Cambodia's history with the Khmer Rouge entered a new chapter in March as the government and the United Nation’s head negotiator Hans Correll reached a draft agreement on the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders. The agreement now faces scrutiny from the UN general Assembly and the Cambodian National Assembly, which must approve the document before it can be put into action. The latest negotiating sessions came six years after the country originally requested assistance from the UN to set up such a trial. And nearly a quarter century has passed since Cambodia was liberated from the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. Amnesty international since has criticized the agreement for being too lenient.
Just days before the infamous Oscar awards ceremony was held in California for Hollywood's most accomplished stars, Cambodia hosted a red-carpet event of its own. At a lavish engagement party held on March 20 in Phnom Penh, it was announced that the eldest son of Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng will wed the eldest daughter of Ker Kim Yan, commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed forces. Sar Sokha, 24, is studying law in France, while his 18 year-old fiancé Sun Sophy finishes high school in Singapore. The event was well attended by various national newsmakers.
Cambodia's educational system will gain another member this month as the University of Cambodia opens its doors for administrative business. The university's president, Kao Kim Horn, said the school would establish a culture of research to provide students with new information about Cambodia and the region. Students' and professors' newfound knowledge will be published by the University of Cambodia Press, which should open close to when the university holds its first classes in August. Kao Kim Horn, who is also the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said he wants to prepare students for the world and not just for Cambodia, where job opportunities are severely limited. Another institute revitalized Cambodian academia last month as Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the new building for the Cambodia Communication Institute at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The school for journalists and other media specialists existed prior to its move in a different building. The war in Iraq should not hurt Cambodia's economy, said Chap Sotharith, an economic advisor to the Council of Ministers last month. Despite his assurances, fear of rising petroleum prices has prompted some gas stations in Sihanoukville to hike their prices. And others have expressed concern that an unstable political environment in the Middle East could deter some travelers, especially Americans, from making the trip to Cambodia.
Minister of Tourism Veng Seryvuth said recently that his European tour was a huge success, despite the war in Iraq. Meeting with other tourism ministers in France, Germany and Belgium provided him with a tremendous opportunity to promote Cambodia and all of its natural wonders. More people than ever before expressed interest in the small Asean country, Veng Seryvuth said, proving that Cambodia is on the move to a brighter future.
Although the war in Iraq may keep some tourists from traveling to the region, the movement of ancient artifacts from Cambodia to Vietnam is as strong as ever. Still, crackdown efforts by local authorities managed to confiscate three artifacts ready to be smuggled at Svay Rieng province's Bavet order checkpoint in March, said Uong Von, director of the Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath also were on the move in March, departing from Phnom Penh International Airport on a flight to China. The king is scheduled to receive medical treatment, a spokesperson said. It is unclear whether or not the king would return to Cambodia in time for the July national elections, but he said he'd "try to come live with you again."