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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Angkor lights stir controversy

Thursday, 28 May 2009 Written by Ros Dina The Phnom Penh Post
A heritage specialist has requested intervention from the prime minister in a disagreement over light fixtures on temples at the Angkor Wat complex.

A HERITAGE advocate has sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging him to stop an ongoing light installation project at the Angkor Wat temple, saying equipping the 11-century World Heritage site with lights will have a negative effect on its ambiance.

"The illumination will disturb tourists and badly affect the beauty of the temples. By the law of the Apsara Authority, even villagers are not allowed to build new houses in the Angkor area, but it is regrettable that the area is now equipped with lights," Moeung Son, president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation Organisation (KCF), said at a press conference Tuesday.

The project, which began late last year, was designed to encourage "night lighting" tours and prolong the stay of tourists in the area.

However, Moeung Son said it would also fail to do that.

"According my experience in the tourism sector, cultural tourists never watch temples at night. They are particularly interested in Khmer ancient building styles."

Ho Vandy, head of the permanent committee of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, also said that the lights would not increase tourist traffic to the site.

"Only about 20 or 30 tourists come to visit the temple or performances at night," Ho Vandy said.
Details of fixtures vague
Tourism officials have been vague about how the lights have been fixed to structures, saying they were put into "existing" holes in the temples.

The Ministry of Tourism and the Apsara Authority have maintained that the arrangement would help attract more visitors and consequently raise income in the tourism sector.

"I hope that the illumination will increase the number of tourists, and the Angkor Wat temple will become productive, bringing more income for Cambodia's economy. Moreover, the Angkor Wat area will look more active and lively," So Mara, a secretary of state at the Tourism Ministry, said Tuesday.

"Now we always tell visitors to get out when it's dark because we are afraid that they may fall down while walking in the dark. But when there are lights, visitors will have more time to walk around," he added.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The First sky way and new bridge in Phnom Penh

In ceremony opening with new bridge (Monivong Bridge) and constructed places for the first sky way in Phnom Penh located in Kbal Thnol area, Meanchey District, Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 27 May 2009 under present Samdach Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia, Delegations, Government Officials and peoples.

“Thanks for the former and new governor of Phnom Penh, but except governor of Lonol and polpot regime”, Prime minister said.

Monivong Bridge is under constructing fund approximately 10 million dollars from China and about 6 million for the first sky way in Phnom Penh.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Royal oxen signal worry for Cambodian rice farmers

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's royal oxen performed an ancient ceremony to predict the country's agriculture fortunes -- and raised fears of a low rice harvest by refusing to eat any of the grain.

King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the ceremony in a park outside the palace where thousands of people watched royal astrologers observing the animals' behaviour.

After a symbolic ploughing of a portion of the field, a pair of royal oxen were led to seven dishes -- rice, corn, beans, sesame, grass, water and alcohol -- laid out on trays.

They were seen eating only beans and corn, allowing the palace's chief astrologer Kang Ken to declare that this year "beans and corn harvests will be bountiful."

The astrologer did not spell out to the crowd what it meant for the rice harvest -- but he later told reporters that it would be only about 30 percent of the expected amount.

"I am extremely worried. As the oxen did not eat the rice, I fear that I cannot have (a) good harvest of rice," said farmer Vong Sak, 53, after the ceremony, which marks the start of Cambodia's planting season.

While still taken seriously by many rural Cambodians in this deeply superstitious country, ploughing ceremony predictions have been called into question in recent years.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who did not attend the ceremony, rebuked the royal astrologers for failing to predict deadly floods in 2001 that claimed 59 lives.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Day of Anger" in Cambodia

Phnom Penh - More than 1,000 Cambodians gathered at one of the Khmer Rouge's notorious killing fields Wednesday to observe an annual "Day of Anger" and remember the almost 2 million people killed during the regime's 1975-79 rule. A crowd of government officials, Buddhist monks, survivors of the regime and victims' families watched high school students re-enact scenes of torture and execution at the Choeng Ek killing fields, where up to 15,000 men, women and children were murdered and buried in mass graves.

The May 20 ceremony marks the day in 1976 when it is believed Khmer Rouge leaders decided to transform Cambodia into a completely agrarian society - a policy that led to mass deaths through execution, starvation and overwork.

During Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia from 1979 to 1989, the event was a well-organized public holiday with ceremonies held throughout the country.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an archival organization dedicated to documenting the history of the Khmer Rouge, said the day was a hugely significant part of the country's path towards reconciliation.

"The anger has faded somewhat because young people today were not around during that period and did not witness what happened," he said. "But it is important to have this day so we can remember what happened and how the millions of deaths made us so angry."

This year's ceremony was held as the trial of the Khmer Rouge's former chief torturer continued before Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary alias Duch, faces charges of crimes against humanity, torture, premeditated murder and breeches of the Geneva Conventions, allegedly committed while he was warden of the Tuol Sleng torture prison in Phnom Penh.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Youk Chhang said the first trial before the court was an important part of reconciling Cambodia's troubled past.

"We have taken military action against the Khmer Rouge as well as social action, such as today's event, and now the time has come to take legal action," he said. "This must occur for us to become a truly democratic society."

Prisoners at Tuol Sleng were sent to their deaths at Choeng Ek, but the site has since been transformed into a genocide museum and memorial that receives thousands of visitors each year.