Archive for May 25th, 2007

People may be complaining about rising fuel prices in America, but just look at how hard Chevron is working to keep the flow flowing. They’re laying out $4 Billion in Asia this year in the hunt for more black gold, after already striking in Cambodia after drilling four exploration wells.

I keep having the words ‘Texas Tea’ drift around in my head. Hmmmm — after all, tea did come from Asia. Now if those SUVs (Supersized Uber Voracious … ?) that are so popular could run on oolong …

Moving right along without the benefit of ever-vanishing fossil fuels (well, aside from those that power my computer, your computer and all the computers in between, not to mention the beamy-uppy thing that sends the signal around the world, and whatever else is involved in having my solitary finger taps morph into the words in front of you) …

and speaking of digging for gold, there are some ghoulish goings on. All in the name of desperation and poverty folks are mining the killing fields, and I’m talking Eureka!, not BOOM.

With people as poor as most are in Cambodia and an estimated 20,000 mass graves holding the remains of most of the almost two million who died during the Khmer Rouge years, it seems a no-brainer that these repositories of victims would be seen as a potential … well, gold mine.

When a set of earring can be removed from a long-dead corpse and sold for almost forty bucks in a country where 35% of the populations lives on less than fifty-cents a day, what else could happen?

The payoff does not come without a price, however:

The digging has stopped, and several people said they had been awakened at night by screams from the graves.

“People heard voices calling out, ‘Help me! Help me!’ ” said Svay Saroeun, 50, a deputy village chief. “Maybe they are angry at the villagers for digging up their graves. Or maybe they were tortured to death, and now they are being tortured again by people who are disturbing their sleep.”

The story is also covered here.

The government of India is loaning Cambodia $35.2 million to aid rural development.

“The loan will be mainly used to build dams, irrigation systems, and electricity networks from Kratie province to Stung Treng province,” said Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, who recently visited India.

“The rest of the loan will be spent for buying water pumps for helping rice farmers during drought season,” Namhong, who is also minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation … .

Let’s hope so.

Hun Sen made a visit to Myanmar, hoping to promote the idea of direct flights between the two contries. Apparently, the thought is to put together package tours of ancient temples that would include the Angkor Wat complex and those of the same era in Bagan, Myanmar.

Agreement was reached for direct flights from Bangan and Mandalay to Siem Reap, but no dates have been announced yet for the first flights.

That will be an interesting trip.

There was no talk about human rights during the trip, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s name will not be coming up. (Her latest one-year period of house arrest is to expire this weekend!

The International Federation of Journalists is voicing ‘shock and outrage’ over Hun Sen’s dismissal of a reporter as being “insolent” and “rude” for asking questions.

Perhaps not content to slam the guy in the National Assembly, the Prime Minister is making people nervous:

Keo is now in hiding and fears for his personal safety. After he attacked both Keo and RFA as “insolent”, Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly asked another journalist about Keo’s real name, background and political leanings.

The threatened garment worker’s strike I wrote about recently is looking more like it’s going to happen, with some building workers already striking after their pay was cut from 14000 riels per day to 8000. (Those numbers may sound big, but that’s a cut from less than $3.50 to less than $2.00.)

This isn’t hurting Cambodian’s bond rating, however, as Moody’s gave the country a B2 level rating this week.

Cambodian external debt at the end of 2006 was $3.2 billion, according to Thomas Byrne, a vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s. Byrne adds that virtually all the debt is from creditors including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Meaning that Moody’s rating is on Cambodia itself, as the nation hasn’t issued any bonds yet. “What our rating is, technically, (is) a rating on the government,” Byrne said.

Even so, there is reason to believe that things are turning to the better in Cambodia. “Cambodia has recently attracted significant inflows of foreign investment into such sectors as tourism, garments and energy, which should help boost the overall level of investment in the economy, as well as strengthen the balance of payments,” Byrne said.

Imagine what the country would be like without corruption! What a nice dream, heh? With nearly two-thirds of the government’s annual revenue coming in foreign aid, however, where’s the incentive to straighten up and fly right … or left?

There’s always all that oil money to come in soon, though, isn’t there? That’ll fix it. Hmmmm …

Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam are agreeing on incentive policies for their “development triangle”.

With a view to creating favourable conditions for people’s activities, transportation, business and trade as well as investment in the triangle, which must go hand-in-hand with other regions in the process of international integration, the three co-chairmen agreed on preferential tariffs for many kinds of goods essential to daily life and production for the people of the three countries, as well as facilitating cross-border transportation by applying simpler procedures for products produced within the region.

Sounds like it’s working already, at least as far as those who like to spins da wheels and takes da chances at the gaming tables, with between 600 and 700 punters crossing from Viet Nam to play in Cambodian casinos every weekend, and quite the career has sprung up from impulse to throw money away:

At a very hot noon of Tay Ninh as a coach from HCM City’s Ben Thanh to Tay Ninh’s Moc Bai has just stopped, tens of young men surrounded the coach and delivered name cards of Cambodian casinos to passengers. They spoke incessantly: “Please cross the border to gamble. I’ll bring you to casinos and bring you back home safely. It is only VND400,000 ($24.91) for the whole package service”.

… There are American style sexy-shows each Thursday.

And a couple of things I learned about from Anything: … , a blog now added to my blogroll for it’s great stuff on Cambodia …

A book is out by Siv Sichan, Cambodian-born former US Ambassador to the UN:

It recounts my journey from humble beginnings in a sleepy village in Cambodia to the corridors of power in Washington, DC. It is about an extraordinary escape from hell in Cambodia; an American journey from apple orchards to the White House; a timeless and universal tale of love, dreams, hope, and freedom. This is the unique history of two lands: opposite sides of the earth; two cultures: ancient and modern; two nations: weak and strong; two societies: poor and rich. It is the true story of one mother’s love and sacrifice, of her son’s hope and struggle for survival, and his life between these different worlds.

A link I’ll be using as our trip in August gets closer, What’s on in Cambodia, a listing of art-related events.

And did you know you can get a Khmer edition of The Cambodia Daily fee by email? According the this blogger it’s just a matter of requesting with the email from the blog attached.

There goes another week …

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