Saturday, 22 October 2011

Welcome to Cambodia: Taking aim at ‘voluntourism’

Welcome to Cambodia: Taking aim at ‘voluntourism’

Campagners are hoping a new social-media campaign launched yesterday will shock tourists into rethinking what are ultimately harmful engagements with orphanages in Cambodia.

The brainchild of Friends International and Childsafe, the anti -“voluntourism”campaign, supported by Unicef, features the tagline “children are not tourist destinations”.

“There has been a 65 percent increase in orphanages in Cambodia since 1995,” said Friends International communications director James Sutherland. “This is the 21st Century; the situation should be getting better, not worse. Tourists are perpetuating that system.”

The campaign uses the image of two children trapped in a glass exhibit box, peering out at Western tourists who are aiming digital cameras at them, an attempt to highlight the number of children who are forced to perform, advertise, beg and work to bring in funding for their orphanage directors.

“Orphanages are not zoos, and tourists should not be allowed to move through their home” the Friends International promotional material states.

“We know this is going to be contentious, and we invite debate,” Sutherland said.

About 97 percent of children in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, according to Friends, which said it was eight times more expensive to house a child in an orphanage than it is to house them with their families at home.

“As almost all residential care centres are funded by individuals from overseas, many centres turn to tourism to attract more donors, fuelling a system that exposes children to risk,” Unicef representative Richard Bridle said.

“Orphanages fundraise by offering tours to foreigners, in which children are required to perform dancing or to solicit donations. There is no legal requirement for orphanages to account for funds raised in this way.”

Friends’ executive director, Sebastien Marot, said the campaign is being launched on social media to combat the online recruit of volunteers and to get the message more efficiently to young people.
“The campaign aims to bring about a behavioural change in young people visiting Cambodia,” Marot said.

“You aren’t allowed to go anywhere and hug a child in your own country, why should you be able to do it here?”

The campaign is being done in cooperation with the Royal government, which in 2008 passed minimum standards of care for children in orphanages, and in 2010, a draft prakas on child care.

“Orphanages are not required to be registered; there are not standards of practices across the orphanages,” Marot said, adding that some orphanages are not registered with the government.

Source: Phnompenhpost

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Welcome to Cambodia: Economist Sees Potential in Tourism and Beyond

Welcome to Cambodia: Economist Sees Potential in Tourism and Beyond

Chheang Vannarith is the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

Raised by a single mother under the poverty line in Kampong Thom province, he was able to attain a PhD in Asia-Pacific studies.

“Living through civil wars and hardship empowered me to overcome obstacles to my education and career,” he told “Hello VOA” on Monday. “Poverty was a driving force to success.”

He had wanted to be part of a new intellectual class, he said, one that could replace those lost to the Khmer Rouge.

Chheang Vannarith specializes in the political economy of heritage tourism, and he said Cambodia’s tourism sector, its second-largest driver of economic growth, needed to do more.

Revenues from the more than 2.5 million tourists who visit Cambodia every year, especially the temples of Angkor Wat, a World Heritage site, can help create jobs and boost the economy, but these revenues are not evenly benefiting people in touristic areas, he said.

While tourism is a critical part of the economy, Cambodia must expand its resources, he said.

“Cambodia currently depends on three factors: textiles, tourism, and agriculture,” he said. “Cambodia also needs to pay attention to encouraging the services industry, IT, and manufacturing. By doing this, Cambodia diversifies the sources of its revenues.”

And rather than just commercial tourism, Cambodia should also look toward high-quality tourism, focusing on tourists who seek to understand its culture, the kind of tourism, he said, that does not rely on temple ruins.

Source: VOA News

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Friday, 14 October 2011

Welcome to Cambodia: Water Festival 2011 Cancelled

Welcome to Cambodia: Water Festival 2011 Cancelled

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday announced that he had cancelled the annual Water Festival to preserve funds for addressing the effects of devastating floods that continue to sweep through the Kingdom.

Speaking at a special Council of Ministers meeting yesterday to assess damage from the flooding, the premier said that the annual three-day Water Festival celebrations next month, including the renowned boat races, would be cancelled and the money people saved could be used to aid flood recovery.

“Water levels are still higher than the warning levels in Phnom Penh and it would be a high-risk situation for boat racers and festival-goers,” Hun Sen said.

“Additionally, the suspension will save money in the national budget and allow us to divert funds that would be used for Water Festival preparations to provide assistance to flood victims.”

On the final day of last year’s Water Festival, 353 people were killed in a stampede on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post yesterday that Phnom Penh Municipality would coordinate commemorations to mark the disaster.

Yesterday, the premier told attendees at the meeting that flooding had destroyed more than 190,000 hectares of rice paddies, or 7.74 per cent of the total grown rice paddies, and affected another 390,000 hectares, or 16 per cent of the total rice paddies in the Kingdom.

Phay Siphan said that the death toll from the flooding had risen to 247, with 17 out of Cambodia’s 23 provinces suffering from its effects.

He added that despite widespread destruction of rice paddies, the government now had food security under control.

“Despite the high number of destroyed rice paddies, we will still have enough rice to meet exporting needs,” he said, adding that the government was positive that there would be enough rice production after the flooding receded to continue to ensure food security.

“We are trying to do what we can to look after the people,” he said.

Provincial governors have been instructed to remain in the provinces and are not permitted to travel until the flooding crisis eases, Phay Siphan said.

He also reasserted that the government did not need to call for international assistance to cope with the worst flooding to hit the Kingdom in more than a decade.

“We do not request international aid because everyone has their own problems,” he said. “It would be very difficult for us to request their help. For the time being donations and any charity are really appreciated.”

China, Singapore and the US have so far provided monetary and other donations to the Kingdom, Phay Siphan added. Vietnam has also contributed some assistance to Vietnamese communities in Cambodia and last week Japan donated a number of non-food emergency relief items.

Aid organisations have urged the government to call for international help to better coordinate the humanitarian response to the flooding.

Source: Phnompenhpost


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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Welcome to Cambodia: Thai floods kill 224, threaten Bangkok

Welcome to Cambodia: Thai floods kill 224, threaten Bangkok

Source: channelnewsasia

BANGKOK - Thailand's worst monsoon floods in decades have killed 224 people and affected three quarters of the country, including part of the ancient city of Ayutthaya, officials said Tuesday.

Authorities were meanwhile battling to stop the floods reaching the centre of low-lying Bangkok, as forecasters warned of more wild weather to come.

"It's the worst flooding yet in terms of the amount of water and people affected," said an official at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation who preferred not to be named.

Two months of flooding have inundated 58 of 77 provinces -- with 25 still severely affected -- and damaged the homes or livelihoods of millions of people, according to the government.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram, one of Ayutthaya's best-known temples, has been closed to visitors after a makeshift dyke was breached at the former capital, a popular tourist destination north of Bangkok.

"The water level inside the temple grounds is now 1.50 metres (five feet)," said Supoj Prommanoch, head of the Fine Arts Office in Ayutthaya.

He said 10 other temples were also flooded but the authorities were confident they could prevent the waters from reaching Ayutthaya's main World Heritage Park, which is located further away from Chao Phraya River.

The northern city of Chiang Mai, another popular tourist destination, has also been badly hit.

"The current flood situation is the worst that I have ever seen and it will last until the first week of November," said independent flood expert Royal Chitradon, director of Thai Integrated Water Resource Management.

"There is a problem of prolonged flooding in central provinces because roads and cities have blocked natural waterways."

Royal said several reservoirs are already full and the western and eastern outskirts of Bangkok are at risk of flooding because of another approaching tropical storm.

Last week the government announced the deployment of about 10,000 soldiers, backed by 500 military vehicles and more than 100 boats, to help victims.

Army bases will also take in evacuees, the military said Tuesday.

In total about 14.8 million acres (six million hectares) of land have been inundated around the country, said chief government spokeswoman Titima Chaisang.

- AFP/ir

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Welcome to Cambodia: Climate change hits home

Cambodia's deadly floodwaters, storms and droughts are the result of global climate change, Minister for Environment Mok Mareth told the Second National Forum on Climate Change yesterday.

“In the last year, many countries in the world, including Cambodia, have frequently encountered natural disasters intensified by the impact of climate change,” Mok Mareth said, adding that Cambodia had already seen increases in temperature and rainfall, and that the trend was predicted to continue.

With flooding claiming almost 150 lives over the past month, and destroying the crops of thousands of farmers, the impact of climate change was a palpable concern for speakers at the forum. They included United Nations resident coordinator Douglas Broderick and Ministry of Environment director-general Chay Samith, who opened the three-day conference in the capital.

“Cambodia is a country suffering from natural disasters as a result of climate change,” Chay Samith said. “Cambodia has experienced more severe floods, droughts and storms, which have had severe impacts on livelihoods and caused serious damage to property and crops,” he told the more than 700 people who had gathered for the forum.

Broderick said “Cambodia is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts”, and noted that flooding and drought, which are both linked to climate change, are major contributors to poverty.

Tin Ponlock, a conservation expert at the Ministry of Environment, said Cambodia had seen more intense rainfall patterns over the last 40 years and that this trend was expected to continue.

Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly said climate change had seriously impacted agriculture, the economy and the poor. “This year flooding destroyed over 80,000 hectares of rice crops and about 500 people are believed to have died,” he said.

The official death toll currently stands at 148. Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the Natural Committee for Disaster Management, could not be reached yesterday to confirm the numbers.

Chan Youtha, cabinet chief at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said floodwaters would continue to rise up to 0.5 meters in the Mekong River over the next few days due to heavy rains in Thailand and Laos, but they should begin receding from Thursday.

...

Read more at Phnompenhpost


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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Welcome To Cambodia: Travel to coast down during Pchum Ben

Pchum Ben (Khmer: បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ)("Ancestors' Day") is a Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer Calendar. In 2008, the national holiday fell on the 28th - 30th of September in the Gregorian calendar. And for this year, 2011, the Pchum Ben fell on from 26th to 28th of September.


The day is a time when many Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. Monks chant the Mantras in Pali language overnight (continuously, without sleeping) in prelude to the gates of hell opening, an event that is presumed to occur once a year, and is linked to the cosmology of King Yama originating in the Pali Canon. During the period of the gates of hell being opened, ghosts of the dead are presumed to be especially active, and thus food-offerings are made to benefit them, some of these ghosts having the opportunity to end their period of purgation, whereas others are imagined to leave hell temporarily, to then return to endure more suffering; without much explanation, relatives who are not in hell (who are in heaven or otherwise reincarnated) are also generally imagined to benefit from the ceremonies.

In temples adhering to canonical protocol, the offering of food itself is made from the laypeople to the (living) Buddhist monks, thus generating "merit" that indirectly benefits the dead; however, in many temples, this is either accompanied by or superseded by food offerings that are imagined to directly transfer from the living to the dead, such as rice-balls thrown through the air, or rice thrown into an empty field. Anthropologist Satoru Kobayashi observed that these two models of merit-offering to the dead are in competition in rural Cambodia, with some temples preferring the greater canonicity of the former model, and others embracing the popular (if unorthodox) assumption that mortals can "feed" ghosts with physical food.

Pchum Ben is considered unique to Cambodia, however, there are merit-transference ceremonies that can be closely compared to it in Sri Lanka (i.e., benefitting the ghosts of the dead), and, in its broad outlines, it even resembles the Taiwanese Ghost Festival (i.e., especially in its links to the notion of a calendrical opening of the gates of hell, King Yama, and so on).

Travel to coast down during Pchum Ben

According Phnompenhpost posted on Friday, 30 September 2011...the number of tourists to Cambodia dropped down during the three days Pchum Ben 2011...

Bad weather scared tourists from Cambodian beaches and other popular travel destinations during a three-day national holiday, provincial tourism officials said yesterday.

Preah Sihanouk province saw a 30 to 35 per cent drop in tourist numbers during the Pchum Ben holiday, which ended Wednesday, Seng Kha, deputy director of the province’s Tourism Department, said. He attributed the decrease to heavy rains.

Torrential downpours have deluged Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces for weeks. The floods have killed 97 people and have affected about 90,000 families countrywide, the Post reported yesterday.

“Bad weather, rains and storms have made it difficult for people to take tours this year,” Bin Biev, director of Koh Kong province’s Tourism Department, said yesterday.

About 20 per cent fewer tourists visited Koh Kong province during the holiday, he said. Foreign guests at some hotels increased, however. Hang Dara, owner of Koh Kong Resort Hotel, told the Post that international tourist numbers grew during the spell of poor weather. Local tourist declined.

Floods are not the only factor keeping travellers at home, Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodian Associations of Travel Agents, said yesterday. Although floods may be the main factor dissuading travel, high food and transportation prices are also deterrents, he said.

“Last year, vendors in Preah Sihanouk province increased food prices which made some guests unhappy,” he said.


....

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Welcome to Cambodia: Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia celebrated the 32nd World Tourism Day

Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia celebrated the 32nd World Tourism Day under the theme of “Tourism-Linking Cultures”



On 27 September 2011, the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia celebrated the 32nd World Tourism Day under the theme of “Tourism-Linking Cultures”, presided over by the H.E MEN Samorn, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia with honorary participation of H.E Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, H.E HEM Chhem, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Dr. Harsh Varma, Director of Development Assistant, UNWTO, and Mrs. anne lemaistre, Country Director of UNESCO in Cambodia...


Source: Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia

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