Vann Molyvann: Some Public Properties Are State Properties, but They Are under the Control of the Ruling Party – Saturday, 29.5.2010

Posted on 30 May 2010. Filed under: Week 666 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 666

“Mr. Vann Molyvann, the greatest Khmer architect since the 1960ies, recalls pleasant memories and achievements, having designed many public constructions, but it is now important in his mind that some of his greatest achievements have been changed, and the public can no longer have access to them; that means that the management and the exploitation of those achievements serve only a small group.

“Since Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953, Mr. Vann Molyvann invested all his efforts to work with Samdech Norodom Sihanouk to organize the muddy Phnom Penh city to become a modern city, but in the late 1960ies, Cambodia fell into war, and finally the country came under control of the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime, developments which had forced Mr. Vann Molyvann to flee Cambodia, leaving behind numerous works of New Khmer Architecture.

“After living abroad for more than 20 years, Mr. Vann Molyvann returned to Cambodia and continued to work as an architect, trying to organize the city of Phnom Penh with the intention to keep the Khmer architecture for a long time. Mr. Vann Molyvann had opposed some plans that destroyed the beauty of the city, like the construction of high-rise buildings near the Royal Palace, or in the historical and cultural areas in Siem Reap, which did not satisfy some officials, and they did not appreciate the idea to conserve Khmer architecture. That caused Mr. Vann Molyvann to resign from his position in the Cambodian government.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann told Mr. Tom Waiter of The Wall Street Journal that he met [when he was student of law in France] Mr. Henri Marchal, a French expert architect, working at the French School of the Far East [which was also involved in the study and restoration of Angkor Wat], and at that time he realized that he wanted to be an architect. Then Mr. Vann Molyvann was transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts – the highest institution for Arts studies, where he studied until 1950. Mr. Vann Molyvann came back to Cambodia in 1956.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann recalled that it was difficult work and a challenge the start to design some important buildings, like the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the Independence Monument, the National Olympic Stadium, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and especially the plan to organize Phnom Penh to become a modern city. To reorganize the city maintaining Khmer architecture was difficult, as the country had been under French colonial rule for almost 100 years, everything seemed to be full of French architecture.

“He recalls that he produced many plans for the Independence Monument and submitted them to the Head of State [Prince Sihanouk], and he was afraid to directly disagree with the Head of State about how to organize the city and other great public construction tasks in Phnom Penh. Mr. Vann Molyvann began dredging earth to fill up some areas to the south area of the Royal Palace and some other parts of Phnom Penh in order to create parks and to keep Phnom Penh clean.

“As for the National Olympic Stadium that can seat 60,000 people, it is great architecture, using Khmer style that further beautifies Phnom Penh. The Chaktomuk Conference Hall was his first plan, drafted so that it looks like an open palm leaf. The library in the Institute of Foreign Languages and the Royal University of Phnom Penh were built in Khmer style. By the early of the 1960ies, Cambodia had many great public works of constructions that were internationally admired.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann added that he had fled the country for some time when Cambodia started to have a civil war. He returned to Cambodia in 1993 and was assigned Secretary of State of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in charge of land management, and his special work was to organize the World Heritage areas in Siem Reap cooperating with UNESCO. When Mr. Vann Molyvann opposed the constructions of some hotels and international entertainment places that affect the beauty and the Angkor scenery, some officials were not satisfied with him.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann went on to say that the government wanted him to use the resources of the Angkor area to develop Siem Reap without the participation from local citizens. In 1998, he was appointed as head of the Apsara Authority, and his role was to conserve ancient temples and the Angkor scenery. He said that three years later in 2001, there were disagreements among experts over the development and the use of ground water that can affect the stability of the base of ancient temples, and if there were no solutions, many ancient temples would collapse and could not last long. However, some powerful officials still kept to promote these developments against the ideas and the concepts of Mr. Vann Molyvann, which caused him to resign from his position.

“Now Mr. Vann Molyvann is old, and he returned recently to Cambodia and drove his own car to see the great works of architecture that he had built, like the Independence Monument, the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the National Olympic Stadium, the National Library etc., and he found that they changed much. Real estate considered to be state property is not managed properly. It seems like the current rulers manage state properties just as they like, which does not serve the public interest.

Independence Monument and one-third built 42-stories Golden Double Tower

Independence Monument and one-third built 42-stories Golden Double Tower

“Actually, private companies built flats around the National Olympic Stadium, making it lose some areas formerly used for sports, and it affects the environment, as it blocks the free flow of air. Cambodia has not had a law regarding the turning of state property into private property, but so far, some state buildings have been transferred to private companies, but without transparent bidding processes. There was also collusion to exchange state buildings in the center of the city for places in the suburbs, based on private interests.

“With some sadness and anger, Mr. Vann Molyvann spoke out loudly that at present: the great architecture that he constructed with all his efforts for the public and for the interest of society no longer remains. Mr. Vann Molyvann said that those properties no longer belong to the state, as they are managed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party instead.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann’s claim seems right, because nowadays, most state buildings are controlled by state institutions with officials from the ruling party in charge, like the Chaktomuk Conference Hall which is controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and the National Olympic Stadium which is controlled by the Ministry of Education, where even Khmer Kampuchea Krom people are not allowed to use those places to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the loss of Khmer Kampuchea Krom land [to Vietnam], being denied for some illogical reasons.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #38, 29-30.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 29 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #490, 29.5.2010

  • The Sam Rainsy Party Sent a Letter to the Ministry of Interior for the Second Time to Ask for Permission to Visit Two Prisoners [jailed for removing Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers in Svay Rieng]
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Lacks US$3.1 Million for the Process in 2010 [the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal needed US$6.5 million; so far, US$3.4 million has been granted by Australia, the European Union, Germany, and Japan, so they still lack US$3.1 million]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2261, 29.5.2010

  • Two Groups of Citizens Continue to Accuse the Heng Development Company of Grabbing Their Land, now Asking for an Intervention from Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen and His Wife
  • Nine Teenage Boys [between 17 and 28 years old] Lured a [19 year old] Teenage Girl and Raped Her [three of them were arrested – Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6968, 29-30.5.2010

  • The Authorities Used Force to Disperse Protesters from the Area at the Independence Monument [close to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s city house]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #38, 29-30.5.2010

  • Vann Molyvann: Some Public Properties Are State Properties, but They Are under the Control of the Ruling Party
  • Creating a Law to Control Political Party Budgets Would Help to Reduce the Buying of Votes and of Paying Political Activists

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5210, 29.5.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Asked the World Tourism Organization to Continue to Help Conserve Porpoises in Cambodia
  • Electricité du Cambodge Can Supply Only 250 Megawatt of Electricity, while the Demand for Consumption Is Up to 290 Megawatts [therefore, electricity is cut off at irregular times in some areas]

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The Cambodian Prime Minister Is Concerned about the Loss of Ground Water in Siem Reap – Friday, 23.4.2010

Posted on 24 April 2010. Filed under: Week 661 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 661

“Siem Reap: Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen expressed concern about the loss of ground water in Siem Reap that could lead to earth quakes that can damage the Angkor Wat Temple, for which safety cannot be guaranteed.

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said so in the morning of 22 April 2010 in Svay Dangkum district, Siem Reap, during the inauguration of a Wastewater Management and Culvert System.

“He said that to further beautify Siem Reap City as the center of the province to attract a large number of tourists, the goal of Cambodia is not only to attract more than 2 million tourists, but our goal is to see as many as 5 million tourist arrivals. Therefore, we have to think about the creation of a larger airport. But our major problem now is to focus on the problem of the ground water used by big hotels. Now we are encouraging investment in bringing water from external water reservoirs to Siem Reap City. We cannot keep on using ever more ground water, because some big hotels consume too much of it, and this leads to the loss of balance between the earth layers and aquifers, which then may result in quakes that might seriously affect our rich cultural heritage. Thus, care has to be taken seriously.

“Samdech Hun Sen asked for a thorough check on big hotels that are drawing ground water, because the amount consumed per day cannot be just estimated, otherwise damage will occur in Siem Reap. Therefore, a good way out is to encourage companies to invest to develop water supply to be drawn from external reservoirs to replace the use of ground water in Siem Reap City.

“Regarding the beauty of the city, he spoke to the Siem Reap Governor, Mr. So Phearin, asking him to clean the Water Convolvulus [a semi-aquatic tropical plant grown as a leaf vegetable, known also as Water Spinach, Water Morning Glory, Chinese Spinach, and Swamp Cabbage] along the road from the airport to the city. He added, ‘You officials, you travel back and forth every day. You see it, but you do not care about it and let the weeds – Water Convolvulus and Water Hyacinths – grow along the road. It is not that you could not do anything. But you do not care about it!’ Last year, he had mentioned this already once, but nothing has changed. Early in the new year, he had reminded them once again, but still it is the same. He went on to say that the flood in Siem Reap results from disorderly constructions which block the flow of water. He continued to say that to develop Siem Reap City is not as difficult as Phnom Penh, which is 500 times more difficult, but still it can be developed. But here, just along the road, it does not happen. ‘Just pave the pedestrian walkways and put concrete slabs on the channel to cover for flowing water will beautify the city, providing an attractive view for the tourists, which is better than letting weeds and Water Convolvulus grow in the channels.

“He added, ‘I would just like to remind you again in case you forget. When one becomes governor of Siem Reap, it is better to have fixed these things before leaving Siem Reap again, because it does not cost much to do it. Roads in front of the houses of citizens and of hotels were already paved according to a regulation introduced. Some roads may be impossible to construct according to that regulation, so a fifty-fifty formula should be introduced [where the state pays half and citizens pay the other half of the cost]. Where the state can construct the roads, do it, because there are supporting funds available from the province and from the Apsara Authority. The real problem is that you did not care to do it.’

“In the meantime, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen praised the governor of Poipet for encouraging and coopering with the citizens to work on improvements. The good leadership there makes Poipet City have nice roads, attracting tourists, while Siem Reap City attracts weeds, Water Convolvulus, and Water Hyacinths.

“Siem Reap residents criticize the Siem Reap governor for not producing any noticeable development in the city. For example, the Siem Reap River is much smaller than the Sankae River in Battambang, but the Battambang authorities were able to pave the river banks with concrete slabs, while the Siem Reap River is like a channel, but the Siem Reap governor was not able to do the same. The pedestrian walkways in Siem Reap are bumpy. Some are paved with concrete slabs. Some are just the plain soil and muddy. Some are full of weeds, making it difficult to walk for the traveling tourists; instead, they have to walk on the road. The Siem Reap city does not offer attractive views for tourists at night, because of public order and sanitation problems.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5179, 23.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 23 April 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #460, 23.4.2010

  • A Car Hit Four People Including an Unborn Baby and Killed Them, but the Takeo Police Released the Car Driver [in exchange for US$2,000]
  • The Asian Development Bank Provides a Loan of US$10.93 Million to Cambodia to Strengthen Infrastructure in Siem Reap [to implement construction projects and to deploy a culvert system]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2213, 28-29.4.2010

  • The Prime Minister Asked Citizens to Be Careful to Protect Themselves from Lightnings [recently, six people were killed by lightnings in one day in Pursat. He suggested that citizens should not hold any metal objects, like knives or axes, and turn off their mobile phones, radios, and TV sets]

The Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6937, 23.4.2010

  • The Russey Keo District Authorities Announced to Close Guesthouses along National Road 6A [from Phnom Penh to the north, as it is obvious that they do not serve tourists, but are “Love Hotels” offering places for people to have sex – Phnom Penh]
  • Laos Has Collected More Than US$80 Million from Gold Ore while More Ore Is Being Extracted

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3861, 23.4.2010

  • The Debts of Some Countries Are Increasing, and the International Monetary Fund Is Worried that Another, More Serious Economic Crisis May Break Out [also Cambodia is mentioned – when the debt increases, loans for the private sector are cut, so that big and small private enterprises encounter difficulties when they seek loans for their operations; as a result, workers of those enterprises lose their employment]
  • Red Shirt Demonstrators [opposing the Thai government] Asked the United Nations to Deploy Peace Keeping Forces in Siam [Thailand] to Prevent Civil War and Violence

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #155, 23.4.2010

  • The Producer [Mr. Bradley Cox] of the Documentary Film “Who Killed Chea Vichea” Wants to Present the Film in Cambodia [Mr. Chea Vichea was the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of Cambodia who was shot dead in 2004 – The film is to share info that the producer has recovered about persons who are supposed to have been behind the murder of Mr. Chea Vichea]
  • BHB Investigates Corruption Allegations in Cambodia [BHP Billiton is conducting an internal investigation over a corruption accusations related to getting a concession for Bauxite exploration in Mondolkiri in 2007 – BHP Billiton withdrew from Cambodia 2009]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5179, 23.4.2010

  • The Cambodian Prime Minister Is Concerned about the Loss of Ground Water in Siem Reap
  • The East Timor President [Mr. José Ramos-Horta] Asked Cambodia to Support His Country’s Candidacy to Become a New Member of ASEAN

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Japan Plans to Invest to Plant Trees in Cambodia – Monday, 16.11.2009

Posted on 18 November 2009. Filed under: Week 639 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 639

“Phnom Penh: A high ranking official of the Japanese Embassy to Cambodia told the Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries that some Japanese big companies plan to invest in Cambodia to plant trees, and one company has already conducted a study for such an investment.

“This information was shared by the Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Kuroki Masafumi, when he met with the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Mr. Chan Sarun, in the evening of 12 November 2009. The chief of cabinet of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Hong Narith, told Rasmei Kampuchea on 13 November 2009, during the cordial meeting, that Mr. Masafumi told the minister that following the results from the first Mekong-Japan meeting in Japan recently, where the Action 63 projects, includes the Green Mekong project, had been mentioned, some big investment companies of Japan are interested in investing in tree plantations, and one company had already studied this in three provinces – Kompong Chhnang, Kampot, and Ratanakiri. The study was finished, and implementation will follow soon. The ambassador asked for support from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in this field.

“The chief of cabinet said that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries had expressed full support for this crucial project. Also, he said that there is no problem with land in Kompong Chhnang, as it is state land. In the meantime, the minister asked the ambassador to help attract investors to invest in manufacturing agricultural products for export, as there are not many investments in that sector.

“During the meeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries expressed his gratitude towards Japan for assisting Cambodia so far, also a lot in the field of agriculture. Practically, at present, Japan is creating an aquaculture development center in Sihanoukville, amounting US$10 million.

“A project of capacity building to monitor agricultural quality standards is very important for addressing food security, and for attracting other projects that help to deal with Cambodian agricultural market problems and to promote public health.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #50, 15-16.11.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 16 November 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #3, 15-16.11.2009

  • [Thai ousted prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra Left Cambodia Safely while [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Failed to Get Him Arrested
  • US$11 Million Is Provided to the National Disaster Committee for Three Years [2009-2011; aid from the Japanese government, the European Union, and the World Bank]
  • The Director of a Water Filter Company Was Shot Dead by [anonymous] Gunmen [police concluded it is a case of rancor and seeks to arrest the perpetrators – Phnom Penh]
  • A Foreign [Swedish] Man Was Assaulted and Killed, and His Body Was Found in Kandal Stung District [the perpetrators are not yet identified – Kandal]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #20, 15-16.11.2009

  • Three Big Banks [the Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC), the Canadia Bank, and the Foreign Trade Bank] Joined to Provide US$33 Million in Loans to the Rural Development Bank for Paddy Rice Purchasing in 2009-2010
  • Cambodian and Laotian Deputy Prime Ministers [Mr. Hor Namhong and Mr. Thoung Loun Sisoulith] Had a Friendly Meeting to Talk about the Setting of Border Markers [both countries want to make the 121 temporary border markers already set – covering to 86% of the border, officially designated border markers]
  • A Cambodia Youth [Mr. Em Chanmakara] Won the Southeast Asian Awards for 2009 for Producing a Television Program with the Topic ‘Everybody Supports Children’
  • Because His Father Got Drunk [and committed domestic violence], a Son Attacked Him [together with two cousins] with a Knife with a Long Handle [and killed him – the son was arrested – Pursat]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.3, #675, 16.11.2009

  • Some Businesspeople in Phnom Penh Live with Fear because [Phnom Penh police chief] Touch Naruth Is Incompetent [to prevent murder crimes against businesspeople]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #530, 15-16.11.2009

  • [The spokesperson of the Sam Rainsy Party] Mr. Yim Sovann: Thaksin Shinawatra Has Nothing New to Say [about economic reforms for Cambodia, like the organizing of an investment atmosphere with competitors that obey the law]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6803, 16.11.2009

  • The National Assembly Rejected The Request [of the Sam Rainsy Party] to Delay the Meeting to Suspend Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Immunity [to make way for the Svay Rieng Municipal Court to open an investigation regarding his participation in the removal of six temporary wooden border markers on the Cambodian-Vietnamese Border]
  • The Apsara Authority Removed More Than 600 Big and Small Buildings, Accusing Them of Violating the Angkor Resorts Area [Siem Reap]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #46, 16.11.2009

  • The Cambodian Stock Market Building Will Be Opened on a Small Scale in Early 2010 [according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
  • Now Cambodia Should Be Included as a Member of APEC [a news source from Singapore said that Cambodia will become a member of APEC, if delaying measures by other members are not allowed]
  • ASEAN and the USA Asked Burma to Conduct Free Elections

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #50, 15-16.11.2009

  • Japan Plans to Invest to Plant Trees in Cambodia
  • The Thai Embassy Is Worried about Security, but Cambodia Said It Should Not Worry about That [Cambodia will fulfill its obligation to protect the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh]
  • Embassy Delegation of the “ASEAN plus 3” [India and Australia] Who Came to Play Golf Were Warmly Welcomed at the Poipet Border Crossing
  • [Forty two] Cambodian Security Forces Set to Move to Fulfill a UN Mission [as peace keepers] to Chad and to the Republic of Central Africa

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Censorship: Thousands of Crude Porn Sites Accessible on Internet – One Khmer Artist Blocked – Sunday, 1.2.2009

Posted on 2 February 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 597 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

When the Cambodian government held a three day consultation in September 2001, the Prime Minister opened it with a speech on Public Awareness about Information Technology. Charting the future, he said:

“The government’s top priority is to use Information Technology – IT – to serve and to meet the day-to-day needs of the people. IT should become as an efficient means for the public to exercise their rights to get information related to the decisions made by the government and the conduct of government business in accordance with the principles of transparency and good governance…

“IT will help strengthen democracy, ensure transparency, promote good governance in government and community businesses. With regard to the economic and social aspect, IT will improve major public service delivery to the local people and allow them to monitor and receive regularly and timely all kinds of information.”

In February last year, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of transparency again, more specifically in relation to economic development as a means of poverty reduction, in his keynote address 2008 Cambodia Outlook Conference: Mobilizing Cambodia’s Resources – Human, Natural, Financial – for Quality Development, Growth and Prosperity, when he said:

“A healthy private sector is the key to robust economic development and thus the government should ensure the legal framework for fair competition, transparency, accountability and productive relations with the public sector. The overall environment for enterprise will be strengthened through broadened good governance and human resources development. The public sector should also be strong in order to correct the market failures, essentially to reach the poor and disadvantaged.”

Recent days and weeks would have provided ample opportunity to demonstrate the promised open and transparent communication – using information technology, the telephone, and direct talk.

Unfortunately, in spite of repeated pledges to install official spokespersons in the different ministries and other government agencies, and even having trained 18 persons for this task and given them certificates, there is obviously a problem that the basic commitment to transparency – “for the public to exercise their rights to get information related to the decisions made by the government,” as the Prime Minister said – is disregarded.

Related to the Dey Krahom evictions, which continue to cause deep problems for the men, women, and children involved, we collected the following items from the Cambodia Daily in a single day – Friday, 30 January 2009:

  • “Shukaku representatives could not be reached for comment and CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin [the husband of the owner of the Shukaku company] turned off his phone when a reporter contacted him.”
  • At the office of the Boeng Kak Development committee, an employee declined to provide his name, but suggested, “I think you have to ask Phnom Penh Municipality.”
  • “Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and his deputies Mann Chhoeun and Pa Socheatvong could not be reached for comment.”
  • After contacting the 7NG company, “a company representative said he would meet Thursday with the residents.” – However, when contacted Thursday, the meeting was canceled.
  • “Chhay Rithisen, director of the municipal land management department, could not be reached for comment. Deputy directors Sek Yorn and Sar Bamnang both directed questions… to Chhay Rithisen.”

Many people do not seem to care about the importance the Prime Minister has accorded to transparency and “to reach the poor and disadvantaged” when there are “market failures” which derail the ultimate goal of development.

Over the weekend there was another blow to transparency in Cambodia. It is widely acknowledged that, in addition to huge resources for knowledge, connectivity, and entertainment, the Internet provides access to pornography – according to experts, there are tens of thousands of pornographic websites. There is no technical Internet blocking of access to these sites in Cambodia, which, as Internet experts recommend that criminal violations of pornography abuse laws should be best handled through legal prosecution, not through arbitrary and ineffective blocking of Internet sites.

Now, however, though not blocking any real pornography sites, some Internet Service Providers in Cambodia have started to block access to the website of a Cambodian artist based in the USA:

When the web site of this Khmer artist became known through the press, he was strongly attacked, accused of destroying Khmer culture because he did not only paint pictures of Angkor Wat stone apsaras, but also of lifelike apsara dancers whose bodies were, like the stone carvings, not completely clothed.

He offers on his website professional hints in painting techniques, and he wrote also:

“I’m trying to build an online Khmer Arts community for novice artists, advance artists, graphic artists, tattoo artists, or anyone for that matter who is interested in Khmer Arts. We can share ideas, discuss about your designs, and network with other Khmer artists from across the United States and around the world.

“The meaning of life is an elusive concept that has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific and theological speculation. For thousands of years, men and women of every age, race, and culture have sought to understand the meaning of life. Throughout history, scientists and philosophers, theologians and artists, politicians and social activists, monks and sages, and men and women from all walks of life have discussed and debated many questions in the quest to discover the meaning of life.

“One of the central views in Buddhism is a non-dual worldview, in which subject and object are the same, and the sense of doer-ship is illusionary. On this account, the meaning of life is to become enlightened as to the nature and oneness of the universe. According to the scriptures, the Buddha taught that in life there exists Dukkha, which is in essence sorrow/suffering, that is caused by desire and it can be brought to cessation by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

“It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing oneself from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. From this, one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana and that will be the meaning of my life.

“I believe in constructive criticisms! But lately, I’ve received many unwanted complaints regarding that some of my works disgraced the Khmer culture. Judging from the complaints, I wonder how we as Khmer will be able to make it in the 21st century.”

A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Information announced the intention to “publish services through electronic systems under the control of a law which is being drafted.” This announcement causes great alarm – not only because history has shown that the introduction of censorship of art has often been the entry point to suppress other freedoms, but because the Cambodian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and publication, and the state has to uphold impartiality and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens (Articles 41 and 109).

The wide intent of the draft of this legislation became clear when it was stated:

“All Internet Service Providers which ask for licenses from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication must, in advance, also ask for a second license from the Ministry of Information if this law is adopted, because these companies allow Internet users to connect networks and to use data in different networks.”

Does this mean, for example, that the Ministry of Information might refuse to license the apsara pictures on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which all foreigners see when they apply there for a visa?

Official Visa Application Site

Who in the Ministry of Information will be the authority on expressions of art, or decide – to quote the same Secretary of State – if “pictures can evoke sexual feelings” and should be prohibited? Is the work of art of one person a greater assault on the cultural traditions and remnants of the country than the destruction of the historic Bassac Theater, and now the threatened destruction of the landmark Renakse Hotel, which is the former Ministry of Justice and part of the architectural environment of the Royal Palace?

In the early years of the Internet, when the present Minister of Information was a secretary of state at the same ministry, he wrote an e-mail in 1999 to Bill Herod, one of the Internet pioneers in Cambodia, which was published internationally in the UNDP supported Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2003/2004, when the South China Morning Post in Hongkong had written there would be Internet censorship in Cambodia:

“Dear Sir,

“I do not know where SCMP got this news (“Planned Net law ‘threat to democracy,’” May 31, 1999) , but I can assure you that I am the one who has been fighting and continues to fight for the freedom of Internet access and the free flow of information in general. Everyday I find in my e-mail all kinds of information including some mail insulting me.

“This is a fact of life. When we never attempt to control the import of books and magazines into Cambodia why would we want to block the Internet?…

“Please be assured that I am very supportive of this form of communication and I will spare no effort in defending it. I hope you can help communicate this assurance to all of your subscribers and, if you have any problem concerning this issue, please feel free to contact me.

“Your sincerely,

“Khieu Kanharith”

It is important to recognize that questions of “Cambodian culture” are raised regularly by many different kinds of news. For example, the almost weekly news about the brutal rape and murder of Cambodian children raises questions about how this destruction of human culture is being handled, and no efforts to block the Internet in Cambodia could ever prevent that.

Furthermore, the blocking of the Reahu site will be reported around the world and will attract much more attention than the site would ever have received without such action. That is what also had happened when the introduction of 3G mobile phones was delayed – for fear they could deliver pornography to those who can afford the high cost of this new 3G technology, while crude pornography continues to be cheaply available all over the country where CDs are being sold.

What a pity, that there will again be a flood of negative attention on Cambodia, just as it happened when the prohibition of the Global Witness book on deforestation problems Cambodia’s Family Trees stimulated worldwide attention, which it never could have gained without the prohibition.

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