By: H.P. Raingsy. Pictures by : Nathan Dexter ( January, 2002 Volume 2 No.1 )

Hands Across The Mekong

The new Kampong Cham Bridge across the Mekong River was officially opened on December 4. The bridge is the only one across this mighty river in the whole of Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japanese officials headed the dignitaries on hand for the official opening, cutting the red ribbon. Construction began on the Japanese-funded bridge in 1998. Previously, all traffic had to to cross the river by ferry. The bridge is expected to help open up trade through the transport hub of Kampong Cham Town, eventually providing a key link between the Thai capital of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Search For Truth Now In English

Visitors and expatriates now have an additional source of information available to better understand the Khmer Rouge period of Cambodia's history and the devastating effect it had on the Cambodian people and culture. The Documentation Center of Cambodia is now printing an English-language version of its monthly magazine Searching for the Truth, which carries a wealth of information chronicling evidence of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime. Articles include personal accounts of survivors, as well as papers by leading historians and researchers and rare photographs of Khmer Rouge leaders. The English-language version was made possible by funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). There are currently translations of 12 issues previously published in Khmer in the year 2000. These are available at numerous outlets including Monument Books, located at 48 Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Removed From US Blacklist

Cambodia's image overseas received a further boost recently when the Kingdom was removed from the US Government's list of countries considered "major locations" for the production or transport of illegal drugs. Cambodia was added to the list in 1996 because the US believed it was a transit destination for heroin shipments into the US. Removal from the list was an important step in Cambodia's ongoing efforts to show the world it is taking serious steps to clean up its international image. It now puts the Cambodian government in a position to sign all three international drug-control conventions.

Petanque Champs

Cambodia continued its success in the sport of pentanque recently, capturing first place in the Fifth Asian Petanque Championship held in Takhmau, Kandal province. The success followed another win in the same event, the men's triples, in the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia. It was the first time the tournament was held in Cambodia. Petanque is similar to lawn bowls and was first introduced to the Kingdom by the French. Cambodian men and women competed in the tournament, taking on opponents from Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan..
Cigarette and Alcohol price to rise An increase on cigarette and alcohol taxes was recently foreshadowed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. He said the extra money levied will primarily be spent on the reconstruction of roads. Cambodia is hosting two major meetings next year-the ASEAN Summit and the Mekong Region Meeting, which will bring together all nations the Mekong River flows through. No date was set for the increases, but the Prime Minister made it clear that he believed that Cambodia must increase its domestic tax revenue to provide funds for infrastructure improvements in time for visits from international delegations.

Phnom Penh Water Treatment Enhanced

Phnom Penh's water may soon be as clean and clear as any in the region. A Japanese grant of $21.5 million has been announced, which will be used to refurbish the capital's water treatment plant. The project is due for completion in March 2004. Planned work includes the improvement and expansion of existing water intake facilities, installation of more pipelines, rehabilitation of existing water treatment facilities, expansion of a major distribution reservoir and reinforcement of several distribution pumps. More equipment to test water quality is also being considered.
The facilities in place currently produce enough water to meet more than half Phnom Penh's total demand (about one million people), which is about 230,000 cubic meters per day. Friends and more Innovative non-government organization Friends has been known in Phnom Penh since February last year for its classy Tapas restaurant of the same name. The restaurant is the third stage of a training program that teaches former street children the hospitality industry, equipping them with a valuable skill to ensure independent future lives. Now Friends has found a way to integrate its hospitality-training program with other programs including sex and health education among street kids in a country where HIV/AIDS is endemic. A new cafe funded by Friends and located near Psar Thmei (Central Market), behind the Monorom Hotel, will serve simple snacks, coffee and other refreshments at local prices. Staffed by trainees and graduates of the hospitality program, the cafe will offer local street children health and sex education and a chat room to the rear of the cafe where they can talk with each other about events affecting their lives, speak to a Khmer social worker and even arrange medical checkups. "It is a chance for our final stage hospitality trainees to get some experience in a different venue, and the aim is that it is somewhere where street kids can go and know they are going to be safe and able to talk about their lives to each other and with professionals if they want to," said Gustav Auer, Technical Advisor for Friends. Friends is non-religious and non-political and works at grassroots levels to help street children become self-supporting through skills training and education.

Entrance Fees To Visit The Royal Palace

The entrance fee for Khmers wishing to visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda is 1000 riel, with an extra 3,000 riel charge on top to bring in a camera. Foreign visitors will be charged $3, and are required to pay $2 more to bring in a camera, or $5 for a video camera. The Royal Palace is open between 8am and 11am, and 2 till 5pm daily. Photography is not allowed inside the pagoda itself.