Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Netherlands helps generate jobs for needy children in Kon Tum

A Dutch organisation, CORDIAD, has donated more than EUR9,000 to the central highland province of Kon Tum to help its disadvantaged children get jobs and improve their living conditions.

The money will be funneled into the provincial centre for social support of needy people.
Pham Chau Tue, director of the centre, said that the one-year project, which starts in July 2009, will benefit orphans, the disabled and child victims of AO/dioxin. They children will have the chance to learn how to weave brocade, grow organic vegetables and raise poultry and cattle to improve their living conditions.

Currently, the centre is caring for 155 disadvantaged people including 74 orphans, 75 disabled and AO/dioxin child victims and six lonely elderly people.

CACJE's Declaration


“The new UN special envoy for human rights to Cambodia is in connivance with puppet Tribunal,the Puppet Assembly and the Vietnamese Puppet Hun Sen government to bury the truth concerning the human rights violation in Cambodia”

The special gifts that Hun Sen government, the Vietnamese Puppet was giving to Mr. Surya Subedi, the new UN special envoy for human rights to Cambodia during his first official visit to Cambodia are:

1. The lift of Parliamentary immunity of representatives Mr. Mu Sochua and Mr. Ho Vann of the opposition Party by the Assembly of pirates, Assembly of ghosts and Vietnamese Puppet Assembly.

2. The sentence handed down by the Phnom Penh municipal court, the Vietnamese puppet Court, which had fined and sentenced Mr. Hang Chakra, the editor-in-chief of The Khmer Machas Srok newspaper to a year's imprisonment.

3. Chuon Chou-ngy said: “Therefore, when they held the hearing, they speed up [the process] to hand out the sentence. Even without the presence of my client [Hang Chankra] and my request to delay the case, they didn’t agree to it.”On the legal process used by the Phnom Penh municipal court to sentence Hang Chakra to one year in jail and fined him 9 million riels ($2,25), Am Sam Ath said: “We can see that it can seriously affect the rights of journalists to express their opinion.”Am Sam Ath added that this is an intimidation on journalists and a restriction on the freedom rights of journalists. The court action was taken to set an example to all other newspapers that are still undecided about whether to express their opinions or not.Am Sam Ath said: “Therefore, the Appeal court must think about Mr. Hang Chakra’s case. The information law should be considered first before the criminal code is used.”Judge of the Phnom Penh municipal court and justice ministry officials could not be reached to explain about the legality of this court decision and sentence.On 26 June, Hang Chakra was sentenced following a lawsuit brought up by the government lawyer. He was accused of publishing false information and defamation after his newspaper reported a number of articles in April and May. These articles accused a number of government officials around deputy-PM Sok An of corruption.An alliance of Civil Society organizations and the Cambodian Club of Journalists issued two separate statements to express their concerns on the press freedom in Cambodia, they were also disappointed that the court did not use the newly-adopted information law in this case.The threat of the Vietnamese puppet government obliging Co-Prosecutor Mr. Robert Petit of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to resign.

4. The useT The use of the Police and the armed forces of the Vietnamese authority to rig up workers and demonstrators in Phnom Penh.

All the above proves quite well the flagrant violation of human rights of the Vietnamese puppet government against its own people. All the above was also a gift to the new UN special envoy for human rights to Cambodia.

It would be better for Mr. Surya Subedi to learn the experience of his predecessor Yash Ghai

The soft approach of Mr. Surya Subedi of leveling no direct criticism of the Vietnamese puppet Cambodian government's human rights violation is an expression of cowardice of Mr. Surya Subedi. This would tarnish the reputation of the UN which represents the hope of Cambodia people.

By not speaking out the truth Mr. Surya Subedi, not only is afraid of losing his job for being forced to resign as did Mr. Yash Ghai, in fact, is hiding the truth about the flagrant violation of human rights in Cambodia, consequently, encouraging the Vietnamese puppet government to arrest, sue, and eliminate Cambodian democrats and nationalists.

[Signed]

SOURN SEREYRATHA
Chief of Mission

Monday, June 29, 2009

Vietnam War leftover ordnance has killed 42,000

Associated Press

Unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War has killed more than 42,000 people in the country since the conflict ended more than three decades ago, and deadly accidents continue daily, a senior military official said Monday.

U.S. forces used 15 million tons of bombs and ammunition during the war and an estimated 800,000 tons of unexploded ordnance still contaminates 20 percent of the country's area, Vice Defense Minister Senior Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huy Hieu wrote in the state-run People's Army newspaper.

He said it may take more than 100 years to clear the contaminated area.

In addition to the deaths, some 62,000 people have been injured since the end of the war in 1975, and tens of thousands of them are permanently disabled, he said, adding that the ordnance has also caused big economic losses to Vietnam.

Hieu said the government, helped with funds from international organizations and countries including the United States, has cleared more than 3 percent of the contaminated area. It may cost tens of billions of dollars to finish the job, he said.

Hieu's figures apparently did not include casualties in neighboring Laos and Cambodia, which were also heavily bombed by the United States during the conflict and where thousands of people have also died in ordnance accidents since 1975.

Ordnance from other countries _ including from the former Soviet bloc, which helped supply weapons to communist forces _ also contribute to the war's deadly legacy in Indochina.

New laws take effect on July 1

VietNamNet Bridge – On July 1, 2009, many significant new laws and regulations will go into effect. These include the Law on Vietnamese Nationality, the Law on Enforcement of Civil Verdicts, the Law on Health Insurance, the revised Law on Road Traffic, the Hi-tech Law, the Law on Biodiversity and the Ordinance on Legal Costs and Court Fees. According to the revised Law on Road Traffic, all motorbike, motor-bicycle riders have to wear helmet.

Law on Vietnamese Nationality

The law has many new, open articles on overseas Vietnamese. The law continues to confirm the rule of one nationality. However, in some exceptional cases, one can have another nationality.

Exceptional cases are those who have foreign nationality but have the permission of the Vietnamese President to be nationalised or re-nationalised in Vietnam; adopted children and overseas Vietnamese who are naturalised in foreign countries but still want to hold Vietnamese citizenship.

According to the law, overseas Vietnamese who don’t lose their Vietnamese citizenship under Vietnamese law before this law takes effect still have Vietnamese nationality. Within five years of the law going into effect, they have to register with Vietnamese diplomatic agencies where they live to hold Vietnamese nationality.

For non-nationals who have lived in Vietnam for over 20 years by the day this law takes effect and have not violated Vietnamese laws will be allowed to get Vietnamese nationality.

Law on Health Insurance

Applicable to all domestic and foreign individuals and organisations, the law governs eligibility for and outlines the scope of health insurance coverage, health insurance funding, rights and obligations of insurers and insured, and offers a road map for the universalisation of health insurance.

There are 24 groups in the new insurance system. Members of 11 of the groups will enjoy free health-care insurance cards, funded by the state budget. The free health-care group includes children under 6, those who served in the revolution, war veterans, the poor and the elderly.
The ceiling premium level for free health insurance will be 6 percent, but can be adjusted based on a person’s financial situation.

Insurance payers will be split into three groups, based on their financial situations. People can register for insurance services at medical units at communal and district levels. This excludes those who are required to register at provincial and central levels under health ministry regulations.

The law is made-up of 10 chapters and 52 articles.

In actuality, those who enjoy health insurance will receive 100, 95 or 80 percent of health-care expenditures.

From the point-of-view of enterprises, the new law will have a considerable impact, as they will be obligated between now and 2014 to extend health insurance coverage to all employees working under indefinite-term labour contracts or labour contracts with a definite term of three full months or more, as well as enterprise managers receiving wages. An employee’s maternity leave is counted towards any eligibility period.

For employees working under multiple labour contracts, the health insurance premium will be based on the labour contract with the highest wage level. However, in no case will the maximum base wage used to calculate insurance premiums exceed the minimum wage by 20 times.

Under the new law, health insurance participants have the right to receive a health insurance card, choose their initial examination and treatment provider, receive examination and treatment, receive reimbursement for costs of examination and treatment from a health insurance organisation in accordance with the health insurance regime, request and receive information about the health insurance regime, and make claims and denunciations against breaches of the law on health insurance.

Revised Law on Road Transport
The revised Law on Road Transport puts into effect a requirement that all children being carried on motorcycles over the age of six months must wear safety helments. Other provisions will supplement existing road traffic regulations and will clarify the responsibilities of local authorities after traffic accidents occur.

The law will introduce reforms in the following areas: traffic lights, street parking, the age of child passengers on motorcycles, helmet-wearing, street naming and improved safety on national highways.

The law will strengthen licencing regulations and will require drivers to carry cards and documents. Bus drivers and those in the transport business will also be further monitored under the new law.

The law comprises eight chapters and 89 articles. Three articles are taken from the 2001 law, 68 have been revised and supplemented and 18 are new.

Law on Biodiversity and Hi-tech Law
The Bio-diversity Law will set out detailed duties at all levels, from central agencies to grassroots units. It is based on the principle of universal interest in bio-diversity preservation and development. Efforts will go towards wiping out hunger and poverty. The law has 8 chapters and 78 articles.

The Hi-tech Law will regulate state policies on research and development in high-technology fields. The defining of hi-tech products is seen as a key priority for development under the law. The law incorporates solutions to boost applications for research and development in high technology. It is made up of six chapters and 35 articles.

Historian provides proof of Vietnam sovereignty over islands

A historian in the central province of Thua Thien – Hue has given the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a historical document proving that the Hoang Sa Archipelago, also known as the Paracel Islands, belongs to Vietnam.

Historian Phan Thuan An last week gave an official document from the royal court of King Bao Dai to Vu Anh Dung, deputy director of the ministry’s National Border Committee, with witnesses from the Ministry of Public Security present.

An said he found many valuable documents from the Nguyen Dynasty in his house, which used to be a temple dedicated to Princess Ngoc Son, daughter of King Dong Khanh and sister of King Khai Dinh.

The papers have been collected and secretly preserved by previous generations, he said.
The official document mentioning Vietnam’s ownership of the archipelago is dated September 27 of the 13th year of King Bao Dai’s reign, or February 15, 1939.

The paper was typewritten in Vietnamese, announcing that a unit of soldiers was awarded honor medals on February 10, 1939 for building guard stations on the Hoang Sa Archipelago.

Mandarin Pham Quynh sent the document to King Bao Dai, who then approved and signed it.
“The award took place on February 15, 1939, more than one month before Japan announced it took over the archipelago on March 31, 1939 and nearly seven months before World War II broke out,” said Dr. Nguyen Nha.

“It proves that the archipelago has belonged to Vietnam for a long time.”

Nha has been the most prominent activist in fighting for Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes off the central coast, also known as the Paracel and Spratly islands respectively.

“The authorities must make the best use of the official document since it shows the country’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa,” An said.

Reported by Bui Ngoc Long

Janet Jackson Makes Emotional Appearance at BETs

By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY AP Music
WriterLOS ANGELES June 29, 2009 (AP)

Tears and single gloves: Janet Jackson caps emotional night at BET Awards honoring her brother.

Some of the biggest stars on the planet turned back into gushing Michael Jackson fans at the BET Awards, donning single gloves, swapping stories about their idol and singing The King of Pop's standards. One person who perhaps knew him best, though, brought the night into perspective: his sister.

"To you, Michael is an icon," a somber Janet Jackson told the crowd at the end of Sunday's show. "To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts."

It was a stirring emotional climax for a telecast that was completely revamped to recognize the legacy of Jackson, who died Thursday at age 50. For the most part, it was a joyous wake.

"He's the man who made it possible for me to be on the stage; I love you and I miss you," said Ne-Yo, who sang one of Jackson's most sensual songs, "Lady In My Life."
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Tibetans commemorate World Day Against Torture

by Nirmala Carvalho

Each year the United Nations recall the firm and total condemnation of torture and all inhuman treatment. Tibetans in China point out that these practices are still widespread and call on Beijing and the world to intervene.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - On June 26th Tibetans in exile and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) commemorated the 20th United Nations International Day of Support for the Victims of Torture.

The TCHRD recalled how torture is a crime against fundamental human rights, completely prohibited by international law. The group denounced the Chinese authorities long history in the use of torture against Tibetan detainees to obtain information or to intimidate them, without ever having had to fear any consequences. They also made the point that such inhumane behaviour is an essential element in Beijing’s strategy against Tibetan dissidents, even those who simply declare themselves loyal to the Dalai Lama or criticize the choices of the Chinese authorities.

The TCHRD has accused the police of using mental and physical torture, such as electric shocks, cigarette burns on the body, hanging the victim by the arms, sleep deprivation, isolation, beatings and strenuous work. They also recalled that there are videos that show the Chinese police wildly beating young Tibetans, their only guilt being their opposition to the authorities.

Among these is Tendar, wounded by gunfire during protests in Lhasa in March 2008 and taken to hospital by police: when he was discharged his body was covered in cigarette burns and bruises, nails had been driven into his right foot. He died as a result of these injuries.

In 1984 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, which came into force on 26 June 1987. The Convention obliges Party States to consider torture a crime and to punish anyone who practices it. November 2008 in the annual report the UN accused the Chinese police of using torture on a systematic basis. The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the accusations as "unjust" and the outcome of “anti-Chinese prejudices”. The TCHRD is calling on the international community to verify the use of torture in China and Beijing to fully implement the UN Convention.

Study finds widening generation gap in US

By HOPE YEN,
Associated Press Writer Hope Yen,

WASHINGTON – From cell phones and texting to religion and manners, younger and older Americans see the world differently, creating the largest generation gap since the tumultuous years of the 1960s and the culture clashes over Vietnam, civil rights and women's liberation.
A new study released Monday by the Pew Research Center found Americans of different ages increasingly at odds over a range of social and technological issues. It also highlights a widening age divide after last November's election, when 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrat Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 ratio.

Almost eight in 10 people believe there is a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today, according to the independent public opinion research group. That is the highest spread since 1969, when about 74 percent reported major differences in an era of generational conflicts over the Vietnam War and civil and women's rights. In contrast, just 60 percent in 1979 saw a generation gap.

Asked to identify where older and younger people differ most, 47 percent said social values and morality. People age 18 to 29 were more likely to report disagreements over lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement. Those in the middle-age groups also often pointed to a difference in manners.

Religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults. About two-thirds of people 65 and older said religion is very important to them, compared with just over half of those 30 to 49 and 44 percent of people 18 to 29.

In addition, among adults 65 and older, one-third said religion has grown more important to them over the course of their lives, while 4 percent said it has become less important and 60 percent said it has stayed the same.

"Around the notion of morality and work ethic, the differences in point of view are pretty much felt across the board," said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project. He cited a greater tolerance among younger people on cultural issues such as gay marriage and interracial relationships.

Still, he noted that the generation gap in 2009 seems to be more tepid in nature than it was in the 1960s, when younger people built a defiant counterculture in opposing the Vietnam War and demanding equal rights for women and minorities.

"Today, it's more of a general outlook, a different point of view, a general set of moral values," Taylor said.

Among the study's other findings:
_Getting old isn't as bad as people believe in terms of health, but isn't as good when it comes to lifestyle. While more than half of those under 65 think they will experience memory loss when they are older, only one-quarter of people 65 and older say they do so. Older people reported fewer instances than expected of problems such as serious illness, not being able to drive, being less sexually active or depressed.

On the other hand, older adults end up having less leisure time than expected. While 87 percent of those under 65 think they will have more time for hobbies and other interests in older age, only 65 percent of older people report having it. Life at 65 and older also fell below expectations when it came to time with family, travel, having more financial security and less stress.

_Hispanics are more likely to report problems in old age. About 35 percent of Hispanics 65 and older say they have a serious illness, compared with 20 percent of whites and 22 percent of blacks in the same age group. More older Hispanics reported being depressed, lonely or a burden to others than did whites and blacks. They also were less likely to do volunteer work or be involved in their communities.

_Younger people are more likely to embrace technology. About 75 percent of adults 18 to 30 went online daily, compared with 40 percent of those 65 to 74 and about 16 percent for people 75 and older. The age gap widened over cell phones and text messaging. About 6 percent of those 65 and older used a cell phone for most or all of their calls; 11 percent sent or received text messages. That's compared with 64 percent of adults under 30 for cell phone use and 87 percent for texting.

_Americans differ on when old age begins. On average, they say 68. People under age 30 believe it begins at 60, while those 65 and older push the threshold to 74. Of all those surveyed, most said they wanted to live to 89.

Pew interviewed 2,969 adults by cell phone or landline from Feb. 23 to March 23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. In cases where older persons were too ill or incapacitated, their adult children were interviewed. Pew also used surveys conducted by Gallup, CBS and The New York Times to identify trends since 1969.

First Khmer Rouge prison survivor testifies

by Patrick Falby Patrick Falby

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime's brutal main prison has wept in court as he told Cambodia's war crimes tribunal how he was only spared because he painted propaganda pictures of Pol Pot.

Van Nath described how hunger had driven prisoners to eat insects that fell from the ceiling at the communist movement's notorious Tuol Sleng torture centre and that he was so famished he considered eating human flesh.

The 63-year-old was the first survivor to testify at the UN-backed trial of prison chief Duch, who is charged with overseeing the torture and extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through the jail.

"The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Van Nath said, recounting his arrival at the detention centre. "I thought even eating human flesh would be a good thing for me at that moment.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, slumped in his chair and looked on while the former inmate recounted his arrival at Tuol Sleng, where he was photographed, stripped and then shackled with other prisoners.

Prisoners only had three teaspoons of gruel for each meal and some ate insects, Van Nath said, although he was unable to because they fell to the floor too far from where he was shackled.
"I lost my dignity... Even with animals they would give enough food," Van Nath said. "If they (guards) found out we were eating insects we would be beaten, so we could only do it if we avoided being seen by the guards."

Some inmates shackled next to him died during his first month at the prison and at one point he was summoned downstairs, so weak he needed assistance to stand and walk, and thought his own death was imminent.

But a prison official then told him he was needed in the workshop to paint a large portrait of a figure he did not recognise -- Pol Pot, the leader of the 1975-1979 regime.

"I knew that if I did not paint very well, I would be in big trouble. I was so nervous," Van Nath said, calling it a "life and death situation."

Guards took one prisoner from the workshop and strung him up in the yard at Tuol Sleng, a former high school, when it was revealed he was a poor sculptor, Van Nath said.

Van Nath went on to become one of Cambodia's most famous artists and the court was then shown his paintings of torture methods including prisoners being whipped, plunged in water and having fingernails pulled out with pliers.

"Even though I've tried my best to forget, it still haunts me," Van Nath said. "I never imagined that I would be able to sit in this courtroom today to describe my plight, my experience."
Sketches showed how he was taken from his family and tortured with electricity, while a painting showed Tuol Sleng guards whipping prisoners and seizing their babies.

"Normally a few guards would take children from their parents. I would hear the screams of the parents who would probably try to take their children back," he said.

Earlier in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch begged forgiveness from the victims of the regime after accepting responsibility for his role in governing the jail.

But the 66-year-old former maths teacher has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he had a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule and says he never personally executed anyone.

The court does not have the authority to impose the death penalty, but Duch faces a life sentence for war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder.

Pol Pot died in 1998 and many believe the tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the communist regime, which killed up to two million people.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention at the court, and are expected to face trial next year.

Michael Jackson's legacy honored at BET Awards

By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY,
AP Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody,

LOS ANGELES – While BET celebrated the life of Michael Jackson the entertainer, Janet Jackson — in her first public appearance since her brother's shocking death — memorialized him as her beloved sibling and family member, eliciting tears as she vowed his memory would live forever.

"To you, Michael is an icon," said Jackson, holding back tears at Sunday's BET Awards. "To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts. On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much, thank you so much."

Afterward, Ne-Yo and host Jamie Foxx performed a somber version of the Jackson 5 classic "I'll Be There," as photos of Jackson flashed across the screen.

It was a stirring emotional highlight for a show that was completely revamped to recognize the legacy of Jackson, who died Thursday at age 50. While awards were still doled out, the show's main focus was to pay tribute to the man who shaped the careers of every entertainer who walked the stage that night.

Joe Jackson, the singer's father, also was on hand to represent the grief-stricken family. "I just wish he could be here to celebrate himself," he said before the show. "Sadly, he's not here, so I'm here to celebrate for him."

And for the most part, it was a joyous wake.

"No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man," said Foxx, who kicked off the show with a re-enactment of the choreography from Jackson's iconic "Beat It" video in front of the star-studded crowd, on its feet from the start of the show.

Already an affair of major star wattage, the night's show at the Shrine Auditorium was thrown under a white-hot spotlight in the wake of Jackson's death, adding attendees and guests, doubling the number of media requests, adding an extra half-hour to the telecast and even lengthening the red carpet to accommodate all who wanted to take part.

Backstage, Ciara recounted talking on the phone with her idol and her regrets that she never got to meet him. As she talked, she started to cry. "He meant so much to me," she said through tears.

While Jackson's incredible influence stretched across genres, races and cultures, he had a unique place in the world of black entertainment. His influence is arguably most visible in urban music, seen in stars like Usher who mimic his dance moves, to Ne-Yo, whose music is marked by its Jackson-isms. But that influence went beyond music: Jackson was black America's biggest star, who broke racial barriers that allowed for so many other superstars to follow.

"Michael Jackson was so important to our world, to our country, to this network," said BET Chairwoman Debra L. Lee. "Michael was truly a musical deity."

Producers of the annual awards show — which recognizes the best in music, acting and sports — revamped the show to meet the moment. While Beyonce and T.I. were the leading award nominees with five apiece, giving out trophies was an afterthought: Honoring Jackson was became the show's main focus.

While some performed their own hits, most made sure to incorporate some of the man who influenced them in their performances. A chant of "Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson" was heard while Keri Hilson performed, and Foxx's "Blame It" incorporated some of the Jacksons' dance hit "Blame It On the Boogie."

Throughout the night, Foxx also regularly turned up in some of Jackson's signature looks, like the wide-collar black leather outfit from "Billie Jean."

New Edition, the 1980s teen sensations who were considered that generation's Jackson 5 with their own version of bubble-gum soul, ran through several of the Jackson 5's greatest hits, from "I Want You Back" to "ABC," mirroring their idols right down to the group's original choreography. Ne-Yo sang one of Jackson's most sensual songs, "Lady in my Life."

"He's the man who made it possible for me to be on the stage; I love you and I miss you," he said later.

Ciara sang Jackson's humanitarian anthem, "Heal the World," dressed in a jacket that had Jackson's signature military epaulets.

And winners acknowledged Jackson when they received their awards.

"This is for you, Michael Jackson," said Beyonce, as she held her trophy for best female R&B artist skyward, calling the singer "my hero."

"We all know none of us in this room wouldn't be here for Michael Jackson," said Lil Wayne, as he picked up his award for best male hip-hop star.

"My heart and prayers go out to the whole Jackson family," said basketball star LeBron James, who won best male athlete.

Not every moment had the stamp of Jackson. Foxx resurrected his "In Living Color" character Wanda and paired it with another cross-dressing classic character, Martin Lawrence's Sheneneh, for a hilarious parody of an "upcoming movie": "Skank Robbers."

Beyonce gave a simultaneously sexy and angelic performance of "Ave Maria"; Ne-Yo brought out some of the hitmaking male R&B acts of the 1980s and 1980s, from Bell Biv Devoe to Guy. But even without a direct Jackson reference, there was usually a Jackson connection, as all of those artists counted Jackson as an inspiration. And Eddie Levert of the classic R&B group the O'Jays talked about how much he'd miss Jackson even as his group was honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Jackson connections were inescapable: Even the building where the ceremony took place, the Shrine auditorium, was where Jackson's hair and scalp were burned during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in 1984. It was also the location for several of his Grammy and American Music Award performances.

Myanmar court rejects appeal for Suu Kyi witnesses

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's highest court Monday rejected an appeal by Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers to reinstate two key witnesses in a trial that could send the pro-democracy leader to prison for five years.
The High Court's ruling means Suu Kyi will have only two defense witnesses in her trial, which resumes Friday.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man swam secretly to her lakeside home and stayed two days.

Her hearing has drawn global outrage from world leaders and human rights groups who say Myanmar's junta is using the incident as an excuse to keep the country's opposition leader behind bars.

Suu Kyi has been in detention for more than 13 of the last 19 years.

"This is very unfair. The court had allowed 14 prosecution witnesses but only allowed two from the defense," said Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers.

"We tried our best to have the trial conducted according to the law but it has failed," Nyan Win said. He said it was not clear why the appeal had been rejected.

Suu Kyi's trial resumes Friday, when an additional defense witness will testify before the District Court inside Insein prison.

The trial began May 18. The court at first had allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand. On appeal, the Yangon Divisional Court ruled that a second witness, Khin Moe Moe, could be heard. Khin Moe Moe is a lawyer and member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

Suu Kyi's lawyers pursued a second and final appeal to reinstate barred witnesses Win Tin and Tin Oo, both senior members of her party.

Prosecutors argued that Win Tin, a prominent former journalist and ex-political prisoner, should not be allowed to testify because he is critical of the government and often gave interviews to foreign media, said Nyan Win.

The defense team argued there was no law in the tightly ruled country that bars court testimony from government critics, Nyan Win said.

Prosecutors argued that Tin Oo, the party's deputy leader, should not be allowed to testify because he is under house arrest, Nyan Win said.

Defense lawyers told the court that Suu Kyi herself was under house arrest but that didn't stop authorities from putting her on trial, Nyan Win said. Suu Kyi was allowed to testify May 26, and her term under house arrest officially ended the next day.

She is currently detained at Insein prison along with John William Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, who is charged with trespassing.

He has pleaded not guilty, and explained in court that he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he had gone to warn her. Family and friends have said he was working on a book and wished to interview her.

Brazil Wins Confederations Cup in Last Minutes of Game

Brazil has won football's Confederations Cup after overcoming a two-point deficit to beat the United States by a score of 3-2. Here's our report from Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

Brazil dominated the match overall, but trailed the United States until the final minutes of the game because of two early U.S. goals - the first by Clint Dempsey in the 10th minute and the second by Landon Donovan in the 37th.But the Brazilians came out strongly in the second half and equalized with two goals by player-of-the-tournament Luis Fabiano in the 46th and 74th minutes of the game.

With only six minutes left in regulation time, Lucio headed a corner kick into the goal and Brazil took the lead.Brazilian coach Dunga praised his team as dedicated and committed. But he also paid tribute to his opponents.He says that although Brazil has lost only once to the United States, all of their games against them have been difficult and combative.

He said the U.S. team has strong tactics, discipline and is very physical. So they are not beaten easily.U.S. coach Bob Bradley said he was disappointed over losing a two-goal lead, but said he also felt great pride in his team."When we get past the disappointment, we know that we are making progress," said Bob Bradley. "You learn from these kinds of experiences, from these kinds of games.

But it doesn't make it any easier on the night."Earlier in the day, Spain took third place in the Confederations Cup, overcoming South Africa by a score of 3-2. But the victory came only after midfielder Xabi Alonso scored the winning goal in the 107th minute of extra time.

The game was a scoreless draw until the 73rd minute when South Africa's Katlego Mphela struck. But Spain surged into the lead 15 minutes later on two goals scored within a minute of each other by Spanish forward Daniel Guiza.

With seconds left in regulation time, South Africa equalized on a free kick by Mphela that sent the game into 30 nail-biting minutes of overtime.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vietnam’s swine flu cases rise to 84

by Uyen Phuong

After eight more cases of the A/H1N1 virus were announced by the Ministry of Health on June 26, the number of total infections in Vietnam now stands at 84.

Of the eight cases, five of them were airline passengers arriving in Ho Chi Minh City and one landing in Hanoi, where they had returned from infected zones.

The two remaining cases had contracted the flu from contact with infected people, bringing the number of such cases to nine.

Although the virus is spreading easily from one person to another, no death has yet been reported.

Thirty-two people have recovered and been discharged from hospital, including 27 in the south, four in the north and one in the central region.

The remaining infected patients are being treated in hospitals, where their conditions are reported as stable.

On the same day, the People’s Committee in the central province of Thua Thien – Hue convened an urgent meeting to implement measures against the disease.

The province has recently reported three swine flu patients, including a 21-year-old woman, Nguyen Thi Thien, from Australia and two of her relatives.

Five people, including two relatives, who had close contact with the affected people have been quarantined in the Central Hue Hospital.

Health authorities are tracking 192 passengers who arrived in Vietnam on the same flight, VN254, as Ms. Thien on June 18.

Youn Angkiem Siem Angkell


Thailand's Red Shirts rally in show of strength

Thaweeporn Kummetha and Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date: 28-06-2009

Some 30,000 red shirts occupied half of Sanam Luang in Bangkok on June 27 in an evening rally to remind Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that they remained a threat to the coalition government.

The Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) protesters, who called for dissolution of the House and vowed to oust the government, were sent scampering by heavy rains at 5pm and again at 7.30pm. But even before the half-hour heavy downpour at 7.30, which was accompanied by lightning, the protesters had already made their point that the reds would not simply go away.

"I came here to call for justice so there will be no more double standards [in politics] and real democracy," said 45-year-old Kanokrak Decharachata, a farmer from Phetchabun, who represented her family at the rally.

"I am ashamed to be a Thai when we have military coups and then this kind of a government," she said, adding that her farming income was very low under the Abhisit administration.

She said she had faith in ousted and convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was scheduled to phone in to the crowd later in the evening. "No other prime minister has ever done as many good deeds as this one [Thaksin]."

Toi, a 61-year-old merchant from Bangkok, believes the government will not last beyond year-end because the administration has not produced any concrete beneficial results and only borrows money.

Toi said he was not sure how long the struggle would go on but he would continue until "justice is served".

Other protesters refused to give interviews to The Nation, claiming the paper is biased.

Jaranrak Visutphan, a 59-year-old computer-programmer from Bangkok, said the mainstream media distorted things, especially state-controlled Channel 11. "The red shirts won't win even if we oust Abhisit but fail to remove the military [from politics]."

Some protesters held placards identifying their province of origin, and they came from all regions of the country. A group of red shirts distributed survey papers trying to find out the income levels of the protesters, which DAAD leaders they preferred and other details.

Free papaya salad was distributed to hungry protesters while many of the food vendors wore red themselves. Prior to the rally, a DAAD leader expected some 30,000 people to show up, and the rally seemed to have achieved that objective.

The morale of the protesters was high despite the bloody April riots, which failed to dislodge the government, and a leader on stage reminded them that victory was "imminent".

"That victory will be ours is 100 per cent certain!"

Beijing reaffirms the urgent need to replace the dollar with a global currency

The 2008 Report of the Central Bank of China suggests the of the International Monetary Fund’s SDR. This should also have control over the foreign exchange reserves of member countries. Criticism of the U.S..

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Chinese central bank has reiterated the need to replace the dollar with a new currency for international trade. The 2008 report of the Bank of the Chinese people, issued yesterday, suggests the launch of "super-sovereign" a currency. The report also demands more rules for nations that emit currency in support of the global financial system. "An international monetary system dominated by a single currency - the report says - increases the concentration of risks and the spread of the crisis."

In March, the Governor of Central Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, had already expressed the idea of replacing the dollar with SDR (Special drawing right), a measure introduced 40 years ago by the International Monetary Fund (see Goodbye dollar? G20 summit to discuss a single world currency). The SDR is based on a unit account of currencies including the U.S. dollar, the Euro, Japanese Yen and British Pound. China seems to want to broaden the account to include the Yuan.

According to the report, the world should not only adopt the SDR, but entrust the IMF with the administration of a portion of foreign currency reserves of its members. In a veiled criticism of the United States, the report states that it is difficult to balance national needs with international requirements.

My Friends in University


Nothing is better than education when education is the basic of Rights.

Photo Today


Photo: Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks conducted the demonstration in Kleang Province, where they demanded their rights, justice, practise their religion. After conducting the demonstration, 22 Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks were be defrocked and 5 Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks were sent to Jail. This is situation in Kampuchea-Krom under controlling of Vietnamese Communist Government.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NOM BENH HILTON


From the UN Charters to the UN Human Rights Council Conference in San Francisco




Storm of comment greets Education Ministry ban on short skirts

VietNamNet Bridge – The attempt by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to ban miniskirts in the public schools has raised a debate among educators, parents and students.

Schoolgirls have to leave miniskirts at home
The MOET proposal to regulate school uniforms was no sooner made public than lots of teachers and students expressed opinions. Many support the plan, but a not insignificant number say it is ‘insupportable.’ Educators and conservatives have tended to support the Ministry’s notion of banning miniskirts, citing traditional morality. It has been protested by the students, who believe that they should have the right to dress as they want.


Short skirts will cause. . . troubles?

Asked about the proposed edict, Hoang Thi Thu,a student from the Foreign Language Collegeat Hanoi National University answered cheerfully that “Short skirts are very attractive, but they may cause ‘trouble’ especially when there are many boys in a class. Classrooms are not like the catwalk, therefore, convenience and propriety should be considered as the top priorities,” she said.

A youth union leader, Nguyen Hong Hanh of the Russian department of the Foreign Language College, also said that schoolgirls would arouse their male classmates if they wear short skirts, which will affect the learning environment.

“How can schoolboys can concentrate on learning if they are busy looking at the short skirts of schoolgirls?” she asked rhetorically. “A lot of bad things will occur from the short skirts. I can only see inconvenience, while I cannot see the beauty in this case,” she added

Hanh related that students from a class of her department once had miniskirts made, but they then could not use the skirts as part of the uniform, because it looked ridiculous to wear the super-short skirts to lectures. In the end, these students only used the skirts for festivals or when taking pictures.

Teachers and parents are the people who protest miniskirts at school the most. Thu, a lecturer at FPT University, said that it is necessary to ban miniskirts because the students are of an age that they are curious and want to know a lot about sex, so the miniskirts are really inappropriate. “Moreover, the schoolgirls these days are really naughty and restless. Give them an inch and they’ll go overboard.”

Xuan, who has a daughter at Nhan Chinh High School in Hanoi, said that nothing is more repellant than the sight of girls wearing miniskirts and running around or climbing up and down.

“I think schoolgirls look best in trousers and shirts,” Xuan said.

The boys: “Short skirts are OK with us”

Schoolboys – the ones who experience most directly the ‘inconvenience’ of girls wearing miniskirts – concede that sometimes they have trouble concentrating on their schoolwork, but they don’t agree that’s a problem, simply because ‘schoolgirls look very beautiful in short skirts’.

‘Thanh,’ a student of Ly Thai To School in Hanoi, admitted that he has difficulty paying attention to the teacher if he sits next to a beautiful girl in miniskirt. He has to change his seat so he can keep his mind on the lesson. However, asked if it is necessary to ban miniskirts at school, he said “I don’t think schoolboys will oppose miniskirts. We know it isn’t ideal for learning, but we all like them.”

Quang from the Hanoi Economics University related that his classmates sometimes blushed because girls wore miniskirts. “Sitting, walking, standing, it’s like they are showing off their goods, and the boys are shopping – for both sides it’s a bit unnatural. However, if miniskirts are banned or not, it’s no big deal.”

The girls: “Why do they police our looks?’

Though many people get aroused, schoolgirls – especially the ‘90’s generation -- are practically explosive in their opposition to the miniskirt ban. They say skirts that are too long make them look dull and unattractive.

Trang, the student from the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanity, says it would be odd to wear skirts that reach her knees. “We schoolgirls will look old, short and sloppy in long skirts. I think it should be OK to wear anything that’s attractive and feels good, and not be nagged like this.”

Meanwhile, Linh from Ly Thai To School said she’d look awful in a knee-length skirt. “It’s really unreasonable; why do they have to police our looks? Why do they say short skirts are ‘inconvenient?’” Linh added that she and her friends have been wearing miniskirts to school for a long time and no one has found anything to complain about it.

“I would rather wear trousers than long skirts,” she declared

Foreign Ministry stresses Le Cong Dinh arrest is VN’s internal affair

VietNamNet Bridge - At the regular Foreign Ministry press conference on June 25, a Foreign Ministry's spokesman emphasized that the arrest of HCM City lawyer Le Cong Dinh (photo) is entirely consonant with Vietnamese and international law and it is an internal affair of Vietnam.

Following is the full text of the Foreign ministry statement.

On June 13, investigative agencies of the Ministry of Public Security urgently arrested Le Cong Dinh in accordance with Article 88 of the Penal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Le Cong Dinh is a resident of Ho Chi Minh City who works at the Le Cong Dinh Private Law Office. Le Cong Dinh is a person who was educated by the Vietnamese State, allowed to pursue professional training abroad and, when he returned, the State created opportunity for him to practice his profession; he even was Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association. This shows clearly that the Vietnamese State did not treat Le Cong Dinh in a discriminatory way.

Le Cong Dinh was able to express his individual opinions orally and in writing. For many years now, Le Cong Dinh has written many articles sent to the newspapers Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre, Saigon Tiep thi, Thoi Bao Kinh te Saigon, Tia Sang magazine and the Vietnamese service of the BBC. He has often been interviewed by the BBC, Radio France International, Radio Free Asia, etc.

However, recently, Le Cong Dinh had activities violating Vietnamese law, communicating and colluding directly with a number of organizations and groups of Vietnamese exiles in foreign countries. Among these were organizations, which the Vietnamese Government has put on its terrorist list, which plot to overturn the Vietnamese State. Le Cong Dinh misused democracy and human rights as a screen aimed at carrying out a plot to bring down the Vietnamese State.
On June 17 at a security agency, Le Cong Dinh confessed to activities that violate the Vietnamese laws. In his report, Le Cong Dinh wrote: “I see that things I have done violate Vietnamese law. I regret my incorrect activities greatly. I hope that the State will examine this and grant me clemency.”

The Vietnamese public security agencies’ arrest of Le Cong Dinh and investigation of his illegal acts not only correctly followed Vietnam’s legal procedures and is a Vietnamese internal matter, but it is also fully consistent with decisions of International Law, among these, with Articles 19C, 20 and 21 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. These articles say clearly that “the exercise of rights like freedom of speech and peaceful assembly . . . must proceed together with duties and responsibilities that have been established to protect national security and civil order.” This is a matter that all the nations of the world carry out in order to guarantee national security, social order and the safety of their citizens.

The Vienna Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 also clearly states that the special circumstances of nations and regions and their different cultural, historical and religious bases should be considered in the work of protecting and extending human rights. The preservation of peace, security and social order, participation in activities against terrorism are essential interests of every nation. Vietnam hopes for understanding and support as it struggles against plots and activities by individual organizations that intrigue to cause riots, bring down and destroy the State, destroying the tranquil life of the people. Vietnam’s success in preserving peace and stability in order to develop in recent years has helped to ensure the peace, stability and development of the region and the entire world.

VietNamNet/VnMedia

World Bank gives VN $177m for school reform

The World Bank has approved US$177 million to support the reform of Viet Nam’s primary and higher education systems.

The bank recognised Viet Nam’s progress in modernising governance, financing, quality assurance and public financial management in the higher education sector, the organisation said in a press release Wednesday.

"The economic crisis is a golden opportunity for Viet Nam to reform its education sector, as this will put the country on firmer footing to come out of the economic crisis and to create a firm foundation for long-term growth," said the WB Country Director for Viet Nam, Victoria Kwakwa.
About $50 million from the credit approved Wednesday will be earmarked to implement the Higher Education Development Policy Programme.

The programme will enable the sector to expand the number of schools, while ensuring equal access to study programmes. The World Bank also approved $127 million for the School Education Quality Assurance Programme for Viet Nam, which pays special attention to disadvantaged primary education students by supporting the Government’s full-day schooling reform programme.

The programme will fund improvements in policy framework, human resources, and school facilities and resources for the implementation of the programme.

The World Bank has also approved two other projects..

One is a coastal cities project aimed at reducing river pollution in Quy Nhon City in Binh Dinh Province.

The other project is focused on managing the country’s vast bulk of polychlorinated biphenyls, an organic pollutant often used as an industrial coolant.

The World Bank-administered Global Environment Facility would support both projects with $12 million in funds, said the organisation.

Border tense ahead of Suthep visit

June 27, 2009
The Nation

Thai Second Army Region commander Lt-General Wiboonsak Neeparn said the situation along the border was very tense, with the two sides faced off against each other.

"Policy-makers in the two countries should quickly find a solution to the problem," he said.

If the situation escalates further, that could mean more violence, the commander said.

Wiboonsak said Thai troops in the area would not initiate a clash but would be prepared to retaliate if Cambodia opened fire first.

However, Thai Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said the situation was unlikely to result in a skirmish as long as commanders on both sides maintained contact with each other.Tensions have been mounting along the border near the Hindu temple since last week, when the Thai government decided to maintain its objection to Preah Vihear's World Heritage inscription.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti to submit a complaint to the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Spain this week and asked Deputy PM Suthep to clear the stance with Cambodia.

Abhisit yesterday said in Beijing, where he was on an official visit, that Thailand's objection to the Preah Vihear inscription had nothing to do with Cambodia, but rather with the World Heritage Committee.

Pongpol Adireksarn, a former chairman of Thailand's own World Heritage Committee, said Thai complaints were useless, because they had come too late and would not be placed on the agenda.

The latest tensions stem from the government tying the inscription to the boundary issue, even though the two matters have no connection and linking them upsets Cambodia, he said.

Suthep yesterday insisted he would visit Cambodia today as planned to mend the rift, despite Hun Sen saying Preah Vihear would be off the table.

He said Hun Sen had to make such a statement to protect Cambodia's interests and that it was an internal affair."No problem. I won't intervene in Cambodia's internal affairs, but rather will go to make friends and reduce border tensions," Suthep told reporters.

The two neighbours can cooperate constructively for mutual benefit, he said."I won't discuss any issue that could lead to further disputes," Suthep added.Hun Sen on Thursday said he would not discuss a Thai idea for joint nomination of the Hindu temple, but rather only a withdrawal of Thai troops from Cambodian territory.

Suthep said the Army could handle the situation on the ground at the border.The ongoing dispute at the border near Preah Vihear has sparked two border skirmishes - one last October and the other in April - leaving seven soldiers on both sides dead.

Tibet: Protest in Front of Mining Company

Tibetan supporters wrapped themselves in Tibetan flags and played dead outside a shareholders meeting of a Vancouver mining company Wednesday [24 June 2009] to press the company to pull out of a planned mine in Tibet.

The "die-in" at the Continental Minerals meeting was in solidarity with Tibetans, who they say can't consent to the massive removal of mineral wealth under their feet, said one of the organizers, Students for a Free Tibet Canada director Tsering Lama.

"They have no right to be in Tibet," Lama said. "As long as Tibetans have no voice, the company has no right to take what is not theirs."

Continental Minerals is working with Hunter Dickinson Inc. to conduct exploratory drilling at the Shethongmon mine site in central Tibet. They plan to build a gold and copper mine there.

It's one of at least seven Canadian mining companies either exploring or mining in Tibet. The largest such mine is the El Dorado property, which produces some $42 million in gold each year.

Continental says it is building schools and roads and training local people to work. It says it's following the Canadian government's lead in recognizing that the Chinese government has a claim to the area.

"We're operating in the People's Republic of China in a Tibetan ethnic area," said Dickson Hall. "We want to employ as many local Tibetans as possible and work to enhance their lives and we think we can do this in form of the development of the mine."

At the Vancouver protest, Lama read out statements and presented letters to the shareholders. Protesters who attempted to film her doing so were led out by company and hotel security.

The three protesters in the "die-in" lay outside the meeting for at least half an hour before they too were escorted off the property.

After the event, Lama said she knew the shareholders were listening, but said she didn't know if they believed her when she said that the company was looting an occupied territory.

"They felt it was not different than B.C. or Mexico, which I thought was incredible because in B.C. people don't get arrested and killed for calling for free speech," said Lama.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reality off the rails in Phnom Penh

By Sam Campbell

PHNOM PENH - Science fiction author Philip K Dick once explained reality as "that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away". As sensible as this may sound, it is a definition unlikely to take hold in Cambodia, where recent events have shown the government's tendency to obstinately dismiss anything but the most convenient information.

The denials have come from the highest ranks of government to the lowest rungs of social entertainment and conscripted the judicial system to fend off criticism. Experts and economists say the government backlash risks driving away the vital foreign investment and international aid the country now desperately needs to keep the economy afloat.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have both predicted a 0.5% contraction in Cambodia's 2009 gross domestic product (GDP), while the independent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimated an even sharper 3% drop. The government sees things differently and announced last month a beaming 6% GDP growth projection, down only slightly from its 7% projection in April.

That optimistic spin, economists and experts say, is totally out of whack with Cambodia's on-the-ground economic realities, as well as regional and global trends. The crucial garment industry, usually the country's main export engine, saw exports plummet 25% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009. The foreign revenue-generating tourism sector is equally troubled, with air arrivals in the first four months of 2009 down 16% over the same period last year.

The kingdom's rapid economic growth - GDP increases were measured in double digits for several years - seems to have made officials reluctant to concede that the downturn is having serious effects in Cambodia. Indeed, Prime Minister Hun Sen's economic lieutenants have been slow to acknowledge the impact of the global crisis on Cambodia's until recently rising fortunes, opting instead to discredit or clamp down on critical news and assessments.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said in early June that a US$6.6 million training program and a $1 million micro-loans program would be adequate to mitigate the 60,000 garment factory workers who recently lost their jobs - a claim greeted with skepticism from economic analysts. Keat Chhon did not respond to an Asia Times Online request for an interview about the programs.

Hun Sen has responded to downcast projections with a characteristic sharp tongue. When the EIU this year rated Cambodia among global countries at high risk of political instability due to the economic crisis, the strongman leader questioned the report's "political orientation" and said the experts that compiled it wore "glasses with prescriptions too strong for their eyes".

In an April 6 speech, the premier went further, claiming that the report was "a political attempt to stop the flow of investments". Meanwhile, Cambodia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hor Nambora, dismissed the report as based on "sketchy and unconvincing" evidence. In a letter to the EIU, he called the report "perverse" and "insulting".

"Your scare-mongering allegations are highly dangerous, as they could be construed as actively inciting unrest," wrote Hor Nambora, son of Cambodia's veteran Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. "They also happen to be a gross distortion and misrepresentation of Cambodia's true position, and there can be no justification for these claims."

He also upbraided the EIU for having "arrogantly dismissed" Hun Sen's vow that Cambodia would maintain its economic growth this year: "You seem to have ignored this reassurance from the highest possible level, preferring to rely on your own evidence."

Comedic criticism
The government's protestations peaked in early June following a May 30 concert organized by rights organizations to bring attention to the thorny issue of corruption.

At the so-called "Clean Hands Concert", newly appointed United States ambassador Carol Rodley called corruption one of the main obstacles to socio-economic development in the country, claiming the scourge "costs Cambodia up to $500 million per year in terms of forgone state revenue that could otherwise be spent on public services in education and health care and jobs for Cambodian youth".

She claimed that the sum was "equivalent to the cost of constructing 20,000 six-room school buildings or the ability to pay every civil servant in Cambodia an additional US$260 per month". Her arithmetic, however, was not well received by the government. "

The Royal Government of Cambodia absolutely refutes the politically motivated and unsubstantiated allegation made by the United States diplomat in contradiction of the good relations between Cambodia and the United States Government," read a stern letter the Cambodian Foreign Ministry sent to the US Embassy.

Cambodia's UK ambassador Hor Nambora again entered the fray, saying Rodley seemed to have allied herself "with the discredited views of the international pressure group Global Witness which continually engages in virulent and malicious campaigns against the Royal Government of Cambodia". Global Witness has long been an irritating antagonist to Hun Sen's administration, once labeling its leaders as a "kleptocratic elite".

Pointing to a conspiracy to undermine the government is becoming a common theme when responding to critics of the government. The eventual aims of this unnamed group of conspirators - which encompasses such diverse organizations as environmental watchdogs like Global Witness, economic think-tanks such as the EIU and human-rights groups - is unclear.

One conspiracy theory was put forth publicly by Chy Koy, a performer with the popular Koy comedy troupe. Although Koy had performed at the Clean Hands anti-graft concert, he appeared on June 6 on a Cambodian People's Party-owned television station to ridicule anti-corruption NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as money hungry fabricators of non-existent corruption.

"Some NGOs accuse the government of being corrupt without thinking about its achievements," he explained to the local press after the parody. "You can say that the government is corrupt if nothing had developed in our country, but the government is working and everything is developing." Although Cambodia is officially one of the world's least-developed countries, the comedian claimed: "Now we have everything. Some families have two SUVs, some have three."

The Koy performance was followed - again on CPP-controlled TV - on June 13 by the Krem comedy troupe, which portrayed NGOs and journalists as conspiring to stage fake forced evictions - another bete noir of the Cambodian government. The well-documented and sometimes violent evictions of impoverished communities, according to Krem's sketch, are merely an invented tool to enable greedy foreigners to indulge their appetites for luxury hotels and local women.

With official denials and social satire fending off criticism on one front, another battle was playing out in a very different sphere: home decoration.

In what many viewed as one of the most peculiar assaults on free speech so far this year, Soung Sophorn, a 22-year-old law student, was fined $1,250 after being convicted of defamation. Oddly, the medium for the defamation was graffiti, and the slogans "Against dictatorial policy", "People suffer because the government bows down to the company", and "Stop Evictions" in English, had been sprayed on June 1 on the side of Soung Sophorn's own home.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told local media that Soung Sophorn, a member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and a vocal critic of evictions, was convicted because, "He can insult any individual or company but not the government." Prior to the three-day arrest and conviction process, Soung Sophorn had been summoned to the headquarters of local developer Shukaku Inc, the company responsible for the looming eviction of Soung Sophorn's community, for his opinionated house painting.

Private developer Shukaku's 99-year, $79 million lease to develop 133 hectares of state land where 4,000 mainly poor families live, including the area adjacent to the Boeung Kak backpacker ghetto, has provoked a steady stream of censure from foreign diplomats and rights organizations. According to local reports, the company and its owner, CPP Senator Lao Meng Kim, have steadfastly refused to engage with civil society or the media.

Disorienting defamation
Meanwhile, an ongoing dispute between opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) parliamentarian Mu Sochua and Hun Sen typifies a flurry of tit-for-tat lawsuits that also represents a clear threat to democratic debate. For years, the CPP has used out-dated defamation laws to muzzle critics, among then union leaders, journalists and opposition leaders.

According a lawsuit filed by Mu Sochua on April 27, the premier allegedly made defamatory comments in an April 4 speech; the only compensation sought was an apology. The lawsuit claims that Hun Sen defamed Mu Sochua by referring to a female parliamentarian from Kampot province who embraced a general and then later complained that the buttons of her shirt had come undone. Mu Sochua, the only female MP from Kampot province, had complained of voter irregularities and physical intimidation from CPP officials during the run-up to the 2008 national assembly elections .

Mu Sochua's case was dismissed on June 10, but the premier struck back with a counter defamation case against Mu Sochua that is ongoing. Kong Sam Onn, the lawyer representing Mu Sochua, is also being sued for having held a press conference where he had allegedly defamed the prime minister by claiming that the prime minister had defamed his client. The Cambodian Bar Association has begun an investigation into this alleged ethical misconduct of speaking publicly about a case.

The National Assembly voted on June 22 to lift Mu Sochua's parliamentary immunity, leaving her open to criminal prosecution. Hun Sen noted on June 17 that the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to strip immunity would also be needed to reinstate it. He also used the opportunity to threaten further lawsuits against interfering NGOs.

Even nationalists cannot safely criticize, as Moeung Sonn, a local tour operator and president of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, found out. Moeung Sonn was slapped with a $2,400 lawsuit by the government after he claimed at a press conference that the installation of new lights at Angkor Wat might have damaged the legendary temple. Moeung Sonn, a vocal supporter of the government on cultural and territorial issues, and a significant donor to Cambodian soldiers stationed around disputed zones near Preah Vihear, has fled to France to avoid arrest. While later information suggests that the light installation has done no damage to the ancient structure, draconian reactions to well-meaning comments suggest that dissenting voices will no longer be allowed.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, SRP parliamentarian Ho Vann (also stripped of his parliamentary immunity) and Hang Chakra, editor-in-chief of Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, are also facing defamation suits.

Cambodia doth protest too much
The increasing trend toward intolerance has not gone unnoticed. A June 15 statement from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia cautioned, "Pursuing the current complaints may reverse the course of the still fragile democratic development process in Cambodia."

"This recent surge in the use of criminal defamation and disinformation lawsuits filed mostly against politicians, journalists and other persons expressing their views in a peaceful manner on matters of public interest threatens to inhibit what should be a free debate and exchange of ideas and views on these matters," the UNOHCHR wrote.

The group also warned that stifling freedom of expression through such means "is a serious threat to democratic development which may undermine the efforts of the past 16 years to rebuild a tolerant and pluralistic environment in Cambodia". The same day, US rights advocacy Human Rights Watch appealed for the CPP to halt "threats, harassment and spurious legal action against members of parliament and lawyers defending free expression". The crackdown on political opposition is all the more perplexing, given that the CPP, with 90 of 123 seats, is in firm control of the National Assembly. A showing of 58% in the generally free and fair 2008 parliamentary elections, the biggest margin ever for a National Assembly election, shows widespread support for the CPP.

Some analysts believe that by persecuting a mostly fractured and generally powerless opposition, the government risks making martyrs of otherwise unremarkable politicians. Perhaps more significantly, Hun Sen risks further alienating the Western donor nations and the foreign business community that in recent years have contributed largely to Cambodia’s economic progress.

The US, a major donor and significant provider of aid and technical assistance, not to mention one of the kingdom's biggest export markets, has been critical of the recent turn of events. "It appears that the courts are being used to silence critics of the government," US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told Asia Times Online. "Free speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights in democracies throughout the world, and public figures and politicians should be prepared to receive both praise and criticism from the people they govern as part of the democratic process."

It's a democratic reality Hun Sen's government seems reluctant to face.

Sam Campbell is a reporter and editor based in Cambodia.

Positive signs for Viet Nam's economy

Business Desk
Viet Nam News
Publication Date: 26-06-2009

The national economy will see positive developments in the second half of the year, following the first half in which the global economic downturn caused major industries to experience sharp decreases, says the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

In a report released Wednesday, the ministry said the national GDP grew by just 3.9 per cent in the first six months of the year, compared to 6.5 per cent rate during the same period a year ago.

Hardest hit by the global crisis was the industrial sector, which posted a production value growth rate of only 4.8 per cent, against 16.5 per cent in the corresponding period last year. With the help of the Government stimulus package, however, industrial production value reached VND324 trillion (US$18.2 billion) in total in the first half of the year.

Vo Tri Thanh, deputy director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, predicted that industry would recover in the second half of the year, driven by a high growth rate in the construction sector.

The services sector, meanwhile, grew by 5.5 per cent during the period, compared to last year’s 7.6 per cent of the same period last year. Retail services, transportation of cargo and passengers, and telecommunications services all eked out steady growth.

Exports fell 10 per cent during the period, however, earning only $27.6 billion in the first six months of the year. A few agricultural products bucked the trend, with rice exports up 56.2 per cent, coffee exports up 22.3 per cent, and tea exports up 10.9 per cent. Seafood exports also managed positive growth.

Foreign investment slowed during the six-month period, but disbursements were at a remarkable 45 per cent of total new registered capital. Foreign Investment Agency general director Phan Huu Thang said foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows remained acceptable.
Inflation

The General Statistics Office (GSO) also issued June inflation figures Wednesday, showing that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.55 per cent over the previous month.

Overall inflation during the first six months was 2.68 per cent.

According to the deputy head of the GSO trade and price department, Nguyen Duc Thang, strong increases in the prices of some essential goods such as food and fuel have put pressure on the prices of other goods and services.

The Government stimulus package – which drove total retail sales of goods and services in June up 2.3 per cent over May – was also creating some inflationary pressure, Thang said.

Chinese mining causing environmental disasters in Tibet

by Nirmala Carvalho

Tibetan groups slam indiscriminate Chinese mining. The development of Tibet’s mineral riches is undermining its fragile environment and polluting water sources on which 47 per cent of humanity depends.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Tibetans and their supporters staged a die-in protest (pictured) in Dharamshala (India) yesterday to protest mining in Tibet by Continental Minerals, a subsidiary of Canada-based Hunter Dickinson. The action is a part of a global campaign demanding the company to immediately cease all mining operations at Shethongmon [Chinese, Xietongmen] in central Tibet.

“Under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are denied the internationally recognised right to determine the use of their own land and resources,” said Tenzin Choedon, programme director of Students for a Free Tibet-India (SFT-India).

In the last few years China has in fact encouraged mining development in Tibet, especially by junior mining companies. But this is depleting Tibet’s mineral wealth in favour of China and represents a danger to the country’s fragile ecology because of the destruction of vast unpopulated areas and the pollution of water sources.

Ten major river systems, including the Yarlung Tsangpo/ Brahmaputra, the Sutlej and the Indus, have their source in Tibet.

Most mining sites are located near these major rivers and their tributaries. Chemicals from mining are released into these rivers, where they poison the water.

“Almost 47 per cent of the world's population depend on the water sourced from the Tibet plateau and three of our [India’s] major rivers come from Tibet,” said, Kirti Kapoor, a student from Delhi University and a member of SFT-India.

The Chinese government and foreign mining companies could destroy not only Tibet’s fragile environment but also destroy “the lifeline of almost half of the world population.”
Tibetans have also been involved in other fights as the one above.

In recent weeks in Tibet itself Tibetans have blocked the main access road to a mine located on Ser Ngol Lo Mountain, Markham County, a place which is sacred to them.

Despite the intervention of the Chinese military, the authorities have had to give in and shut down the mine.

However, in the city of Gyama, near Lhasa, a mining company is carrying out a water-diversion project involving the Gyama Shingchu River to channel water to the mining site even though this will deprive the area’s farmland of much needed water.

Asia mourns for Michael Jackson

The " star of pop music " died last night. A musical genius and a controversial personality, whose life was overtaken by show business. In the end he lived alone and full of debts. A Jehovah's Witnesses, year ago he had converted to Islam. Comments and condolences from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, India, Philippines.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - There is no place in Asia - as in the rest of the world – where people are not remembering and praying today for Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop" who died last night in Los Angeles from cardiac arrest at 50 years of age. It is still not clear the cause of death but some suspect that it was due to stress and diet drugs that the singer was taking prior to a new world tour in July, with which he wished to draw the curtain on his career.

For everyone he was a musical genius who transformed the music of the 80s and 90s into a breathtaking spectacle. His gestures, his style of dance, his way of dressing still influence generations of young people. But his genius was overshadowed by a bizarre way of life and sex scandals: Jackson described himself as a "Peter Pan" (the myth of eternal adolescence, adulthood without responsibility); he preferred to stay in the company of boys, had a chimpanzee as a friend and had a very high, almost feminine, tone of voice. He had undergone plastic surgery several times to transform his face and (perhaps) lighten his skin.

His fame, his successes also overwhelmed in his life, his two marriages and three children. As a result of being convicted for paedophilia and failing to honour certain contracts, Jackson - who in the end retired, living in silence - had large debts.

From a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, Michael, seventh of 9 children, seems to have become a Muslim last year, changing his name to Mikail.

In China the death of Michael Jackson is the front page of all media. The most popular web site, the Sina.com defines him as "the most outstanding singer of all time."

In Singapore many sites and blogs have opened up sections for comments and condolences on his death. Many remember his concert in the city-state in 1993. In addition to celebrating his musical greatness, some highlight his somewhat deviated personality, but say that "his songs make me to sing," "touch my heart and make me cry."

Malaysia hopes he will be remembered like the Princess Diana of England. In Kuala Lumpur, where in 1996 a concert was almost banned because considered too "vulgar" for the conservative Muslim state, his many fans are remembering him and celebrating his influence. "We hope he will be remembered forever, like Princess Diana" says Noh Yusof, a 29 year old lawyer. But others point out the "gray areas" that have marked the life of the popular singer. Ivan Ho, 48 years and expert in technology says that "success went to his head”. "He was a crazy type – he states - with all money, he could given much more to charity rather than spend it on surgery”.
The fans in Japan were among the most avid supporters of Michael Jackson and the news of his death was a real shock. Michiko Suzuki, music critic who met the singer several times in the'80s, says that most likely the country will be in mourning for a long time. "At the time every one was copying the 'moonwalk' [a step backwards which made him famous worldwide, ed]. He was a true superstar. "

A video shot a prison in the Philippines province of Cebu, has been seen worldwide. In the pictures you see more than 1500 prisoners in the rehabilitation centre that imitate the steps and movements of the Jackson song "Thriller." The video on YouTube has received 23 million hits since it was published. Fans are inundating the videoclip with comments and messages mourning the death of American pop-star.

In South Korea Michael Jackson had a huge crowd of admirers. In Seoul his dances and his movements have been widely emulated by local pop stars. "He was already a star when I was a child - comments Kim Nam-kyu, 36 years - with his death it is as if I have lost part of my memories of childhood." At a concert held in Seoul in October 1996, Jackson met with Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan during a visit to the cathedral of Myeongdong. Two years later the singer would have liked to perform in the demilitarized zone on the border between the two Koreas, in sign of peace and reconciliation between the two countries. The project was shelved in the midst of polemics raised by those who did not want a show at a time of severe political and economic crisis.

In India all major newspapers give ample space on their websites to the death of Michael Jackson, recalling his career, the controversy of his private life and they invite the public to leave messages of condolence.

The news of his death was like a cold shower, especially for his fans, scattered across major cities. The King of Pop had visited India in'96 giving a concert in Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. Acclaimed and besieged by thousands of young people and curious on lookers, Michael Jackson had won over many fans with his performance, but it also raised several controversies. The more conservative circles of society criticized the cost of the show, which was considered excessive, and its content, deemed too Western.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

UNDERCUTTING
Source : AFP Published on 24-06-2009 Description : Picture dated April 30, 1970 shows republican president Richard Nixon gesturing during a press conference announcing the entry of American soldiers in Cambodia. Despite pledges to protect South Viet Nam, Nixon privately vowed to "cut off the head" of its leader unless he backed peace with the communist North, tapes released on June 23 showed. The US National Archives released more than 150 hours of new tapes from Nixon, who notoriously recorded his conversations. Nixon is heard railing against the media and Congress for allegedly undercutting the war effort in Viet Nam.

Crisis puts squeeze on VN's hotel industry

Business Desk
Viet Nam News

The hotel industry in Viet Nam last year faced a turbulent period because of the global financial crisis, according to a recent survey conducted by the accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton Viet Nam.

The annual survey, the sixth edition of the only comprehensive study on high-end hotels and resorts in Viet Nam, covered 7,911 rooms across 50 three- to five-star hotels and resorts operating throughout the country.

Average occupancy rates for high-end hotels fell 14.2 per cent in 2008 to their lowest level for the past four years.

In 2008, the survey highlighted that high-end hotels across all star rankings experienced a decline in average occupancy rates with three-star hotels suffering the highest decrease at 21 per cent.

Four- and five-star hotels experienced similar trends, with declines of 8.6 per cent and 13.4 per cent year-on-year, respectively.

HCM City had the highest occupancy rate of 67.5 per cent, down 15 per cent, while Da Lat posted the lowest rate of more than 43 per cent, with the biggest fall of nearly 27 per cent.
Notwithstanding the global economic downturn and its affects on the hospitality and tourism sector, average room rates for high-end hotels in the country increased by 9.6 per cent in 2008 to reach US$114.54.

Increases in average room rates occurred in four- and five-star hotels by 14.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, but three-star hotels experienced a decline in average room rates.
"Despite the reduction in the number of visitors to Viet Nam in the later part of 2008, our survey shows that hotels managed to maintain the increases in room rates that occurred earlier in 2008 throughout the year," said Grant Thornton Viet Nam managing partner Ken Atkinson.
"However, with sustained global economic pressures we expect to see reductions in average room rates across the country this year," he said.

Vietnamese high-end hotel rates were higher than neighbouring countries, while hotel prices around the world fell significantly in late 2008.

In Viet Nam, HCM City was the most expensive with an average room rate of $136, up 35 per cent from 2007.

Hoi An and Da Nang fell almost 31 per cent to $71, but Da Lat was the most affordable at $40, up 28.5 per cent.

Profits fall
Along with decreases in average occupancy rates, the survey showed that 2008 saw a corresponding decrease in the overall revenue of hotels and a reduction in net profits.
The average net profit margin for five-star hotels was 38 per cent, down 4 per cent from 2007.
Three- and four-star ones were further affected by the crisis with net profits falling more than 18 per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively.

Domestic hotel guests in 2008 increased to 21 per cent from 13 per cent in 2007.
International guests fell to 79 per cent from 87 per cent previously. Asia represented the largest foreign group, of almost 38 per cent.

This year’s first four months saw the number of foreign arrivals drop by 18 per cent, but room rates remained high.

Currently Viet Nam has around 330 hotels with three to five stars totalling 32,000 rooms, including 200 five-star ones.

Liu Xiaobo of Charter 08 accused of "subversion against the power of the state"

The petitioner (and perhaps the author) of the Charter 08 demanded political reforms, freedom of association, independence of the judiciary. He risks at least 15 years in prison. The police refuse Mo Shaoping, the defence lawyer chosen by his wife because he too is a signatory of Charter 08.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Liu Xiaobo, one of the most important human rights activists has been officially charged with "subversion against the power of the state." Liu was arrested by police last December and brought to an unknown place. After having formalised accusation, the government will now detain him in some prison in the country.

Xinhua quoted police as saying in a statement “Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumours and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years”. If indicted and convicted, the 53-year-old dissident could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Liu was arrested on December 8 for helping to spread the appeal of Charter 08, a document signed by 300 people requesting the Chinese government to respect human rights, implement political reforms and to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The document was published on the occasion of the 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the police Liu must have been the author of the petition, which has collected more than 9 thousand signatures. The appeal of the Charter 08 was censored on websites and many of the signatories - including members of the Party - have been subjected to interrogations, police inspections, arrests.

According to information from the CHRD (Chinese Human Rights Defenders), Beijing Public Security reported the arrest and formal charges against Liu yesterday at 11 to the dissident's wife, Liu Xia. The police also said that the state does not accept, as defence lawyers Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun, chosen by Liu’s wife. The authorities say they can not defend the accused because Mo is one of the signatories of Charter 08.

For decades now Liu Xiaobo has been at the heart of protests against the government. In ‘89, on the eve of the Tiananmen massacre, to push the leadership to dialogue with the movement, he participated in hunger strikes carried out by students on the square. He was among the last to leave Tiananmen Square, watching the massacre and was subjected to 2 years in prison. The crime of "inciting subversion against the power of the State" was adopted by the Chinese criminal code in 1997 and is used on a regular basis against persons who only seek freedom of expression. There are dozens of non-violent dissidents imprisoned for this reason. Among them there is also Hu Jia, winner of the Sakharov Prize in 2008, who is serving 3 ½ years in prison for having published some articles on the web on the need for democracy in China.