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UNESCO Blasted for Angkor Evictions, Naval Base Denials Lose Steam, Master Kong Nai Falls Ill
Good morning, Cambodia. It's Friday, November 17, and this is your Weekly Dispatch.
PAST PAIN: Khmer Rouge survivors suffer from traumatic flashbacks and nightmares. The problem needs modern mental health resources, an expert says, and the lingering pain is holding Cambodia back.
RESCUE RAFT: The prime minister is making strong moves to save the sputtering economy: low interest lending, no new taxes, and pressure on banks to restructure loans. Will the good intent induce an uptick?
TRUE RESPECT: One is the Kingdom’s most famous traditional musician. The other is the brash young prince of Khmer rap. When the legendary Kong Nai, 79, fell ill this week, he had VannDa, 26, by his side.
Official explanations for the rampant Chinese-backed construction at Ream Naval Base are being torpedoed in a sea of logical observation.
New satellite photos, for example, reveal a project far more extensive than previously known, with a pier large enough to service aircraft carriers and a dry dock twice the size of any ship in the Kingdom’s navy.
The nations insist that the upgrades are exclusively for Cambodian use, and have repeatedly denied Western accusations that Beijing is building a secret and highly strategic launchpad for its geopolitical ambitions.
The massive facilities make such denials look foolish, the facts becoming too obvious to ignore. A Chinese base could signal that a permanent military presence is only a matter of time.
Hun Manet to the rescue. The new prime minister has vowed to jumpstart the Kingdom’s sputtering economy with a stream of big ticket programs to prop up industries still reeling from the pandemic.
The prime minister offered $50 million in low interest loans to tourism operators in Siem Reap, waived stamp duties on home sales under $70,000 and held firm on his promise of no new taxes. He pressed banks to restructure troubled loans, cut customs fees and extended several tax holidays.
Amnesty said the U.N. cultural body did nothing as the government used “intimidation, harassment, threats and acts of violence” to remove some 10,000 families from the temple complex.
The government insists the removals were carried out at UNESCO’s request and are mandatory to maintain Angkor Wat’s World Heritage status. UNESCO has denied any involvement, saying it is not responsible for the actions of the Cambodian government.
No matter who is to blame, the authorities continue to remove families and global scrutiny continues to grow.
The Ministry of Interior warned the newly formed Nation Power Party that naming Rong Chhun, the outspoken labor leader, as an advisor could result in lawsuits to shut it down. The Political Parties Law bans convicted criminals from holding leadership positions without receiving permission from the court. Rong Chhun called the threat an abuse of power and vowed to continue campaigning.
Communities caught in land conflicts expressed little hope of finding justice with the new National Authority for Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution, a fresh alternative to the backlogged and notoriously corrupt court system. The resolution body, launched by the government this month, has yet to start hearing cases.
Almost 90% of Khmer Rouge survivors continue to have disturbing flashbacks after 40 years, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, and about 25% still suffer nightmares. The Kingdom must modernize its mental health institutions and address the lingering trauma, says Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam, if it is to reach its 2050 goal of becoming a high-income country.
More than 2.5 million Cambodians have signed a government campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags. The drive asks signatories to decline the use of plastic sacks for at least one day per week. The Kingdom uses a staggering 56 million plastic bags each day. The drive could reduce that number by as much as 8 million.
Kong Nai, the 79-year-old master of the chapei dang veng, fell critically ill and has been unable to eat, his family said. The Kingdom’s musical icon suffers from hypertension, lung disease and diabetes. Upon learning the news, VannDa, the reigning king of Khmer rap, went to visit him in Kampot.
An infant born with four arms and four legs is home and healthy after three months in the hospital and multiple surgeries. Doctors at Kantha Bopha Hospital in Siem Reap, who removed the extra limbs and corrected other defects in four procedures, expect the boy to live a normal life.
The Kingdom’s top 40 youth tennis players will compete this weekend in the 28th Tep Kunnah Memorial Cup. Qualifiers are scheduled for Saturday at the Morodok Stadium, with semifinals and finals on Sunday. The tournament is named after Golden Era legend Tep Kunnah, known as the father of Cambodian tennis.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
November 15, 2003
Two men were charged on Friday with stealing an endangered vulture from its cage in Phnom Tamao zoo, allegedly for a government official who wanted to use the bird’s gall bladder as medicine to cure an illness, police and zoo officials said.
November 14, 2003
Pkar Reach (Blooming Flower) magazine, which was published by Ieng Sary’s Democratic National Union Movement, has halted publication due to a lack of funds.
November 12, 2003
The silicone likeness of an Untac-era peacekeeper and his mini-skirted companion is the star attraction at a Siem Reap province wax museum, a museum official said Tuesday.
A warming world and hydropower dams are destroying one of the world’s richest ecosystems — and threatening the millions of people who rely on it.
Photos: Aircraft, public domain. Toul Sleng, "S-21, Tuol Sleng Prison Facility of the Khmer Rouge" by lecercle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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