Cambodia’s National Assembly on Friday unanimously adopted the extradition agreement between Cambodia and South Korea. The agreement states the each party has obligation to extradite to another party for whoever found in the country of any party, and is wanted for accusation or trial. “The extradition agreement is very important for two sides to push effective cooperation to eliminate cross-border crimes, terrorism, money laundry, weapon trafficking and human trafficking, ” Pen Panha, chairman of the national assembly’s legislation and justice commission, said during the debate. The extradition agreement was signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers on October 22, 2009 in Phnom Penh during the official visit of the President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak in Cambodia. Cambodia has signed extradition agreement with China, Australia, Laos, and Thailand. Ang Vong Vathana, the justice minister said that the ministry also plans to sign extradition agreements with countries such as Russia, India and other countries. After the debate, all the 97 lawmakers during the session unanimously passed the extradition agreement. Source: Xinhua
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Investigators in Cambodia said on Wednesday that a stampede that caused the deaths of 350 people who were suffocated or crushed Monday night was probably touched off by the slight swaying of a short suspension bridge packed with holiday-goers on the last evening of an annual water festival.
The report, carried on Bayon TV, a government-owned station, said the dead were among some 750 victims, most of them from among the millions of rural people who travel to the capital each year for the festival. The figures from Wednesday’s government report lowered earlier estimates of 378 dead and 755 injured.
By Wednesday morning, most of the dead had been identified at hospitals and transported in the backs government trucks to their villages, along with grieving relatives.
At Calmette Hospital, where 140 people had been laid out in white sheets in an outdoor morgue, just three bodies remained unclaimed. Several people wandered the hospital’s grounds holding snapshots of missing relatives, including smiling wedding portraits and holiday photographs.
The bridge where they had died, roped off with yellow tape, remained littered with the sandals and shoes and bits of clothing that had been torn from the victims in the crush.
Phnom Penh Post
Hundreds died and hundreds more were injured last night in a stampede on Diamond Island’s north bridge, bringing a tragic close to the final day of water festival celebrations in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced via video conference at 2:30am that 339 people had been confirmed dead and 329 injured.
“With this miserable event, I would like to share my condolences with my compatriots and the family members of the victims,” he said.
“This needs to be investigated more.”
A committee would be set up to examine the incident.
“This is the biggest tragedy since the Pol Pot regime,” he said, adding that Cambodia would hold a national day of mourning tomorrow.
Stung Treng provincial court charged a Lao national man of distributing and trafficking methamphetamines drug into Cambodia yesterday.
Phat Thai, Stung Treng provincial deputy court prosecutor, said that the Laotian suspect was charged of the distributing and trafficking drug according to article 33 of drug trafficking, adding that “he will be sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison and paid some fines.”
“We are waiting for the final decision from the court,” he said.
Long Vicheat, the provincial police chief, said that the Laotian suspect Nguong Thang, 52, was arrested on Sunday at around 6 pm in Thala Barivat district’s Preah Kil commune’s Anlong Savay village near Cambodia-Loa border. He was found trafficking methamphetamine of 3520 pills of methamphetamines (314.5 grams) in the rice package.
There were 13 cases of drug trafficking in Stung Treng province for this year and two of which including this case are related to Laotians, according to the anti-drug trafficking office.Photo from CEN
A 22-year-old in Pursat provincial Krakor district died on Saturday because he fell from the rail trolley cart while he was riding.
Hong Savon, Tnaut Chrum commune police post officer, said that the cart has problem with its wheel and then the victim fell in front of the cart, causing it to step on him, adding that the victim’s leg was cut, broke his head and some injuries to his arms.
The victim named Kong Tit living in Kandieng district and he traveled from Kamrang area with the cart loading around 3 tons of rice and 20 passengers.
The trolley cart rider escaped when the incident happened and police are searching for him.
Late 2009, there was a rail cart incident in Pursat province causing 5 people seriously injured, according to Hong Savon.
Ly Borin, the director of Rail Road Department in Phnom Penh, said that the railway is for only the train not for trolley cart and the authority does not allow them to do business on the rail.
“It can cause the accident every time. The state is not responsible for them because it is illegal and the trolley owner will be punished,” adding that though they use the railway, they have to be careful.
In the 1960s, he redefined the look of his homeland architecturally. Now his works are being lost to redevelopment. Admirers are working to highlight his importance.
Reporting from Sihanoukville, Cambodia — —
Architect Bill Greaves stood on a bluff outside the city and admired an elegant white and peach building perched high above the beaches and guesthouses that have made this seaside spot into a tourist boomtown. Inspired by the dong raik, a pole used by rural Cambodians to carry loads on their shoulders, the building seemed to float in the air, its concrete and brick second floor held aloft by a complex web of hidden beams.
“It’s a gem, but it’s not very well known,” Greaves said of the SKD Brewery offices, built in 1968 by Cambodia’s most gifted and visionary architect, Vann Molyvann.
In the 1960s, under the iron-fisted patronage of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Vann Molyvann helped transform Cambodia from a sleepy former French colony into one of the most architecturally arresting countries in Asia. But after surviving decades of civil war and the terror of Khmer Rouge rule, the architect’s buildings are being demolished as Cambodia seeks to rebuild.
Although Vann Molyvann, 83, is back in Phnom Penh after years of living overseas, there is little he can do to prevent his work from disappearing. In 2008, two of his greatest works, the National Theater and the Council of Ministers building, were demolished. In 2001, the government sold his Olympic Stadium to a Taiwanese developer, who altered the complex’s drainage system to the point that it floods frequently.
In response, admirers such as Greaves, art historian Darryl Collins, who cowrote the only book in English about 1950s and 1960s Cambodian architecture, and architect Geoff Pyle, who founded an organization that offers guided tours of Phnom Penh’s notable buildings, are working to highlight Vann Molyvann’s importance. He remains virtually unknown in Cambodia, where he is not taught in the country’s high schools and universities, and his international profile is low.
Greaves had traveled from his base in Phnom Penh to the brewery in Sihanoukville with a team of volunteers working with the Vann Molyvann Project, an organization he established in 2009 to document the architect’s buildings. Nearly all of Vann Molyvann’s blueprints were lost during Cambodia’s years of turmoil, so Greaves and his volunteers are re-creating them from scratch to leave a record for future generations.
As the sun burned off the morning mist and lipstick-red trucks roared by full of Angkor beer — the SKD complex remains a functioning brewery — Cambodian and American volunteers in their 20s moved methodically through the space, hand measuring doorways, columns and anything else they could get their tape measurers on. They would spend the better part of three days sizing up the building before heading back to Phnom Penh, where they were creating scale models and drawings for the first major exhibition of Vann Molyvann’s work, which opened in Phnom Penh in late September.
Greaves first encountered Vann Molyvann’s buildings when he was visiting as a tourist in 2004. “I was astonished. I didn’t know anything about architecture in Cambodia in the 1960s,” he said. He was struck by the architect’s daring use of concrete to create massive, expressive forms, “the kinds of things you could never convince a structural engineer to do nowadays,” he said.
The buildings ingeniously used what might now be called green technology, including ventilation, natural lighting and drainage systems, to mitigate Cambodia’s harsh climate, which alternates between periods of torrential rain and extreme heat. The buildings also referenced objects from Cambodian culture, such as mystical Buddhist serpents called nagas and the straw hats worn by peasants working in the fields.
After returning to Cambodia several times, Greaves quit his job at Steven Harris Architects in New York and moved to Phnom Penh to found the Vann Molyvann Project, which has consulted extensively with the Cambodian architect in its work. “I am extremely grateful for what they are doing,” Vann Molyvann said of his foreign admirers.
Vann Molyvann’s life has been shaped by the twists and turns of his country’s tumultuous history. Born in 1926, he attended Cambodia’s only high school during World War II. However, his studies were interrupted by Japan’s takeover of the country during the war, but he managed to graduate and in 1945 won one of two scholarships that year for Cambodians to study in France.
At the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he received architectural training from disciples of Le Corbusier, who taught him the influential French architect’s “Le Modulor,” a system of proportion that Vann Molyvann later used as the basis for his designs. He thought little about his home country and “drowned in French culture completely,” he said. Meanwhile, his compatriots in Paris at the time, including a young Pol Pot, soaked up the Marxism and Stalinism that would form the ideological basis of the Khmer Rouge.
Vann Molyvann returned to Phnom Penh in 1956, and he was one of a few architects in Cambodia with formal training. Cambodia had gained independence from France in 1953, but it remained a poor, rural country with no recent history of cities or urban planning. “Architecture was a strange concept in Cambodia. They did not know what it was,” he said. He opened a firm but found little private work.
His fortunes changed when Norodom Sihanouk appointed him chief architect for state buildings and director for urban planning and habitat. With access to government commissions, he could begin designing civic buildings that combined the Modernist and Brutalist sensibilities he had learned in Paris with Cambodia’s traditions and way of life.
Over the next decade and a half, Vann Molyvann built dozens of buildings in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Cambodia. His crowning achievement was the Olympic Stadium, a sprawling sports complex that was built in advance of the Southeast Asian Games of 1963, which were never held. With a water-management system inspired by the moats and channels of ancient Angkor and soaring concrete overhangs, the design helped usher in a period of architectural and cultural creativity. He was in his early 30s at the time. “Imagine having the possibility to build such a thing when you are that age,” Vann Molyvann said, his eyes twinkling.
Norodom Sihanouk viewed architecture as a way of expressing the aspirations for progress and modernity of the newly independent Cambodian people. He poured significant portions of the national budget into construction projects, and he deftly exploited Cambodia’s Cold War neutrality to land aid from both the Americans and the Soviets.
“Sihanouk was extremely open to the outside world,” Vann Molyvann said. “Cambodians had enormous enthusiasm to build the country, and fortunately for us, Prince Sihanouk shared this feeling.”
Norodom Sihanouk’s showpiece was the Russian Boulevard, which connected central Phnom Penh to its international airport. Lined with many of Vann Molyvann’s most significant buildings, including the Teachers’ Training College and the Council of Ministers building, the road was designed to impress visiting dignitaries.
But Norodom Sihanouk could not keep his country neutral forever. With the Vietnam War spilling over into Cambodia, Vann Molyvann left with his family in 1972, and the prince’s cosmopolitanism eventually gave way to the savage xenophobia of the Khmer Rouge. Vann Molyvann spent the next two decades as a consultant with the United Nations at various posts around the world.
He moved back to Cambodia in 1993, but his second return has proved more difficult than the first. Although he was appointed head of the organization that managed the site of the Angkor temples, the current government of Prime Minister Hun Sen removed him from that post after he publicly complained about government corruption. “I felt that entrance fees for Angkor should go to the people, not to civil servants in Phnom Penh. They said, ‘Get out, Molyvann,'” he said.
Out of favor with the government, Vann Molyvann has watched the urban landscape in Phnom Penh transform. Norodom Sihanouk’s Russian Boulevard, that bellwether of Cambodia’s aspirations, now swarms with trucks and motorbikes carrying goods and migrants into the city, and it is lined with the glass-and-steel office buildings and cookie-cutter housing developments of Cambodia’s recent economic boom. The new Chinese-designed and funded Council of Ministers building, which replaced Vann Molyvann’s, features a pyramid framed by what resembles an enormous drawbridge. It would not look out of place in a Chinese provincial capital.
“There’s a very strong notion in Cambodia that a modern city should be like Shanghai or Bangkok, where the emphasis is on verticality,” said Greaves of the Vann Molyvann Project. “Late Modern architecture is a little harder for the general public to love.”
While the efforts of Greaves and others have raised Vann Molyvann’s profile among Cambodians, the fate of his buildings ultimately rests with the current government, which came to power in 1979 after defeating the Khmer Rouge. “The government doesn’t want to leave anything from before 1979, because it wasn’t their achievement. History is completely manipulated,” Vann Molyvann said.
Today, he has an official government title, but it is essentially an honorific. He is working on translating his PhD dissertation, about urbanization in Southeast Asia, into Khmer, the Cambodian language.
Beng Khemro, deputy director general of the country’s Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the government is doing everything it can to preserve Cambodia’s architectural heritage. “But economic development and modernization inevitably bring about changes in every country, and Cambodia is no exception,” he said.
Young Cambodians like Yin Sotheara, a 21-year-old architecture student and volunteer with the Vann Molyvann Project, hope to play a role in that development. Back at the SKD Brewery offices, he took a break from measuring a rear-facing balcony to discuss his future after graduation.
“There are not many opportunities for Cambodian architects. Most of the new buildings are being built by Chinese and Koreans,” he said. But learning about Vann Molyvann had for the first time provided him with a Cambodian architectural role model. “Vann Molyvann showed that you can take foreign concepts and mix them with Cambodian traditions to make new buildings,” he said. “I want to make buildings that are suited to the Cambodian way of life.”
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Along the train tracks in one of Phnom Penh’s ubiquitous slums, the noise never stops and everything is changing. Longtime residents are fearful that they’ll soon have to move. This place isn’t safe anymore, they say. It isn’t moral anymore.
Along these same tracks, roughly 100 new residents, in search of asylum and community, have trickled in over the last several years and now lead lives of shocking desperation. Most of them only sleep during the day. Some perform acts of prostitution. Others dress as women. Almost all of them are homosexual men. And this place, Beoung Kak 2, has become a home: Cambodia’s first gay town.
But this isn’t Boystown in Chicago, nor the Castro in San Francisco. This isn’t a place where homosexuals can celebrate sexuality, individuality, love. Make no mistake: It’s a place for survival.
Every month more newcomers arrive, and as this community expands and supplants longtime residents, it represents both a burgeoning confidence among Cambodia’s gay population, as well as the difficulties that lie ahead for homosexuals here struggling for acceptance and equality.
As two worlds converge and clash in Beoung Kak 2, each seems allegoric, as though re-enacting a bigger national issue. The young, radically sexual newcomers stand juxtaposed against a traditional set of neighbors that are baffled, and sometimes frightened, by the swelling number of openly gay Khmer down the road.
“We’re scared that more [homosexuals] will keep coming here and make more terrible activities back there,” said Srey Oun, 48, who lives behind her now-defunct hair salon in Beoung Kak 2. “Everyone is scared like me. Khmer culture isn’t changing, but the people are.”
Since 2004, the number of “out” homosexuals in Phnom Penh has exploded from around 900 to approximately 10,000 today, according to nongovernmental organizations that track the city’s gay community. Other provinces have seen such staggering growth among their gay communities as well, census records show.
For years, the ever-growing number of openly gay Khmer had scattered themselves, meeting socially, but living separately, NGO workers say. Last March, however, Prime Minister Hun Sen castigated Cambodia’s reputation as a destination for sex tourism. Soon after, police shuttered brothels and karaoke bars across the capital, where many transgenders worked and lived. Destitute and homeless, some staggered to the slums of Beoung Kak 2.
“If we’re not with each other, we’re scared everyone will look down on us or beat us,” said Kong Chan Rattna, 24, amid eight fellow transgender homosexuals inside a hut stilted above a stream. “Together, we can have happiness — we can go anywhere. Nothing’s a problem.”
Cambodia’s definition of homosexuality and gender challenges Western notions. In Cambodia, there’s a third gender — frequently called “lady boys” — that falls somewhere between male and female. By all appearances and mannerisms, they’re female and identify as such though born male; most haven’t undergone any sex-change operations, they say.
Transgender homosexuals inhabit the shadows of Khmer society. Though they’re emphatically proud of their lifestyles and sexuality, such proclamations might come out stilted or forebode some admittance of shame. Don’t tell my parents. Don’t use your real name. Don’t go home. Don’t.
Of the many narratives that have taken Beoung Kak 2’s homosexual residents into this fetid and cramped place, the story of a slight, curly-haired transgender named Srey Pisey seems emblematic. Pisey, gregarious and bright despite little formal education, has always had a secret inside her.
Pisey, now 28, was 13 when she realized she was different. Living in rural Kandal just outside Phnom Penh, she couldn’t stop the thought that she wasn’t right in this body, that she couldn’t relate to her family or anyone in her village. She felt alone. She felt scared. She said she knew she was supposed to be a woman, and the recognition was tortuous.
“I tried to kill myself twice when I was a child,” she said at home in Beoung Kak 2. “I took too much medication. I was very upset and disappointed that I was gay and my parents beat me and wanted me to go away from my home. I tried to change myself into a boy, but I couldn’t. Because, me as a woman, it’s natural.”
In 2002, Pisey’s parents disowned her and kicked her out, she said. So, without any skills, she came to Phnom Penh. She hasn’t been home since and says she misses her family every day though not sure what they would think of her now, a homosexual prostitute in Phnom Penh.
“I don’t know how to read,” Pisey said, echoing a theme in many stories here. “I don’t know how to write. I only know how to be a prostitute.”
Meanwhile, around 100 meters down the tracks, longtime resident Kaulap Kho sat inside her wooden shack rocking her 5-month-old son in a hammock. While she talked and her baby slept, Kho became angrier and angrier. This squat woman, with her husband, Tho, has lived here selling clams for 10 years. It has become their home. Where they want to raise their four children. But soon, she said, they’ll have to move back to the provinces to find work.
Kaulap’s profits selling clams have recently plunged 50 percent from $5 per day to $2.50, and the homosexuals, she spat, are to blame. Good Khmer folk don’t come to shops near such “sinful” people, she said. And so Kaulap broods as she rocks her baby, hatred in her eyes.
“These people are not the same as the general people; they talk and act very differently” said Meas Chanthan, executive director of Cambodia’s Corporation for Social Services and Development, one of Phnom Penh’s dozen non-governmental organizations that study and assist the country’s homosexual population. “They talk loudly, they scream and they’re not afraid of their neighbors.”
Meas continued, “These homosexuals think they’ve become isolated and that they have no one. They don’t like the general people either so they have no choice but to live together and so the homosexuals are so sad.”
Isolation seems an insurmountable and profound thing for some transgenders in Beoung Kak 2. At 9 a.m. on a recent Friday, while most residents here were already thinking about lunch, five transgender homosexuals slept inside their shack on a wooden floor. They had gotten back late the night before. No one had purchased them, and now they didn’t have enough money for rice.
Yet deep into midmorning, despite the light, the hunger, the noise spilling inside, the transgender homosexuals snuggled together, eyes closed: The rest of the world firmly outside.