you must be a rich man,” the old man laughed, and continued: “Local people go to Go Market for two purposes: purchasing goods or gambling.”

I didn’t know how to answer him, so only smiled, until the boat landed in Pung Xang, Bray Chusa district, Ta Keo province, Cambodia.

In front of me was a border check-point, a house-on-stilts, roofed by iron sheets, with a white word: Police. However, there was no guard inside. A small boy, around 10 years old, agreed to take me around Go Market by boat, at the price of VND50,000.

Go Market is a place for trade between Cambodians and Vietnamese so the Cambodian Riel, Vietnamese dong and US dollar are accepted.

The market comprises nearly 40 small houses-on-stilts but it supplies various kinds of goods, from MP3 players to laptops, electric bicycles. However, its most special product is weapons and porno disks.

At a house-on-stilts selling electronic wares, I saw two big plastic boxes containing porno VCDs and DVDs. The owner, a man in shorts and singlet, was telling his customers the price of each disk.

“I must tell you in advance that these films only have Thai language,” he spoke in Vietnamese.

Seeing me look unfavourably at the porno disks, he took me inside to introduce a “unique” product: electric rods.

He opened a cardboard box to show me around 10 electric rods and advertised that the 1800 volt rod could put anyone in a swoon.

To prove how the rod worked, he pulled out a black, rectangular box, a little bigger than a cigarette pack, and pushed the button. The box shot out electric sparks, which made the dog chained at the house corner bark.

Being surprised to see electric rods, a tool of policemen, offered for sale like vegetables, I refused to buy, explaining that I wanted to check the price at other shops.

The boy who gave me the boat trip, named Shi, who is illiterate, introduced to me all kinds of goods sold at Go Market and said if I wanted to buy, he would take me to the right addresses.

I was again surprised when another shopkeeper invited me to buy Japanese swords, specialised gloves to catch knives, and gas, iron-ball guns, which can kill cats and dogs.

Shi told me that most Vietnamese customers at Go Market buy electric rods, Japanese swords or guns.

Taking me to an electric bicycle store, Shi told the shopkeeper something in Cambodian, then he told me to enter the shop to choose goods. While I was there, he went to the nearby store to talk to other boys.

I entered the house and saw a big cardboard box containing three sets of Japanese swords and five long electric rods. Three other Vietnamese customers were considering the goods.

A young man in that group said they came from HCM City and they wanted to buy a special Japanese set of swords, named Shoushou, which can cut iron.

The shopkeeper said the store didn’t have that kind of sword right there and the customers had to pay in advance, VND2 million. After seven days, they would have the product.

A man explained to me that the swords at this store were also Japanese Katana swords. However, they were made from white Sanma steel, 1.2m long, and this kind of sword was not as sharp as Shoushou.

I pretended to not pay attention to swords to ask about guns. Immediately, the shopkeeper showed his prudence.

He said he didn’t sell guns with real bullets, just only colt guns using CO2 technology, or guns with plastic and lead bullets.

After considering what the shopkeepers introduced, the group of Vietnamese young people decided to buy three small electric rods, priced VND500,000 each and Yakizashi 0.9m sword, with an oak handle, at the cost of $50. The sellers covered these things with a big piece of cloth and gave it to the Vietnamese customers. The customers put the weapons in a box, covering them with bags of candies, cookies, shampoo and bath-oil bottles.

A man pulled out a mobile phone and made a phone call to the owner of the boat who brought them from An Giang to Ta Keo.

Less than a half an hour later, the boat came to take these customers to An Giang.

Tibet: Discrimination at Durban Conference

April 22, 2009
Below is an article published by Asia News :

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has protested for its exclusion from the United Nations Review Conference on Racism that began yesterday [20 April 2009] in Geneva (Switzerland) following objections by the People's Republic of China (PRC).

In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews TCHRD Executive Director Urgen Tenzin said this was a missed opportunity to highlight the systemic racism practiced by Chinese authorities against Tibetans.China objected to applications for accreditation by Tibetan groups’ like the TCHRD even though their standing in international fora, including UN meetings, has been recognised in the past.

Urgen noted that the “TCHRD was accredited to the Durban Conference in 2001” despite “objections from the PRC.” Thus “we should have been automatically eligible for this conference and this time.”

“Racism is endemic in the Tibetan areas of present day China as a result of state policy,” he said.

The “UN Conference is a platform, an international platform where Tibetan grievances could have been voiced; now that is no longer possible.”

Tibetans have accused China of cultural genocide. They are especially critical of Beijing’s policy of encouraging the mass settlement of ethnic Han Chinese in their country.

Settlers from China now have a stranglehold over commerce and positions of power. At the same time the Tibetan language and culture are banned from public spaces.

The net result is that as the number of Chinese settlers pouring into Tibet continues to grow, the indigenous population is becoming increasingly marginalised in its own country.

The TCHRD calls on the conference and individual states to point out countries that practice and encourage racism.

Can All Monks Be Trusted?

By Tyler Chapman
April 22, 2009

The Burmese people respect their monks more than their government, but some suspect the monks have been infiltrated by informers.


RANGOON—Every morning, just after sunrise, they stream out of the monasteries across Burma, alms bowls in hand.

The monks of Burma are the bedrock of the nation’s Buddhist heritage and traditions, symbolizing the charity, one person to another, that underpins Burmese society.

Awaiting them on the streets of every city and town are people young and old, rich and poor, with food for their bowls. The monks are barefoot, indicative of their avowed poverty, and so are those who donate, as a gesture of their humility and reverence.

It is a scene that has played out through the centuries, timeless in its rhythm and grace.

I have witnessed this act of sharing many times, and it always impresses me how much more respect the Burmese have for their monks than for their government.

Monks lead protests, relief efforts
There are an estimated 400,000 monks in Burma, about equal to the number of troops serving the military regime that has ruled for 47 years, and most are far from reclusive pacifists.

“If you want to know what’s going on in Burma,” a friend once told me, “ask the monks.”
Indeed, it was the monks who led the so-called Saffron Revolution of September 2007 in reaction to the government raising the price of gas. The revolution was snuffed out when troops opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least 31, and rounded up the protest leaders and sympathizers. Many of them are now in prison serving life sentences.

And it was the monks who rallied the early relief efforts when Cyclone Nargis hit in May of 2008, leaving 140,000 people dead or missing. The government lagged far behind.

Now, however, there are suspicions that the government has put informers even among the monks, to head off any more protests and to root out monks encouraging dissent.

“You don’t know which monk is ‘real’ and which monk is ‘fake,’” a friend told me.

Fear evident among monks, too
In my previous visits to Burma, monks would approach foreigners like me with complaints about the junta. This time, that didn’t happen.

In Mandalay, when I asked an otherwise friendly monk about the political situation, he changed the subject. He wanted to talk about the price of computers. I took it as a measure of the fear that now permeates Burma: Keep your mouth shut for your own well-being.

Even so, the time-honored flow of Buddhist tradition transcends government oppression.
Spring in Burma brings the school holidays and, with them, the time for young boys to be initiated as novice monks. Almost every day, in big cities and small towns, I saw the festive processions celebrating this major transition in a boy’s life.

His family will save the hair shaved from his head, and the boy will don the robes of a novice and join the monastery to learn the basics of Buddhism. All his worldly possessions are left behind.
Younger boys will stay a few days, older boys two weeks. Poor families sometimes leave their sons longer, when life in the monastery is better than at home.

Good deeds offer some hope
A gong will awaken the monks and novices at 4:30 a.m. They will have breakfast, pray, and then take their alms bowls to the streets to collect the food, mostly rice, for their midday meal. Local restaurants often donate meat and vegetables.

Volunteers do the cooking and, in many cases, most of the cleanup.

After noon, there will be no more food for the monks until breakfast. Afternoons are spent resting and studying. Darkness brings bedtime. Monks sleep on mats on the floor.

The monasteries provide a haven not only for monks and novices but also the needy, the sick, and the homeless. They are community centers and meeting places.

I visited a monastery outside Rangoon that had taken in 160 children, most of them orphans from Cyclone Nargis.

The monastery was looking after a mother and daughter until the daughter could get medical help for unexplained seizures. Like most other monasteries, it exists on the charity of donors, one of whom was building a dormitory for the children.

“Some people practice their Buddhism by giving,” one of my friends said. “They are the true Buddhists.”

At pagodas around the country, there are bells for people to ring, three times, to announce they have done a good deed.

Buddhists believe that good deeds in this life—“making merit”—will put them in good stead in their next life, that despite an uncaring government and economic hardship, there is a chance for something better.

For the Burmese, being able to ring the pagoda bell three times offers the hope they need to persevere.

Tyler Chapman is a pseudonym to protect the author's sources. This is his second visit to Burma for Radio Free Asia.

Workers in Thailand not under threat: Govt

Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 22 April 2009

GOVERNMENT officials said Tuesday that unrest and an economic slowdown in Thailand would not impact working conditions for legal migrant labourers there, despite warnings to avoid Bangkok.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said: "We are not so worried about that [Thai unrest].... However, I am not sure about illegal migrants, if they have problems or not."

Koy Kuong, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the government had encouraged people in need of help in Thailand to come to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok but that they had not heard of labourers in need of aid, adding that some migrant workers might not seek help from the embassy and would instead likely try to contact family members.

The president of the Cambodian Recruitment Agency (CRA), An Bun Hak, said that Cambodia agreed to send labourers to Thailand in 2003 and had started doing so in 2005. There are 8,231 legal Cambodian migrants in Thailand, said An Bun Hak, a figure dwarfed by the number of illegal migrants estimated at between 60,000 and 200,000.Despite government assurances, one migrant recruitment agency in Cambodia said Thailand had become unsafe.

Sok Chanpheakdey, president of Philimore Cambodia Company, said he no longer sends Cambodians to work in Thailand."They [migrant workers in Thailand] receive low pay and have poor working conditions," he added.

'Humanity smashed' at secret prison, Duch tells tribunal


Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The former cadre admits the M-13 prison that he headed before Tuol Sleng was "beyond being harsh", amid delays in his trial.

FORMER Tuol Sleng prison head "Duch" told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday that M-13, a detention centre he ran during the early 1970s, was not just cruel but "a place where humanity was smashed".
"[M-13] was not a school, it was a Khmer Rouge prison," the former commandent - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav - told civil party lawyers, responding to questions about 2-metre-deep pits in which prisoners were detained.
"It was not just harsh but cruel and heinous. It was the place where humanity was smashed. It was beyond being harsh," he said, adding however that it was "not his original intention" to create a cruel environment at M-13 prison. It was merely a consequence of the regime being what it was.
"If people [in pits] were exposed to horrendous conditions, it was a consequence, not my original intention."
Speaking at the third week of proceedings against him, Duch was again called upon to respond to witness testimonies regarding the M-13 prison he headed before Tuol Sleng.
However, difficulties with translation, witness recollections and even the weather got in the way of proceedings, with a short rainstorm temporarily imparing court headsets.
Chan Khorn, 53, a former prison guard at M-13, admitted he had trouble remembering the details of conversations with researchers six years ago, though he recalled the way in which people feared Duch during his command of the Kampong Speu facility in the 1970s.
"No one would dare criticise [Duch]. He was the most important chairperson in the place. Who would dare criticise him?" he asked.
Hopes for funds dashed
On top of technical woes, hopes for an infusion of cash into the near-bankrupt Cambodian side of the court have also been dashed.
In a statement emailed Monday to the Post, the UN Development Program said it has denied a request to release US$400,000 of Australian government funds to the court, which it froze following allegations of graft last year.
"UNDP's position has been that there must be a resolution of the allegations. After careful internal review of the latest developments, and in accordance with the accountability framework that governs UNDP/[Cambodian government] projects, UNDP is not in a position to release funds at this time," it said.
March salaries for staff on the Cambodian side were paid for by an emergency donation by Japan, and court officials had hoped to use Australian money for April wages.

Monk gets relief during wait on asylum bid

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 22 April 2009

KHMER Krom activist Tim Sakhorn met Tuesday with representatives of a relief organisation in Bangkok, a day after he met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials to apply for refugee status in the United States.

The 41-year-old said the relief group promised to provide him food and financial support for three months as he awaits a decision from UNHCR on the status of his refugee application, expected on June 20.

"[The organisation] will provide me with finances and some food ... until I can seek refugee status in another country," he said, adding that he was moving locations in Bangkok regularly out of fears for his security.

"I am scared of the Vietnamese, even in Cambodia and Thailand. In Thailand I am less scared, but I still have to be careful," he added.

Tim Sakhorn spent two years in Vietnam in jail and under house arrest on charges of subverting the country's friendship with Cambodia. On April 11, he fled to Thailand after he was was allowed to visit family in Takeo province.

A representative from the refugee-support group confirmed by phone from Bangkok that it was providing Tim Sakhorn with finances, food and hygiene supplies, but said they did not want the organisation's name mentioned in this report.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sihanouk lashes out at journalists' 'war'

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Sebastian Strangio
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
The Phnom Penh Post

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has lashed out at critics from his Beijing residence, accusing journalists of waging a "war" against him, apparently in reaction to a recent French documentary of the monarch.

"Some journalists (French and other Westerners) have just relaunched their war against me, Norodom Sihanouk, treating me as corrupt, dictatorial, greedy [and] bloodthirsty when I was in power in Cambodia," he said in a seven-page message released Monday.

The former King then reasserted the legacy of his 1953-70 rule, claiming he enjoyed widespread popular support.

"The Khmer people decided by themselves with sovereignty and liberty to give me and the Sangkum Reastr Niyum power over the state," he wrote.

"If I was corrupt, I would not have been loved like this."

The letter was released in seeming response to a documentary of the monarch screened on French television on the evening of February 23.

The Nine Lives of Norodom Sihanouk, directed by Gilles Cayatte, covers Sihanouk's life between 1941 and 2004, including interviews and rare archival footage of the monarch.

Sihanouk's official biographer Julio Jeldres has also slammed the film's "great arrogance" and "comprehensive awfulness", accusing director Cayatte of distorting Sihanouk's story.

"I believe that [the documentary] is a crude exercise to paint as black as possible a picture of Norodom Sihanouk," he said in a commentary to the film issued in March.

Khmer Krom activist holds talks with UNHCR officials

Written by Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Stragio
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Tim Sakhorn meets officials in Bangkok as part of asylum bid.

KHMER Krom activist Tim Sakhorn met with officials of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Monday in Bangkok to apply for political asylum in the United States, but he will have to wait until at least June 20 to learn his fate.


The 41-year-old monk was arrested and defrocked in June 2007 before being jailed for one year in Vietnam for his advocacy on behalf of southern Vietnam's ethnic Khmer minority.

He was allowed to visit family in Takeo province April 4, but was reordained and fled to Thailand the following week.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR's Asia spokesperson, said that the organisation's policy was not to discuss the progress of individual cases.

But Tim Sakhorn confirmed by phone Monday that he had met with UNHCR officials, who set the ball rolling on his bid to seek asylum in the US.

"[The officials] asked me who had defrocked me and the reason they did that. I told them I was defrocked by head monks Tep Vong and Non Nget after being accused of undermining the unity between Cambodia and Vietnam," he said.

But he said that his fate remained uncertain following the meeting, and that UNHCR would inform him of the success of his bid June 20.

"I hope that I will be given asylum in America because a lot of human rights groups have encouraged them to give me refuge," he added.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the government did not object to Tim Sakhorn's attempt to seek refuge abroad, and that it was an individual right guaranteed under local law. But he added that the activist, like the country's 14 million other citizens, had little to fear in the Kingdom as long as he obeyed the law.

"He has nothing to fear unless he is doing something counter to the laws of Cambodia," he said Monday. But Non Nget, Supreme Patriarch of the Buddhist Mohanikay sect, denied he had taken part in Tim Sakhorn being banished from the monkhood in 2007.

"I have never known Tim Sakhorn or seen his face," he said Monday, blaming local monks for the defrocking.

Vietnam threatens our national interests

Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Written by Naranhkiri Tith
Letter to The Phnom Penh Post

Dear Editor,

I read with alarm the article "Vietnam aims to lease land for rice crops" (February 26, 2009), in which it was stated that Vietnam is planning to lease land from the Cambodian government in the provinces contiguous with Vietnam in order to plant rice for the purpose of combating alleged rice smuggling from Cambodia. This is a dangerous project [that is] very detrimental to Cambodian national interests for a number of reasons.

First, Vietnam has been encroaching on Cambodia's land since the 17th century under a scheme known as nam tien, or "southward march", and annexing the land that they occupied and populating it with former soldiers and ex-convicts, as well as claiming land that used to belong to Cambodia, such as the region known as Kampuchea Krom.

Second, there are many Cambodians mired in abject poverty who rely on land for their survival.

Third, as pointed out in your article "The time of reckoning for Khmer Krom" (February 22), Vietnam has been committing atrocities against the Khmer Krom with help from the Hun Sen regime. This, in turn, shows that Vietnam has not been a defender of Cambodian national interests.

Cambodian feast serves up tolerence

Monday, April 20, 2009
Mickey HennesseyDaily Targum
(Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA)

In an effort to give students an insightful look into Cambodian (Kampuchea) and Southern Cambodian (Khmer Krom) culture, nearly 120-strong gathered in the Rutgers Student Center Multipurpose Room Thursday evening for the first-ever Cambodian Food Festival.

Sponsored by the Rutgers Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Cultural Association, the club and festival were meant to raise awareness at the University of the cultural, social and political issues related to the Khmer and Khmer Krom peoples, said Daniel Yi, a club board member and a School Of Environmental And Biological Sciences sophomore.

“Although Cambodian food is often quite spicy, several of the dishes were toned down in piquancy to accommodate for all in attendance,” said Rutgers College junior Hien Tran, the club’s social outreach chair.

As one of the school’s newest organizations, the association has put on events of a smaller scale, such as movie nights. The club’s leaders worked all semester to ensure the success of this event, meant to mark the end of the club’s first year as well as to act as the commencement for a bright future.

“I just wanted the club to make a splash in the Rutgers community,” said Club President Sambo Thach. “Cambodian culture is so vast and diverse that I felt it was important [to] afford as many people as possible the chance to experience it.”

The festival featured a smorgasbord of nearly 10 traditional Cambodian dishes, including tilapia fried in chili sauce, fruit salad, chicken lollipops, fried rice, spicy prawns, spring rolls and Cambodian crepes, as well as bean cakes for dessert.

“The fruit salad is for the particularly adventuresome palate, since it includes copious ingredients not readily found in most Western cuisine, such as jack fruit and leches,” said Thach, a School of Engineering junior.

But food was not the only thing on the menu for the night. The event included a coconut dance by Tran and a performance by a Cambodian percussion ensemble. The Philadelphia-based ensemble included six drummers, a cymbalist and a gong player. Finally, students participated in a durian eating contest.

Many individuals in attendance were experiencing Cambodian culture for the first time, and other organizations such as the Vietnamese Student Association came out to show their support.George Kotzias, one of the students new to Khmer culture, had nothing but good things to say about the club.

“As a member of other Asian cultural clubs, I found this to be a culturally and culinary enlightening experience,” said Kotzias, a Rutgers College senior. “The food was of a sweet-tangy nature that I found thoroughly delectable.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tim Sakhorn to seek asylum in America

Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 20 April 2009
The Phnom Penh Post

Khmer Krom activist says he will seek refugee status following his flight to Thailand

KHMER Krom activist Tim Sakhorn, who has fled Cambodia claiming he was forced to live in a stateless limbo without identity documents, is to seek refugee status in the United States, he told the Post Sunday.

"I will go to meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok [Monday] to have them help me seek refugee status," he said.

"I escaped from a lot of fear when I arrived in Thailand."Before he fled to Thailand last week, local authorities were keeping a close watch over his house - an activity he saw as a threat to his family, he said.

"I miss my homeland. I wanted to be a monk in our homeland, but Cambodia did not issue an identity card to acknowledge me," he said, referring to what he called bureaucratic discrimination against Khmer Krom citizens of Cambodia.

Without an identity card, it is more difficult to prove Cambodian citizenship and obtain access to services - or safety from arbitrary deportation, he said.

"The [Cambodian government] pushed me to Vietnam and Vietnam pushed me back," he said, adding he was fearful of this happening again unless he was given documents and legal status as a Cambodian citizen.

The former monk, who was arrested and defrocked in Cambodia in June 2007 before being deported and jailed for a year in Vietnam on charges of undermining its national unity, returned to his native Takeo province to visit family on April 4. He then fled to Thailand after being reordained.

The 41-year-old told the Post that his stay in Thailand was only temporary and that he was planning to seek permanent refugee status in America.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Organisation, said Sunday that local human rights groups were encouraging UNHCR's Bangkok office to help him secure refugee status.

"I am optimistic that Tim Sakhorn will receive refugee status because the world is watching," he said, adding that the monk had been defrocked illegally.

A UNHCR official based in Phnom Penh, who declined to be named, said he did not know of the Bangkok office's intentions, but confirmed that local rights groups were advocating on behalf of Tim Sakhorn.

The official added that before Khmer New Year the UN had gone to Takeo province to encourage authorities to issue Tim Sakhorn an identity card, but that they said the request would be granted only after the holiday period.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that there was no threat to Tim Sakhorn in Cambodia.

"His comments were made just in order to leave for a third country. No one is bothering him," he said. "More than 13 million people can live in Cambodia, so why can't he live here?"
Vietnamese embassy officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Southern Khmer people meet in Can Tho

April 20, 2009
Posted at Vietnam+

The southwestern steering committee held a meeting of the Khmer people from 13 Mekong Delta provinces on April 18 in southern Can Tho city on the occasion of their traditional Chol Chnam Thmay New Year's Festival.

Officials of the southwestern steering committee expressed their best wishes to the Khmer community and briefly introduced the Mekong Delta region’s socio-economic and cultural development situations.

Last year, localities such as Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Kien Giang, Ca Mau and Can Tho which are home of many Khmer people have actively helped them developing production activities.

The provinces also invested nearly 500 billion VND in carrying out welfare projects to serve the Khmer community, meanwhile, 8,700 Khmer poor households were provided with new houses thanks to the government’s programme 134.

As a result, the Khmer community’s poverty rate was reduced from 40 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2008 and 80 percent of the households had access to power and safe water under the State’s assistance programmes.

The number of ethnic minority children going to school accounts for 90 percent and a majority of remote and border communes have medical stations with ethnic minority doctors and nurses./.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pope: UN Durban review conference on racism "important"

April 19, 2009
VATICAN

The UN conference is being boycotted by the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, and criticized by the Italian government. Benedict XVI hopes for common, constructive work to put an end to every form of racism with education. A greeting to the Orthodox Churches, which are celebrating Pascha today. Thanks for the wishes he received on the occasion of his birthday (April 16) and for the anniversary of his election as pontiff (today, April 19). The Divine Mercy is the source of unity in the Church, "one family" with "one heart and one soul."

Castelgandolfo (AsiaNews) - The Holy See is distancing itself from the criticisms of some Western countries, and is giving its support to the UN conference beginning tomorrow in Geneva, reviewing the "Durban Declaration" (2001) "against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance." Immediately after the Regina Caeli, recited with the pilgrims at Castelgandolfo, Benedict XVI called the initiative "important," because "still today, despite the teachings of history, these deplorable phenomena can still be seen."

In recent weeks, the United States, Canada, Italy, and Israel have criticized the declaration because it presented harsh criticisms of the state of Israel, accused of racism toward the Palestinians, and because it defined Zionism as a racist ideology.

After this, the UN commission amended the proposed final text, removing the references to Israel, to Zionism, to the Middle Eastern conflict and other divisive topics, but the United States decided "with regret" to boycott the conference, together with Israel and Canada. The European Union (EU) would like to find a consensus position. Italy wants to boycott, but Great Britain has already announced that it will send representatives to Geneva.

An appeal to the EU not to boycott the meeting, but to adopt a "constructive" attitude in the name of the fight against racism, xenophobia, and intolerance was issued a few days ago by the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

The pope's position, expressed today, seems to point in the same direction of constructive participation and criticism. Speaking to the pilgrims, Benedict XVI said: "The Durban Declaration recognizes that 'all peoples and persons form a human family, rich in diversity. They have contributed to the progress of the civilization and the cultures that constitute the common heritage of humanity . . . the promotion of tolerance, pluralism, and respect can lead to a more inclusive society'. On the basis of these affirmations, firm and concrete action is required on the national and international level, to prevent and eliminate every form of discrimination and intolerance. Above all, a vast work of education is required, to uphold the dignity of the person and protect his fundamental rights. The Church, for its part, reiterates that only the recognition of the dignity of man, created in the image and likeness of God, can constitute a sure point of reference for this effort. This common origin, in fact, gives rise to a common destiny of humanity, which should bring forth in each and in all a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility.

I express my sincere hope that the delegates at the Geneva conference may work together in the spirit of dialogue and mutual acceptance to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, marking a fundamental step toward the affirmation of the universal value of the dignity of man and his rights, in a context of respect and justice for every person and people."

The reflection before the Regina Caeli was focused on the theme of the Divine Mercy. Benedict XVI recalled that it was John Paul II who established the second Sunday of Easter as the Sunday of "Divine Mercy," pointing out "to all the risen Christ as the source of trust and hope, accepting the spiritual message transmitted by the Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska, synthesized in the invocation 'Jesus, I trust in you!'."

"The communion of the first Christians," the pope explained, "had the risen Christ as its true center and foundation. The Gospel says, in fact, that at the moment of the passion, when the divine Teacher was arrested and condemned to death, the disciples fled. Only Mary and the women, together with the apostle John, stayed together and followed him all the way to Calvary. Once he had risen, Jesus gave his followers a new unity, stronger than the kind they had before, invincible, because it was founded not on human resources, but on the divine mercy, which made them feel they were all loved and forgiven by him. It is therefore the merciful love of God that firmly unites the Church, today as yesterday, and makes humanity a single family; the divine love, which through Jesus crucified and risen forgives our sins and renews us from within."
Among his more important greetings, Benedict XVI included the Orthodox communities that are celebrating Pascha today according to the Julian calendar. "I extend," the pope said, "a cordial greeting and best wishes to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches which, following the Julian calendar, celebrate holy Pascha today. May the risen Lord renew in all the light of faith, and give an abundance of joy and peace."

The pope also expressed his thanks for the greetings he had received at Easter for his birthday (April 16) and the anniversary of his election as pope (April 19). "In the atmosphere of joy that comes from faith in the risen Christ," he said, "I desire to express a most cordial 'thank you' to all those - and they are truly many - who have sent me a sign of affection and spiritual closeness in these days, both for the Easter celebrations and for my birthday - April 16 - and also for the fourth anniversary of my election to the see of Peter, which falls today. I thank the Lord for all of this sincere affection. As I had the opportunity to say recently, I never feel alone. Even more during this extraordinary week, which in terms of the liturgy constitutes a single day, I have experienced the communion that surrounds and supports me: a spiritual solidarity, essentially nourished by prayer, which is manifested in a thousand ways. From my coworkers in the Roman curia to the parishes that are geographically farthest away, we Catholics form and must feel ourselves to be a single family, animated by the same sentiments as the first Christian community, about which the text of the Acts of the Apostles that is read this Sunday says: 'the multitude of those who had become believers had one heart and one soul' (Acts 4:32).

Where Thaksin went wrong

19/04/2009
By Voranai Vanijaka
Bangkok Post

Remember hundreds of thuggish men armed with axes, machetes and other weapons attempting to take over Bangkok and succeeding in vandalising the Royal Cliff Beach Resort's convention centre in Pattaya?

Remember an angry mob trying to kidnap Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and sending Asean leaders scurrying away? Secretary-general to the PM Niphon Phromphan left with broken ribs?

Remember gas trucks planted in different areas in Bangkok - their explosions can wipe out entire city blocks?

Remember reports of two civilians supposedly gunned down by the red shirts; taunting and wielding of weapons, burning of buses and tyres?

Remember that one guy, who unzipped and urinated on the street, in an act of mocking defiance, in front of soldiers and all the cameras?

Remember - and this is by far my favourite - the two red-shirt women ranting and raving, running up to a group of men? One, a flabby woman perhaps in her forties, took off her shirt, revealing a black bra, in rage, posturing and taunting the men? While the other one simply jumped on a man and attacked him?

Images on TV. What went through your mind while watching? Many thoughts, no doubt. Though I would venture that most of our thoughts more or less came to the same conclusion. Which was: "Holy crap! Somebody better do something! Call in the marines! Where's spider-man?! These thugs are going nuts! Wait a sec! Are they gonna come after me next?" Chaos, anarchy, the absence of law - scary stuff.

That, fellow citizens, residents, illegals and everyone else, is why Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts failed in their uprising. He wanted, needed popular backing. But instead of inspiring and rallying, the red shirts scared the pah khao ma (traditional sarong), the Gucci pants and fisherman's pants off the poor, the rich and the farang respectively alike.

TV images of thugs running amok all over the city is too unsavoury. It turned public opinion against him. Not all, of course. But enough to lose the Songkran War for Thaksin.

Thaksin was banking on his popularity, sure of a mass uprising to support him and oust the Democrat-led coalition government, paving the way for his exoneration and return to power - that was the goal. It could have happened. I, for one, have always thought that Thaksin is the most popular man in Thailand. Well, next to singing sensations Golf & Mike, of course - we Thais have our priorities straight.

But alas, it wasn't meant to be.

You can blame it on poor generalship. Whoever is chief advisor to Thaksin should be fired. Hire me instead. I want a flat in London and a life-time supply of free chips at a Cambodian casino. I read Sun Tzu's Art of War once in elementary school, so I'm qualified!Why did yellow succeed and red fail? Both started as peaceful demonstrations, then graduated to terrorism.

The PAD's "final solution" was taking the airport hostage. Sure, there were weapons, violence and deaths. But there was also organisation to the movement. Key leaders were always visible, leading the charge, keeping the mob under control. For the rest of us Thais, Suvarnabhumi is way over there - isolated, way, way, way over there. It was annoying. It was unfortunate. It was inconvenient. But it did not threaten people of their properties. It's not right outside our windows. Unless a trip was planned, it didn't directly touch us.

The UDD's "final solution", on the other hand, was to take over Bangkok. Oops. Who thought that one up? An armed mob running amok all over the city. Key leaders were nowhere in sight. Citizens were threatened and killed. Yup, that will win over public opinion alright. Their actions were way, way, way too near and menacing for comfort. People's revolution? Nope, mob rule.

Like in many cultures and societies, we Thais too prefer to bury our heads in a rice bowl - see no evil, hear no evil - as long as evil is a safe distance away. But this one was right in our faces, and no amount of mascara or skin-whitening cream could hide our terror. It's a matter of proximity, and we won't stand for it.

The red shirts came undone because of images on TV. No wonder they threatened the media with violence, for being so bias as to capture realities with cameras.So here we are. PM Abhisit emerged from the Songkran War looking prettier than he usually does. People are quick to forgive his earlier misjudgment and indecisiveness. He recovered well enough. Through careful orchestration, and perhaps sheer luck, the military did not end up killing anyone - at least not that we know of at the moment. Many now call him a national hero for exercising the virtue of patience and taking control of the situation.

Thaksin, meanwhile, in reports from Dubai on Friday, has softened his stance and said he's willing to talk. Well, that's what he said.Is it over? Of course not. Also on Friday, there was an attempted assassination on PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul. Fortunately, if not miraculously, he survived a close range attack by gunmen with automatic weapons, who fired almost 100 rounds. Well, whatever Buddhist relic Sondhi was wearing, look for copies to become the hottest selling items in Thailand since Roti Boy. Anyway, this conflict might go underground and get even uglier.

Is it over? Of course not. This is beyond Thaksin, Sondhi, red or yellow. History has shown that, be it coup, murder, corruption, uprising, terrorism or whatever other evils the rich and powerful orchestrated - rarely, if at all, does anyone ever get punished. Rarely, if at all, does anyone ever get held responsible. So there will always continue to be coups, murders, corruption, uprisings, terrorism and others. Why not? Rarely, if at all, are there ever any repercussions.

Is it over? Of course not. This is beyond Thaksin, Sondhi, red or yellow. When disaster strikes due to the incompetence and ineptitude of officials, no one is ever fired or jailed. At worst, they get transferred to continue being incompetent in another government post. How that's for encouraging criminals into believing they stand a good chance of terrorising the country?

All these, of course, are mai pen rai. But don't post any inappropriate content on the internet, or the wrath will be upon you like white on jasmine rice! We Thais have our priorities straight.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Vietnamese Internet users vulnerable to hackers

April 18, 2009
VNN

VietNamNet Bridge – Without proper security attention, the development of Web 2.0 technology and social networks in Vietnam may enable hackers to attack computers with malicious codes.

“The massive development of Web 2.0 applications in Vietnam is a red alarm in network security,” said Vo Do Thang, Director of the Athena network security centre.

Thang said that many new websites are being launched with open applications that allow users to upload and share pictures and videos. However, most of these sites don’t have systems to prevent malicious codes, which are often hidden in media files uploaded by users. Users download these files to their computers and also download malicious codes.

Servers for Web 2.0, particularly social networks, aim to attract new members by open-applications while security is not addressed properly.

“Joining different social networks and picture and video sharing websites, users don’t know that their computers are being controlled to attack other computers,” said Phung Hai, from the Vietnam Information Security Association.

Hai said Web 2.0 is useful but it has many gaps. The most typical case occurred in June 2006, when an advertising banner on MySpace had malicious codes. MySpace, a prestigious social network, became a tool spreading malicious codes.

Web 2.0 developed strongly in 2008. According to the latest survey by TNS and Yahoo, around 50% of Vietnamese Internet users (around 20 million people) visit social networks, share photos, read blogs and write comments.

Director of the BKIS network security centre, Nguyen Tu Quang, said that users have to be wary about files on the net before downloading them onto their computers.

Hai suggested users use software to verify the security of the websites that they visit, such as Google Alert or MacAfee.

He also said that it is wrong to think that only pornographic or gambling websites have malicious codes.

VietNamNet/VNE

US university to start sending students to Vietnam

April 18, 2009
Bye VietNamNet/VNA

VietNamNet Bridge - The first students of US-based Loyola University will arrive in Vietnam next month to participate in Loyola's study-abroad pilot programme in Vietnam.

The study-abroad programme which is one of three pilot programmes Loyola will launch this year in Vietnam will offer the students a month studying anthropology before going to work for two weeks in local orphanages and elementary schools.

Loyola is the first American university to establish a representative office in Vietnam as part of a partnership with the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training.

Loyola Associate Provost Patrick Boyle said the university wants to help foster cooperation between the two countries. "Developing positive relations between the US and Vietnam is a theme that runs through our activities", he said.

The university will offer English as a second language courses for Vietnamese students at Hanoi Medical University.

According to the Associate Provost, although students at Hanoi Medical University have studied English for many years, they are usually not fluent, and Loyola will provide advanced instruction. "The goal is to help them to participate in medical research by giving them access to English-language journals and conferences," he said.

Boyle added ultimately, Loyola university hopes the programme will lead to collaboration between Hanoi Medical University and its own medical school.

Loyola's Associate Provost said that the university's leadership training programme, which will be designed for Vietnamese university officials, is in the planning phase. The programme is scheduled to start late this year or in early 2010.

The Ho Chi Minh City office is Loyola's third international outpost. The university has centers in Rome and Beijing, in addition to study-abroad programmes in 70 other locations.

VietNamNet/VNA

Party leader Manh to visit Japan

April 18, 2009
VietNamNet/VOV

VietNamNet Bridge - Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh will leave Hanoi on April 19 for an official three-day visit to Japan at the invitation of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Vietnam is one of Japan's biggest ODA recipientsThe visit takes place at a time when the global financial crisis is taking its toll on major economic powers such as the US, Japan, the EU and many other developed nations.

As an economic power, Japan is pursuing the goal of becoming a “normal nation,” whose role and position matches its economic potential, including a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It continues to consider the US a strategic ally in competition with other big countries, while using economics as a lever to exert its influence on Southeast Asia.

Japan has signed an agreement on the establishment of a free trade area (FTA) with ASEAN and agreed to observe 2009 as Mekong-Japan Exchange Year.

Japan is one of Vietnam’s leading economic partners, ranking first in providing official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam, second in importing Vietnamese commodities and third in pouring direct investment into the Southeast Asian nation.

Japan highly values Vietnam’s role and position and voices its support for strengthening relations with the country. Relations between the two countries have developed well in recent times. During Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh’s visit to Japan in 2002, the two countries agreed to boost their relations of friendship and cooperation in the spirit of “long-term stability and mutual trust”.

During Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to Japan in 2006, the two countries agreed to set a new course for building Vietnam-Japan relations “Toward a Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia”.

In 2007, State President Nguyen Minh Triet visited Japan, where the two countries’ leaders agreed on a “cooperation programme toward a strategic partnership between Vietnam and Japan”.

In 2008, the two countries signed a Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (VJEPA). In February 2009, Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito visited Vietnam. Most recently, Japan decided to resume providing ODA to Vietnam after both nations brought to light a graft scandal at the Pacific Consultants International (PCI) and showed determination to combat corruption.

Party leader Manh’s visit aims to enhance high-level dialogue between Vietnam and Japan, promote mutual understanding and friendship between their people and bring bilateral ties to new heights “Toward a Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia”. It will help boost bilateral cooperation in al fields, especially economics, trade, investment and ODA provision and speed up the implementation of the agreements signed between the two countries, including three key projects to build the North-South Express Railway Line, the North-South Highway and the Hoa Lac hi-tech park.

The visit is expected to strengthen relations between the Communist Party of Vietnam and Japan’s ruling party as well as other Japanese political parties. It will affirm the Communist Party of Vietnam’s leadership role in elevating Vietnam’s position in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world.

VietNamNet/VOV