Archive for May 11th, 2007

Welcome to a week of Cambodian news …

Starting with threatened strikes over pay cuts for garment workers, and the government is recommending a cut of 70% on shift allowance for working nights.

As it is, those on the night shift get twice the monthly pay … that’s $100, instead of the $50 of day workers — yes, per MONTH … and employers find this too expensive, so only about 10 factories run night shifts.

The Prime Minister says that lowering shift pay from 200% to $130% of day wages will create more garment factory jobs and ” … increase peripheral economic activities for those operating transport and selling food to the workers at night.”

The Garment Manufacturers Association agrees with Hun Sen … or vice versa.

Politics may have played a part in the removal of the Tourism Minister.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the removal of Lay Prohas was another step by CPP to consolidate its power in the more lucrative ministries, English language newspaper the Cambodia Daily reported.

The UK’s Guardian Newspaper takes a look at the KR trials and history that’s worth a read.

The purveyors of doom and gloom have cast a pall of pessimism over proceedings. Rumours abound of international judges about to walk out, the tribunal on the verge of collapse, or speculation that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government is hell-bent on sabotaging the whole thing.

But the Phnom Penh reality is far more complicated and nuanced. The decades of cynical neglect during which time several Khmer Rouge leaders have died, including Pol Pot, and the tortured history of negotiations has made this a uniquely complicated tribunal from the outset.

There’s a lot more to it, so take a look.

This from the Washington Post about what Cambodian kids have been taught about the KR years is disturbing.

“Suppose that ever since 1945, Germany had been ruled by former Nazis,” said Philip Short, author of “Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare,” a biography of the Khmer Rouge leader published in 2004. “Would the history of the Nazi regime be taught honestly in Germany today? This is now Cambodia’s problem.”

Another article deserving attention is this about the Global Environment Facility and it’s new exec. She’s a hard-nosed, non-green business woman who knows her stuff.

The New York Times has another story about the worries about how oil may end up being a curse for Cambodia, a “poisoned bonanza”.

“This will be a watershed event for this country one way or another,” said the American ambassador, Joseph A. Mussomeli. “Everyone knows that it will be either a tremendous blessing or a terrific curse. They are unlikely to come out unscathed.”

Indeed, this is a land that already suffers many of the symptoms of the oil curse, even before a drop of oil has been pumped.

With its tiny economy, weak government institutions, widespread poverty and crippling corruption, Cambodia seems as ill-suited as any country to absorb the oil wealth widely expected come its way.

In the meantime, UNICEF has noticed that lack of sanitation is a problem for children’s health. Okay.

Estimating that only 16% of rural Cambodians have access to proper sanitation facilities, they have “identified” this as one of the major causes of diarrhoea, so are putting in wells and providing technical assistance to villages.

In the past year, UNICEF has implemented its Seth Koma project in six rural provinces. By improving water and sanitation access and hygiene, the project is helping Cambodians avert the preventable deaths of thousands of young children from diarrhoea and water-borne diseases.

I think I’ll look into this while I’m in Cambodia later this year.

One thing I don’t plan on spending time examining, however, are the royal cows. They’re predicting a bad season.

The result was mixed as the two fractious beasts, bedecked in red head cloths and golden silk rugs, turned their noses up at the majority of the seven golden dishes laid out before them, signaling a lean if mostly peaceful year ahead for the overwhelmingly agricultural country.

Two chocolate brown oxen were finally brought forward to choose from a feast including fresh grass, wine, water, corn, rice and sesame, but one refused to eat altogether and the other ate just 45 percent of a dish of corn before turning his back on the proceedings.

If they had eaten the grass or drunk the wine, Cambodia would have braced itself for war, chaos and turmoil. However their refusal to touch the water signals scarce rains for the coming rice season, according to palace Brahman priests present for the ceremony.

If you’re thinking no one takes this seriously, you may be interested to hear that Hun Sen was furious when the royal astrologers failed to predict deadly floods in 2001.

Maybe the cows aren’t happy, but there’s been some luck with leopards.

The first ever photographs of a wild leopard with young in Cambodia show that a pioneering project is helping to conserve wildlife and support local livelihoods there. The photographs were taken by the animals themselves when they triggered camera traps that had been set up by wildlife biologists working with local community rangers.

The article, adapted from a news release from WWF, has details about the leopards and projects in the Srepok wilderness area that are involving local people in conservations efforts and ensuring they have a stake in protecting wildlife.

Here’s something from Laurie Fenton of Emily’s Books:

Positions Available for Summer 2007 Putney Student Travel
Program Leaders in Cambodia
In this our 56th year, with alumni in all 50 states and abroad, Putney Student Travel provides unusual opportunities for small groups of high school students to share an exciting, educational summer.

We are seeking two qualified college graduates (one male, one female) to
lead a group of 16 high school students from the U.S. on our Global Awareness in Action program in Cambodia which focuses on Women’s and Children’s Issues. This program begins and ends with several days at Yale University during which participants in all 7 or our Global Action programs to different locations around the world meet to discuss challenges faced by developing countries. Each group spends 3 ½ weeks in its destination country exploring the group’s target issue through hands-on activities, meetings with local leaders and NGO workers, and extensive discussion. They also participate in cultural activities, and have some time available for visiting sites of interest including Angkor Wat. As a culminating activity,they prepare and present an in-depth, multi-media report to all other
Global Action participants at Yale at the end of the program. For more detailed information, please visit out web site at http://www.goputney.com .

Leaders must be at least proficient in Khmer (fluency preferred) and fluent in English. In-country experience in Cambodia is required. Knowledge of and professional involvement with women’s and children’s issues, and
experience working with US teenagers are important criteria in selection.

Leaders must be able to motivate and energize students in a wide range of situations and settings. Due to the high degree of independence and responsibility granted to leaders, successful candidates must be highly organized, have strong leadership skills, and must be able to work well with others.

Leaders receive a stipend of $1000 in addition to having all expenses paid. They are responsible for their own health insurance, and must be certified in Basic First Aid. Leaders must be present at an orientation in Putney, Vermont June 14-16, 2007. Travel to Putney is compensated. The program dates are June 29- August 2. If you are excited about the prospect of helping students learn about Cambodia and the challenges it faces, please e-mail a resume and cover letter outlining your experiences in language, travel, community service, working with young people, and leadership as soon as possible. Visit the Leadership Opportunities section of our website for more details:

And if you’re near Lowell, Mass. the Angkor Dance Troop there is offering a Khmer language program for children staring Sunday the 20th of May and running for six weeks.

And there’s another week …

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