Sunday, May 31, 2009

Deputy PM calls for development investment in Tra Vinh

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung has called on domestic and foreign businesses to invest in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh to help it reduce poverty.

While chairing an investment promotion conference on May 30, Mr Hung said that Tra Vinh is one of the poorest provinces in the Mekong River Delta, but with a more than 70km long coastline and a system of crisscrossed rivers, it has great potential for developing a marine-based economy.

“If the marine-based economy and a seaport system is developed, Tra Vinh will be an important gateway for trade exchanges to not only other regions in Vietnam but also to other countries in the region and the world,” said Mr Hung.

According to Mr Hung, the government has approved a project to build the Dinh An economic zone which is under construction. In the near future, large-scale thermal power plants, a petrochemical plant, a steel mill and a shipyard will be built along with the development of a seaport system and the Quan Chanh Bo canal system to facilitate waterway transport.

government has approved projects to widen National Highways 53, 54 and 60 and build bridges in the province to shorten travel time between Tra Vinh and nearby provinces, especially HCM City.

Representatives of more than 100 domestic and foreign businesses attended the conference. They signed 23 investment projects with Tra Vinh, focusing on industry, trade and infrastructure construction.

Tra Vinh is home to a majority of ethnic groups, with the Cham people making up nearly one third of its population.

At present 850 businesses are operating in the province with a combined investment capital of VND3,000 billion.

Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City: Protecting environment is a Christian’s duty

by J.B. An DangCard


Pham Minh Man against extraction of bauxite in the central high planes promoted by government. The prelate denounces all who “damage the environment in the name of development” and invites all to “preserve nature for future generations”.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – “The natural environment is a gift from the Creator that all of us can share”; it is “a gift for everyone, not for a particular individual or minority group” and must be preserved for “for generations to come”. This is the message at the heart of the pastoral letter published by Card. Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, of Ho Chi Minh City, on May 28th. The prelate reminds the faithful that “Protecting environment is a Christian’s duty”.

The letter is his response to a decision from Vietnam congress to back industrial projects in the name of progress despite the risk of widespread environmental damage. The prelate recalls two particular cases: the pollution of the River Thi Vai, in Ho Chi Minh City, caused by factory waste from the Vedan Vietnam industries specialised in glutamine, starch and sodium; and the a decision from Vietnam congress to back bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands region.

Critics include Vo Nguyen Giap, general Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary communist wartime hero. General Giap’s battle is characterised by a nationalist stamp; he claims the environmental and social damage from the mines would far outweigh any economic benefit, and pointed to security concerns due to the long term presence of hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in bauxite mines.

In his letter, card. Pham Minh Man echoes the concern of scientists and intellectuals that: “Since natural environment is for everyone, no one has permission to damage or control it even in the name of economic development”. The prelate argues that industrialists only think “to gain profits for a small group of privileged people” without any thought for the “collateral effects caused” by their factories. “These strategies of economic development can only lead to chaos– concludes the archbishop of former Saigon – They are neither for the common good of society, nor the future of the nation”.

The criticism of bauxite projects has come from various directions of Vietnamese civil society, but the communist party has singled out the Catholic community for punishment: Last month, Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesman of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, and another Redemptorist, Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy were victimized by the government for their opposition against bauxite projects. They were accused by state media of "stupidity" and "ignorance," of causing serious damage to national unity and to the process of development, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Human rights, religious freedom protected in Vietnam: seminar

Thanh Nien News

People in Vietnam live and work in an environment that fully guarantees human rights, delegates said at a seminar in Hue Town in Thua ThienHue Province Thursday.

Speaking at the seminar on human rights and religious issues in Vietnam, scholars, human rights experts and religious researchers said the Party and state have created conducive conditions for religions to operate freely.

There are more than 22 million religious followers and thousands of religious organizations in the country now.

Of religious dignitaries, more than 1,170 are members of people’s councils at all levels and seven are members of the National Assembly.

The seminar was organized by the Ministry of Public Security’s General Department of Security.

Vietnam, Cambodia upgrade two border gates

May 30, 2009
VOVNews

Two border gates in the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang and the Cambodian province of Kampot will be upgraded to become national border gates.

The People’s Committee of Kien Giang province and the Administrative Committee of Kampot province held a ceremony on May 29 to launch the work for Giang Thanh border gate of Kien Giang and Ton Hon border gate of Kampot. They also inaugurated border landmark No 302.

These efforts aim to satisfy the daily needs of people from both countries and give a new impetus to bilateral trade and import-export activities.

Apart from the Giang Thanh border gate, Kien Giang province also has another border gate at Ha Tien, which has become one of the busiest international border gates in the Mekong Delta region over the past three years. Exports through this border gate reached nearly US$30 million in the first five months of this year, an annual rise of 30 percent.

Cambodian PM calls for ASEAN-EU co-operation

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 28 called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union to continue strengthening partnership and co-operation in response to the global challenges.

“I strongly believe that ASEAN and the EU can play a more active and more forceful role in the world,” the premier said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

“There is no room for a passive role for us, and we-ASEAN and the EU collectively-need to take on the global challenges with head on,” he added.

The 17th meeting, which opened here on May 28, will focus on enhancing ASEAN-EU partnership and co-operation, as well as fixing the world economic and financial crisis and other regional and international issues.

The meeting themed “ASEAN-EU Partnership for Peace, Economic Growth and Development” is scheduled to address issues of ASEAN integration, food and energy security, and the environment.

Hun Sen, in his speech, reviewed and spoke highly of ASEAN-EU co-operation, saying “our close relations at present are becoming ever stronger and covering a wide range of areas”.

The premier also underlined six areas for further enhancing the co-operation and partnership between ASEAN and the EU, such as continuing implementing the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, moving quickly to realize the EU/EC’s accession to the TAC (the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia), supporting each other in the areas of integration and the community building process, and strengthening ASEAN-EU co-operation in the regional and international forum.

This biennial ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting was attended by representatives from all the 10 ASEAN countries and the 27 EU member states, as well as the delegates from ASEAN Secretariat and EU Commission.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hor Namhong and Jan Kohout, Czech deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs whose country is current EU president, are co-presidents of the meeting.

The 16th Ministerial Meeting between ASEAN and the EU was held in German in 2007.The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

If we ask, they don’t give us our churches; if we ask them to grant them to us, perhaps they will

The approach to local authorities by the bishop of Bac Ninh, also known as the bishop of the poor, of unfortunate children and lepers in Than Binh Parish, might work.

Bac Ninh (AsiaNews) – “When we ask the authorities to return the land for our churches, they say no; when we ask them to grant us the land to for the sake of the people they will do it in the end,” said Mgr Cosme Hoang Van Dat, bishop of Bac Ninh (pictured). He wants his parishioners to adopt this approach after trying unsuccessfully so many times to rebuild their places of worship. Mgr Hoang Van Dat is known as the bishop of the poor, of unfortunate children and lepers in Thanh Binh Parish in Ho Chi Minh City’s 2nd District, but few people know about the Leprosy Hospital which has been in existence since before 1975, and which currently has 360 patients.

The diocese of Bac Ninh covers five provinces: Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Thai Nguyen, Bac Kan, and Vinh Phuc as well as some districts in seven other provinces like Lang Son, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang, Phu Tho, Hung Yen, and Hai Duong.

Its area is home to more than 7.3 million people, who include ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) and members of the San Diu, H’mong, Dao, Meo, Cao Lan, Chinese, Tay and Nung minorities, most of whom are very poor, living in rural and isolated mountain areas.

“On Christmas and Easter I go to say Mass in poor and isolated Catholic communities. Since I am also in charge of Than Binh Parish for lepers, I take part in their pastoral and social activities,” the bishop told AsiaNews.

“The diocese was created in 1883. It has 125,000 lay members and 43 priests operating in 47 parishes spread over an area of 24,600 km2,” he said.

“After 1954 a lot of Church-owned properties was taken over by local Communist authorities. The faithful need places to pray and have unsuccessfully written to the authorities asking for restitution. Now we are asking them to grant us the land, telling them that we do not lead people astray. In the end they will give land to the people,” he said.

This is one way to pursue missionary action in Vietnam. The authorities cannot stop people’s development because of the latter’s spiritual needs.

“We, our Churches, walk and work with the poor,” the Holy Father said.

This evinces the love of Jesus and the Church’s humanity towards all.

We are at peace in our hearts and work for the humane development of socialism.

Rural development vital for Asean

News Desk
Viet Nam News
Publication Date: 29-05-2009

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called for the continuous implementation of rural development and poverty eradication serving as a key task in building a strong Asean community.

The world and region were facing new, complicated challenges with the financial-economic crisis, climate change and pandemics that could negatively affect social security systems and people’s lives in Asean, the Prime Minister said while delivering the keynote address at the one-day meeting, with the participation of more than 200 delegates.

"To overcome these challenges, it will be necessary for the member states to improve consolidation and co-operation with each other, which is partially shown through this meeting, with the theme: A Unified Asean for Anti-Poverty in the Context of the Economic Crisis," Dung said at the opening of the sixth meeting of Asean Ministers on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in Ha Noi Wedneday.

This practical theme had expressed Asean's strategic direction of co-operation and its determination toward rural development and poverty eradication, said Dung.

It was hoped that the Ha Noi meeting would put forward specific measures to respond to the negative impacts of the global financial-economic crisis in regards to rural development and poverty eradication, focusing on investments in agriculture and in rural areas.

PM Dung also said that the meeting would help create a new action programme on rural development and poverty eradication and an action plan for a social security system based on the Asean Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint and the IAI Work Plan II. The meeting would also help continue the implementation of Asean initiatives on rural development and poverty eradication, such as boosting state management and enhancing the participation and empowerment of women and vulnerable groups in society.

Besides, this was a chance for member states to widen regional co-operation and mobilise more resources for development and exchange experiences in rural development with Asean plus three countries.

VN’s achievements

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Viet Nam was proud to be an active Asean member for the past 14 years.

With more than 70 per cent of the population active in the agricultural sector, the country always considered rural development and poverty eradication a key task for sustainable development, he said.

In the past years, the country had put forward and implemented several projects and programmes on rural development and had given support to poor households. The country had boosted the state budget and mobilised the entire political system and society for hunger eradication and poverty reduction, he added.

Therefore, Viet Nam had made great achievements in rural development and poverty eradication with its percentage of poor households, according to international standards, being reduced to 12.5 per cent last year from 58 per cent in 1993.

The Prime Minister said that although Viet Nam had suffered from the impacts of the global economic crisis, the Government and people had taken comprehensive and appropriate measures to maintain macro-economic stability, social security and people’s livelihoods.

"Viet Nam greatly appreciates co-operation in rural development and poverty eradication.

However, in order to cope with new challenges and minimise the negative effects of the global crisis, member states need to make stronger commitments and more appropriate investments in rural development and poverty eradication," he said.

Stronger commitments

The ministers asked senior officials to prioritise future activities with the implementation of the relevant Strategic Objectives of the ASCC Blueprint, the IAI Strategic Framework and the Work Plan II (2009-2015), and to develop their respective work plans and regional activities in order to implement the relevant action lines of the ASCC Blueprint and to co-ordinate with other relevant ministries.

In terms of addressing the social impacts of the global crisis, the ministers called for more concerted efforts by member states in the spirit of "Asean-help-Asean" in addressing issues pertaining to rural development and poverty eradication and in narrowing the developmental gap in the region.

They said the best practices and challenges of Asean member states in implementing their respective policies and programmes on rural development and poverty eradication would be documented to facilitate information sharing among member states and the development of concerted efforts in narrowing the developmental gap in the region.

The ministers also endorsed a proposal to commence a rapid assessment in Asean on the social impacts of the global financial crisis and policy responses that had been taken by Asean member states individually. The assessment results could serve as a basis to help Asean in the formulation of appropriate regional policies and a strategic response to mitigate the social implications of the global financial crisis.

It was expected that the assessment findings and policy recommendations could be submitted as feedback to the Asean leaders at their 15th summit in October.

Initiatives supported

In addition, the ministers supported the four initiatives of the senior officials to promote community-driven activities and person-to-person interactions aimed at narrowing the developmental gap in the region.

The initiative of the Asean Rural Youth Volunteers Movement was led by Indonesia to bring together young, professional volunteers from the region to support rural communities in their developmental efforts. The first deployment of Asean volunteers to participate in the National Programme for Community Empowerment in Indonesia will be made in the second half of this year. The Asean+3 Village Leaders Exchange Programme was led by Malaysia in building the capacity of village leaders among member states in promoting development in rural areas through study tours and experience exchanges.

The other initiative was the sharing of Thailand’s Baan Mankong Programme, which was a city-wide "Cities without Slums" programme, as well as her grassroots economic development and poverty alleviation programmes, including the One Tambon One Product, the Urban Community and Village Fund and the Sufficiency Economy Fund.

Another initiative was for the development of a regional poverty eradication programme for socially vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, women, children, elderly and those affected by natural disasters.

The ministers of Asean, with high appreciation for the three countries of China, Japan and South Korea, agreed to foster cooperation with these nations.

The 7th Asean Ministers Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication would be held in Brunei in 2011.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ministers confront Myanmar (Khmer Krom also protest)

Protesters call for release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Myanmar embassy Wednesday in Phnom Penh.

SOUTHEAST Asian ministers Wednesday called out Myanmar over its treatment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a senior regional minister said at the start of a meeting of ASEAN and EU foreign ministers at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

The confrontation came as activists made fresh demands for the release of the democracy icon, whose trial for violating the conditions of her house arrest has sparked international outrage.

"The discussion in the room back there was that [the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners]... affects ASEAN's image and ASEAN's collective interests," said Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the 10-member group.

"Yesterday, they issued a joint statement referring to the issue - I don't think it will be left at that tomorrow," he added, referring to a statement issued Tuesday in Hanoi by Asian and European Union (EU) ministers.

Meanwhile, students, civil society activists and Myanmar expatriates protested Wednesday morning in front of the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh, urging EU and ASEAN ministers to pressure the junta over the Nobel laureate.

"We hope that ... with all the mobilisation of the rest of the world and all the international statements calling for her release, the government of Myanmar will finally release her," said Kek Galabru, president of Cambodian rights group Licadho.

"This is a small action from civil society to support her and show her our solidarity."

The spokesman for a small group of Myanmar protesters, who declined to be named, said EU and ASEAN leaders were in a good position to pressure Myanmar's leaders for reform.

"I feel that the Burmese government is abusing the law [in] trying to put Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on trial," the spokesman said. "That's why we are coming out, to ask for her release and the immediate cessation of the trial."

In addition to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Kyaw - another Myanmar protester - called for the amnesty of other political dissidents languishing in Myanmar jails.

The protest, which began at 7:30am in front of the embassy on Norodom Boulevard, was attended by a strong police presence, and a black-clad security guard from the embassy roamed the crowd snapping photos of the participants.

"It's always the way they react," said the Myanmar protesters' spokesman. "They are underhanded and they will try to crack down on opposition activists."

The event came as delegations from 37 European and Asian countries arrived in Phnom Penh for the 17th EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, which winds up today.

The summit is scheduled to address climate change, counterterrorism and the global financial crisis, but has been used to focus attentions on other issues.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, a local rights group, issued calls Wednesday for EU and ASEAN delegates to discuss human rights violations against Vietnam's Khmer minority.

The meeting, however, has become a lightning rod for international protests against Myanmar's ruling junta, which has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for 13 of the last 19 years.

She now faces up to five years in prison on charges she broke the terms of her house arrest, following an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside home in Yangon. Her previous term of house arrest was due to expire Wednesday.

Mounting pressureForeign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Aung San Suu Kyi issue may again be raised on the sidelines of the summit today, but remains off the official agenda.

"I can't speculate on what is going to happen [today]."

But one delegate said that the issue would indeed come up in discussions.

"We will be emphasising human rights at the meetings, especially on collectively putting pressure on the [Myanmar] government," Bill Rammell, a British parliamentarian and minister of state at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the Post. "We welcome Thailand's recent statements on Suu Kyi's release," he said.

David Mathieson, a Human Rights Watch researcher based in northern Thailand, said, however, that ASEAN's track record on dealing with Myanmar's human rights abuses did not give him much hope of a positive outcome.

"We've been here so many times," he said by phone from the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.

"I'd like to think that given the current situation, ASEAN would act appropriately and with conviction. [But] looking at the history of ASEAN's engagement with Burma, there's very little hope it will get its act together."

But he said that international criticism of the Aung San Suu Kyi trial - just the latest in a "litany of embarrassments" the country has brought on ASEAN - could encourage it to apply the neglected human rights provisions in the organisation's charter.

"With Suu Kyi, you have an issue that is not just an issue for Southeast Asia - it's a global issue. ASEAN's international reputation also depends on how they deal with this," he said.

Yettaw takes the standIn Yangon, American John Yettaw, taking the stand Wednesday for the first time, told the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi that he swam to the Myanmar democracy icon's home to warn her of a divine vision about a "terrorist" plot to assassinate her, her party said.
"Yettaw said he came here because God asked him to," said Nyan Win, who is also on her legal team and was in court Wednesday for the closed hearing at Insein prison in Yangon.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MEAS SOKCHEA, GEORGE MCLEOD AND AFP

Khmer Krom call on VN to open their minds and their hearts

SOMALIN THACH, Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, suggested that the Forum set up a half-day discussion for the recognition of people unrecognized by their Governments and, notably, to help set up a series of meetings between her organization and the Vietnamese Government. The Forum should urge Viet Nam to work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to distribute translated documents on the Declaration to her people. "We are the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta", she said, adding her hope to live in her homeland and to practise her unique cultural heritage. It was time for Viet Nam to move beyond preventing her people from speaking at this Forum. She asked Viet Nam to "open their minds and their hearts and embrace the spirit of working in partnership".

Furthermore, please visit this link: http://www.khmerkrom.net/node/1952

VN to open classes to teach Khmer to governemnt officials

29 May 2009

According to Nhan Dan newspaper, Vietnamese authority in Tay Ninh provinice (Raung Domrei in Khmer), bordering Cambodia have open classes to teach Khmer language to civil servants, the police and military.

The six month course aim at teaching students basic listening and reading skills.

In 2009, it plans to have two classes of 30 students each. By 2020 the government aim to have 80% of civil servants and officals, in border provinces to Cambodia, to be able to communicate in basic Khmer.

In Kampuchea-Krom there is no Khmer language school funded by the government to teach to Khmer people. But in some areas Khmer people are able to ask the authority to open weekend Khmer classes in existing Vietnamese schools. - Khmer Krom Network

Khmer Krom Group Meets With US State Officials

By Men Kimseng,
VOA KhmerOriginal report from Phnom Penh
28 May 2009

Representatives of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom community in the United States met Tuesday with officials at the US State Department Wednesday to report on rights violations of ethnic Khmer living in southern Vietnam.

The group is also seeking intervention for a number of refugees, including Tim Sakorn, the former head monk of a Takeo province pagoda who has fled to Thailand after being forcibly defrocked in Cambodia and jailed in Vietnam.

Many Cambodians still refer to the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam as Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia, which once belonged to a former Cambodian regime.

“We informed [the State Department] that Buddhism in Kampuchea Krom is being controlled by the Vietnamese government, and we want its independence from this communist control,” Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation told VOA Khmer after the meeting.

The group also discussed “land eviction by the government via sending Khmer Krom people away and replacing them with the Vietnamese…and refugees in Thailand now being taken care of by the UN High Commissioner for Refugee so that they can be resettled to the US once they pass the interview,” he said.

Thach Ngoc Thach added that the meeting also discussed how to encourage Khmer Krom students from poor families to have better chances to study overseas.

No official at the State Department was available for comment about the meeting on Wednesday.
Former monk Tim Sakhorn is now living under UN protection in Thailand. His application to resettle in a third country, possibly the United State, is being processed and the result is expected in June 20, he said by phone from Bangkok.

Tim Sakhorn fled to Thailand earlier this year. He spent nearly one year in a Vietnamese jail after he was defrocked in Takeo province, for allegedly fomenting unrest between the two countries.

He spent time in Cambodia in April to attend a death ceremony for his mother, but refuses to return to Vietnam, where he claims he is under constant surveillance and virtual house arrest.
“I would like to make an appeal to international organizations and UNHCR to please process my case as soon as possible so that I can get away from fear and live in peace,” he said by phone. “This is the same with many Khmer Krom people and monks who have escaped from Cambodia to stay here. There are a number of them and they live in fear, so please process their cases as soon as possible.”

UNPFII 2009: Item 3(c) Vietnam Intervention part 2

Just before the closing of the Forum on Tuesday, Vietnam was given time to make it full statement. The Vietnamese government representative once again reaffirms its objection to the participation of the members of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and launches into a detailed reponse on what Vietnam has been doing to help Khmer Krom out.
Click here to listen to Vietnam statement
Attachment
VN representative part 2.mp3

UNPFII 2009: Item 3(c) Vietnam Intervention part 1

Vietnam representatives attempts to make an intervention following the speech of Miss. Marly Son but launches into a full statement. See how the Chair Madame responded.

Vietnam government representative: Madame Chair,I would like to say thank you for convening this important section, my delegations high appreciates the effort of the secretariat and the vast majority of participants at this Permanent Forum in protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. We support the spirit of dialogue and cooperation which most of the participants have been engaged in their consideration.

It is in the spirit that we commit always to working closely with other participants to contribute to the success of this forum. My delegations is however, deeply concerned about the registration procedures of the Forum’s participation. We believe that constructive dialogue and sincere cooperation can only be established if the Forum is attended and addressed by right participants who are well informed and therefore truly capable of representing indigenous peoples and discussing genuine concerns of indigenous peoples.

With this in mind, we are obliged to express our objection to the participation and statement just made by Khmers Krom Federation. This so called Federation cannot represent Vietnamese indigenous peoples as they have been based outside the country for many decades. Without any knowledge or reality on the ground, driven by political motivation, they have carried out separatist activities against Vietnamese government and peoples and provoking disunity amongst the Vietnamese peoples. Having provided the Forum’s participants with groundless and distorted information, the only proof is that they are keeping a blind eye is the fact that the Vietnamese nation has worked very hard to handle the war and emerged peaceful and united and they are enjoying a much better live.

All the 54 ethnic groups are pure brothers and sisters of the Vietnamese family with an equal footing in every field and cooperation. Participating in this forum, with such political fabrication, the so called Khmer Krom Federation are actually discrediting this respected Forum, misrepresenting the indigenous peoples in Vietnam, discrediting our section and wasting our time.

Madame Chair, while maintaining our reservation at maintaining...

Madame Chair: Hits the hammer and tells Vietnam to conclude
VN Representative: Madame Chair, we believe we have the right to respond
Vietnam representative wants to continue but Madame Chair said no. Madame Chair announces that she will move to the next speaker. Unhappy, Vietnam representative uses her sign to tap the front desk for attention. After a few attempts, she is forced to give up as Madame Chair moves to the next speaker.

Participants of the Forum applauds Madame Chair for her final decision.

Vietnam rejects US lawmakers' religion critique

Asia-Pacific News
May 27, 2009, 5:16 GMT

Hanoi - Vietnam rejected a recent resolution by US lawmakers condemning violations of religious freedom in the communist country, state media reported Wednesday.

Government spokesman Le Dung denounced an amendment to the foreign relations budget bill passed May 20 by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US's House of Representatives. The non-binding amendment recommends the US State Department list Vietnam as a 'country of particular concern' for religious freedom issues.

'This decision by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives goes against the actual situation in Vietnam and does not conform to the developing relations between Vietnam and the United States,' Dung said in a press release.

Dung urged Congress not to pass the amendment, and invited more US congressmen to visit Vietnam to examine the religious freedom situation.

The US designated Vietnam a 'country of particular concern' for religious freedom issues between 2004 and 2006. In recent years the US has said it is satisfied with Vietnam's moves to loosen religious restrictions.

Most Buddhists, Muslims and many mainline Christian denominations worship freely in Vietnam, but all denominations must be registered by the government. The government bans the dissident Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, and human rights groups say it harasses small unregistered Christian churches, particularly in ethnic minority areas.

In a report earlier this month, Human Rights Watch criticized the government for arresting leaders of such unregistered churches. The group also denounced government arrests of activist Buddhist monks belonging to the country's ethnic Khmer minority.

The US amendment was sponsored by two Republicans, Vietnamese-American Congressman Joseph Anh Cao of Louisiana and Congressman Ed Royce of California. Royce's district contains a large community of Vietnamese-American émigrés.

Read more: "Vietnam rejects US lawmakers' religion critique - Monsters and Critics" - http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/news/article_1479670....

Chinese Dams cause extra nightmare for Khmer Kroms

Dams will kill Mekong River downstream, say experts

Thanh Nien News (Hanoi)

Dams built upstream on the Mekong River will kill the fish, limit silt and cut off a major water source for agriculture in Vietnam and other downstream nations, experts warn.

As part of a series of eight dams on the upper half of the river, China recently completed the Xiaowan Dam, which is the world’s tallest at 292 meters and whose storage capacity is equal to all Southeast Asian reservoirs combined.

“China’s extremely ambitious plan to build a massive cascade of eight dams on the upper half of the Mekong River, as it tumbles through the high gorges of Yunnan Province, may pose the single greatest threat to the river,” AP cited a United Nations report released last Thursday.

Ky Quang Vinh, head of the Center for Natural Resources and Environment in the southern city of Can Tho, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that dams are already big at heights of 15 meters.
“And 292 meters is unbelievable,” he said.

The Mekong River runs through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The last four nations are also planning to build damns on the river’s main flow through their countries.

“The Mekong is being cut into pieces,” Vinh said, adding that the dams will disturb the life of fish in the river, partly by blocking their movement.

They also pose the threat of extinction to rare fish species such as fresh water Irrawady dolphin, the Mekong giant catfish, and numerous other kinds of migrant fish.

The river, which is one of the highest fresh-water fish suppliers in the world, is providing fish to more than 60 million people.

In Vietnam, the river is known as the Cuu Long River as it flows through the southwestern region.

As the Cuu Long is the final part of the Mekong, Vinh said it will be “severely disturbed” by the dams along the river, which are expected to go beyond 20 in number.

Construction of the dams means no more profit from fish in the river and a big drop in ecosystem-balancing creatures such as seaweed and microorganisms, he added.

Recent statistics have shown a dramatic drop of fish in the river.

The UN report found increasing shortage of water at several river basins such as Tonle Sap in Cambodia, Nam Khan in Laos and Sekong-Sesan Srepok in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Ngo Dinh Tuan, scientific council chairman of the Southeast Asia Institute of Water Resource and Environment (SAIWRE), said people should have built the way for fish to swim through the dams.

He said the dams will retain the silt and thus, land in the downstream area will become susceptible to land erosion and landslides.

China had started building dams on the Mekong from 1950 onwards to bring water northward for hydropower production, Tuan said.

But according to many experts, the move aims to switch water from the Mekong to the Yangtze River to supply water to dry areas in northern China.

Tuan said this would mean that the Cuu Long River dries up. “That will be extremely dangerous.”

Vinh also said “the most visible impact of the dam construction is severe shortage of fresh water.”

Mekong Delta residents have suffered severe water shortages in the dry season last month and will suffer more in the coming years, he said.

The water flow during the annual flooding of the river has also reduced from 40,000 cubic meters a second in the past to 28,000 cubic meters last October.

Farmers in the river delta had to struggle to find water for the winter-spring crop earlier this year, Vinh said.

Coastal provinces of the delta such as Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau have experienced saline intrusion of up to 70 kilometers into the mainland during the dry season.

Vinh said the Chinese 292-meterhigh dam can in the long-term direct water to dry areas in China, and be used for irrigation or hydropower plants.

But for now, it is going to cause flooding in a large area on the dam, which will change the local ecosystem and probably kill several rare species in the river, he said.

According to the UN, the dam development will lead to “changes in river flow volume and timing, water quality deterioration and loss of biodiversity.”

Less fish and unpredictably changing water flows in the river will jeopardize already difficult livelihoods for locals, Vinh said.

Vinh cites official figures saying the river generates incomes exceeding US$3 billion a year, but adds its true value is much more as its aquatic creatures are diverse, second only to the Amazon, and ensures food security for dozens of millions of people.

Almost 800,000 square kilometers of the river network is home to dozens of rare bird and marine species, including the Mekong giant catfish, and provides food and jobs for 65 million residents in the river basin.

The Mekong River Commission, a riparian organization on issues of common concern, will have very little influence on this issue as long as China and Myanmar do not join it, Tuan said.

China even argues that the river is national, not international, the council chairman added.

The two countries also conceal their hydropower operations and such noncooperation is “dangerous,” Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper on Monday cited Dr. Le Anh Tuan from the Research Institute for Climate Change of Can Tho University as saying.

The dam construction now joins hands with climate change to worsen droughts, salinity intrusion, landslides and land erosion, he said.

China has built big dams on the river’s main flow while other countries have only built them on tributaries so far, he added.

Tuan of SAIWRE said Vietnam should cooperate with international organizations to stop upstream overexploitation of water.

“We have to accept if a country builds dams for hydropower production but have to strongly protest when the water flow is turned away.”

The Vietnamese government must create a national strategy for protecting the river downstream, not only for the Cuu Long River but the Red River as well, Tuan said, since China has started to build dams on it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mergers of Viet Nam's credit institutions regulated

Lawyers of Vilaf Hong Duc
Viet Nam News

Mergers are becoming more common among financial institutions, not only due to the impact of globalisation but also as a means to help smaller banks and stock brokerages weather the world economic crisis.

The State Bank of Viet Nam has proposed new regulations to govern mergers of credit institutions in a draft circular expected to replace State Bank Decision of July 1998.

Under the Law on Enterprises 2005, one or more companies can merge with another by means of one company acquiring all legal assets, rights, liabilities and interests of the other, with the latter then winding up business.

The law also provides for consolidation, under which two or more companies can form a new company and transfer all legal assets, rights, liabilities, and interests into that new company while simultaneously winding up the consolidated companies.

The draft circular would retain these definitions and make mergers and consolidations of credit institutions comply with relevant provisions of the Law on Credit Institutions, Law on Enterprises and Law on Competition.

To comply with the Law on Competition, the draft circular requests credit institutions participating in a merger or a consolidation ("transacting credit institutions") to obtain the opinion of competition administration agency regarding their merger or consolidation if required by this law. In particular, in accordance with Article 20 of the Law on Competition, if transacting credit institutions have a combined market share of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the relevant market, they must notify the competition authority before implementing the merger or consolidation.

If the combined market share is less than 30 per cent of the relevant market or if these transacting credit institutions after merging or consolidating remain small-or medium-sized, no notification is required. In such cases, the draft circular would only require the transacting credit institutions to provide a written explanation of the absence of the competition authority’s opinion regarding the merger or consolidation.

The draft circular also has a broader scope and covers more types of credit institutions than Decision No 241, applying to all State-owned, joint stock, co-operative, joint venture and foreign-owned financial institutions. It aims to create a level playing field for all credit institutions and prevent differential treatment.

The draft circular would also make a distinction between voluntary and compulsory mergers or consolidations. A voluntary merger or consolidation would occur when the financial institutions merge or consolidate on their own initiative for their own purposes of development.
A compulsory merger or consolidation, on the other hand, would apply when a financial institution (i) cannot satisfy regulated minimum capital requirements; (ii) has "inefficient operations"; or (iii) is under special control; and cannot apply the voluntary method and poses a risk to the integrity of the credit system. In the latter instance, the State Bank shall prepare a detailed plan for approval by the Prime Minister before the merger or consolidation.

The draft does not provide criteria to determine which credit institutions are considered to have "inefficient operations". Although this could be interpreted to mean insolvency or a threat of insolvency, the vagueness of this term could lead to some discretionary applications of compulsory merger or consolidation.

Like Decision No 241, the draft circular sets forth two required procedural steps for merger or consolidation of credit institutions: (i) in-principle approval by the Governor of the State Bank; and (ii) the State Bank Governor’s official approval.

The draft circular adds the requirement that the application dossiers for approval in principle contain not only the written opinion of the competition authority but also the transacting credit institutions’ next three-year business plan, financial statements for the past two years, and a summary of financial status and operations for the past three years. It is questionable how credit institutions with less than three years in operation would be able to satisfy this requirement.

In order to prevent insider trading by members of the boards of management, members of the control board, directors or deputy directors of transacting credit institutions, the draft circular would also prohibit these figures from purchasing and/or selling their contributed capital in such credit institutions within a "suspension period" on capital transfers. This period of time would start from the date that the transacting credit institutions submitted their application dossiers for in-principle approval from the State Bank and would end 30 days after the date that the merger or consolidation is publicly announced. Any capital transfers within that period could only take place with the approval by the State Bank Governor.

Vietnam attends ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia

A Vietnamese delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem will attend the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM-17) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on May 28.

The meeting will discuss future cooperation between ASEAN and the EU and the implementation of the Plan of Action on ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership which was adopted at an ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Singapore in November 2007.

Delegates will also discuss regional and international issues such as the global and financial crisis, food and energy security, anti-terrorism, disarmament, climate change and epidemics.
The meeting is expected to adopt the chair’s statement and the Phnom Penh agenda on the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action for 2009-2010.

Mr Khiem is scheduled to deliver a speech on epidemic prevention, and have bilateral meetings with heads of the participating delegations.

Khmer Kampuchea-Krom demand their Rights

By Love Khmer

For this day, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom strongly stand up for their rights when the Vietnamese communist Government threatens them.

Many days ago, Khmer Krom had conducted the demonstration at Geneva.
Please visit events: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvMmtJhS6NE

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Japan Viet Nam's top partner

News Desk
Viet Nam News
Publication Date: 26-05-2009

Japan was an important and top priority partner for Viet Nam, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem told Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone during a meeting Sunday.

Khiem received Nakasone as he came to Ha Noi to attend the ninth Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM9) opening Monday.

The ministers agreed on ways to implement bilateral agreements and work closely to accelerate co-operation within the framework of the Viet Nam-Japan strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia, as endorsed by the two countries’ leaders.

Other topics discussed included climate change and ways to handle the H1N1 influenza outbreak.
During a visit to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Nakasone pledged to continue co-operating with Viet Nam to build an international biomedicine research centre to better equip the Asian region for any outbreaks of dangerous diseases
Nakasone said the Japanese Government attached great importance to co-operation with Viet Nam and would continue support its industrialisation and modernisation.
Separate meetings

Khiem also received the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kohout, and his Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet yesterday on the eve of FMM9.

During separate meetings, the Deputy Prime Minister outlined the importance of expanding co-operation with the countries and hoped they would help Viet Nam establish comprehensive relations with the EU.

The foreign ministers said they were determined to further strengthen multi-faceted co-operation with Viet Nam.

Khiem and the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, agreed on measures to strengthen bilateral co-operation. They agreed economic and trade relations weren’t meeting their potential.

Viet Nam and Estonia will consider visa waivers for diplomatic passport holders while opening an Estonian honorary consulate in Viet Nam.

Host and guests said they would work together on agreements to create the legal framework for co-operation on the economy, trade, investment and labour export.
ASEM review

Being one among ASEM founders, Viet Nam has made many contributions on co-operation between Asia and Europe, said Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem in an article before the meeting starting today.

Khiem evaluated co-operation within ASEM and Viet Nam’s role as an active member.

He said Viet Nam had participated in ASEM as soon as it was aware of its potential, particularly in the areas of economics, investment, trade, science, technology and education.

Khiem listed areas where Viet Nam had contributed in the past 13 years and wrote that as an Asian co-ordinator in ASEM during 2000-04, Viet Nam and other members had taken the initiative to broaden activities in terms of dialogue and co-operation.

It wanted to strengthen mutual understanding and create an increasingly favourable atmosphere for co-operation in other areas.

Viet Nam, which hosted the fifth ASEM Summit in Ha Noi in 2004, was among countries effectively using the ASEM Trust Fund. It had implemented 21 projects worth a total of US$13.3 million.

Viet Nam also offered initiatives in the areas of health, culture, IT, energy, and tourism, which received wide support.

The country had co-initiated and co-implemented many projects on agriculture, science and technology, transport, health, culture, education and training and environment.

Viet Nam was recently elected as a deputy executive director of the Asia-Europe Foundation, which is in charge of speeding ASEM’s cultural and social activities.

Stronger partnerships

Khiem said the conference’s main aim was to strengthen Asia-Europe partnership to cope with the financial-economic crisis and global challenges.

The meeting would concentrate on reviewing and evaluating results of the seventh summit in Beijing last year and was expected to make recommendations on ways to cope with the global financial crisis.

It would also discuss the implementation of United Nations Millennium Development Goals on poverty alleviation and social welfare policies on such issues as employment and free migration.

Delegates hoped to offer a strong message on ASEM’s determination and responsibility to work with the international community to solve issues like climate change, epidemic and infectious diseases, food and energy security, international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

It will also outline ASEM development goals in preparation for the eighth summit in Brussels next year including the issue of adding members.

Govt to probe film star complaints

Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Photo by: HENG CHIVOANCambodian actress Doung Zorida, photographed in March this year.

Investigation probes karaoke parlours that used actresses's pictures to advertise escort services.

THE Ministry of Interior has opened investigations into Phnom Penh karaoke parlours that used the image of film stars to advertise escort services and attract patrons, following complaints from two high-profile starlets.

Ten Borany, deputy director of the ministry's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said authorities would conduct investigations to determine whether the club owners had committed a criminal offence.

"I don't know if we'll have to punish the offenders because we don't know what kind of crime they have committed," he said.

"We are trying our best in order to find justice for the movie stars ... and I hope we can solve the problem for them."

No permission

Film stars Doung Zorida and Veng Sreyno complained to police last month when they found that their images - with price tags attached - were gracing the walls of local VIP clubs and brothels.

Doung Zorida, whose picture was shown in photo albums at some VIP clubs in Phnom Penh with a price of between US$4,000 and $8,000 attached, said that she had given Ministry of Interior officials additional information to help them in their investigations.

"I believe in the ability of the police and I think that the police know which clubs or madams of prostitution are doing these things, but they need to find evidence before they can arrest them," she said.

She added that legal action was important for clearing her name, and that if she didn't take action, people would think she was involved in prostitution.

"I don't need any money from them. What I need is an apology and a public statement that I and the other movie stars did not sell our bodies," she told the Post.

Ieng Sithul, director of the Khmer Actress Association, said that he was satisfied that police officials were trying to find justice for the two film stars, adding that it would help protect them against the dishonour of being associated with escort clubs.

"I hope that the police will do their best so that the actresses can maintain their honour," he said. "[These people] are looking down on themselves and their nation because they are the same nationality [as the actresses]. They are destroying their own culture and tradition.

"All people who have power and money should use their money in the right way, to suit their honour and that of their society," he added.

Govt responds angrily to reports of planned Preah Vihear replica

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Thai media say a copy of the famed temple is on the horizon, while Cambodian officials threaten to complain to UNESCO.

CAMBODIAN officials have reacted strongly to Thai media reports that the country plans to build a replica of Preah Vihear temple along the border, saying it could violate international law.

Chuch Phoeun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said that Preah Vihear's status as a UNESCO World Heritage site prohibited the construction of any building surrounding the temple site.

"It is impossible to replicate the temple without permission from the country that owns it," said Chuch Phoeun. "This is an intentional attempt by the Thais to stir up Cambodia because they are jealous of [us]." Chuch Phoeun added that if Bangkok violates the law, Cambodia will report it to UNESCO.Thai media on Monday reported that Thailand planned to build a copy of the disputed 11th-century temple as a tourist attraction, and that local authorities had been ordered to undertake a feasibility study before the project begins.

It is impossible to replicate the temple without permission from [the govt]

The rumoured Thai plans are the latest shot fired in a border dispute that has been simmering since UNESCO listed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site in July last year.

ASEAN urged to act

Ahead of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, which kicks off Wednesday in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Watchdog Council (CWC), a local civil society group, called on ASEAN and EU officials to address the ongoing border standoff.

In a statement Monday, the CWC claims that since July 15 last year, Thai soldiers have continually violated Cambodian territory, but that numerous bilateral negotiations have failed.

"The ASEAN and EU members present for this two-day meeting have to raise the issue of Thai incursions into Cambodia," the statement said.But Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Thai-Cambodia border standoff was not on the agenda for the meeting.

"We're not going to stop civil society from expressing their concern on this issue, but the government's principle is to resolve the conflict peacefully and bilaterally," he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled to visit Cambodia on June 12-13, when he is expected to hold border talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodian casino bankrupts Mekong Delta residents

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Thanh Nien News (Hanoi)

Kiem, a Mekong Delta water-lily dealer, just lost all her money at the Grand Dragon Resort casino across the border in Cambodia.

She earns a living buying the plants at the border to resell in An Giang Province and the city of Can Tho. She was waiting to collect her goods at the border when some friends convinced her to visit the casino “just to try it.”

“But I left the casino without any money to continue my business,” she says. “It was terrible.”

The refrain is not uncommon among Vietnamese visitors to the casino just across the river from An Giang’s An Phu District.

Just ask any of the hotel owners or xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers near the Long Binh Border Gate, which leads to Cambodia’s Kandal Province.A hotel owner in An Phu District says most gamblers come from Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho.

She says they all leave bitterly after losing.She says she’s used to rich guests driving up in luxury cars only to leave with their heads down and less luggage.“A woman from a nearby commune committed suicide recently after her husband piled up billions of dong in gambling debts,” she says.

Gamblers with passports can cross the border legally after a few simple procedures at the border gate, while it is also easy to cross the river-border illegally in small boats for just VND3,000 (US$0.17).

The casino at the Grand Dragon Resort is just a few meters from the riverbank while a number of xe om drivers are always ready to take gamblers to a cock-fighting ring two kilometers away.

Nguyen Van Son, a Vietnamese xe om driver operating near the casino, says his customers are always excited when the day begins, and universally disappointed when they return home.He says five of his colleagues have lost their motorbikes – and thereby their livelihood – to gambling at the casino.He points to a hawker peddling Vietnamese pancakes on the street. She used to be a rich woman before she lost it all to the casino, he says.

From losing to losing
Many Vietnamese inside and outside the casino appear to be doing nothing but hanging around after losing all their money.Lap, a fish dealer from Vietnam, is reluctant to leave. She says she wants to watch other people play after losing more than VND1 million ($56.20) earlier in the day.

She says she knows the right time to stop and usually wins several million dong on visits to the casino.So, what’s she doing now with no money?She admits that she’s become addicted and that she lost more than she won on this particular day.

Outside the casino, pawnbrokers lay in wait, always willing to grant loans to gamblers who want to bet their luck on their belongings after losing all their money.Vietnamese law prohibits Vietnamese citizens from gambling but allows hotels rated four-stars and above to operate casinos for people holding foreign passports.

Reported by Tien Trinh

Monday, May 25, 2009

Suu Kyi off Summit agenda

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 25 May 2009

ASEAN-EU meet will not discuss Myanmar.

A GOVERNMENT spokesperson said Sunday that the trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi would not be on the official agenda for an ASEAN-EU summit scheduled to be held in Phnom Penh this week.

"Until now, I haven't seen on the schedule any mention of the issue," Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post.
"But it depends on what happens while a summit takes place."

He also said that no official statement on Aung San Suu Kyi would be forthcoming from the government, as Cambodia had already supported an earlier statement by ASEAN.

Opposition requests talks
Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party parliamentarians said Sunday they will sign a joint statement urging the summit's bloc leaders to hold talks with the Myanmar representatives on the release of the country's political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, while expressing concern over her ongoing trial.

"I think that it is necessary for ASEAN and European Union leaders to seek approval from China, Russia and Cambodia, which have close ties to Burma's military regime, to encourage the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and to bring national reconciliation to Burma," said opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who was also deputy chair of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentarian Myanmar Caucus.

"We will send our joint letter to the ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting on Monday, and I think that it is good opportunity to raise this issue during submit."

Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation at UNPFII

Eighth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation

Speaker: Maily Kim

Item 3(c): Second International Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples


Madame Chair
Vietnam has claimed that it has achieved the MDGs and yet our people continue to live in poverty, many are losing what is left of their ancestral homes because of the current economic recession which has meant that they are unable to sell their crops.

Very few Khmer-Krom people know about the existence of the MDGs in Vietnam. Thus we are very concerned that the MDGs will not be met if Vietnam continues to deny the existence of the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta.

We are encouraged that Vietnam has supported the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. We believe it is time that we move forward and start the process of recognising the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta.

We would like to suggest the following recommendations:
· Ask that Vietnam develop a National plan of Action for the Second International Decade in collaboration with the indigenous Khmer Krom people and the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation. We propose an initial meeting during this 8th session making it truly historic and also an honest and genuine shift for solidarity and social justice in Vietnam that could serve as a model for the ASEAN region

· Ask that Vietnam incorporate a legal framework for the recognition of Khmer-Krom as the Indigenous Peoples into the National Plan of Action.

· Ensure that the National Plan of Action addresses the current conflicts that exit between Vietnam and Khmer-Krom through traditional and modern conflict resolution mechanisms.

· Request the help of the Permanent Forum to set up a parallel session in which Vietnam and KKF can have a dialogue to speak about Khmer-Krom issues and how we can work together to resolve them.

· Seek the help of UN specialized agencies that are currently working in Vietnam such as CEDAW and UNESCO help monitor the current programs created by the government to ensure that it is culturally appropriate for the Khmer Krom people. For example, instead of creating more schools, we propose that UNESCO uses the existing educational institution that exists in Khmer Krom temples and offer bilingual classes so that Khmer Krom children can keep their identity.

· Ask that Vietnam work in collaboration with our indigenous organization and UN specialized agencies such as UNESCO and CEDAW to create a series of workshops to educate about their basic rights and fundamental freedoms including women’s rights.

· Ask that CEDAW help create an indigenous Khmer Krom women center in the regional areas of the Mekong Delta so that they can access to support in health care, education and employment.

In true Partnership for action and dignity, we reaffirm that the MDGs will only be successful in this second decade when unrecognised peoples such as our Khmer Krom are included in all decision making processes that affect them.

For six years, we have asked Vietnam to work with us and consult our Khmer Krom people back home. Let us stay true to the goal of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and work together in a genuine partnership so that the Khmer Krom people can fully enjoy their basic rights without fear or discrimination.
She is stupid. She does not know the law of UNPFII so that she knocked the table...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cambodia finds three passengers traveling with A/H1N1 virus patient

PHNOM PENH, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian health authorities have found the three passengers who arrived here on the same flight with a woman who was later confirmed to have A/H1N1 virus, a health official here said on Saturday.

The three, all Cambodian-Americans, were found Friday, and one of the old man now stays in Battambang province while the two others, a father and his daughter, in Kampot province, according to Sok Touch, director of the epidemic disease department at the Ministry of Health."We have got their samples and sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh for testing A/H1N1 virus. The results would be available later today," he told reporters, adding that "the three's health are normal with no influenza symptoms now."

Sok Touch said that the Health Ministry has not took isolation measure to them, but asked them to have a self-isolation, and not to visit relatives as well as go to the public places in the next seven days.

The three arrived in Phnom Penh from the United States via South Korean on May 17. A Vietnamese woman traveled with them on the same flight feel unwell and hospitalized at Incheon, South Korea, and later she was confirmed of the disease.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Italy helps Vietnam improve safe water system, environmental sanitation

VOVNews

Vietnam and Italy on May 22 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the implementation of three projects using Italy’s preferential credit source worth EUR38.1 million.
Signatories to the MoU were the Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, Cao Viet Sinh, and the Italian ambassador to Vietnam, Andrea Perugini.

These projects include a EUR9.5 million project to improve the water drainage and environmental sanitation system in Nui Thanh urban area, in the central province of Quang Nam, a EUR15 million project to provide safe water and upgrade irrigation system in the southern province of Binh Thuan, and a EUR13.6 million project to build the water drainage and waste water treatment systems in Ca Mau city.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment said that these projects meet goals set by the socio-economic development plans of localities. The Vietnamese Government will contribute EURO12.5 million to these projects.

Ban Ki-moon calls for "green deal"

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a "green new deal" on climate change on May 21 and urged for a final push in negotiations ahead of a key summit to be held in Copenhagen in December.

"We absolutely must reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases and help millions of families adapt to climate change - before our time runs out," Ban told an audience at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, according to a transcript made available at the United Nations.

Ban said that before the year is out he plans to go to the North Pole, as well as to regions where drought and competition for water threaten peoples' lives and well-being.

The United Nations is striving for a new climate treaty to be agreed at a conference in Copenhagen in December. The new treaty would succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which limits climate-warming greenhouse emissions and expires in 2012.

"At Copenhagen, we need to unleash green investment and jump start a lasting economic recovery, at the same time we strike a blow for climate change," Ban said.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters that Ban is also scheduled to be in Copenhagen on Sunday to open a summit called the World Business Summit on Climate Change.

In Thursday's speech, Ban also called for new cooperation between states, "focused on delivering global goods: freedom from hunger, health and education and security from terror or the threat of Armageddon".

According to the prepared remarks, he also said the United Nations is "beefing up our peace-keeping and conflict prevention efforts."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vietnam Authority Summon Khmer-Krom Buddhist Monks for a Night Meeting

The Patriotic United Buddhist Association (Hội Đoàn Kết Sư Sải Yêu Nước) of An Giang province have summoned a Khmer-Krom Abbot and nine Buddhist follower of all Khmer-Krom temples in Kra-Bao (Tinh Bien) district to attend a meeting at Thom-Mit temple in Vinh Trung village, Tinh Bien district, An Giang province to be held at 6:00pm on May 22, 2009.

The Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks are very concerned about joining the Patriotic United Buddhist Association because they suspect that this association was created by the Vietnamese Authority as a propaganda association to monitor and further control the activities of the Khmer-Krom religion.

The Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and Buddhist followers usually do not want to attend the meeting of the Patriotic United Buddhist Association, but have found that they have no choice. If they do not go, they will be accused of breaking the rule and would be subjected to interrogation by the Vietnamese authority.

The Buddhist monks and Buddhist followers are also very concerned about their safety as they have not been given the details of what the meeting is about and why it is taking place during the night time. This meeting may be a tactic to threaten the Khmer-Krom Buddhist leaders to stop demanding their religious rights to practice the Theravada Buddhism freely.

Thai, Cambodian generals meet at border to ease renewed tensions

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 22 May 2009

Officials on both sides say dialogue helped build greater ‘understanding'.

A THAI military commander on Thursday met Cambodian commanders at the conflict zone near Preah Vihear temple, with the aim of promoting cooperation and reducing tension between the two sides, a military official told the Post Thursday.

General Srey Doek, commander of Military Division 3 based at Preah Vihear, said that he met with General Anupong Paochinda, commander-in-chief of the Thai army, and discussed how to avoid future military confrontations.

"This is the first time I have met with a top Thai commander," Srey Doek told the Post. "We proposed that Thai troops stop entering the prohibited zone and he accepted."

Srey Doek said the two had agreed that troops on both sides should remain at their bases and wait for a solution between the two governments.

Cambodian and Thai defence ministers met last month but failed to reach an agreement on troop redeployments from the areas surrounding the temple and the pagoda of Keo Sekha Kirisvara.

"The visit will speed up understanding between the two sides," said Commander Yim Phim of the RCAF'S Brigade 8. "This is the only point of the meeting."

Standoff in 10th monthTroops have remained at the border for almost 10 months, following Unesco's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site in July last year. The last exchange of gun fire, in April, killed three Thai soldiers.

No “power or influence” can shake Catholic communities

by Trung Tin
The faithful face a lot of difficulties in places like Son La where the authorities have decreed that “there is no need for religion” and enforced a ban on Mass for years. Now the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom has come to town.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Anyone visiting Vietnam can see how religious the Vietnamese are. Every Sunday churches are crowded. Whether in the countryside or in mountain villages, the faithful get up for early Mass during the week; Catholics in Saigon do the same. After that they go to work, in rice fields or offices, whilst youth go to school.

When Card Crescenzio Sepe visited Vietnam in 2007 he was struck by such faith. “People go to Mass in large numbers,” he said. “They are very religious and diligent. They take religious rituals to heart, bringing their faith in God and the Church.”

All this is the result of the sacrifice made by 117 Vietnamese saints who died for their faith, so that today, confronted with life’s many challenges, Vietnamese Catholics are steadfast in their belief in God and the Church.

On 12 May a delegation of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) travelled to Vietnam in order to meet dissidents and Catholics, both lay people and clergymen, who are discriminated by local authorities.

Wherever they went local officials were conspicuous by their absence.

Yesterday the delegation met some lay people from a community in Moc Chau district (Son La province) who belong to one of several underground churches that exist in an area of mountains and fields, some 25 kilometres from the city of Moc Chau.

The community is made up of some 700 families who migrated to the province from up north in search of a better life. Many of these Catholics have children studying at Son La University.
Here in Son La local authorities are in charge of matters religious. Back in 2004 they passed a bylaw on religious issues and decided that people should not have religious freedom. Indeed even though Son La Catholics constitute one of three Catholic communities in the diocese of Hung Hoa, local authorities have “ruled that the city of Son La does not need religion.”

For all these years city officials have kept Catholics and their communities under a watchful eye, especially at Christmas, Easter and other religious holidays.

Over these many years they have not only decreed that Mass should be banned, but they have also ruled that religious activities involving lay people (pictured, an altar under a staircase in Son La) are a no-no. They have decided that “no one has the right to go other people’s homes to pray”.

As an old Vietnamese saying puts it, “Every local ruler is the king of the village;” thus local authorities can do as they see fit.

Never the less, as everyone knows Vietnamese Catholics have always kept their faith and belief in God and the Church whatever the circumstances; “no power or influence” can shake that.

Tensions continue between Catholic groups and Vietnamese authorities

by Emily Nguyen
AsiaNews.

The faithful of Thai Binh have refused to take part in celebrations marking the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, while in Son La they succeeded in meeting with an American delegation despite attempts to block the encounter.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Tensions persist between Catholic groups and the Vietnamese authorities: the faithful of Thai Binh refused to take part in celebrations marking the birthday of “uncle Ho”, as the “the father of the homeland” is called, in Ho Chi Minh, while in Son La others succeeded in describing the daily abuse thy have been subjected to for years to a delegation from the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), despite attempts to impede the encounter.

Son La, where for years local authorities have attempted to stifle all forms of religious life, was one of the main stops on USCIRF’s itinerary. Local authorities tried their best to prevent the meeting. Days prior to the arrival of the USCIRF delegation, Catholics in Son La had been warned that they would “severely violate the law” should they come to talk with the delegation.

The location of the meeting had originally been set up at a private home, used as a house church for the faithful over the years at the generosity of its owner. At the last minute, the government changed the location to the town hall where they could easily limit proceedings. They also sought to prevent a meeting between the delegation and Trinh Xuan Thuy, the owner of the house church, who has been continually harassed by local officials. Thuy had just returned from medical treatment in Hanoi and was still too ill to attend the meeting at the new location.

On May 19th, however, the American delegation decided to make a surprise visit to Thuy (see photo) where the were able to hear testimony of the abuse believers are subjected to. In front of the very officials who deny them their religious freedom, the faithful appealed to the American government to act rapidly to bring about real change in the authorities policies, to make it possible for them to practise their faith.

On the very same day in Thai Binh, Catholics led a boycott of celebrations marking the birthday of “uncle Ho”, in protest of the authorities attempts to bloc, using all available means, their pilgrimage to the Redemptorist jubilee at Thai Ha.

Recalling how they had been blocked in their homes, forced to get off buses and walk for miles, Catholics in Thai Binh and in particular the female band from Cam Chau parish rejected the authorities invitation to take part, believing their participation would be considered one more “instrument” with which to promote the political event, in front of the very officials who deny them their right to practise their religion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ke Kim Yan takes reins of drug bureau

Written by Sam Rith and Christoper Shay
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
The Phnom Penh Post

General Ke Kim Yan, former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, was officially named Tuesday as head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) in a move that Prime Minister Hun Sen said signalled the government's renewed focus on eliminating Cambodia's drugs trade.

Hun Sen urged authorities from all levels at an announcement ceremony to crack down on drug distribution "immediately", saying that drug deals had too often been ignored.

"Even though the distribution and sale of drugs is on a small scale, it causes anarchy and insecurity in society," he said.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said Ke Kim Yan was stepping into a difficult job, but that his influence in the army could make him particularly effective at stamping out the cross-border drug trade.

He said drugs smuggling relied on the support of a few high-ranking army officials.

"He knows the officials under his command, and if there are any soldiers involved in the drug business, he can take measures to combat trafficking," Son Chhay said.

Anand Chaudhuri, head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Cambodia, said that over the years the drugs authority had worked closely with UNODC and notched a number of successes, but that the drug trade remained a problem.

"[Drug trafficking] is an increasingly complex problem, but the drug police have been increasingly tracking and monitoring it," he said.

Between 2000 and 2009, the NACD arrested 3,531 people and collected 2,693,407 amphetamine pills, 105 kilograms of heroin and 14 tonnes of dried marijuana, according to the authority's data.

Graham Shaw, a technical adviser at the WHO, said drugs trafficking remains a critical issue. "From a public health perspective, the law enforcement approach has failed everywhere else in the world. Why would it be any different in Cambodia?"

ASEAN speaks out on Suu Kyi

Written by Vong Sokheng and Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

BANGKOK - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tuesday expressed "grave concern" but ruled out sanctions in its first official reaction to the trial of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The regional bloc, which rarely speaks out on the domestic political issues of its 10 members, issued a statement through current chair Thailand to urge the immediate release of the detained Nobel Peace laureate.

"Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health," said the statement, issued five days after the charges against her were first filed.

It also reiterated its demand for Myanmar to free Aung San Suu Kyi, who heard evidence from police on the second day of her trial for breaching her house arrest over an incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home.

"With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake," it added.

But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva later said that the bloc - which has been widely criticised for failing to take its most troublesome member to task - would not react with sanctions.

"This latest incident has triggered concern from the international community," Abhisit said.

"We want the current situation to ease off, but as members of ASEAN we have to work together constructively to solve this problem," he added.

"We hope that Myanmar will consider ASEAN members as friends. The attitude of ASEAN members is unchanged, unlike those countries far away. We have no plan to follow their stance," he said.

US President Barack Obama formally extended sanctions against Myanmar on Friday, while EU nations are mulling an increase in sanctions against the regime, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, called Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at the weekend "to support Thailand's earlier statement that the trial should be transparent", an aide to Kasit said.

ASEAN anger
Individual ASEAN nations have issued much stronger statements about Aung San Suu Kyi's plight in recent days, with the Philippines describing the charges as "trumped up" and Indonesia calling them "arbitrary"

.Meanwhile, Cambodian opposition lawmaker Son Chhay urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to engage Myanmar through diplomatic channels "to push the military leaders to stop interfering with democracy and to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians", according to a letter he said was sent to government leaders Tuesday.

"Cambodia's government cannot defend the junta because of its abuses against democrats," the letter said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Tuesday the government had yet to receive Son Chhay's letter.

He had said a day earlier that the government hoped Aung San Suu Kyi would escape conviction "because she has been punished already".

Aung San Suu Kyi's current six-year period of detention is due to expire on May 27, but Yettaw's visit has apparently provided the ruling generals with an excuse to consider extending her detention past polls due in 2010.

She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

Myanmar's junta is apparently rushing Aung San Suu Kyi's trial, a party spokesman said Tuesday as police told the court how they arrested Yettaw.

Five witnesses gave evidence to the closed-door trial at the notorious Insein prison, including four police officers who said they had arrested Yettaw after he spent two days at her lakeside house.

"It indicates that they are trying to finish as soon as possible" by calling many witnesses, Nyan Win, the spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told reporters.

Nyan Win said the prosecution was expected to call 22 witnesses, all but one of them policemen.

The senior officer who filed the original complaint against Aung San Suu Kyi testified on Monday.

Around 100 party members gathered outside the prison on Tuesday, including former political prisoner Win Tin.

AFP WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG AND NETH PHEAKTRA

Hun Sen issues car plate ultimatum

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday issued a warning to drivers displaying unauthorised military number plates on their vehicles, saying that those who refuse to take them off will be taken off the road.

During a speech at the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen ordered ministers to take action after he noticed that drivers were still flouting his recent ban on the use of RCAF and police plates by unauthorised vehicles.

"[Why are you] still ignoring this and using RCAF and police plates? Why don't you listen?" Hun Sen asked.

He said he had ordered the ministers of interior and defence to establish a deadline for drivers to get rid of their illegal licence plates, saying any cars still bearing unauthorised tags would be confiscated by the state.

Illegal tags
Luy Thhin, director of the Ministry of Interior's Traffic Office, said Tuesday that his police officers would continue removing police plates on the street, as they have done since Hun Sen's first announcement on April 30.

"We are going to remove police plates from cars on the roads [today] unless we get new orders from the top," he said, adding that since the beginning of the month his office had confiscated 34 sets of police plates - 12 from cars in the street and 22 from individuals who voluntarily handed in their plates to his office.

Tat Sreng, director of Phnom Penh's Vehicle Registration Office, said that so far the owners of 400 cars bearing RCAF plates and 150 with police plates had visited the office to register for civilian plates.

Viettel provides special mobile package to int’l tourists

VOVNews

The Military Telecom Joint Stock Company (Viettel) has put on the market a prepaid mobile package, designed with foreign tourists in mind, called Tourist Sim.

Users of Tourist Sim, the first of its kind in Vietnam, will get free-of-charge information on services, beauty spots, hotel addresses, taxi firms, foreign exchange rates and the weather forecast.

Tourist can purchase the package for US$5 or US$10. It offers international calls at VND 3,240 (US$0.18) per minute and an international SMS message at VND 2,160 (US$0.12), 10 percent and 13.6 percent cheaper than the fees charged by other packages, respectively.

Viettel Vice Director Nguyen Viet Dung said that Vietnam welcomes around 4 million foreign visitors each year and that telecom is an essential service for them during their stay in the country. “That is why Viettel provides this service,” he said, adding that Tourist Sim are sold at airports, tourist sites, hotels and resorts.

Viettel is now one of the country’s biggest mobile service providers with more than 30 million subscribers after eight years of operation.In 2008, Viettel was ranked 83rd among the world’s 100 leading telecom providers by Informa Telecoms and Media.

It is also the first Vietnamese telecoms firm that has provided its services abroad. It is currently working on two other projects to set up a Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and mobile telephone networks in Laos and Cambodia.