What's New
By: Keo Phal, The TeamPicture and Ann Creevey ( Jul - Aug, 2001 Volume 1 No.3 )

Khambang Sibounheuang

has never forgotten his roots. They are deep in the Laotian countryside. His family, he said, was very poor when he was growing up. He joined the army. Then the war in Vietnam and Cambodia came to Laos. "I fought in the airborne division in Laos from 1960. And in 1975, after the war, myself and my immediate family were taken to America. My sister and brother stayed behind in Laos. I never forgot my family, or where I came from. I never stopped wanting to help stop poverty," KB, as his friends know him, recalled. So in 1998, he founded the International Foundation for the Humanitarian Assistance and Advancement of the People of South East Asia. And in June 2001 he came to Cambodia with American chief advisor for the foundation, Gene Prater, to assess the situation. For three weeks in June, the two visited a number of Cambodian provinces, including Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Battambang.
Interviewed at the end of their visit, the two said they were deeply moved by the plight of many Cambodians and were determined to return with help as soon as possible. "We are going back to the States now with video tape and pictures and documentation to show donors and we hope to come back with donor money to help Cambodia," Mr Khambang said. He added that he was optimistic. Mr Khambang said he will return to his home and the NGO's head office in Nashville, Tennessee and after he has made reports to the US Secretary of State, President and Congress, he would be asking potential donors for US$51 million. The two said they met with Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and a senior advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen while in Cambodia and believed the responses to be very positive. Mr Khambang said the foundation was already active in Thailand, operating a health station on the border of Ubon Province. "The main needs we identified here were health and education. We will be asking donors for enough money to set up a mobile health station, train a mobile medical team, provide at least one helicopter and set up a central medical facility in Phnom Penh," Mr Khambang said. He said they would also look into providing health care in schools, perhaps in the form of a dispensary. Mr Khambang said he wanted to help Cambodia for two reasons. "Historically, Cambodia and Laos have been like sisters. Our history goes a long way back, just like Cambodia and Thailand," he said.
The second reason is a promise made to him by senior people in the Laotian government. "Of course eventually I want my operations to expand into my own home country. I want to help Lao people. But the Lao government is slow to trust people who come in from outside, even people who were born there. But I have been told by people there that if I am successful in Cambodia, and the government here accepts us, the Lao government will accept us too," he said. "And of course, ultimately, that is important to me." In the meantime, he said, the Foundation has officially registered in Cambodia and they will be working to raise money to join the ranks of active Non-government Organizations working within the Kingdom's borders, trying to help in their own small way.

Cambodian Tourism Forcing Ahead

Tourist numbers visiting Cambodia have increased for three consecutive years, and the industry's strong positive growth will continue, Ministry of Tourism officials said this month. Ministry of Tourism statistics released recently show that the number of foreign tourists who visited Cambodia from January to May this year rose to about 117,640 _ a leap of 28 per cent over the corresponding period last year. In the whole of last year, 466,365 foreign tourists visited Cambodia, up 27 per cent over 1999. In a breakdown of the year 2000 figure, Ministry figures sited 72 per cent as on holiday, 25 per cent as here on business and the remaining three per cent on short visits such as stopovers. Predicting that annual overall revenue generated from tourism 2000 would double and maybe even triple by the year 2005, Ministry of Tourism officials said that greater efforts and funds should be to develop all aspects of the tourism industry to cope with this predicted influx. There are already 240 hotels in the luxurious, standardized and moderate ranges in Cambodia, with a total of nearly 10,000 rooms. These are concentrated in the major tourism centers of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap province and Sihanoukville. About 100 out of the almost 500 restaurants located in major provinces are considered of acceptable standard for international tourists.
Special packages to suit travelers' demands are provided by some 213 licensed travel agencies and branches, according to the Ministry. Besides the marvels of the Angkor Temple complex, Ministry figures record that Cambodia as of early this year had up to 1,281 tourist destinations, including 1,147 historical-cultural attractions, 94 natural resorts and 40 arranged sites. This does not include the 3,810 pagodas dotted across the country. Mr. Yang Van, Director of The Tourism Department of the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministries of Tourism, Rural Development and Culture and Fine Arts had joined forces to develop more tourist projects in addition to the Angkor Wat Temple zone. Examples of this include the temple sites of Prasat Sambo Prey Kuk in Kampong Thom province, Prasat Koh Ker in Uddar Meanchey province, Prasat Preah Vihear in Preah Vihear province and Prasat Banteay Chhmar in Banteay Meanchey province.
The ministries of Tourism and Rural Development are also conducting feasibility studies into guiding tourists to natural areas for ecotourism purposes, such Prek Toal, a wetlands area on the Tonle Sap Lake at the junction of Siem Reap and Battambang provinces which supports numerous species of rare birds. Tourism Ministry sources added that the boom in the construction of hotels and casinos along the Cambodian-Thai border also brought in a considerable number of short-stay visitors to those areas, but that the trend did not contribute to overall national tourism revenue. Mr Nuth Nin Doeun, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Tourism, said visitors should be only be considered as tourists if they spend a minimum of three days and two nights in the Kingdom. He said visitors who came to experience Khmer culture, including Angkor Wat, were tourists whereas those who came specifically to gamble were not and should not be considered as such.
In other issues, the Tourism Ministry heard delegates recently regarding good progress made in development strategies for Boko Hill in Kampot, Bou-sra Waterfalls in Mondulkiri, and Beung Yak-lorm, the famous volcanic lake in Rattanak Kiri province. All these developments are expected to be in full swing by year 2003. Security in major tourist areas of Cambodia, considered suspect in places until as recently as three years ago, is now considered good by most international embassies, Tourism Ministry officials observed.

Dear Leisure Cambodia

Thank you for your wonderful publication. I have very much enjoyed each issue and cannot wait until each new edition comes out to run and buy it. As a Khmer and a young student, I love to know more about my culture. Some of the stories in Leisure Cambodia touch on aspects of my culture that are new even to me _ the Five Pinnacles of Angkor Wat story in Issue One contained information I had never heard before and so helped broaden my knowledge on something that is very important to me as a Cambodian. Other stories, which are aimed at visitors to my country such as the story about the Wat Phnom elephant, make me proud because there are so many wonderful things for visitors to see and do here. But my problem is that I want to share these things with my family and friends. My parents are elderly and cannot read English. My friends do not have the level of English needed to understand clearly everything in Leisure Cambodia. I read to them when I can, but being read to by a student is not the best way for them to hear about ancient beliefs and rituals.
There must be many more families and high schools like mine where no one reads English so they cannot hear these wonderful stories and facts about Cambodia. Could you please consider printing a Khmer version? I want people of my parents’ generation to be able to read and comment on what you write first-hand, and I want friends to have access to a wonderful reference, even if they have chosen not to study English, because they are Khmer. Please consider my request. I am sure I am not the only person who has made it. It would mean so much to me and my family to be able to read about this country in our own language, and many, many others I am sure.
Ieng Sothi, Kompong Cham
(This letter has been edited)

Dear Sothi

The staff of Leisure Cambodia is pleased to announce that even before you penned your letter, the wheels were in motion to provide a Khmer version your parents and thousands of other Cambodians can enjoy. Scores of people from all walks of life _ from public servants to students to market vendors _ joined you in your request, and our writers and designers were keen to oblige. So Issue Four of Leisure Cambodia, available on newsstands in August, will carry a Khmer language supplement! We are proud to announce it will be prepared by Mr Heng Sopheap, Chief of the Department of Tourism at one of Cambodia's most respected educational institutions, the National Institute of Management. Students and members of that institution will assist him.
The supplement will carry translations of our stories exploring Khmer culture, travel pieces and more so that more Cambodians can read and enjoy and perhaps even learn from our stories and discuss them with their friends. We look forward to comments and suggestions from all our readers, whether in Khmer, English or French, regarding what you would like to see included in this supplement and in Leisure Cambodia in general and what you enjoyed about our publication the most.
So keep sending your questions, comments and requests to us. We love to hear them and when we can, we act upon them. Leisure Cambodia is your newspaper too. Please help by giving us your feedback and advice.