Friday, July 31, 2009

Khmer Krom asylum seeker at a cross road

July 31 2009

Since being deported to Cambodia, the KK refugee have only recieved some assistant from NGO and Sam Rainsy Party. - Photo RFA

According to RFA Vietnamese service 23 Khmer Krom currently on the Cambodian side of the border are facing difficulties with no food, no proper accomodation and no where to go.

The 23 are remaining 50 people who was deported from Thailand early July, while the others have already fled back into Bangkok to seek refuge with the UNHCR while others with relatives in Cambodia have moved to stay with the relatives.

Cambodia law stipulates Khmer Krom are entitled to Cambodian citizenship but the Khmer Krom who have been deported fear they will be sent back to Vietnam by the Cambodian government.

Joining the alliance

July 31, 2009

As the GFC continues to take hold in Asia, many law firms are reaping the benefits of being part of something bigger.

It’s no secret that legal markets across the Asia-Pacific region are among the fastest growing in the world. The legal press are continually thrown into overdrive reporting on the birth of new law firms, en masse partner moves, alliances, mergers and joint ventures. But despite this growth, legal sectors in the region are still viewed in some quarters as the most underdeveloped, isolated and least capable of dealing with the increasingly complex demands of multi-national clients.

All are problems with one clear solution, according to some. A policy of expansion is needed, premised on planting one’s flag in each corner of the globe by establishing branch offices – something that has worked well for some firms in the Asia-Pacific region. From Australia to Singapore and China, there are countless domestic firms who have followed the lead of their clients into new jurisdictions. But in the face of rising operational costs, a worsening global financial crisis and general economic uncertainty, expansion plans have been put on ice, shelved for more favourable or at least more stable markets. Enter international legal associations. These networks of law firms (and other professional services providers in some cases) offer law firms a viable alternative.

More than just referrals
Ask most lawyers about the benefits of being a member of an international legal association and there is a good chance they will tell you it’s all about increasing the amount of inbound referrals. Richard Hetke, CEO of ALFA International, goes as far to say that “first and foremost”, his association serves as a referral network. “Our members expect to receive, and do receive, business referrals from the other 135 member law firms,” he says.

But even Hetke concedes there is much more to international legal associations than just this. Today, they represent a vital part of the rapidly developing Asian legal services market. In many respects they act as a gateway between the East and the West, a means by which knowledge, know-how and business development skills can be transferred between developed and developing markets. International legal associations provide member firms with a wealth of shared resources, the costs of which would normally be prohibitively expensive for smaller firms to bear. “We serve as a resource pooling channel whereby members can tap into the resources of other members,” Hetke says. “We combine to shoulder the cost of large-scale seminars and marketing efforts that would be beyond the financial wherewithal of most individual members.”

Making connections
While cost minimisation is always a major factor for smaller firms, generating revenues is just as important. Here, international legal association members support each other by offering guidance on optimising organisational structures as well as making the all-important introductions to potential clients.

“Our network helps member firms manage their own legal businesses,” Hetke says. “We have working groups of managing partners, marketing directors, event planners and business managers from many of the firms, and they exchange advice, data and experiences on a wide variety of subjects.”

“Association membership is an invaluable business development resource for the mid-sized firm that is looking to increase its regional and international client base,” says James Mendelssohn, chief executive of MSI Network. In his experience, international legal associations also give that extra edge to law firms’ pitches. “Access to global resources provided by an international association opens the door to new business opportunities that would previously have been out of the firm’s reach and enables firms to project a stronger marketing proposition when pitching for work from new clients and when trying to win more business from existing clients,” he says.

They also provide firms, many of which are in a nascent stage of development, with a ready-made set of contacts who are only a phone call away. “The benefit for Asian firms – many of whom are newer and have less developed contacts than their counterparts in Europe – is that association membership will provide a network of ‘guaranteed’ contacts where none existed in the past. [This is different from the] US or Europe, where many professionals have some historic contacts and simply use a network or association to supplement them,” Mendelssohn says.
Azmi Modh Ali, the founding and managing partner of Malaysian firm Azmi & Associates, says his firm’s membership of Terralex has been pivotal to practice development, allowing him to learn from the business development strategies employed by US and European firms.

“International legal associations are a consequence of the globalisation of business and the globalisation of law,” he says. “Naturally, some legal sectors are less developed and this is the case in Malaysia, where we have very little information to call on when it comes to how to grow practices. But I have found that through our membership we have gained invaluable skills here and it has allowed us to grow our firm, get new work, hold on to the valued clients we have and establish lasting and close ties with other member firms across the world, while all the time maintaining our independence.”

No time like the present
For those firms considering joining an international legal association all lawyers interviewed by ALB believe there is no time like the present. Whether a firm is actively seeking out alternative streams of instructions, looking to bolster its regional and international profile in a depressed market or for avenues of growth that do not come with the costly overheads associated with opening branch offices, legal associations may hold the solution.

“Opening offices everywhere was never in our business model,” Azmi says. “The costs of doing this are unsustainable for a firm of our size and we really need something which cancels these costs out but gives us access to local law advice. We have this now and it’s just as good as having a branch office for our clients who want to do business outside of Malaysia.” Having some form of presence outside one’s home market is a necessity for all law firms at the moment, regardless of size.“Membership in an international legal network is becoming more of a necessity for firms that want to compete for the major work of global companies,” Hetke says. “These companies want seamless legal coverage or at least want access to local firms in distant countries without the risks attendant to selecting lawyers in unfamiliar jurisdictions…network membership provides a prudent alternative to the problematic opening of offices in far-flung places.”

The growing importance of legal association membership in serving these needs runs parallel to a number of attitudinal shifts in legal sectors across the region, shifts which Mendelssohn believes will benefit firms that are part of global legal networks.“We are seeing two interesting trends emerge. Firstly, in-house counsel are under huge pressure to control costs and are looking at the role that can be played by mid-sized firms that offer not only more competitive and flexible rates, but also better services,” he says. “Secondly, good opportunities for mid-sized firms to make lateral hires from larger firms are emerging as partners running successful practices at ‘big’ law firms become disillusioned with the overheads inherent in the larger firm structure. They are attracted by the opportunities offered by the smaller firms, particularly those that are members of international associations, and are in a strong position to capitalise on both of these exciting growth opportunities,” he says.

The global financial crisis and Asia
Despite the worsening global economic crisis, international legal associations remain optimistic about the future and are only too well aware that the Asia-Pacific region has a huge role to play in ensuring stability returns to world markets. It should come as no surprise then, that each of the legal associations interviewed by ALB are redoubling their efforts to attract new Asia-Pacific members, particularly from emerging markets.

“There are a number of emerging markets in the Asian region whose firms will benefit greatly from improved access to quality firms [and their clients] overseas. For example, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos,” Mendelssohn says. And while he notes that MSI continues to receive a steady stream of enquiries or recommendations from existing law firm members in the region, he says that the flow of these has certainly slowed. Nonetheless, Mendelssohn says that MSI is looking to fill vacancies in a number of key jurisdictions. “We anticipate a surge of enquiries later this year and throughout 2010 and are advising firms that are pondering association membership to come forward sooner rather than later as territorial vacancies with the larger, more prestigious associations are limited. We are currently seeking members in Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam,” he says.

Hetke’s ALFA International is also actively looking for members. It recently welcomed New Zealand firm Anthony Harper, Beijing-based Gaopeng & Partners and Vietnamese firm DFDL Mekong into its fold, but is still keen for more firms in the region. “Our recruiting efforts in the Pacific Rim are focused on Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia,” he says. “We are also looking for a second Chinese firm due to the size and importance of that country.”

Agoda announces 2009 Gold Circle Award winners

By ETN Staff Writer
Jul 31, 2009

Agoda.com, an Asia-based online hotel reservation specialist, today announced the winners of the 2009 Gold Circle Awards. In its inaugural year, this annual award is given to Agoda’s hotel partners in the Asia Pacific located in popular spots throughout Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Australia, and Cambodia. The award-winning hotels have proven to be extremely popular with Agoda’s online consumers and have shown outstanding skill in utilizing the online distribution medium.

Mr. Robert Rosenstein, chief operation officer of Agoda.com said: “This year’s Gold Circle winners represent a select and prestigious group of hotels who have really taken to the online channel. Their popularity with online consumers is derived from their commitment to delivering a quality online product [and] great special offers, at great rates. We can see that online customers are truly valued and welcomed at these hotels and are likely to have a great experience for a reasonable price.”

Gold Circle hotels work closely with Agoda to provide online customers the guaranteed lowest rates with premium support and flexibility, as well as access to exclusive online promotions. They have an outstanding track record in online fulfillment and have received excellent customer reviews with the highest average customer score. The first Gold Circle Awards were recently handed out to hotels in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Japan.

Mr. Robert Jaermann, general manager of Bangkok’s Dream Hotel, Thailand, noted: “The Gold Circle Award proves that the Dream Hotel is popular with online consumers. We would like to thank Agoda for this award as we greatly appreciate our excellent and mutually-beneficial business relationship. We work closely with Agoda’s team to maximize promotional strategies throughout the year, taking into consideration what the market dictates, while respecting our hotel’s brand image and pricing strategy. Agoda’s team is the most pro-active in the market – they work hard, frequently updating us on market trends and how they impact our strategic goals. By working together, we are able to learn from each other in this fast and ever-changing market of online hotel reservations.”

Mr. Charles Liu Bing Chuan, general manager of the Metropark Mongkok Hotel, Hong Kong, said: “Agoda’s Gold Circle Award is significant as it is not just based on sales, rather it’s based on the total relationship of our partnership with Agoda. It’s been a pleasure working with Agoda to help effectively manage our online distribution by maintaining parity with information, promotions, rates, and allotments. It’s increasingly important that online customers are seeing exact and up-to-date information so they know precisely what they are getting. The partnership with Agoda allows us to update our hotel information immediately with the most current rates and allotments.”

Agoda.com is a worldwide hotel reservation service and considered a specialist in the Asian hotel marketplace. The company has developed informative hotel web pages available to consumers in 21 different languages, as well as an industry leading Yield Control System for hotel partners, allowing even more control on how hotels are able to market themselves. With a membership base now over 1,000,000 users, Agoda.com’s popularity continues to grow.

Arroyo: Obama names RP coordinator between US, Asean

July 31, 2009

Following her meeting with US President Barack Obama, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday said the Philippines has been named the coordinator between the US and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

An elated President Arroyo said Obama named the Philippines "country coordinator" for US-Asean relations because the US president "appreciates" the two countries’ agreement on many issues involving the Asean region."

It’s (RP as country coordinator) something that the US recognizes as important for them. And from what I can see, and I think what you can see, President Obama appreciates that role because there are many things we agree on," Mrs. Arroyo said in interviews by radio stations in Manila.

"For instance we agree on Burma, we agree on North Korea, we agree on counter-terrorism regional cooperation, we agree on greater economic integration between America and Asean," she said.

The Philippines and the US are one in supporting the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and have both condemned recent nuclear tests by North Korea, she said.

The Asean, founded in 1967, includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Military, economic assistance
Apart from naming the Philippines the US’ liaison to the Asean, Obama assured that the US will continue to work with the Philippines in fighting terrorism, particularly through intelligence sharing and other forms of cooperation, Mrs. Arroyo said."The US will continue to work with us in intelligence-sharing and other forms of cooperation against counter-terrorism," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said they also talked about economic matters during the meeting. According to her, she brought up the Save-Our-Industries Act pending in the US Congress, which she said may give the Philippines a bigger market for its products like textiles.

She said the Philippines will also work on specific industries that can benefit from the country's relations with the US: bananas production, garments, and seaweed."Therefore it’s win-win for both sides. That’s the way to get the world out of the economic recession by having more trade rather than having less trade," she said.

"We discussed peace and security issues, we discussed how to strengthen regional cooperation on anti-terrorism. We discussed how to advance the peace process in Mindanao. We discussed how the military helped us in what I mentioned earlier upgrading the professionalism and effectivity of our soldiers, advancing soft power. And these have helped to have a new paradigm for peace in Mindanao. "Also we discussed we must work together especially in more economic engagements with each other that is the way to bring back the global economy to full recovery.

In short if there’s any agreement we made it’s to continue cooperation in all of these areas," she added.Mrs. Arroyo said she relayed to Obama the Philippines’ gratitude for supporting Third World countries and including the benefits for Filipino World War II veterans in the US economic bailout package.

She said she also expressed gratitude for the US House of Representatives’ passage of the American Clean Energy Security Act as it shows the US’ commitment to helping mitigate climate change, which is expected to greatly affect the Philippines, an archipelago made up of more than 7,000 islands.

’Very impressive’
"The purpose of the meeting was straightforward, to cement the relationship of our country with the new US president because the US is essential to our economic, diplomatic and national security," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo was all praises for the US president, whom she described as "cordial, warm, welcoming" and "very impressive.""Alam na alam niya ang relasyon ng Pilipino at saka ng mga Amerikano (He knows the relations of Filipinos and Americans very well)," she said.

As heads of state who meet usually exchange gifts, Mrs. Arroyo said she gave the Obamas pearls from the Philippines’ south seas.

"Para kay Pangulo may perlas na cufflinks at kay First Lady [Michelle Obama] naman, perlas na brooch (For President Obama, cufflinks with pearls, while we gave a brooch with pearls to the First Lady)," she said.But Mrs. Arroyo could not say when Obama would visit the Philippines."I suppose he will visit the Philippines sooner or later. The President is a very busy person and there’s a lot of demand on his time," she said.

Presidential photographer Jerry Carual, one of two photographers allowed to cover the meeting, told government-run dzRB radio the meeting was "very casual."

Carual said Obama shook hands with each member of Mrs. Arroyo’s delegation.With Mrs. Arroyo at the meeting were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, presidential assistant for global warming and climate change Heherson Alvarez, and House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

What reprimand?
In an interview early Friday with GMA News’ Arnold Clavio on Unang Hirit, presidential adviser for political affairs Gabriel Claudio said the meeting between Mrs. Arroyo and Obama surpassed all expectations and was a milestone in the relationship between the two countries."This is a very great achievement not only for the President but for the entire country," Claudio said.

Obama even praised Mrs. Arroyo during their 45-minute one-on-one meeting, particularly her accomplishments in bucking the economic crisis, the peace process in Mindanao and the fight against terror, Claudio added. The Palace official stressed that the administration’s critics were proven wrong when they said that Obama would reprimand Mrs. Arroyo in the meeting.

"Pasensya na if I sound like I’m gloating, pero talagang nakakakilig ang naganap na pagpupulong ng dalawang Pangulo (I’m sorry if I sound like I’m gloating, but it’s really thrilling what happened in the meeting between the two Presidents)," Claudio said.

But militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the meeting was fruitless and merely a reaffirmation of an existing "unequal ties."

The US-given position of "country coordinator" also just "glorified" a rather embarrassing status for the Philippines, the group said. "The term ‘coordinating country’ for US relationship with the Asean makes the Philippines America’s glorified errand boy in the region. We’re considered the US surrogate in Southeast Asia," said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. in a statement."

That is not a very flattering designation. It speaks of how the US still considers the Philippines its colonial outpost in Asia. The US expects us to parrot its position within the Asean," Reyes said.

Wind power industry in Vietnam

July 31, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – Wind power is developing rapidly in the world, with a total capacity of over 100,000 MW at this moment. Vietnam is not on the outside of this expansion. '

Potential for wind power

Surveys show that around 28,000 square kilometres of Vietnam’s land has an average wind speed of over seven metres per second at the height of 65 metres above sea level. This speed is considered suitable by international experts, who offered an assessment potential of over 110,000 megawatts (MW).

A survey by the World Bank has also found that Vietnam has greater wind energy potential than Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. It says Vietnam is capable of producing 513,360 MW annually, or 200 times the output of the Son La Hydroelectric Plant in the north – Southeast Asia’s largest power plant – and ten times the entire national capacity forecast for 2020. Some coastal areas in the central and central highlands regions are considered good places to set up wind farms, thanks to high “wind power density” and open spaces. The said that Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces have the greatest potential for harnessing wind energy. Wind power generation in Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Tra Vinh and Soc Trang could reach 800MW.

In addition to high average speed, local wind tends to be steady due to the small amount of storms. During the monsoon period, winds reach speeds of six to seven metres per second, which experts consider suitable for building electricity stations with a capacity of 3-3.5 MW.

Experts said that wind energy has several advantages over other power sources: It does not cause pollution, affect crops or displace people. It also helps save on the cost of transmission since wind turbines can be set up near residential areas. The Ministry of Trade and Industry carried out a project to draw up a master plan on developing alternative energy in the years to 2015 and through to 2025. Under this plan, renewable energy will increase to 5 percent of total national energy output, with wind and solar power accounting for half.

Wind power projects in Vietnam
The Phuong Mai 3 Wind Power Plant, which has an annual capacity of 55 MW, was the first wind power project in Vietnam. Construction was kicked off in September 2007 in the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone in the central province of Binh Dinh.

The plant was built on 140ha of land, at a cost of more than US$35.7 million, invested in by the Central Region Wind Power JS Company. Phuong Mai has 14 turbines, 14 transformers and it can supply over 55 million kWh of power a year.

Switzerland-based Aerogie Plus is working on a diesel-wind power plant on the island of Con Dao, in the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, with a total investment of Eur20 million. The investor has signed a power purchase contract with local authorities.

According to design, this plant will operate with two systems: wind turbines and diesel turbines. The construction began in early 2009 and the plant will become operational in 2010.

Another wind-power project named Tuy Phong, which is located on an area of 1,500 hectares in Tuy Phong district, the central province of Binh Thuan, will connect to the national power grid with an initial capacity of 7.5 megawatts (MW) this August. The investor is the Vietnam Renewable Energy JS Company.

The Cau Dat Wind Power Plant project is scheduled to get underway in Da Lat city, the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong in 2010, in the form of build – operate – own (BOO). The plant is built on 2ha of land, with designed capacity of 30MW and 20 wind turbines.

The total investment is $57 million. Once this plant is put into operation in June 2011, it will supply around 90 million kWh per year. The investor is Cavico Transport Corporation.

Over 20 wind power projects are currently underway with the ability to generate an expected electricity output of 20,000 MW. However, none of these projects have been put into operation and connected with the national grid. The slow process of implementation of wind-power production is attributed to its high costs.

PV

Vietnam's high wind power potential

July 31, 2009

HANOI, Vietnam-- Vietnam has more wind energy potential than Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, experts say.

A World Bank survey says Vietnam has the capacity to produce 513,360 megawatts of wind power annually. That translates into 200 times the output of Southeast Asia's largest power plant, the Son La Hydroelectric Plant in northern Vietnam, reports the VietNamNet Bridge news site.

Vietnam's renewable energy is slated to increase 5 percent under the Ministry of Trade and Industry's plan to develop alternative energy sources from 2015 to 2025. Wind and solar power is expected to account for half of that.

According to a government survey, Vietnam's land mass includes some 17,400 square miles suitable for developing wind power projects. The provinces of Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan show the greatest promise, with a potential of 800 megawatts.

The Vietnamese government is also aiming for alternative power to provide for about 5 percent of the nation's electricity by 2020.

Vietnam's first wind power plant, located in the central province of Binh Dinh, is slated for an operational launch in August, notes the Business Green Web site.

The $55 million plant has an installed capacity of 30 megawatts and has been designated a U.N. clean development mechanism carbon project, the Business Green Web site reports.

More than 20 wind power projects are under way in Vietnam, with the ability to generate an expected electricity output of 20,000 megawatts, although none are yet operational or connected to the national grid.

These connections may be boosted by a $1.47 grant from the German Organization for Technical Cooperation announced this month to help Vietnam implement a legal framework for connecting wind power projects to the national grid.

The agreement also calls for Vietnam to develop a policy regarding consultants to the country's wind power projects. This move could prove profitable to Germany, the world's second-largest wind-power generator last year, in boosting its role in advising developing countries on making the switch to wind as an energy source.

Vietnam needs to improve its policies and provide a strong legal foundation to attract more foreign investors in renewable energy, noted Gunter Reithmacher, GTZ's chief representative in Vietnam.

Switzerland-based Aerogie Plus has already tapped into Vietnam's energy market, for a $28 million diesel-wind power plant on the island of Con Dao, in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, expected to be operational in 2010.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chi Ka-Eng Monastery was destroyed by Vietnamese Communist

July 30, 2009
by Love Khmer

Chi Ka-Eng monastery which a pagoda where is in Chi Ka-Eng Village, Chau Lang Commune, Svai Tong District, Mort Chrout Province as known An Giang now.

During 1970s-1980s, Chi Ka-Eng pagoda was destroyed many times by Vietnamese Communist Government when they pushed Khmer Krom there to Hau Giang, and Kleang Province.

These photos refer to some places of the monk (Korth) are repaired again.


The last one is the High Palie School which was destroyed by Vietnamese. Now they insist to rebuild it again when they promise that they will sponsor. Anyway, Chief of the monk in this pagodia strongly disagree with them because he thinks that this is the evidence which strongly alive...


Congress Members Demand Change In Policy Toward Vietnam

July 30 2009
Source: The Epoch Time

MAKES FACT-FINDING TRIPS: Michael Cromartie, Vice-Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), testified July 23 before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on his fourth trip to Vietnam. (Gary Feuerberg/The Epoch Times)



WASHINGTON—Human rights organizations and some in the U.S. Congress are now demanding that Vietnam be placed back on the list of “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), which would allow the U.S. to impose economic sanctions to pressure the regime to improve its human rights record. Three areas of concern that are being discussed are Vietnam’s record on religious freedom, women and child trafficking, and labor organizing.

Presently, the U.S. State Department does not designate Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern” or CPC, although it did from 2004-2006. The new Obama administration provides an opportunity to make a new case for Vietnam’s CPC designation.


To look into recent developments in Vietnam, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing, July 23, on the status of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam. The Commission, consisted of a panel of congress members known for their human rights advocacy, including Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ed Royce (R-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Joe Pitts (R-PA).

The anger was palpable in the hearing room on Capitol Hill as the congress members vented harsh words for Vietnam’s religious and labor policies, and most expressed frustration at the State Department’s apparent unwillingness to get tough on Vietnam. And they were incredulous toward U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak’s recent statement that there was a “lack of evidence” that Vietnam should be placed back on the CPC list.


“When Vietnam was placed on the CPC list, we saw some positive changes. Unfortunately, when they were prematurely released in 2006, Vietnam ramped up its persecution,” said Representative Ed Royce.


“It is unfortunate a representative of the State Department could not be here with us today. I would appreciate the opportunity to inquire why the administration is not far more engaged on the issue of religious freedom in Vietnam and elsewhere. I hope the State Department will take into account the testimony presented and the discussion that will take place today,” said Representative Chris Smith.

Rep. Smith has three times introduced legislation in the House, most recently, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2009 (HR 1969) that would prohibit U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to the government of Vietnam in excess of FY2009 levels unless the president certifies to Congress that the government of Vietnam has made substantial progress respecting: the release of political and religious prisoners, and the right of religious freedom, including the return of church properties.

Religious Freedom Deteriorates Past Two Years
The panel heard from Michael Cromartie, vice-chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an expert on the subject of religious freedom of expression in Vietnam. The USCIRF delegation returned from Vietnam in May, making it their fourth visit to Vietnam since 2003. Cromartie, who had traveled to Vietnam in both 2007 and 2009, said at the hearing that it was his opinion, “Human rights and religious freedom conditions have deteriorated over the past two years [in Vietnam].”

“Targeted in particular are the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), independent Hoa Hoa and Cao Dai groups, ethnic minority and unregistered Protestants, Catholics …, and human rights lawyers who defend vulnerable groups,” said Cromartie.

“We saw this week that the government of Vietnam perceives even peaceful prayer vigils as challenges to its authority, requiring violence and arrests. As you know 18 Catholics were detained two days ago in Quang Binh Province,” said Cromartie.

Cromartie said police blocked the delegation’s access to certain dissidents and religious communities, and even staged two truck accidents to prevent the delegation from meeting with Hmong Protestant groups.

“Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh has been interrogated more than 300 times and been beaten 20 times,” said Rep. Royce. Pastor Nguyen is a leader of the Mennonite churches and related evangelical churches in Vietnam.

Royce continued, “Only days ago, he was forced to flee from his home to escape police abuse.” At that moment, someone held up a large photo of the beaten Pastor Nguyen as Royce said that he had become the “symbol of religious persecution for many in Vietnam.”

The Vietnam regime allowed the USCIRF to meet briefly with well-known religious freedom advocates: Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest; Nguyen Van Dai; and the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do. While praising the access the delegation was given, Cromartie noted that Fr. Ly is still being held in solitary confinement, and Nguyen Van Dai is still being told to sign a confession of guilt as a condition of his release. Father Ly has been in solitary confinement for at least 18 months, said Cromartie.

Cromartie noted that the superintendent of the prison where Father Ly was held repeatedly referred to the Catholic clergyman as a “political” prisoner. There was conjecture at the hearing that the communist regime labels Father Ly as a “political” prisoner rather than a “religious” prisoner, so that the State Department would not regard his imprisonment quite as serious a violation of human rights as the denial of religious freedom.

Rep. Royce spoke indignantly of the 350 “political” prisoners, who are actually Montagnard Protestants, so that the State Department doesn’t have to put them back on the CPC list.


Cromartie confirmed from his recent visit that there were still hundreds of Montagnard Protestants in prison who were arrested after 2001 and 2004 land rights and religious freedom demonstrations.

Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do, 80, leader of the outlawed UBCV, has been in prison or under house arrest for 33 years, said Royce. He has refused to incorporate the UBCV with the state-controlled Buddhist church. “We will never submit, we will never become slaves of the Communist Party,” he told a U.S. Consulate official, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Journal.

Police Intimidation of New Converts
Vietnam has made some progress by officially ending the practice of forced renunciations of faith, although it still continues in some rural areas despite the law. But religious freedom abuses in rural areas cannot be entirely blamed on noncompliant provincial officials, explained Cromartie.


Vietnam has switched to a new strategy in suppressing freedom of religious practice.

“Forced renunciation [of one’s faith] has been replaced by controlled mechanisms, namely, by torture, beatings, imprisonment and killings,” said Congressman Royce.

“Instead of forcing Christians to renounce their faith, Vietnam authorities force the Montagnards to join approved churches, where they can be watched and controlled, and, if need be, arrested and imprisoned … and the State Department should be here today to explain their actions,” said Rep. Royce.

Seeing that they can’t stop the widespread interest in religious activities, the communist regime has adopted a policy of discrimination targeting religious communities and new converts.


Cromartie said that USCIRF has copies of the government’s training manuals for local officials that teach how to “manage and control religious activity” and pressure new converts to Protestantism to give up their newly adopted faith.

“In many parts of Vietnam, police intimidate and warn new religious converts against continued religious activity, threatening them with the loss of government benefits or jobs.” Cromartie said these are not isolated acts but national religious policy and experienced by both Protestants and some Buddhists.

Vietnam Regime Complicit in Labor Trafficking
One of the reasons for the timing of this hearing on Vietnam was the recently released 2009 State Department “Trafficking in Persons Report” that stated: “Vietnam is a source and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.”

The congressmen and women heard testimony from Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Boat People SOS. Dr. Nguyen said Vietnam is one of the few countries that exports labor and where the regime protects the traffickers. Vietnam does not allow media coverage of labor trafficking cases and “denies NGO access to repatriated victims for assistance.” Vietnam should really be ranked as a Tier 3 country by the State Department—not Tier 2 as it is now—because of the “government’s complicity in labor trafficking,” said Dr. Nguyen.

“In a number of cases, the Vietnamese government has colluded with the traffickers to block victims from seeking justice through the legal system in the destination country,” said Nguyen.
Dr. Nguyen described as an example the Vietnamese workers sent to Jordan in 2008 to work at a Taiwanese-owned garment plant. They were forced to work 16 hours a day and paid a fraction of what they were promised. When they went on strike, the Vietnamese agent assigned to Jordan had the Jordanian police beat them and dragged back to work, and they were confined to the company’s dormitories and denied medical help for injuries sustained.

The Vietnam government’s Ministry of Labor attempted to identify and isolate the strike leaders so they could be sent home, and force the remaining workers back to work, but the Vietnamese representatives in Jordan failed to isolate the strike leaders, said Dr. Nguyen.
The International Organization for Migration and the Jordanian Ministry of Labor came to the Vietnamese workers’ rescue and, finally, the majority of the workers were allowed to return to Vietnam. Many of these workers petitioned the government to investigate the labor export companies, but they were repeatedly thwarted and threatened by the government, said Dr. Nguyen.

Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s 2009 report, “Not Yet a Workers’ Paradise: Vietnam’s Suppression of the Independent Workers’ Movement” was referred to at the hearing, and Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of HRW, gave testimony as well. The 31-page report describes the escalating labor unrest in Vietnam, with 20 percent more strikes in 2008 than 2007, according to official statistics. Most of the 650 strikes (at least) were wildcat strikes, and were not considered legal by the regime. All strikes have to be authorized by the official Confederation of Labor, which is controlled by the Communist Party.

The independent trade union movement that was emerging in 2006-7 was repulsed by the arresting and sentencing of at least eight independent labor activists.

“Other labor activists have been harassed, intimidated, and forced to cease their activities or flee the country … independent labor activists … are seen as a particular threat to the Communist Party because of their ability to attract and organize large numbers of people,” says the HRW 2009 report.

FRANK CHING And the race for power in Asia begins ...

July 30, 2009

DAYS before China and the United States were scheduled to hold their first Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned up in Phuket, Thailand, for the annual ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), something that her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, used to skip.

“The United States is back in Southeast Asia,” Clinton declared at a press conference.“President (Barack) Obama and I believe that this region is vital to global progress, peace and prosperity.”During the Bush administration, Washington used to be quite relaxed about China making inroads in various parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, Africa and even Latin America, America’s backyard.

Not any more.

In May, Clinton, while meeting foreign service officers at the State Department, said candidly that Iran and China had made “quite disturbing” gains in Latin America.

“We are competing for attention and relationships with at least the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians,” she said, cautioning that it was not in America’s interests “to turn our backs on countries in our own hemisphere”.

And so, the Obama administration has decided to compete for influence and attention around the world with other countries, particularly China.

American efforts in Southeast Asia are particularly noteworthy.

While Clinton was in Thailand, she signed the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which the US had in the past refused to sign.In 2003, China became was the first country outside the region to accede to the document, followed quickly by India.American delay in signing the treaty means that the US was preceded by Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Australia, the European Union, East Timor, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and North Korea.

In fact, with Washington’s decision to join the treaty, Canada is now the only country to participate in the Asean Regional Forum that has not signed on.

The US had refused to sign the treaty for fear that its emphasis on non-interference in domestic affairs would constrain American freedom of action to impose sanctions on other countries, such as Myanmar, and that it might undermine alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia.

However, by now, all these American allies have signed the treaty, reflecting the importance they assigned to Southeast Asia, although they had made it clear before signing that the treaty would not affect their obligations under other international agreements.Accession to the treaty is a prerequisite to membership in the East Asian Summit.

Thus, the US is now poised to deepen its involvement in the region by applying to join that body as well.China is known to be cool to the idea of American participation in the East Asian Summit.

While in Thailand, Clinton spoke at a town hall meeting and was asked if the US was paying more attention to the region “because you want to balance China”.She pretty much confirmed it by responding that “we all want China’s remarkable rise to be a peaceful one”, adding that “a lot of China’s neighbours have expressed concerns, so we want to strengthen our relationships with a lot of the countries in East and Southeast Asia”.

For its part, the 10-nation Asean body formally welcomed “the renewed interest of the Obama Administration in Southeast Asia”.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said accession to the treaty “represents in concrete terms a shift of strategy on the part of the new US administration towards Asean”.

As if to underline American interests in the region, Clinton also held an unprecedented ministerial meeting with the countries of the Lower Mekong — Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand — to discuss issues “related to water, health and the environment”.

Such a meeting was diplomatically significant because these small countries, which have little political heft, are concerned about the impact on them of a series of eight dams that China is building along the river, which originates in Tibet.

By holding this meeting, Washington was injecting itself into the situation and signalling that it had interests in this geopolitically important sub-region.China has taken note of the renewed American interest in Southeast Asia.

The official press agency, Xinhua, reported “deepening US engagement in the region after years of negligence”, and termed US accession to the amity treaty “a widely-watched move that could have profound implications for the future of Southeast Asia, as well as the Asia-Pacific region at large”.
The game is on.frank.ching@gmail.com

Vietnam took the lead after first day of Vovinam chams

July 30, 2009

Vietnam is leading the medal count with five out of six gold medals during the opening day of the first World Vovinam Championships on July 28, leaving just one to be won by France.

In the combat events, five of the six finalists were from the home country and four of them won gold medals. Iran bagged one gold medal in the men’s 68 kg category and Russia took home a gold in the men’s 72 kg category. The two-day championships, held in Ho Chi Minh City, have drawn 150 athletes and officials from 14 countries including Australia, Belarus, Cambodia, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Poland, Russia, Romania, Thailand, the Ukraine and Vietnam.

The hosts set a goal of winning 10 to12 gold medals in the performance events and four in the combat events to rank first in the medals tally.

This competition will be a good preparation for the five Asian countries who will take part in the third Asian Indoor Games hosted by Vietnam in November.

Vovinam was founded by Nguyen Loc in Hanoi in 1938.

Based on wrestling, Vietnamese traditional martial arts and a blend of other martial arts such as kung fu, judo and taekwondo, Loc invented a new style called vovinam (Internationalising Vietnamese martial arts).

For 70 years, Vovinam has been developing and spreading throughout many parts of the world and the World Vovinam Federation currently has 28 member federations.

The third Asian Indoor Games is an important launching pad for the development of Vovinam as it will become the first Vietnamese sport to be included in an international competition.

VNS/VOVNews

China to ASEAN FTA to finalized in January 2010

Thursday, 30 Jul 2009

It is reported that China to ASEAN, a new free trade area will be finished in January 1st 2009. At that time more than 90% trade tariffs between China to ASEAN will be cut down to zero. This free trade area is going to become the biggest one both on customer and cover area in the world till then.

As per report, trade between the two sides has rocketed up since the beginning of the area construction. Last year, their trade value totaled USD 231.1 billion up by 14%YoY. Since this January 1st china has implemented contract tariff on some products produced by ASEAN and it has also brought a common tariff cut in the mean time.

Mr Xu Ningning figured that the establishment of the free area has not only pushed the trade cooperation between China and ASEAN, but also promoted their economy increase and all kinds of cooperation. Although there are only five months left before the full establishment, yet most enterprises are not familiar with it and can not grasp the chance.

He said this area construction can be divided into three stages

1. 2002 to 2009 start up and slash tariff by a large amount
2. 2010 to 2015 fully finish this establishment and realize zero tariffs for the trade between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and China. Meanwhile, realize in depth service and investment market
3. After 2016 consolidate and perfect this free areaHe added that the tariff of most precuts will be cut down to zero in next January which means the cooperation between them will become more and more available.

However, we should realize that this free trade establishment is not just opening the market, but forming a cooperative relation ship and enhance each other's products competition amid the world and finally develop together.

Oklahoma's Asian council told of census

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT
Published: July 30, 2009

Members of a state council pledged Wednesday to encourage Asians in the state to participate in next year’s census.

Hung Le, chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Asian-American Affairs, and other council members agreed to invite members of the various Asian communities to meetings with census workers.

Connie Yellowman said efforts are under way to increase participation in Oklahoma’s census and to get a more accurate accounting of the state’s population.

The 2000 census showed 46,767 Asians living in Oklahoma, a figure that Le said is low. That number has increased over the years. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the growth of Asians was 2.5 percent in 2008 in the U.S.

Richard Gerdes, assistant regional census manager in Kansas City, Mo., said in a telephone interview that Oklahoma’s residents were undercounted in the 2000 census.

Based on census forms mailed out and the number that were returned, it’s estimated Oklahoma was undercounted by 1.4 percent, or 48,995, he said. That count put the state’s population at 3.5 million.

Yellowman told council members that information obtained by census workers would not be shared with other agencies.

"It’s confidential; it’s privileged,” she said.

Dr. Kyung-Whan Min, the council’s vice chairman, asked about the status of undocumented workers who might be living in the state.

"Status of citizenship is not an issue for us,” Yellowman said.

"No census worker is going to tell anyone about what they’ve seen.”

Le said the council would work to set up meetings with census workers and members of the eight Asian communities represented on the council: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and India.

Traditionally, minority groups have had a poor participation rate with the census, Yellowman said.

Every household in the state will be mailed a questionnaire in March as part of the census, which is done every 10 years. The goal is to have all census questionnaires returned by April 1.

Unlike 2000, when residents received a long form or a short questionnaire, only one form will be mailed in 2010. It has 10 questions about the household and should take about 10 minutes to complete. A prepaid return envelope is enclosed with the questionnaire.

Int'l evidences sought for war trial

July 30, 2009

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed today sought more evidences from the international community against individuals accused of genocide during the Liberation War in 1971 to proceed the war crimes trial with an international standard.

He was speaking at the opening session of the "Second International Conference on Genocide, Truth and Justice" at Cirdap auditorium organised by the Liberation War Museum.

The government accumulated sufficient documents and testimonials of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities took place during the Liberation War, but the contribution of the international communities would make the trial more fair and acceptable, law minister told the audience.

Shafique also reiterated the view that the war crime trial proceedings would not meant for harassing anybody or serving political purposes.

Representatives from the International Criminal Court, international legal prosecutors involved in war crimes tribunals, International Council of Jurists, and academics from Hong Kong, Korea, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, Canada, Cambodia, UK and local experts were present at the conference among others.

All That Glitters is Gold: Agoda's 2009 Gold Circle Award Winners Announced

July 30, 2009

Agoda.com, an Asia-based online hotel reservation specialist, today announced the winners of 2009's Gold Circle Awards. In its inaugural year, this annual award is given to Agoda's hotel partners in the Asia Pacific, located in popular spots throughout Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Australia, and Cambodia. The award-winning hotels have proven to be extremely popular with Agoda's online consumers and have shown outstanding skill in utilizing the online distribution medium.

Bangkok, Thailand (PRWEB) July 30, 2009 -- Agoda.com, an Asia-based online hotel reservation specialist, today announced the winners of 2009's Gold Circle Awards. In its inaugural year, this annual award is given to Agoda's hotel partners in the Asia Pacific, located in popular spots throughout Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Australia, and Cambodia. The award-winning hotels have proven to be extremely popular with Agoda's online consumers and have shown outstanding skill in utilizing the online distribution medium.

Mr. Robert Rosenstein, Chief Operation Officer of Agoda.com said, "This year's Gold Circle winners represent a select and prestigious group of hotels, who have really taken to the online channel. Their popularity with online consumers is derived from their commitment to delivering a quality online product, great special offers, at great rates. We can see that online customers are truly valued and welcomed at these hotels and are likely to have a great experience for a reasonable price."

Gold Circle hotels work closely with Agoda to provide online customers the guaranteed lowest rates with premium support and flexibility as well as access to exclusive online promotions. They have an outstanding track record in online fulfillment, and have received excellent customer reviews with the highest average customer score. The first Gold Circle Awards were recently handed out to hotels in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Japan.

Mr. Robert Jaermann, General Manager of Bangkok's Dream Hotel, Thailand, noted, "The Gold Circle Award proves that the Dream Hotel is popular with online consumers. We would like to thank Agoda for this award as we greatly appreciate our excellent and mutually beneficial business relationship. We work closely with Agoda's team to maximize promotional strategies throughout the year, taking into consideration what the market dictates, while respecting our hotel's brand image and pricing strategy. Agoda's team is the most pro-active in the market - they work hard, frequently updating us on market trends and how they impact our strategic goals. By working together we are able to learn from each other in this fast and ever-changing market of online hotel reservations."

Mr. Charles Liu Bing Chuan - General Manager Metropark Mongkok Hotel, Hong Kong, said, "Agoda's Gold Circle Award is significant as it is not just based on sales, rather it's based on the total relationship of our partnership with Agoda. It's been a pleasure working with Agoda to help effectively manage our online distribution by maintaining parity with information, promotions, rates and allotments. It's increasingly important that online customers are seeing exact and up to date information, so they know precisely what they are getting. The partnership with Agoda allows us to update our hotel information immediately with the most current rates and allotments."

Agoda.com is a worldwide hotel reservation service and considered a specialist in the Asian hotel marketplace. The company has developed informative hotel web pages available to consumers in 21 different languages as well as an industry leading Yield Control System for hotel partners, allowing even more control on how hotels are able to market themselves. With a membership base now over 1,000,000 users, Agoda.com's popularity continues to grow.

Malaysian Agriculture Minister to Prioritize Products from South Sulawesi

Thursday, 30 July, 2009

TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta: The Malaysian Agriculture and Agricultural Industry Minister, Dato' Noh Bin Haji Omar, is visiting South Sulawesi today (30/7) and meeting the governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo.

The visit is to follow up the earlier visit of Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Tun Rajak who said he considered South Sulawesi as an area with agricultural potential.

The commodities to be imported from South Sulawesi include rice, maize, seaweed, and cattle. “We will prioritize importing products from South Sulawesi,” said Omar.

Omar explained that up until now Malaysia is still importing 600,000 tons of rice every year from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Malaysia now will import rice from South Sulawesi, Indonesia, as the rice supply here is overstocked and there is a significant surplus.Malaysia will import corn for animal food. “We may build the factory here and do the finishing in Malaysia, “said Omar.

Malaysia is also interested in importing seaweed from South Sulawesi as Indonesia’s largest seaweed production is in South Sulawesi.

Regarding cattle, Malaysia has been importing live cattle from Australia and New Zaeland, as well as meat from India.

The governor, Syahrul, agrees with this plan. “These four commodities are ready,” he said.

The rice supply in South Sulawesi has been in surplus, amounting to 2.5 million tons per year, and the corn surplus 1.5 million tons per year.South Sulawesi has already obtained permission to export 100,000 tons of rice. However, it is still awaiting permission to export cattle.

IRMAWATI

Portales veteran to be honored

By Eric Butler: Cannon Connections

At 88, Myrtie Smith isn’t apt to just jump up and take any cross-country trip.
Given the honor about to be bestowed on her fallen hero of a son, she just might.

One incentive for making the voyage to Georgia is she’ll get a chance to see her son’s name — Lloyd E. Smith — memorialized with other members of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

It’s a about a year from happening. But she would like to go.

Dedication for a memorial to the 173rd takes place at the National Infantry Foundation Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Ga., on June 1, 2010.

“If I could get one of my children to go, I think I could go,” Myrtie Smith said.

Lloyd Smith was 22 when he died in Vietnam on June 22, 1967. He had only been in action a month when his company fell into an ambush around Dak To, near the borders of Laos and Cambodia.

Smith and 75 of his fellow U.S. soldiers were killed, overwhelmed by 800 North Vietnamese troops.

“I think it’s a great idea. The 173rd was a new unit that was put together just before Vietnam — and it’s stayed a separate unit since,” said Ronald Smith, 66, of Clovis, Lloyd’s older brother.

“The unit I was in was the 187th and it was put together in Korea and then it was assigned to the 101st.

“This one has stayed by itself, which is pretty unique,” he added.
The 173rd memorial, when it’s complete, will honor its fallen not only in Vietnam but from Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

The dedication next June is part of the new Soldier Center’s grand opening ceremony. The museum’s Web site notes: “This world-class tribute to infantrymen past, present and future, is the first of its kind in the United States,” telling the stories of soldiers from the Revolutionary War to present.

Myrtie Smith, who lives in Portales, said it was no surprise to her that Lloyd followed his older brother’s footsteps, both becoming Army paratroopers.

“This one always thought he had to do what his big brother did,” recalled the boys’ mother, who also had five more children. “He was over there a month to the day...they put him on a hill where it was covered with (NVA) and he didn’t make it,”

Ronald Smith remembered the Army was perhaps the top legitimate option at the time for Lloyd, who didn’t complete his high school education in Portales.

Eventually, Lloyd came up just short in his try to make Special Forces. But his air training paved the way for his entry into the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Among the tragic elements of his death: Lloyd Smith left behind a son in Kentucky he never was able to meet.

“Of course it was devastating and back then there was six to seven hundred killed every week,” Ronald Smith said.

“He was a real good son, I can tell you that. You know, I lost that son, but I never quit talking about him,” said Myrtie Smith, who is in full support of the memorial plans for the 173rd.

“What he did when he was a kid and this thing and that,” she said. “I think we need to talk about our loved ones that have passed on.”

Cambodia, Vietnam to step up inspectorate cooperation

July 30, 2009

Increased cooperation between the government (Communist) inspectorates of Vietnam and Cambodia would help the latter upgrade its system from central to local levels, said a Cambodian official.

This would in turn contribute to the successful implementation of the second phase of Cambodia’s 2006- 2010 economic development strategy, Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Sam Kim Suor said while receiving a delegation led by Vietnamese Inspectorate General headed by Vice Inspector General Nguyen Van San in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

The Cambodian minister spoke highly of the practical assistance that the Vietnamese Inspectorate General has given to its Cambodian counterpart, especially in human resources training.

Both parties briefed each other on the political and economic situation in their respective nations, exchanged information on the role inspectors play in helping the government deal with complaints from citizens, and discussed measures to enhance bilateral cooperation between both countries’ inspectorates.

Source: VOV

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hundreds of Vietnam Catholics march after arrests: priest

July 28, 2009
Source AP

Catholics in Vietnam's central province of Nghe An march in support of fellow believers arrested last week

HANOI — Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics have marched in support of fellow believers arrested last week after a violent dispute at the site of a church bombed during the Vietnam War, a priest said Monday.

More than 500 Catholics took to the streets of central Dong Hoi city Sunday “to show support for those arrested” in the Tam Toa church dispute, the priest, Pham Dinh Phung, told AFP.

He said seven people remained in custody for investigation after the clash on July 20.
The priest alleged that police beat Catholics who intervened when officers tried to dismantle a temporary building for worship they had just built on the site of the church, which was bombed by US forces during the Vietnam War.

A local government official, Tran Cong Thuat, earlier told AFP the clash occurred between local residents and others who tried “illegally” to build a structure on the site, which is listed as a historic war relic.

Thuat, vice-chairman of the Quang Binh provincial People’s Committee, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Phung said there was a brief scuffle Sunday between the Catholic demonstrators and a much larger group which included police and local residents.

Separately, more than 200,000 Catholics who gathered for Mass at 18 churches in the central region prayed Sunday for “victims” of the Tam Toa case, the priest said.

Catholics say the land belongs to them but the communist state says it is national property. The dispute is the latest in a long-running battle between the church and the government over property.

Vietnam has Southeast Asia’s second-largest Catholic community after the Philippines, with at least six million followers.

Mekong delta & river tours, Vietnam – Down in the Delta

July 28, 2009
By Hong Nhung/timeout

Chau Doc (Mout Chrouk in Khmer) in the Mekong Delta is a charming destination with a fascinating mix of Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese and Cham communities.

An Giang province is often one of the worst affected regions when floods hit the Mekong Delta, which is why unlike other provinces in the Mekong Delta, rice-exporting is not the most important trade here. The main driving force in the province’s economy is catfish farming, a fish which contributes to around a fifth of Vietnam’s total seafood output.

The highest concentration of “floating houses” with fish cages can be observed on the western banks of the Chau Doc River near where it meets the mighty Mekong. Nguyen Van De, a local resident from the floating village, takes us on his boat for a quick tour around Chau Doc River. On the tranquil river, we cruise past neat rows of houses, which all have fishing cages underneath them.

There are nearly 2,000 floating houses in the village. Some of the more sturdy houses are made with bricks and wooden frames and covered by fibre grass tiles. However, a few more flimsy looking constructions are made out of bamboo and coconut leaves. We clamber off the boat onto the wooden deck of a house. A piece of wood has been left open so you can peer down into the fish cage where a large school of fish jumps up and down.

Much to our surprise, the residents seem to have all the mod cons and assets families would have on land: We can see satellite dishes, televisions and motorcycles while all residents seem to own a mobile phone. De can raise about five tonnes of cat fish in eight months. His children can easily get to school after a short boat trip to Chau Doc town too. Life here seems good. Past the floating village, we find Con Tien (Fairy Island) where a community of around 3,000 Cham people live. According to relics at Mubarak Mosque, the Cham community set up their settlement on the island in 1691.

Just like any other popular spots for tourists, right at the entrance to the Cham village is a souvenir shop selling Cham silk handbags and scarves! We check out a store owned by a woman called Ysa, who is a surprisingly laid back seller. According to Ysa weaving was one of the prerequisite skills for a well educated girl in Cham society. She has been weaving since she was only 15 and set up the store back in 1998. All of her products are handmade with traditional weaving equipment.

She employs 20 women from the village and claims she earns a stable income. According to Ysa, traditionally, while the women weaved and took care of domestic chores, Cham men sailed down the river to trade. Thanks to a common religion and shared customs Cham traders had plenty of success trading with Malays. A colourful culture Chau Doc town is a swirling mix of ethnicity and religion. With Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese and Cham communities, you will find institutions dedicated to Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and even Sunni Islam as well as churches for Christians and followers of Cao Dai and Hoa Hao religions.

One of the most famous religious buildings is Ba Chua Xu Temple on Sam Mountain. Two hundred years ago, Sam Mountain was said to be covered with a forest and full of wild animals. Only pirates and bandits dared to go there. One day, a group of Siamese men came across a beautiful red stone statue on the summit of the mountain. Although the statue was small, none of them could lift it up. The men quickly grew frustrated and in a blind rage, they smashed the statue and departed.

But in a nearby village, on the same day a girl went into a strange fit — her face was flushed red and her head shook violently. She started to speak and called herself Chua Xu Thanh Mau (the Holy Mother of the Region). She commanded villagers to climb the mountain and fetch her statue back to the village. The villagers found the statue on the top of Sam Mountain but they could not move it either.

They returned and asked for the little girl’s advice. She told them to send nine maiden girls up the mountain to carry the statue down. Sure enough the nine girls were able to lift the statue up and carry down the mountain. But at the foot of the mountain, the statue suddenly grew too heavy for the nine girls too carry so they laid it down. The village elders guessed that was the place that the Holy Mother wanted to be placed and consulted an oracle.

A shrine was duly built on the site on the 25th day of the fourth lunar month and ever since on that day pilgrims have come to Ba Chua Xu temple. Besides Ba Chua Xu Temple, Tan An Pagoda, which was constructed in 1847 by Doan On, is also worth a visit. The three-storey pagoda with the onion-shaped turret designed in the Muslim–Indian architectural style is on the side of Sam Mountain. On the top of the pagoda sits a striking white statue of the Supreme Buddha. From outside the pagoda is not that eye catching but the statues and carvings inside are wonderfully vivid and life-like.

Local firm to turn trash into treasure in Vietnam

Viet Ngo says the garbage-to-compost plant he's building will be good for Minnesota, too.

By NEAL ST. ANTHONY, Star Tribune

A $53 million garbage-to-compost plant developed by a Minnesota company with Vietnamese roots will open in several weeks about 35 miles northwest of the former Saigon.

"This has been a very long and hard undertaking,'' said Viet Ngo, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Lemna. He is a South Vietnamese immigrant and University of Minnesota-trained engineer. "An international effort in my native country ... and it will be great for Lemna, Minnesota and Vietnam."

The Lemna project, built on tunnel-infested ground that 40 years ago witnessed horrific fighting between American and Vietnamese troops, spanned nine years. It evolved from an international development study that found that what is now Ho Chi Minh City must divert garbage from open sewers and two huge, fly-invested landfills to a facility that could turn the problem into rich organic fertilizer.

"This was a long pregnancy," said Poldi Gerard, Ngo's spouse of 29 years, business partner and general manager of the 4-acre project. She has spent most of the last several years in Vietnam. "This project is about economics and environmentalism. It also will be the flagship for others we will do. We keep garbage out of the landfills, do something useful with it and, eventually, make a profit."

The project broke ground in early 2008. Dozens of construction workers fabricated pilings on-site that were pounded into the ground by huge pile drivers, the first footings in a complex that will employ 600 workers by 2011. They will process 1,200 tons of garbage daily into compost for sale to farmers. The business is expected to cut Vietnam's imported-fertilizer bill by tens of millions of dollars annually.

Nothing moves fast in Vietnam, save the darting motor scooters and bicycles on the streets of the former Saigon. The financial credit crisis of 2008-09 halted construction and one financial partner backed out. In the end, Lemna's equity contribution totals nearly $11 million, matched last fall by a $5.6 million investment by VINA Capital, an American concern that operates Vietnamese investment funds, and about $36 million from lenders.

Saigon, as it is still commonly known, is the commercial hub of the fastest-growing country in Asia behind neighboring China to the north.

The Lemna plant, operated by Lemna's Vietstar subsidiary, lies in the Cu Chi District, a fairly tranquil area of farms and forests. But during the war, Cu Chi was synonymous with close-quarter combat. Miles of tunnels provided shelter and safe routes for local Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops entering South Vietnam from Cambodia, about 15 miles to the west.

Since 1995 and the normalization of relations with the United States, Vietnam has opened itself to business with the West and moved 65 percent of its 83 million people from poverty to working-class status through manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, particularly around Saigon and Hanoi.

Although belatedly, the country is now determined to pace its economic growth with progressive environmental management, Pham Van Hai, a scientist who heads the Center for Environmental Science and Sustainable Development, told me in an interview last year.

The Lemna-Vietstar plant is evidence of that.

General Electric just announced plans to build a wind-turbine manufacturing plant, oil-exploration firms are prowling coastal waters off Vietnam, and the country is moving to overhaul its aging power-generation and distribution systems.

The Vietstar project is the first to turn organic garbage into fertilizer, said Do Thu Ngan, the CEO of Saigon-based Sacombank Leasing.

Vietstar will be paid $6 to $12 per ton for fertilizer under an agreement with the city of Saigon.
Paper, cardboard, wood, metal, glass and just about everything but organic garbage is recycled by scrap merchants and industry in Vietnam. That leaves small blue bags of organic waste left outside households that are picked up a couple of times a week by garbage trucks.

"Vietnam now imports fertilizer and plastic, DoThu Ngan said. "The garbage becomes fertilizer and the plastic from the bags will be recycled into pellets that will be sold to the plastics industry. Both products replace imports, and this addresses an environmental issue in Vietnam."

Poor waste-management practices and inadequately lined landfills over the years have resulted in serious pollution. That and past slash-and-burn agriculture, deforestation and soil degradation have caused the government to plot a new course through public education, stricter environmental laws, penalties and incentives for environmental remediation and sustainable environmental projects.

"Composting is the perfect solution for tropical countries with monsoon seasons," Gerard said.
Lemna, headquartered in the elegant old mansion on Park Avenue that once was home of the Brooks family that made its fortune in timber, was founded by Viet Ngo in 1983 as a wastewater treatment facility designer. The company has expanded into energy and other projects from the Midwest to Vietnam and Nigeria. It has built 300-plus pond-based municipal and industrial treatment facilities that rely largely on biological, low-cost systems for treating wastewater pollutants.

Bob Bannerman, an official with the U.S. Commercial Service in Vietnam until he moved to Rome in 2008, helped Lemna approach the Saigon government after a U.S. Trade and Development Agency study in 2001 said Saigon was threatened by sewage-related pollution.

"Virtually all household waste was simply dumped into sewers that fed eventually into the many canals, streams and rivers that are a part of the Mekong River basin," he said. "The city government was interested in attracting foreign investment that would provide technical solutions to this problem, but they needed to be convinced that Lemna could deliver what it promised."

Nothing moves fast in Vietnam, save the darting motor scooters and bicycles on the streets of the former Saigon. The financial credit crisis of 2008-09 halted construction and one financial partner backed out. In the end, Lemna's equity contribution totals nearly $11 million, matched last fall by a $5.6 million investment by VINA Capital, an American concern that operates Vietnamese investment funds, and about $36 million from lenders.

Saigon, as it is still commonly known, is the commercial hub of the fastest-growing country in Asia behind neighboring China to the north.

The Lemna plant, operated by Lemna's Vietstar subsidiary, lies in the Cu Chi District, a fairly tranquil area of farms and forests. But during the war, Cu Chi was synonymous with close-quarter combat. Miles of tunnels provided shelter and safe routes for local Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops entering South Vietnam from Cambodia, about 15 miles to the west.

Since 1995 and the normalization of relations with the United States, Vietnam has opened itself to business with the West and moved 65 percent of its 83 million people from poverty to working-class status through manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, particularly around Saigon and Hanoi.

Although belatedly, the country is now determined to pace its economic growth with progressive environmental management, Pham Van Hai, a scientist who heads the Center for Environmental Science and Sustainable Development, told me in an interview last year.

The Lemna-Vietstar plant is evidence of that.

General Electric just announced plans to build a wind-turbine manufacturing plant, oil-exploration firms are prowling coastal waters off Vietnam, and the country is moving to overhaul its aging power-generation and distribution systems.

The Vietstar project is the first to turn organic garbage into fertilizer, said Do Thu Ngan, the CEO of Saigon-based Sacombank Leasing.

Vietstar will be paid $6 to $12 per ton for fertilizer under an agreement with the city of Saigon.

Paper, cardboard, wood, metal, glass and just about everything but organic garbage is recycled by scrap merchants and industry in Vietnam. That leaves small blue bags of organic waste left outside households that are picked up a couple of times a week by garbage trucks.

Foundation and Granting Agency Support Advances Spencer Museum of Art Programs and Research

LAWRENCE, KS.- The Spencer Museum of Art announced several important grants supporting a variety of initiatives at the Museum.

· A three-year, $50,000 grant from the William T. Kemper Foundation will support the Museum’s International Artist-in-Residence program. Shanghai-based experimental calligrapher Wang Tiande, who held a residency during the month of April, was the first artist in the program.

“We are exhilarated by the prospect of welcoming practicing artists to the Spencer to develop new work in a supportive, collaborative environment and to be part of the artistic life of the Museum and its diverse audiences,” says SMA Director Saralyn Reece Hardy.

“As we build relationships in the region to further integrate the riches of the Spencer in to everyday life, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the generous organizations such as the William T. Kemper Foundation who support our efforts.”

· SMA Curator of Asian Art Kris Imants Ercums will use a $21,500 curatorial research fellowship grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to investigate more deeply his interest in how the introduc­tion of new technology—cell-phone texting capabilities, internet blogs, digital cameras and camera-phones, for example—has affected Asian artists who have grown up in the digi­tal age and who have adopted visual and artistic strategies informed by the mutating culture of our time.

Beginning in 2010, Ercums will make three research field trips over a 14-month period. The first will be to Korea, China, and Vietnam, the second to the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, and the third to the Himalayan region and Central Asia—North India, Nepal, Uzbeki­stan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan.

“I’ll be looking at both the social context of this change and the art and artists who are driving new cultural phenomena as a way of both advancing curatorial and artistic understanding of contemporary Asia in the United States and building a thriving exhibition and residency program at the Spencer,” Ercums says.

“I am grateful to the Warhol Foundation for its generous support of these objectives.”

· A one-year, $12,900 grant from the Shumaker Family Foundation will fund the inaugural year of “An Ear for Art”—the Spencer’s new cell-phone tour program.

It is with great sorrow that we note here the death on July 5 of Paul K. Shumaker, who established the foundation. Shumaker, a dedicated philanthropist, was a founding partner in the Olathe-based company Garmin, Ltd., a world leader in global positioning systems, and was a committed philanthropist with a focus on peace-building missions around the world and other humanitarian efforts.

“This generous grant significantly increases our ability to add supportive technology to our galleries and provide meaningful experiences for our audiences—first in the form of first-hand encounters with visual art in the Museum and then as online audio access to our cell-phone tours, something unique in the area,” SMA Director of Education Kristina Walker says.

“The cell-phone initiative will make a great difference in our ability to serve communities of learners in the region, on the KU campus, and across Kansas .”

Other recent awards to the Spencer are:

· $7,808 from the Kansas Arts Commission supporting general operating expenses during the 2010 fiscal year.

· $4,000 from the KU Student Senate to fund a visitor kiosk at the Museum’s main entrance.

· $2,000 from the Price R. and Flora A. Reid Foundation to provide a student assistant in support of the Spencer’s ongoing collection digitization project.

Shadle teaches his way around the world

By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer
July 28, 2009

Wouldn't it be great to teach innovative college classes to students from around the country?

Wouldn't it be great to take a four-month cruise around the world?
Wouldn't it be great to do both at the same time?

That's exactly what Mark Shadle, Estherville High School class of 1967, did this past spring.

Shadle, who received his bachelor's in political science from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo., and both his master's and Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa Department of English, participated the four-month teaching tour with the Semester at Sea program this spring. The program is administered by the University of Virginia and the Institute for Shipboard Education, both based in Charlottesville.

Shadle, who was on sabbatical for the past year from his teaching duties at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, incidentally took part in the 100th voyage of the Semester at Sea program.

Shadle and the rest of the faculty boarded at Miami and then at Nassau, Bahamas, picked up 740 students from 200 colleges. From there they went to Cadiz, Spain. They averted the Suez Canal due to continued threats by Somalian pirates and instead went to Casablanca, Namibia, Capetown, South Africa, Port Louis, Mauritius, and Chennai, India. From there it was on to Bangkok, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) Vietnam, a flight to Phon Penh, Cambodia, then they sailed to Hong Kong then Shang Hai. They hit two ports in Japan - Kobe and Yokohama, then went on the Honolulu then to Puerto Cuetzal, Guatemala then the Panama Canal then on through the Gulf of Mexico to Florida - a total of 12 ports of call.

Shadle estimates the cruise was well beyond the 25,000 circumference of the earth. They departed Jan. 17 and arrived back in port May 5.

Shadle taught fiction writing, media studies, media studies and 'nomadology' or the study of migrating peoples.

One of the more memorable venues was the killing fields of Cambodia where Shadle said it was common to find human bones protruding from paths. He and his students also found meaningful the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima.

In Hawaii they met with Shadle's friends Glenn and Glenda Paige of the Global Nonviolence Institute. That was a highlight for Shadle, since much of his teaching was directed toward that visit.

Shadle said the most rewarding part of the cruise was seeing how people around the world live. He also enjoyed participating in community service projects with students.
Shadle recalls fondly making mandalas with children in Rangoli, India, and playing music with other children in another school in India.

"Music and art seemed to cut through all resistance," Shadle said.

In Spain, he helped students rediscover the flamenco music culture, something that's unfortunately vanishing as a cultural icon on the Iberian Peninsula. That was something that came natural for Shadle who plays jazz and blues as well as flamenco guitar.

He cherishes memories of hearing a girls choir in Namibia where 45 percent of the children are AIDS orphans.

Shadle hopes to make the trip again, and he would like to organize a trip in 2011 around the theme of shelter.

"This voyage for me was a transformance, not a performance," Shadle said. "I believe if half of the people in this country went to China or India for two weeks their attitudes would change overnight. You transform whatever intolerance you leave here with."

Int'l conference seeks to identify war criminals

July 28, 2009


Victime in War
Liberation War Museum holds an international conference in Dhaka on July 30-31, seeking to start a process of identifying the perpetrators of genocide during Liberation War in 1971, and develop a broad network to ensure justice to those responsible for crimes against humanity.

This conference is going to be held at a historic moment for the nation when the government is moving towards right direction to try the war criminals, said Liberation War Museum Trustee Mofidul Haque at a press conference on the museum premises in the capital.

The Second International Conference on Genocide, Truth and Justice, which will be held at Cirdap auditorium, will bring together representatives from the International Criminal Court, international legal prosecutors involved in war crimes tribunals, International Council of Jurists, and academics from Hong Kong, Korea, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, Canada, Cambodia, UK and local experts.

A special programme involving witnesses, victims of genocide and members of young generation will also be arranged. Arrangements will also be made to ensure participation of the expatriate Bangladeshis via online video.

Mofidul Haque said Liberation War Museum held the first such conference in March last year to create consensus at home and abroad about the demand of trial of the war criminals.

Now that the nation voted for a change upholding the core values of liberation war, the government has also decided to try the war criminals and made necessary amendments to the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973.

The conference, therefore, carries great significance for Bangladesh as well as the world community, Mofidul Haque said, adding that it will address how societies victimized by genocide and mass atrocities can move forward and how world community can prevent such brutality from recurring in future.

The conference will pave the way to be supportive of the justice initiative undertaken by the government and get the community involved with the process of the trial, he said.

It will assist in recalling the Bangladesh genocide back onto global agenda and raise awareness amongst Bangladeshis at home and across the globe to strengthen the initiative to bring the war criminals of 1971 to justice, he noted.

Bangladesh can learn from the experiences of those who were involved in trying war criminals in different countries, Haque said.

Liberation War Museum Trustees Tariq Ali and architect Rabiul Husain also spoke.

Travel expo to honour excellence

July 28, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – An award recognising excellence within the tourism industry in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia will be presented during the fifth annual International Travel Exposition (ITE) in HCM City in October.

"This new award builds on the co-operation between our three countries, acknowledging our tourism potential," said Nguyen Phu Duc, chairman of the Viet Nam Tourism Association.
"It also complements the Three Countries-One Destination concept launched this year as the theme of ITE 2009," he added.

The Tourism Alliance Award competition will be organised by the Institute for International Research (IIR) Exhibitions, Viet Nam Tourism Association, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, Cambodia Hotel Association and Laos Association of Travel Agents.

"We believe the award will instill a greater sense of pride and achievement among professionals representing our country," said Soukaseum Bodhisane, vice chairman of the Lao National Tourism Administration.

Managing Director of Exhibitions Pte Ltd Rosalind Ng said the award would encourage further improvement in tourism training standards and help enhance service quality.

"The awards provide a benchmark for best practices in the industry," said Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association.

Participants are required to submit a form that requires self-assessment through a detailed questionnaire.

The questionnaire will be reviewed by a panel of industry professionals as well as representatives from the respective associations.

Winners from each of the 10 award categories will be announced at a gala dinner on October 1.
ITE 2009 will be held on October 1-3 at Phu Tho Exhibition Centre in HCM City.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Luxury Travel Company Needs 4 Luxury Travel Advisors

Ho Chi Minh CIty, Vietnam, July 28, 2009 --(PR.com)-- With a steady growth of luxury business, Vietnam’s first luxury tour operator is looking for 4 experienced Vietnamese travel advisors to join their dynamic, creative, energetic, passionate, competent and a sales team.

Luxury Travel Co., Ltd. (Vietnam) is a 100% fully registered and privately-owned Vietnamese company. Luxury Travel is headquartered in Hanoi and has offices around Vietnam and management offices in Laos and Cambodia.

Luxury Travel has won numerous travel awards for excellence.Luxury Travel Vietnam is currently looking for 2 positions for outbound department and 2 Travel Advisors for internet sale in the inbound department in Hanoi Head Office.

Excellent Vietnamese and English for both writing and speaking is required. French or German is an advantage.

Applicants to join Luxury Travel, candidates must have at least 2 years of experiences in similar position, preferred male candidates.Applicants are normally required to have a college, university degree as well as a relevant postgraduate specialization, experience at national and/or international level in tourism industry Candidates should have substantial training and working experience in the field before they can be recruited in Luxury Travel Company.

The deadline expires at the midnight of 30 August 2009, only short listed candidates will be invited to interview.

The qualified candidates interest in these exciting vacancies, send CV today to job@luxurytravelvietnam.com or check LUXury Travel’s website www.luxurytravelvietnam.com for more details.