Sunday, November 29, 2009

Interest rates likely to hike in December

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is likely to make history on Tuesday by lifting interest rates for a third straight month, economists say.

After more data showing Australia has avoided the worst of the downturn, 13 of the 14 economists surveyed by AAP expect the central bank to lift the cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent on December 1, following two 25 basis point moves in October and November.

If it does, it will be the first time the bank has lifted interest rates three months in a row since it started announcing the rises in January 1990.

"The cash rate at 3.5 per cent is way too expansionary on an economy that won't experience the worst outcomes (of the global financial crisis)," Commonwealth Bank senior economist Michael Workman said.

In a sign the Australian economy was doing better than other western nations, Mr Workman said recent jobs data indicated unemployment would peak at 6.5 per cent.

That's below revised Treasury forecasts for the jobless rate to hit 6.75 per cent by late 2010.

In May, Treasury was forecasting an unemployment rate peak of 8.5 per cent.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows total employment rose by 24,500 to 10.832 million in October, seasonally adjusted, after it shot up by 40,600 in September.

The unemployment rate has hovered around 5.8 per cent in recent months and briefly dipped to 5.7 per cent in September.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"The Abhisit Vejjajiva government should not be afraid of losing face, former foreign Minister Surakiart said

Former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai suggested yesterday that the government make moves to calm the wave of patriotism and show political maturity by offering an olive branch to Cambodia.

"The government should not be afraid of losing face, but instead show its maturity by calling for talks," Surakiart told a seminar at Chulalongkorn University.

"It should send people that Cambodia would want to talk to, instead of sending public figures that are hated in Phnom Penh."

For starters, he said, the government should drop its plans to scrap the bilateral maritime deal. If the government does not want to discuss the overlapping claim in the Gulf of Thailand, all it has to do is simply not talk, instead of terminating the deal, he said.

Abhisit Vejjajiva's Cabinet decided two weeks ago to revoke the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in 2001 in a retaliatory gesture after Cambodian PM Hun Sen appointed fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

The MoU, signed during Thaksin's administration by Surakairt and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, was meant to set up a joint technical committee to draw up terms of a joint development area and the delimitation of territorial waters in the Gulf of Thailand.

Surakiart suggested that the government withdraw its proposal of termination soon so the document can continue being effective.

"Thai people should not allow internal colour-coded politics jeopardise relations with neighbouring countries. Don't allow one person, who was in Cambodia just for four days, to spark hatred between Thais and Cambodians," he said.

Not use force to settle dispute, promise the Thai-Cambodian Militaries

The Thai and Cambodian militaries agreed Friday to maintain friendly ties and will avoid using force to settle border conflicts.

The two sides held the joint border committee meeting at the Dusit Thani Pattaya.

Representatives on the Thai side including Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwn, Supreme Commander Gen Songkitti Jakkabatra, Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda, First Army Region Commander Lt Gen Khanit Saphithak.

Leading the Cambodian entourage was Deputy Prime and Defence Minister Tea Banh.

After the meeting, Prawit said the two sides agreed to use peaceful measures to deal with the border conflicts.

Prawit said the armed forces of the two countries would ensure that the two peoples would be able to go with their normal life and across-the-border trades.

Prawit said the armed forces of the two countries also agree to maintain good relations based on the international laws, sincerity and understanding

Aussie turned to Khmer Kickboxing to kick drinking and bar-brawling

Drinking and bar-brawling were wreaking havoc on his life, so Nick Tower turned to Khmer kickboxing to channel his energies more positively

FOR Nick Tower and Joshua Lee, last Saturday’s kickboxing match at CTN Stadium was a knockout finish – in more ways than one.

Lee, a filmmaker from Western Australia, said he had mixed emotions about the culmination to his new documentary, the aptly named Nick’s Fight.

“It’s sad to have this part of the journey end, but in the same respect I’m excited to finally see both our goals realised,” he said.

The film’s central character, Lee’s younger half-brother Nick, competed in the Khmer kickboxing fight against Cambodian opponent Phearom Meas – and won.

But as Lee points out, the film is really about Tower’s personal fight to find direction and meaning in his life.

With brotherly caution and affection, Lee described Tower as a complex character.

“He is a fun, caring and thoughtful guy – however, he has a destructive side, which makes him so interesting to me as a filmmaker,” Lee said.

Rape, abuse in Kingdom is reaching crisis level: minister

SEXUAL and domestic violence against women and girls has become a problem of pandemic proportions that is stalling development of the Kingdom, according to Minister for Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi.

She spoke on Wednesday at the opening session of the two-day Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children: Focus on Urban Youth, which included 120 participants and speakers from countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Ing Kantha Phavi said that although the number of rapes and sexual assaults that get reported is increasing, the number of cases that go unreported is of even greater concern.

“In Cambodia, the reported rate of domestic and sexual violence is 22 percent. But due to our culture of silence and shame, and the widespread practice of victims accepting compensation instead of prosecuting their abusers, the actual rate of violence could be much higher. This risks jeopardising the recent development and progress of Cambodia,” she said.

First lady Bun Rany spoke of the importance of youth in tackling the issue in Cambodia, where 56 percent of the population is under the age of 25.

Please allow me to share your immense and enduring sorrow

Phnom Penh Post S-21 chief downplays role in final statements

TUOL Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, reiterated his remorse for Khmer Rouge-era crimes Wednesday, but not before using the bulk of his closing statement to downplay the torture facility’s significance and paint himself as an unwilling “cog in a running machine” over which he had no control.

“I plead with you to allow me to share your immense and enduring sorrow anytime in order to express my most excruciating remorse,” Duch said.

“I am psychologically accountable to the entire Cambodian population for the souls of those who perished” during the regime, Duch said

Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked judges to hand down a 40-year prison sentence in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first case, dismissing as baseless Duch’s claim that he acted under duress.

“I am psychologically accountable to the entire Cambodian population for the souls of those who perished” during the regime, Duch said. “I am deeply remorseful and profoundly affected by destruction on such a mind-boggling scale.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sivarak's mum to see him tomorrow

The Nation: Detained Thai national Sivarak Chutipong will have a chance to see his mother tomorrow, two weeks after being detained in Phnom Penh on a charge of spying, the Thai Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Sivarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was accused of illegally obtaining flight information relating to fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra and passing the details to a Thai diplomat, who was later expelled from Cambodia.

Sivarak was arrested on November 12 after Thaksin, who was appointed as an economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, flew into Phnom Penh to give a lecture on economic strategy.

His mother, Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, will meet Sivarak at Prey Sor prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh tomorrow afternoon, ministry spokesperson Wimon Kidchob said.

Bangkok Post Kao Soupha, his defence lawyer, expected the Cambodian court will begin his trial on December 8 but it was unclear whether the court would rule on his case on that day.

The lawyer filed a bail request for him on Monday but the court has yet to decide whether to release him.

Suwanna Suwanjuta, head of the Justice Ministry's rights and freedom protection department, who returned from Phnom Penh yesterday, said Sivarak was detained in a cell with four other inmates, despite the fact cells usually hold 25 inmates

Sivarak's case is a part of a conflict with Cambodia. Thailand downgraded relations with its neighbour after Thaksin was appointed as an adviser to Hun Sen.

The arrest of Sivarak sparked a rumour that Hun Sen's daughter would take over CATS, which is a Samart Corp subsidiary.

Watchai Vilailuck, president of Samart Corp, insisted yesterday that the company had never been approached by the Cambodian government or any members of Prime Minister Hun Sen's family to take over CATS.

Saving face or restoring diplomatic relationship, The Abhisit Administration's juggling acts

During the past two decades, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has always been only a phone-call away from leaders of neighbouring countries. In the midst of the ongoing diplomatic tension with Cambodia, his fence-mending clout could have come in handy had he not been part of the problem himself.

The retired general is now sitting back and watching the government run into a brick wall of diplomacy in dealing with Phnom Penh.

Gen Chavalit, the government's natural enemy through his position as opposition Peau Thai Party chairman, came under fire for igniting the diplomatic row with Phnom Penh after his return from a working visit to that country which happened shortly after he was appointed Puea Thai chairman.

Many watchers believe the former army chief is manoeuvring to stir up friction with neighbouring countries in an effort to isolate Thailand.

Gen Chavalit's personal ties with national leaders extend to virtually every neighbouring country and beyond. He is also said to be on friendly terms with the Chinese leaders as well.

Much of the relationship was cultivated when he was army chief, defence minister or as the prime minister. Gen Chavalit may have been in and out of the domestic political scene, but he has never given up nurturing his friendships through personal visits to those countries.

Gen Chavalit is visionary in the sense that he has groomed the next "public diplomat" - Gen Vichit Yathip. The former deputy army chief is not dubbed the "hand that unites in all directions" for nothing.

Gen Vichit has been asked by past governments and the army to help coordinate with leaders of respective countries when any bilateral impasse needed breaking. But in the current spat with Cambodia, Gen Vichit is staying put because he is on Gen Chavalit's side, which makes it awkward for the government to solicit his help.

Thailand will never be the same again

"Thailand will never be the same again,"
top 20% own 69% of the country's assets while the bottom 20% own only 1%.
less than 1% of the people own nearly half of the country's savings.

How will this political mess end? Will Thaksin Shinawatra finally return to haunt us with his bottomless greed?
Or will the old, oppressive system that perpetuates social injustice prevail to suffocate us?

Is there any way out of this madness?

Ask historian/thinker Nidhi Eeo-seewong, and his answer is a resounding no. In his latest column in Matichon newspaper, he predicted that the proxy wars between the two ruling elite groups - one led by Thaksin, and the other by the old ruling clique - will not only continue to play out on the streets, but they would also get more violent.

"Thailand will never be the same again," he wrote. "There is no use in being nostalgic. Instead, we must put our heads together to find out how to minimise the damage."

How, indeed? How can normalcy return when the root problem of extreme economic disparity remains unaddressed? How extreme? Prof Pasuk Phongpaichit did not leave room for doubt about our shamelessly unfair society in her recent keynote speech on "Towards a Fair Society" at the King Prachadhipok Institute conference. Among the glaring facts:

- The top 20% own 69% of the country's assets while the bottom 20% own only 1%.

Weir hotel around the world, you must love it to stay there

Ninemsn World's Weir Hotels Hotels mostly come in a fairly standard rectangular box shape. But that's not exciting enough for some people: they clearly won't accept the ordinary, and have made their hotels, hostels and guesthouses look absolutely ridiculous.

Where? Stockholm, Sweden

Taking the concept of the airport hotel to its logical conclusion is the new Jumbo Hostel outside Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Owner Oscar Dios has bought a Boeing 747, gutted it and turned it into accommodation. The premium rooms are in the cockpit, but there are 85 beds in total. Oscar now plans on turning the Jumbo Hostel concept into a chain.

A tall ship

Where? Stockholm, Sweden

Nude girl 16, surf magazine

9 msn: Surf mag slammed for showing nude girl, 16  An Australian surfing magazine has come under attack from women’s rights activists after publishing a naked photo of a 16-year-old girl on its front cover with an accompanying article that talks about teenage "perfection".

Ella Rose Corby, an aspiring model from Kingscliff near the NSW/Queensland border, stripped down for the cover of the November issue of alternative surfing title Stab.

In the photo Miss Corby, who won a competition to pose for the magazine, covers herself up with strategically placed arms and legs and her body is covered in words painted on by an artist.

The accompanying article, written by fellow competition winner Mike Jennings, discusses teen sexuality by using terms like “unspoiled form" and “hotter than fish grease”.

Jennings' article focused on how 16-year-old girls meant "danger to the adult male".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


កោះសន្តិភាព : នាវាទេសចរណ៏ខា្នតយក្សចូលចតនៅព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា

Local photographer seeing the Kingdom in a new light

Phnom Penh Post Hacking a digital camera so it records inivisible light is not the usual approach to making pictures – but Meoun Nhean is not your usual photographer

Angkor Wat has been photographed from every conceivable angle and light from sunup to sundown. It hosts millions of tourists a year, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a visitor who isn’t trying to capture its beauty through his own lens.

So snapping a truly unique picture of the temple seems like an impossibility.But it’s a challenge he thrives on.

Finding new ways of capturing Cambodia’s picturesque places is Moeun Nhean’s artistic passion, and his recent work – which uses a digital camera to record light waves that are invisible to the human eye – shows the Kingdom’s most recognisable locale from a different perspective.

In a photo of the entrance to the Bayon temple in Siem Riep, the statues lining the road look normal, but are shaded by bright white trees that appear to be covered with snow. In a photo of Angkor Wat, the temple looks purple, the sky looks green, and the trees reflect the same ghostly white. These images have not been digitally manipulated on a computer, but produced in-camera.

Although Moeun Nhean’s photos are taken with digital cameras, infrared photography, and the ethereal effect it creates, has been practised since the early 1900s.

In infrared photography, the film or sensor is made sensitive to infrared light – light which is invisible to the human eye. Red or almost opaque filters are then used to allow infrared light through while blocking some or all of the visible light.

The fluorescent look of foliage created with this process is called the “Wood effect”, after Robert W Wood, who pioneered infrared photography.

Report calls for welfare system

Phnom Penh Post AS Cambodia’s major growth industries face a prolonged slowdown sparked by the global financial crisis, the government must develop a better social safety net to lessen the effects of increased joblessness and poverty on human development, according to a new UN report.

Titled “Global economic downturn: opportunity or crisis?”, the report examines the impact of the financial crisis on Cambodia and recommends mitigating policies – including the creation of a system that ensures a basic standard of living, improves income and food security, and provides vocational training.

Speaking at the launch of the report on Monday, Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association and the report’s research team leader, said: “Right now, we have many activities to assist the poor, but these are scattered over hundreds of NGOs and programmes from donor governments. They are not developing as an integrated social protection system.”

Douglas Broderick, UN resident coordinator, said Cambodia’s social spending was low for a developing country. “On average, safety net expenditure in developing countries is in the range of 1 to 2 percent of GDP, but Cambodia’s estimated expenditure is currently lower than 1 percent,” he said.

25m lives loose to AIDS

AIDS has killed 25 million people worldwide but new infections are slowing sharply, the UN said on Tuesday as it issued its annual report that mixed hope with a warning against complacency.

Almost 60 million people have been infected by the HIV virus since it was first recorded but prevention programmes are having a significant impact, the UNAIDS agency said in its latest report, released here in Shanghai.

Around two million people died of the disease in 2008, bringing the overall toll to around 25 million since the virus was first detected three decades ago. The UN figures

Some 2.7 million were newly infected in 2008, it added, bringing the world total to 33.4 million.

Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, told a Shanghai news conference on the report's launch that the number of new human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus infections has been reduced by 17 percent over the past eight years.

"The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention," Sidibe said.

Some of the most notable progress has been reported in Africa, the report said.

HIV incidence has fallen by 25 percent since 2001 in East Africa while the figure for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole was around 15 percent -- equating to around 400,000 fewer infections in 2008.

In South and South East Asia, HIV incidence has declined by 10 percent in the same time period, the report said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What former US President J. Carter said about Bush and world affairs

Bangkok Post

FORMER US PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER was in Chiang Mai last week to help build houses for the homeless in the Mekong region. The Carter Work Project works with the international housing charity organisation, Habitat for Humanity, which launched a campaign on November 16 to build 50,000 homes over five years. Carter said 82 Thai homes were being built in Chiang Mai's San Sai district in honour of His Majesty the King who celebrates his 82nd birthday next month.
Suthichai: How do you assess President Obama's performance so far?

Carter: He has set a good goal for himself in many ways. He has announced an end to torture. He has announced his goal to do away with nuclear weapons. He has changed the image of my country among many people around the world.

Do you think he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes, I do.

Some people don't agree with that.

I was surprised when he got it so early. But I think the Nobel committee looked at what he had already said and done. There is no doubt that he has transformed our country's image - and the reputation of our country. He has also set himself some goals that are very admirable.

Do you think he can sustain the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan?

My hope is we will withdraw from Iraq very quickly. Unless there is a violent change, I think we will withdraw as scheduled by the end of 2011.

Afghanistan is another story.

Yes, it's another story. I hope we will withdraw our massive military effort in Afghanistan to reconcile with the people and cut down on the violence and attacks on the Afghanistan people.

Do you think Afghanistan may turn into another Vietnam?

I hope not … I don't think so.

Australia sold to the higher bid

WITH a list of iconic Australian tourism destinations being sold off to the highest bidder, Tracy Spicer fears Australia has become ripe for the picking.

AMERICAN tour guide, Far North Queensland, circa 2020: "Well, folks, welcome to the Great Barrier McReef!

"Over there you can see Woodrow Wilson Island, named after our late president. Hey, any of you been to Nike Air's Rock yet? Used to be called Uluru but that's a bit hard for us to pronounce!

"Seems some folks back home liked these Aussie tourist attractions so much, they bought the companies! Anyone for a Bud?"

Welcome to the brave new world of McTourism. While we've been looking over our shoulders at interlopers on leaky boats, an American conglomerate has bought five of our iconic tourist destinations.

Delaware North now owns three islands in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef - Wilson, Lizard and Heron.

But wait, there's more.

The hospitality and food giant has also gobbled up Kings Canyon Resort in Watarrka National Park, midway between Uluru and Alice Springs.

And the ink is almost dry on the contract to buy El Questro Wilderness Park & Homestead on one million acres - yes, you read that right - in WA's remote Kimberley.

You'd know this property from the famous cattle-driving scenes in the movie Australia.

Whoever said irony was dead?

Oh - and guess what else is up for grabs?

Australia's biggest property trust GPT says it wants to offload the remainder of the Voyages portfolio, including Ayers Rock Resort, Longitude 131 and Brampton Island.

Now, I'm not implying that Delaware North is incapable of protecting our pristine assets. And I'm not implying that it fails to understand the Australian market.

Delaware North has a 20-year history Down Under.

Furthermore, I'm not implying that Delaware North has nefarious intentions.

But when did it become OK to sell off the family jewels?

Since the free trade agreement was signed in 2005, the US has been able to invest up to $1 billion at a time without seeking approval.

China has asked for the same deal, during its free trade negotiations.

At the same time, foreign companies are covertly buying up adjacent farms in Australia to use as a "salad bowl" in the case of global food shortages.

Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait want to purchase more than $1 billion worth of our farmland to feed their own people.

It all smacks of a neo-colonialism. And Australia is ripe for the picking.

We're like eager puppies, rolling over and begging for a belly scratch from our benevolent masters.

Who has beetroot on their hamburgers anymore? Why not grab a Big Mac!

Our mates, male and female, are referred to as "guys".

Rather than G'Day, we greet each other with "hey", straight from a Seinfeld episode.

This might seem inconsequential. Xenophobic, even. But cultural genocide is the death of a thousand cuts.

I can accept the American influence in film, music, sport, literature and language.

What I can't accept is the loss of what makes this place special - the coral cays of the Great Barrier Reef; the red rawness of the Kimberley; the land of the Never Never.

Could you imagine the US Government agreeing to such a thing?

The Grand Aussie Canyon.

The Statue of Liberty, holding aloft a meat pie. Snags at the Smithsonian.

It would never happen.

Delaware North says the purchase of its reef and wilderness properties is part of an overt strategy to move into hotels and resorts in Australia. It makes you wonder what's next.

Thai businesses fear closure of border

As the Thai-Cambodian media skirmish continues, Thai executives are starting to fear their operations will suffer.
Thai exports to Cambodia last year were worth 67 billion baht, while imports from Cambodia were only 3 billion baht

Vietnam benefits from close proximity with Cambodia, with significant border trade. Vietnam's exports to Cambodia have soared from US$178 million in 2002 to $1.43 billion last year.

Gamblers are staying away from casinos in Koh Kong and Poipet, while tourist numbers are on the slide. Kasikorn Research Center said the escalating tensions could affect businesses and populations on both sides of the border.

The conflict between the Thai and Cambodian governments recently reached a new and alarming level when both countries withdrew their ambassadors after Cambodia named fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser and refused to extradite him when he visited the country.

But the Thai-Cambodian border remains open so the border trade, which accounts for as much as 80% of bilateral trade, continues as usual.

If the conflict is quickly resolved without either side resorting to force, trade will not be disrupted, said K-Research.

Even a temporary border closure, similar to that caused by the earlier Preah Vihear temple dispute, would only have a limited impact, the researchers said. But a prolonged closure would inevitably damage trade, causing Thai exporters to lose their share in Cambodia's market.

Thai exports to Cambodia last year were worth 67 billion baht, while imports from Cambodia were only 3 billion baht.

Thailand's trade surplus reflects Cambodia's inability to supply its market's demand, while Cambodian consumers are accustomed to imported Thai products such as sugar, beverages, cosmetics, soaps and related products. The Cambodian business sector also relies on imported processed oil and cement.

Thailand is currently the largest exporter to Cambodia, supplying 23% of its imports, followed by Vietnam with 17% and China with 15%.

Like Thailand, Vietnam benefits from close proximity with Cambodia, with significant border trade. Vietnam's exports to Cambodia have soared from US$178 million in 2002 to $1.43 billion last year. The country is now competing directly with Thailand in oil, sugar and cement.

Chinese goods, currently in third place, also have good opportunities for growth due to the strength of the Chinese economy and the development of the logistics system linking China and Asean.

But Cambodia would also face losses from this scenario. Materials and intermediate goods from other countries for its production sector would likely have higher prices due to the logistics costs. Similarly, Cambodian consumers would likely have higher living costs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fortunes and glory

Never ask three Khmers to pose together for a photograph. Cambodians believe the person in the centre of the trio is thus cursed to a premature death – bringing ghastly literal meaning to the phrase “cut out the middleman”.

From miraculous animals to mystical pendants, via lucky numbers, magical totems and voodoo tattoos, most Cambodians are fanatically superstitious. The culture is riddled with folk illogic.

Meach Ponn, 75, former professor at the National Buddhist Institute, says fortune-tellers were plying their trade here more than two millennia ago. “When the Buddha was born in 623BC, his parents invited eight Brahman fortune-tellers to predict his son’s future,” he told Asia Life. These days, most Khmers (96.4 percent, say the CIA) are Buddhists. With karma set to decide their fates, many of them regularly flock to check their astral accounts.

Thus the cultural landscape is ripe for all manner of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, witch doctors, astrologers, numerologists, mediums, mystics, clairvoyants, psychics and quacks. Cambodia’s futures market is indeed a lucrative industry.

“Most people believe in it [the ability to see the future] – even if they don’t actually use it,” says Phap Sina, a 27-year-old project assistant for NGO Active Help Cambodia.

Khmers consult fortune-tellers for advice on business, building, buying and investments, marital compatibility, relationships and disputes, specifying timings to the luckiest minute – gamblers even seek advice on lottery numbers.

On the flipside lurk darker, more esoteric prescriptions. Phap Sina wears a lucky pendant to guard against harmful spells. He says his “witch can make people hate or love each other – or even kill”.

Curiouser and curiouser – especially as I’m about to have my first fortune-telling session.

I’d like to offer an open mind, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Firstly, I worship at the altar of science. Secondly, where I’m from, the word “superstition” is used pejoratively; referring to unempirical “old wives’ tales”. Thirdly, I’m a cynical journalist, who has studied “cold reading” – a technique used by false prophets conflating sleight of hand, cheap wordplay, and basic intuition.

So I’m hardly the most receptive subject. However, I am genuinely intrigued, so that will have to suffice.

In Phnom Penh, tellers set up booths – decorated with cabalistic diagrams of palms, astronomical wheels and zodiac symbols – in public squares, markets or malls. Others stalk the riverside or temple grounds with a folding table or groundsheet, ready to unpack incense, candles and cards from a briefcase.

I reckon I’m onto a winner with “Grandfather Floating Stone”, mystic correspondent for The Moon Magazine and Apsara TV’s Serey Sour Sdey Pordermean (Happiness News), until the show was dropped due to lack of sponsorship (wonder if he saw that one coming?)

Long Bora takes matters into his own hands…

Lest anyone forget his spell in the limelight, Grandpa Floating Stone displays his media credentials on a bright yellow banner in the terraced shop-house from which he operates. Trading on his famous pseudonym – coined after a rock he claims to have found bobbing buoyantly on Oudong Mountain – is good for business. The artist formerly known as Long Bora says he gets 20-30 clients a day.

Maybe so; he was out when I arrived, but quickly returned when summoned, by telephone not telepathy, duly noted. The “grandfather” (who, aged 31, is three years my junior) beckoned me to a table set by a sprawling, multi-faith shrine featuring statues of Buddha, Brahma and Chinese deities.

My nerves were jangling slightly by now. Long Bora had a lazy eye. It gave him an otherworldly air; surely a selling point in his line of work. I was asked to shuffle then split a deck of cards and pick a couple. Long Bora then asked for the Chinese zodiac sign of my birth year (the dragon).

Long Bora studied some charts and began reciting his reading, adopting the dispassionate monotone used by Buddhist monks during worship – their ceremonial drone. Phap Sina translated:

“Previously, you were confused about all the troubles and stress. You’ve got too much to think about.”

True – but haven’t we all? More shuffling and droning.

“You have been planning to ask me something, but you’re not sure if you will yet.”

Right again; I had been considering probing the dubious sage for information. But then, as a hesitant foreigner, doubt was probably pouring from my every pore. A strange pinging noise sounded. Long Bora consulted a touchscreen phone.

Gleeson edges ahead at Open

Phnom Penh Post Australia’s David Gleeson goes into the second day with a one-shot lead in the Cambodian Open, while two home-grown amateurs enjoy the experience

Siem Reap - AUSTRALIA’S David Gleeson broke away from a bunched leaderboard to take the first round lead at the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open on Thursday.

Gleeson, a two-time Asian Tour winner, shot a five-under-par 67 which included a birdie at the 18th hole to lead by one shot in US$300,000 event.

Filipino Artemio Murakami, Taipei’s Lin Wen-hong, Malaysian Khor Kheng Hwai and Thai trio Pariya Junhasavasdikul, Annop Tangkamolprasert and Atthaphon Prathummanee share second place on 68s at the Phokeethra Country Club.

India’s Shiv Kapur shot a 70 which included an eagle two and three other birdies.

Gleeson turned in 35 with birdies on the second and fifth holes but dropped a shot on the ninth. He continued his climb up the leaderboard with further birdies on 10, 13 and 15, but it was the 20-foot birdie conversion at the closing hole which highlighted his round.

“The 18th hole is one of the strong holes here, so I am quite surprised I was able to sink that putt. It was one of those that fell in the last minute. I didn’t know it was going in but it is definitely good to move away from the rest,” said Gleeson.

Catch me if you can, but you don't want to, do you?

Bangkok Post
Then we all may have to answer to the people who are really in charge of this country: The military.

Does anyone actually think that the Thai authorities want Thaksin Shinawatra arrested? If they wanted Thaksin arrested, wouldn't he already have been arrested?

Could it be that the reason he hasn't been arrested is simply because they don't want him in custody?

Why launch a coup when he was in New York? Did that mean he was not supposed to be arrested in the first place? Why did he pack more suitcases than Imelda Marcos on his trip to the UN meeting in New York in September 2006? Was it because he knew there was to be a coup? That it has been arranged and he was informed by the coup makers ahead of time? Why was he allowed to attend the Beijing Olympics when the court had already convicted him and he was in Thailand, in the grasp of the Thai authorities?
Don't make a fuss. Just fade away. It's good political decorum.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tearing up MoU on JDA is so wrong

Bangkok Post The government's tit-for-tat response to Cambodia's appointment of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser by tearing up the accord to settle disputed waters, raises the serious question whether this serves our country's interests at all.

Linking the MoU to Thaksin and politics because the MoU was signed on June 18, 2001 when he was in power, in order to justify the MoU's termination, is not a fair statement.

It's a pity the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration was so quick to cancel the memorandum of understanding (MoU) that would have led to a sharing of the potentially rich hydrocarbons in the territorial claims in the Gulf of Thailand, without first thoroughly deliberating the implications and consequences.

The government's decision to nullify the MoU reached with Cambodia in 2001 may not be the right means to retaliate against Phnom Penh's growing hostility and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's siding with Thaksin.

That knee-jerk reaction effectively demolished a foundation on which lay the goodwill and intention of both countries to negotiate for mutually-acceptable terms to open the 26,000-sqkm area for exploration and production while possibly unlocking the age-old disagreement of the maritime boundary.

Twins' birth mum wants daughters to stay

 Yahoo News The birth mother of twins Krishna and Trishna who gave them up due to poverty says she wants them to remain in Australia to be educated.

The two-year-old conjoined Bangladeshi twins were separated by a 16-member surgical team during marathon surgery at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital this week.

Lavlee Mollik, 22, handed over her girls to an orphanage in Dhaka one month after birth because she and husband Kartik, 35, were unable to care for them, News Ltd newspapers reported on Saturday.

"I want them to live in Australia and be educated in Australia. And one day when they have become very respected people I want them to call me mother."

Mrs Mollik, speaking through a translator by telephone from Bangladesh, said she was praying for her daughters' safe recovery.

She was tracked down by Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Shamokal.

But the couple are unable to care for them and Mrs Mollik wants them to live and be educated in Australia.

"We don't want them back because we don't have the ability to take proper care of them," Mrs Mollik said.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Solution to Thai - Cambodia conflict

If former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra resigns or is replaced as economic adviser to the Cambodian government, the diplomatic row between Thailand and Phnom Penh will cool down, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Friday.
If former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra resigns or is replaced as economic adviser to the Cambodian government, the diplomatic row between Thailand and Phnom Penh will cool down, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Friday.

“This does not mean that I am asking the Cambodian government to do this. They would not do it. But I think this is the easiest way to ease tension between the two countries,” said Mr Suthep.
The deputy premier said he thought Thaksin traveled to Cambodia quite often because he wants to use the neighbouring country as his political base. It was easier to meet his political supporters there.
Mr Suthep thanksed Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Gen Tea Banh for coming forwardand denying that his government has an audio recording of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering the Thail embassy’s first secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai to obtain Thaksin's flight schedule, as claimed by Puea Thai party list MP Jatuporn Promphan.
Earlier in the day, Gen Tea Banh was reported as saying the Cambodian government has no secret audio recording as claimed by Mr Jatuporn.
“I think the person who exposed this case has an ill-intention or a hidden agenda. The person might want to incite war between the two countries and then put the blame on Cambodia,” Gen Tea Banh said in an interview published in the Thai-language Kom Chad Luek newspaper

Dollar forecast to peak at $US1.03

The already overvalued Australian dollar will reach parity with the US dollar in the next six to 12 months and peak at about $US1.02-03, a currency strategist says.
State Street Global Advisers head of currency management Collin Crownover says the unit is already overvalued by about 20 per cent and that the figure would stretch out to 30 per cent if it reached the $US1.03 mark.
"I think we'll see about a 10 per cent appreciation from where we are now," the London-based Dr Crownover said in Sydney on Friday.
"At that point, certain dynamics come into play and that becomes an extreme overvaluation.
"Even though Australia has a much better growth profile than the rest of the G10 right now, people at that level might take pause and say even though the growth is a lot better, that's pretty rich, relevant to the valuations used for investments into Australia."
Asked whether he felt the Australian dollar would remain at parity for long he said: "Perhaps not.
"We do think it will reach parity within the next six to 12 months.
"Then the Australian dollar becomes 30 per cent overvalued and historically that's been a point at which we see significant imbalances and it's much more likely to be corrected."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Japanese whaling fleet leaves for Antartica

Japanese whaling ships left port on Thursday for Antarctic waters for their annual hunt of the ocean giants, Greenpeace said, setting the stage for high-seas confrontations with anti-whaling activists.

The factory ship Nisshin Maru and the smaller Yushin Maru 2 and 3 set sail from western Innoshima port while the Shonan Maru left eastern Shiogama harbour for their planned five-month voyage, said the environmental activist group.

Japan kills hundreds of whales a year in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by using a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling that allows the sea mammals to be hunted for lethal "research".

Anti-whaling nations led by Australia and New Zealand and environmental groups including Greenpeace have long attacked Japan for its annual whaling expeditions, criticising them as cruel and unnecessary.

Japan, which says whaling is part of its culture, makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on its dinner tables.

Japan's fisheries agency declined to confirm the ships' departure, citing security reasons, and urged anti-whaling activists to refrain from violence.

"We don't say you shouldn't campaign against whaling, but there is a strict line between peaceful campaigns and violence," said Shigeki Takaya, a fisheries agency official in charge of whaling.

Militant activist group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has harassed the whalers in recent years, moving their own ships and inflatable boats between the harpoon ships and the sea mammals.

Last year their ship the Steve Irwin collided with a whaling ship. Activists were also accused of hurling stink bombs and rancid butter at the whalers, who allegedly deployed ear-piercing sonic weapons against them.

During their five-month hunt last season, the six Japanese ships caught 679 minke whales and one fin whale - well below the fleet's planned haul of between 765 and 935 whales, Japan's fisheries agency said.

The captain of the Steve Irwin, Canadian Paul Watson, has vowed to "be their ongoing nightmare every year until they stop their horrific and unlawful slaughter of the great whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary".

Menopause at 19

When Natasha was diagnosed with premature menopause, she was faced with the possibility of not being able to have children.

Natasha Linke, 25, Seaford Rise, SA

Sitting in the specialist's office, I was surprised to see my doctor in tears.

'I'm sorry, but you're suffering from premature menopause,' she said, looking from me to my mum Susan, now 56.

Mum was fighting back tears too, but I was okay. After all, I was only 19 and the implications of what had been said hadn't really hit me.

For years my periods were irregular. In the last year of high school I didn't menstruate at all.

My GP had put it down to exam stress but when my cycle didn't return, she referred me to a gynaecologist and a fertility specialist. She now explained my ovaries weren't producing any eggs.

'We don't know why this happens,' she said. 'As you don't have a family history of premature menopause, it's probably just a random occurrence. If you ever want to have children you'll need an egg donor,' she continued. 'If someone you know will donate their eggs, you can use them, or you can go on our list and get an unknown donor.'

I tried to take in what she was saying, but as I didn't even have a boyfriend, starting a family seemed a long way off.

More than being concerned, I was relieved my recent weight gain, moodiness, hot flushes and exhaustion were explained and there was a treatment for them.

'I'm going to put you on the pill to give you the hormones you need and this should help with all the side effects of your menopause,' the GP said.

Mum and my half-sister, Melissa, 29, were more concerned about my lack of eggs. 'When the time comes, I'll be your egg donor,' Melissa said.

Her generous offer made me feel relieved. I wouldn't have to worry about finding a donor.

Less than a year later I met Matthew, now 25, and I knew I wanted to spend my life with him. It was hard telling him I couldn't have children of my own but he took it in his stride. 'It doesn't matter to me,' he said.

Twelve months later we got engaged. At our wedding Melissa's daughter, Jasmine, two, was our flower girl and when Melissa had Liam four weeks later, she told me she was ready to give me the chance to become a mum too.

We had counselling sessions and then Melissa began injections to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs. In the meantime I had to stop taking the pill and begin medication to prepare my body for pregnancy.

'I'm so grateful,' I told Melissa.

Twin awake , talking after epic surgery

Within hours of waking up from a medically induced coma after ground-breaking brain surgery to separate her from her twin sister, Trishna was talking and cuddling her guardian.

"She is talking, she is being Trishna, she's behaving the way she always has, she's fantastic," proud neurosurgeon Wirginia Maixner said.

Ms Maixner, the Royal Children's Hospital's director of neurosurgery, worked for 27 hours with her colleague Alison Wray to separate the conjoined twin girls Trishna and Krishna.

Trishna awoke on Thursday morning and was cuddled and comforted by her legal guardian Moira Kelly, founder of the Children First Foundation, who was instrumental in bringing the twins from Bangladesh to Melbourne for surgery in December 2007.

"She's been cuddling Moira, which is lovely, she's been talking to our speech therapist," Ms Maixner told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

"She's just come through major, major, major surgery. It is a huge operation, so she is phenomenally good at the moment."

Positive signs for separated twins Trishna and Krishna Results of brain scans to be known today

Guardian says tests went extremely well

Praised the efforts of the surgical team

THE first brain scans of Trishna and Krishna since they were separated have fuelled hopes the Bangladeshi orphans have come through their marathon operation in good health.

The full results of the scans will be known today, but guardian Moira Kelly said the tests had gone extremely well.

An emotional Ms Kelly said she had high hopes for the still sedated twins, 24 hours after they were separated during miracle surgery at the Royal Children's Hospital, the Herald Sun reports.

All she needed was a "raspberry" kiss from her little Krishna to know everything would be fine.

"That is my MRI - she does that and it's like she is telling me 'Moira, I'm OK, and I'm looking after Trishna'," Ms Kelly said.

This is a good day at work

Was representing Australia as an observer.
Last year was seen sleeping in Parliamen.
THE deadly war in Afghanistan was all a bit of a yawn for Victorian MP Fran Bailey as she enjoyed one last free trip on the taxpayer.
The serial snoozer was caught napping on the last day of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Edinburgh, where the defence alliance promised "substantially more forces" would be sent into Afghanistan.

This photo clearly shows the Member for McEwen sound asleep while representing Australia as a NATO observer.
It's not the first time Ms Bailey, 63, has fallen asleep on the job, the Herald Sun reports.
Last year in Parliament, Labor MP Anthony Albanese asked: "I wonder if someone can get the Member for McEwen a pillow." It was too much for Labor MP Daryl Melham, who interjected: "She is constantly asleep!"

Ms Bailey, who is retiring at the next election, is in Europe as part of an Australian parliamentary delegation to the NATO Assembly.
She was selected for the "last lap" jaunt by chief Opposition whip Alexander Somlyay.
Ms Bailey's spokesman said she could not be contacted yesterday because it was the middle of the night in Scotland and she would probably be asleep.
It is her second trip to Europe this year, after a mid-year study tour to Germany to investigate firefighting techniques that could be applied to her bushfire-ravaged seat east of Melbourne.

Resilent Cambodia battles history

Cambodia is a land of both brutality and promise.

It embodies some of the world's major social problems: inequality and unbridled growth with scant regard for human, social or environmental consequences.
It bears the scars of war, fanaticism, cruelty and what happens when the rest of the world turns a blind eye.
But it also shows remarkable resilience.

As the historian John Tully noted, it is a misfortune for a country to be known primarily for a brutal history. So it is for Cambodia, which is working to shake its tag as the home of Pol Pot, the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng.

I arrived in Phnom Penh on a two month exchange where I would be working for the Phnom Penh Post - one of two English language papers in the predominantly Khmer-speaking country.

In contrast to the expanse of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, where I had travelled from, the Cambodian capital's airport was about the size of a Four Square.

Spying Affairs, no responsibility claims when it goes wrong

បាងកកប៉ុស្តិ Bangkok Post Jatuporn claims Kasit gave orders to spy

Cambodia has a taped conversation of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to get former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight plan for the Thai government, Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan said on Wednesday.
Mr Jatuporn said Cambodian authorities also had a tape of a conversation about the flight plan between the first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, and Siwarak Chutiphong, the Thai engineer employed by Cambodia Air Traffic Services accused of spying for Thailand.
Mr Siwarak was arrested on Wednesday and accused of stealing Thaksin's flight plan. Mr Kamrob was expelled the following day.
Mr Jatuporn said if the tapes were made available to other countries they would lose trust in Thailand, because this amounted to Thailand interfering in Cambodia's internal affairs.
He called on Mr Kasit to clarify the matter.
The Puea Thai MP also said Thaksin had asked the Cambodian authorities to ensure fair treatment for Siwarak in court.
If the Cambodian court gave Mr Siwarak only a suspended sentence, Puea Thai chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh would go to Phnom Penh to bring him back from Cambodia, Mr Jatuporn said.
Earlier in the day, Thaksin posted a message on Twitter saying that he had talked to Cambodian authorities about Mr Siwarak and the Cambodian government has promised him a fair trial.
"I've been in touch with them. They said they would investigate first and will treat him fairly," he said in his Thai-language posting.
Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's legal adviser, said his boss would try his best to ensure Mr Siwarak gets humanitarian support.
Mr Noppadon said Thaksin had talked to Cambodian senior officials and asked them to ensure fair treatment for Mr Siwarak.
He believed Mr Siwarak's case would go court soon.
He said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should stop accusing Thaksin of being the cause of Mr Siwarak's arrest. The problem was the inefficiency of the government's administration, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said it would be good if Thaksin could use his personal friendship with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to get Mr Siwarak's release.
"The government has been trying every means to get [Mr Siwarak] free and would not lose face if the Cambodian government releases him because of Thaksin’s influence,” Mr Suthep said.
Citing a Cambodian radio station, a local Thai daily reported this morning that Cambodia had agreed to release the alleged Thai spy and had asked Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to fly to Cambodia to bring the man back.
However, Lt-Gen Chawengsak Thongsaluay, a close aide of the party chairman, said Gen Chavalit had not yet made a decision to fly to Cambodia as he needed time to verify the report.
Chavanont Intharakomalsut, secretary-general to the minister of foreign affairs, said Cambodia had pressed a charge of spying, accusing the Cambodia Air Traffic Services engineer of obtaining secret official information and being a threat to its security.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the charge, insisting that the engineer has nothing to do with spying and that his action does not pose a threat to Cambodia’s security,” Mr Chavanont said.
Mr Suthep said the charge against Mr Siwarak was unjust because Thaksin's flight plans were not a state secret.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thitinan Pongsudhirak - I take my hat off to you for being rationally fair

Indeed, Mr Hun Sen has not been nice but he may have had his reasons for not being nice to Mr Abhisit's government. And there appears little the Thai leader can do about it.

Thailand's domestic turmoil has been further complicated by the political tempest that blew through Bangkok from Phnom Penh last week. For the first time, the protracted Thai political crisis is no longer wholly domestic but has direct foreign bearings from next door.

In a flurry of seemingly orchestrated offensive manoeuvres, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has put the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on the back foot. Mr Hun Sen has achieved several objectives, whereas Mr Abhisit's government has yet to define what it wants out of the retaliatory spiral that has brought contemporary Thai-Cambodian relations to its nadir.

Pous Keng Korng ពស់កេងកង

Bangkok Post បាងកកប៉ុស្តិ
The girl with a head full of baby-snakes wasn't the only screen celeb of the pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodian cinema.

To follow up on my piece in the Post about Khmer films ("A Bridge Over Troubled Waters", which was naturally hampered by limited space and the inherently two-dimensional quality of the print media, I have posted the links to YouTube clips of Cambodian movies during the country's "Golden Age" of the 1960s and 1970s in this article, for your viewing experience.

Like I wrote in the previous column, the most internationally famous Khmer film, still remembered by many Thais (above 40), was Puos Keng Korng, a 1970 folkloric supernatural romance about Soraya, a half-human, half-snake girl whose mother had sex with a giant snake, and thus she was born with a head full of crawling vipers.

The film was released in Thai theatres -- and became a phenomenon in many countries around Asia. Its lead actress Dy Saveth was later cast to star in a number of Thai films opposite big-name Siamese actors in those days. (Too bad I couldn't find her picture with the legendary snake-head). For a short video clip of Pous Keng Korng, see below. There are no subtitles, but it's actually a music video with a song sung by the famous Sinn Sisamouth, and you'll get the idea.

Dy Saveth survived the Khmer Rouge reign, but the film's lead actor, Chea Yuthorn, was believed to be killed during the war.The film's director, Tar Lym Kun, fled to Canada and is believed to still be alive.

Pous Keng Korng was remade in 2001, with a Thai actor, Vinai Kraibutr, starring opposite Khmer beauty Pik Chanboramai (see trailer below). Strangely, the Thai title of the film, Ngu Keng Kong, spawned a number of B-grade copycat movies, usually with soft-core nature. Inter-species erotica has a strange pul.

But the serpent-headed beauty wasn't the only screen celeb back then before Pol Pot arrived. It's reported that around 33 out of nearly 400 films made during the pre-Khmer Rouge decade survived -- recently there was a screening event of those titles in Phnom Penh, called The Golden Reawakening. Here, check out the clip of Puthisen Neang Kong Ray (see clip below), or 12 Sisters, a Khmer tale that has an exactly similar Siamese version, called Nang Sib Song (it's often made into TV series).

The story is truly bizarre, with a touch of the exotic grotesquerie typical of our supernatural Souteast Asia: A wonderfully virile king impregnates 12 sisters, all of them his wives. But an ogress seduces the king (an ogress!) and convinces him to gouge out the eyes of the 12 sisters and banish them to a cave -- which the king duly does. Later, the sisters give birth to their babies, and all but one of them decide to eat their own children. So one boy survives, and when he becomes a young man he reveals the truth to his father, much to the hysterical thrashing-about of the wicked ogress.

Finally let's hear a song from the film Thansua Soben, which was released in a Thai theatre in 1971 (see clip below). The influence of Chinese opeara is all over, and the music is really sweet. The film tells the story of a girl who disguises herself as boy and later falls in love with a male student.
It's believed that the film's cast perished during the Khmer Rouge war.
(Thanks to Donsaron Kovitvanicha)