Monday, November 30, 2009
Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, the mother of detained Thai national Sivarak Chutipong Monday sought assistance from opposition Pheu Thai Party, blaming the Foreign Ministry for slow move to save her son from Cambodia prison.
She met former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama at the party headquarter to ask assistance to free Sivarak who was being detained for the charge of spying on former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight information.
"The Foreign Ministry is too slow. My son and I cannot wait. So I would do whatever to help him," Simarak told a press conference.
Noppadon said he helped the mother and son on humanitarian basis as used his connection in Phnom Penh to help Simarak to see her son again within a couple days from now.
PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen criticised Thailand's leaders Monday, saying they had insulted his country after Phnom Penh refused to extradite fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Hun Sen said that his country would "have no happiness" while Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his foreign Minister Kasit Piromya were still in power.
"I'm not the enemy of the Thai people... But the prime minister and the foreign minister, these two people look down on Cambodia extremely," Hun Sen said in a speech at a provincial ceremony.
"Cambodia will have no happiness as long as this group is in power in Thailand," he added.
The two countries have fought clashes near a temple on their disputed border since last year and were embroiled in a row this month when Thaksin visited Cambodia in his new role as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen said he would not extradite Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, because his conviction was politically motivated.
The two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors and Thailand halted a series of aid programmes to Cambodia.
The Cambodian leader slammed a further Thai threat to close the border between the two countries, saying: "If you are (an) idiot, if you want the loss, please do it."
Hun Sen said he informed Abhisit that Cambodia was cancelling an agreement under which Bangkok would make a 1.4-billion-baht (41.2-million-dollar) loan to upgrade a highway from the Thai border, and would review other Thai loans.
"I told Abhisit that I and my people felt hurt when (we) heard you talk about halting aid and loans," the Cambodian premier said.
Now stop talking this language. It is cheap and childish language," he said, adding that he had worked with 10 Thai premiers and "Abhisit is the PM who is hardest to work with".
PHNOM PENH, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Motorcycle dealers in the capital Phnom Penh say sales have finally started to pick up following this year's downturn prompted by the global economic crisis, as buyers spend money generated in the provinces on upgrading to new models that have recently entered the market for 2010, local media reported on Monday.
Kim Chhay, one of the many dealers who operate on Phnom Penh's Sihanouk Boulevard, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that sales had risen between 10 and 20 percent since October "due to demand for new models" of brands including Honda, which he said had recently launched its 2010 range.
Having seen sales plummet from around 100 units a month to between 30 to 40 during the first 10 months of 2009, he said sales have climbed. "Now we're selling around 60 motorbikes per month."
A reduction in retail prices had also spurred demand, he said. Last year's Honda Dreams sold for 1,700 U.S. dollars to 1,800 U.S. dollars per unit, compared with about 1,500 U.S. dollars for the new series.
Taing Ang, another dealer in the capital, said that people from the provinces who had completed land transactions were propping up demand, adding that Honda in particular had seen an upswing in sales.
"The Suzuki series hasn't seen an improvement yet," he said.
Vouch Lay, who deals Suzukis, said she had not seen sales pick up, blaming the rising demand for Honda's newly released models. "I don't see any recovery yet," she said.
She added that Suzuki was due to begin a new promotion shortly, which she hoped would "spur the number of sales to improve on the current situation".
Demand for motorcycles in Cambodia was expected to fall to 100,000 units this year from the previous 140,000 units, according to Matoba Micifumi, managing director of Yamaha Motors Cambodia Co, who previously said Yamaha motorcycle sales had dropped 25 percent in the first quarter.
KHAIRUL ANWAR MOHAMED
Its members may be no older than 18 but the Allegro String Ensemble still moved the audience with their exceptional performance of Italian music. KHAIRUL ANWAR MOHAMED was there.
SILENCE and anticipation hung heavy in the cold air as the ensemble looked towards conductor John Allan.
With his hands lifted and with the precision of professionals, bows rose to meet their strings in unison.
As the brisk pace of the William Tell Overture emanated through the hall, the skill of the ensemble became apparent as the audience was taken on a journey into Italian culture. This was the beginning of a performance that would be described by a foreign prince as “a very wonderful display of talent”. The difference between the Allegro String Ensemble and many other ensembles is that most of the players are no older than 18.
Formed by the Allegro Music & Arts, the ensemble consists mainly of the school’s students led by a few teachers with Antonella Aloigi Hayes, an Italian violinist whose skill is rivalled only by her passion, at the helm. Organised by the Italian Embassy, the recent concert was accompanied by a photo exhibition by 17-year-old Italian photographer Virginia Cucchi.
Something that is commonly seen in musicians is that passionate immersion into their music: the children of the Allegro String Ensemble were no exception.
One talented cellist was so caught up in the melody that it was easy to have mistaken him for someone older and more steeped in the music.
For Hayes, “music is very much about passion and perhaps the greatest joy for a musician is to witness the audience moved by his/her music”. The ensemble must have been very pleased as many in the audience wept at the sheer beauty of the works.
As the concert progressed, the audience was taken on a journey that shifted with the pace of the music.
One moment they may feel jubilantly high listening to Verdi’s Aida-Marcia Trionfale but in the next are humbled into a solemn contemplation by Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor.
While it was a journey shared by all present, each was coloured by the individual listener’s own experiences.
At the end of the show, in true Italian fashion, cries of “Bravo! Bravo!” were heard over the din of applause and the crowd called out “Encore!” The ensemble had a surprise up their sleeve for just such an event. Breaking away from the night’s theme of Italian music, the ensemble paid homage to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee by performing his classic number, Getaran Jiwa.
The audience cheered and the Allegro String Ensemble did not disappoint as it brought the classic song to life. The audience, with many other students and their parents in the audience, was largely made up of Italians living and working here in Malaysia.
They included the Italian Ambassador Alesandro Busacca and Prince Norodom Ranariddh of Cambodia. When asked, Busacca said: “I am very happy with this concert as it is a beautiful display of Italian culture and history”.
He went on to say that the ensemble’s selection “showcased some of the most beautiful pieces of Italian classical music”. The Allegro Music & Arts principal Esther Law was pleased with her students.
“The ensemble, in the 10 years since its formation in 1999 by Allan, has made me very proud. Our school frequently holds concerts such as this.” Allegro Music & Arts Sdn Bhd offers courses that range from classical instruments to fine art and dance.
Established in 1992, the studio accepts anyone with an interest in music and art, be they budding musicians or adults looking for a new hobby.
SINGAPORE, Nov 30 — The leader of Singapore’s 30,000- strong Anglican community yesterday called on his followers to unite against “alternative cultures” and recognise the family as a cornerstone of faith-building.
“There’s hardly any consensus on mainstream values,” Archbishop John Chew said in a sermon to about 10,000 people during the Church’s centenary service at Suntec City, citing the spread of “alternative”, “fringe” and “fundamentalistic” values.
Speaking to The Straits Times after the service, Dr Chew, who is also president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, said he was referring to the erosion of mainstream culture by homosexuality, rampant materialism and religious extremism.
He spoke on the need for “classical compositions” of family structures — father, mother and children — instead of non-traditional ones consisting of single, divorced or same-sex parents.
He said the West has had to face the consequences of the rise of non-traditional family structures and “alternative” cultures.
In his sermon, he also spoke on the importance of procreation within the family structure. Referring to the low fertility rate, he said if Singaporeans do not produce enough babies, “the danger is that the mainstream population, its socio-cultural norms and ethos, will dwindle and diminish down the generations.”
He added: “The breaking down of families, and the changing of classical family norms, makes all this more aggravated.”
Dr Chew’s address to his flock comes at a time when Christians at home and abroad, facing rising divorce figures, increasingly outspoken gays and pervasive pop culture influences, are turning to the church for guidance.
In the worldwide Anglican Church, members in North America and Europe are deeply divided over theological reforms that have been introduced over the years.
Last month, the Vatican said it would allow Anglicans who are uncomfortable with the Anglican Church’s acceptance of female priests and gay bishops to join the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking on this issue publicly for the first time, Dr Chew said: “It’s different in the West. Here, the Anglican Church is united in our faith. Our members have no cause or reason to look elsewhere.”
Yesterday, that unity was manifest in the thousands who came together to celebrate the Church’s 100th anniversary on the theme of building the Christian faith within families, and handing it down through generations.
The Church held an inter-generational service in the morning and a “consecration” service in the evening to bless the clergy, laity and its programmes in education and community services here and in the region. Altogether, about 20,000 people attended the two services.
The Anglican community has built 26 churches, 10 schools and several welfare groups, including hospitals and nursing homes, in Singapore.
It oversees Christian communities in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Nepal, and is a member of the Anglican Province of South-east Asia, headed by Dr Chew.
Next year, the Church will open the St Andrew’s Autism Centre and a primary school in Batam, Indonesia.
Reverend George Tay, who heads the deanery in Indonesia, said the newS $7million (RM16.8 million) school in Batam, to be built by 2012, continues the legacy of education of the Singapore Anglican Church. — The Straits Times
Claims of torture haunt Prey Sar jailPublished: 30/11/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
The Prey Sar prison which is presently home to Thai spy suspect Sivarak Chutipong and thousands of other Cambodian and foreign inmates is under fresh fire for its "appalling conditions".
The complex - described as one of the most notorious jails in Southeast Asia and often compared with the infamous Tuol Sleng prison under Khmer Rouge rule - has been slammed for alleged human rights violations.
"I've often heard about brutal torture against the prisoners there," said a 25-year-old Cambodian woman.
"It's really scary. I think most Cambodian people know well about its conditions."
Prey Sar is the largest of about 20 prisons in Cambodia. It houses 2,500 to 2,600 prisoners despite being originally designed to house a maximum of 1,200, a prison warder said.
Mr Sivarak, who worked at Cambodia Air Traffic Services, was arrested on Nov 12 for relaying information about the flight schedule of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who flew into Phnom Penh a day earlier after being appointed economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Prey Sar, in Dor Kor district about 10km from central Phnom Penh, is under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior and the Health Ministry.
The public perception of the prison is one of "fear and brutality". It is reportedly cramped and lacking in proper health care.
"We have treated all prisoners well - all the allegations are groundless," said the prison warden.
He said all prisoners had good sleeping arrangements.
If they were ill, the prison provided them with proper medication.
"I have seen and talked to Sivarak. He is healthy. We take care of him very well because we know what is what," the warden said.
It has been more than 10 years since the Cambodian government moved prisoners from the centuries-old jail built during French colonial rule in central Phnom Penh near the Royal Palace complex to Prey Sar.
Prey Sar was a commune and detention centre during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, when more than 1.7 million people lost their lives.
Some say the brutality at Prey Sar is reminiscent of Tuol Sleng, the torture and detention centre also known as S-21 and now a genocide museum.
"Prey Sar is not much different," said 51-year-old Sameth Tul, a victim of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Sameth Tul was 17 when Khmer Rouge soldiers took control of Phnom Penh and later ruled all of Cambodia.
He was living in Takai province, south of Phnom Penh, at the time. His family was sent to work in a nearby commune and lived there for nearly four years until the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime.
"Fortunately, no one in my family was killed because we were all farmers," he said.
"Those being killed were doctors, teachers, academics and lawyers.
"I remember the whole experience of when I was locked up in the commune camp," Sameth Tul said.
"I had to get up at 3am and [go to] sleep at 11pm.
"Many people died of torture, and lack of food and sleep."
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Labour export website unveiled to public The Overseas Labour Management Department, under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs held a press conference on November 27 to unveil its new website at www.dolab.gov.vn.
The website implements the government’s policy of computerizing state management activities, while providing information to workers who want to know more about exported labour.
Through the website, workers can find information about markets recruiting foreign workers, businesses dealing in exported labour and procedures for working abroad.
The Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan says the website will make a positive contribution to labour exports, connecting jobs with workers and furthering hunger eradication and poverty reduction programmes.
11 students receive Prudence Foundation scholarships The Prudence Foundation, under the global Prudential Corporation, has delivered 11 information technology scholarships, each worth US$2,400 (equivalent to VND42.4 million).
The delivery took place in Hanoi on November 27 in coordination with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee.
Each scholarship recipient had a demonstrated financial need, graduated from high school with good or excellent marks and passed an exam given by the Prudence Foundation.
The students will attend a 2-year course to earn an international computer programming certificate awarded by the India Aptech Group.
In 2009, the Prudence Foundation granted 40 scholarships, worth VND2 billion in total, to students in Hanoi, Da Nang, Thua Thien-Hue and Nghe An.
The scholarship programme is part of a commitment between the Prudence Foundation and the HCM Communist Youth Union Central Committee to award 120 IT scholarships between 2008 and 2010.
Lessons drawn from flood prevention efforts in central region The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development held a seminar in Da Nang city on November 27 to draw lessons from flood prevention efforts in the central region over the past 10 years.
Participants shared their experiences in flood prevention and rescue work. They also discussed the negative impact of climate change and worked out preventive measures against natural calamities.
They emphasised the need to protect primary forests, promote afforestation and increase the accuracy of weather forecasting, calling it essential to have a plan for evacuating people from low areas to higher areas and to develop an irrigation network and dyke system to deal with flooding.
Agencies were requested to invest more in hydro-meteorological facilities and weather forecast equipment and increase the capacity of local emergency and rescue workers.
During the past ten years, the central region has been hit by many powerful tropical storms and floods, causing enormous material and human losses.
Workshop on preservation and sustainable use of microorganism A workshop on preservation and sustainable use of microorganism in Asia was held in Hanoi on November 27 by the Institute of Microorganism and Bio-technology and the Hanoi National University.
State Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan praised the initiative to organize the annual workshop with the aim of preserving and sustainably exploiting microorganism genres. She emphasised that Vietnam considers biotechnology as a priority in the scientific and technological development strategy and highly values international co-operation in this field, especially with Asian countries.
Mrs Doan said that for sustainable development in the past-crisis period, the world needs to strengthen technological renovation, restructure economy based on using environmentally friendly technology and accelerate using bio-energy, wind and solar energy.
The workshop attracted a number of scientists from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and the host Vietnam. It provided a good chance for domestic and foreign scientists to share experiences in preserving and exploiting genres, exchange genres, update information and cooperate in human resource training.
Belgium to fund $10.4 mln for Mekong countries’ river navigation
The Belgian government has agreed to increase its support to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) with a US$ 10.4 million contribution over the next four years to improve river navigation, the Mekong body announced Friday.
Improving river transport infrastructure could be a means for boosting trade and staving off economic downturn, says the MRC.
“Improving the safety of navigation in the Mekong Basin is vital for the economic development of the region,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC, the inter-government organization that helps Mekong Basin countries manage their water resources.
He added, “It is essential that Mekong countries improve the quality of waterborne transport. By using rivers in a more efficient manner, export potential can improve and this will, in turn, help the region achieve its poverty alleviation goals.”
US$6 million of the Belgian funding will be earmarked for the further improvement of properly marked navigation channels in priority stretches of the river, which the MRC says will help make Mekong travel less precarious.
The remaining US$ 4.4 million will go towards helping Mekong countries, including Vietnam, assess sustainable forms of hydropower that balance environment, social and economic considerations to utilize the renewable energy sources in the region, according to the Mekong body.
The US$10.4 million contribution to both the Navigation and Sustainable Hydropower Programs of the MRC will make Belgium one of the organization’s most significant development partners.
More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for food, transport and economic activity.
The four MRC members are Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Stock company to give away scholarships to 52 university students
The Wall Street Securities has announced its annual scholarships worth VND3-5 million for 52 university students studying finance, banking, and securities.
The scholarship would also be given to students of other faculties in future, a group official said.
This year the scholarships will be awarded at a ceremony organized jointly with the Vietnamese Students ' Central Association at the Cultural Friendship Palace in Hanoi on November 29.
HCM City health inspectors close down fried onion suppliers
Inspectors from the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health have shut down five onion frying units they found operating without food hygiene and safety certificates. When the inspectors checked the five establishments at Tan Phu Trung Commune, Cu Chi District on November 23, they found the five units processing the onions in unhygienic conditions.
The frying was done on the ground next to toilets and the fried onions were dried in washing machines.
The workers also used chemicals to erase the traces of colors in the oil so that it could be used many times.
Each establishment produces 200 to 300 kilograms of fried onion daily and distributes them to many markets around the city.
Four of the units did not even have licenses.
83 percent of laborers leave central region to seek work
More than 83 percent of laborers in the central region move to work in other provinces and foreign countries because of a reduction of jobs in local agricultural areas, heard a conference November 21 in Quang Tri Province's Dong Ha City.
Reasons for migration included limited support policies regarding capital and technology, along with recent natural disasters which left many people homeless.
According to the latest research, of the 83 percent of laborers, 46 percent are farmers and 23 percent are students who drop out of school.
The Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities held the conference on central region migration patterns, with the Hue University of Sciences in association with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
Two arrested in Binh Phuoc with fake currency
Binh Phuoc police on Wednesday formally detained two people to investigate further their involvement in hoarding and circulating fake money.
In the southern province’s Dong Xoai Town not far from Ho Chi Minh City, local police had earlier found fake polymer notes totaling VND12 million (US$678) at a café belonging to Le Tran Manh Duy, one of the detained. The notes were in VND200,000, VND100,000 and VND50,000 dominations and hidden in Duy’s shoe soles and his bedroom.
Duy has released many VND50,000 fake notes to the market, police said.
Also this week, the police caught Lai Hai Tuan, a local resident, carrying fake polymer notes worth VND29.6 million in total.
Tuan said he bought the notes, which were in VND200,000 and VND100,000 denominations, from some people in Hanoi, paying VND12 million for VND40 million worth of fake notes.
"I just snap my fingers and the car's door will open. Or I just think of opening the car's door, and the door opens immediately," says the 51-year-old as he proudly shows off the homemade car, named the Angkor 333-2010.
Onlookers gasp as he demonstrates the trick, and with the fibre-glass vehicle having cost him 5,000 dollars and 19 months of labour he is in no mood to reveal the remote control system behind it.
But as with a handful of other Cambodians who make their own curious cars, he dreams the two-seater will help foster an automobile industry in the country, still poor after decades of conflict.
"I am very excited and proud of this car because many people admire me and keep asking me about how I can make it," he says, adding that it reaches speeds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour.
Kong Pharith, a 48-year-old former maths and physics teacher who has also produced his own car, says an auto industry is about to blossom in Cambodia.
"Our works will be part of a motivating force for the next generation to access new inventions and show the world that Cambodia has an ability to do what you think we cannot," he says.
The inventor, who first came to national attention in 2005 for building a solar-powered bicycle, thinks he has now hit on a truly unique product with his orange, jeep-like vehicle with solar panels on its roof.
Kong Pharith says it took him four months to design and put the final polish on his "tribrid" car which operates on solar energy, electricity and gasoline, hitting speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour with its 2,000 watt motor.
"I'm really happy about my achievement but not very satisfied with it yet," he says, adding that Cambodia's lack of modern technology and materials are a minor obstacle to efficient manufacturing.
The dream of building cars in Cambodia may not be far-fetched. Officials have announced plans for South Korean automaker Hyundai to open a plant in southwestern Cambodia, assembling some 3,000 vehicles per year.
Cambodia did actually assemble cars in a factory during the 1960s, before the country was caught in the maelstrom of the Vietnam War.
During the brief manufacturing run, the car known as the "Angkor" was made from imported parts and domestically-made tyres.
Very basic Cambodian-assembled vehicles also still regularly rumble around the countryside, where approximately 80 percent of the country's 14 million people live.
Farmers often depend on "robot cows", large shop-made open-bed trucks with Chinese or Vietnamese engines, which are used to transport people and rice.
The machines, which generally cost a couple of thousand dollars, also serve as generators or water pumps when they are not heaving along pot-holed rural roads.
But in the capital Phnom Penh, elites and the nascent middle class can often be seen driving expensive imports, which are considered a symbol of status and achievement.
"(Cambodians) put more attention into their cars than the clothes they buy," says Jean Boris Roux, who imports Ford vehicles to Cambodia as the country manager for RM Asia.
"I think it's very important for Cambodians to show the success in their professional life through the vehicles they drive," he adds.
Despite the Cambodian love for cars, Roux and several other analysts say its doubtful proper domestic manufacturing will emerge here soon -- especially since neighbouring Thailand remains Asia's auto assembly giant.
"It's not just about having four walls (for a factory). You need hundreds of companies supplying seats, steering wheels, hoods... This is not going to happen in Cambodia for a number of years," Roux says.
Until then, Nhean Phaloek says he will keep making cars at home.
The Angkor 333-2010 is the third he has built, and his first to talk. When he slams the door a voice out of the dashboard moans: "Why do you close me too strongly?"
"Dozens of local and foreign guests have come and seen my car," Nhean Phaloek says with a smile. "One British man told me that it is the Cambodian James Bond car."
by Ma Guihua, China Features
BEIJING, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Zhao Xianming, a narcotics control liaison officer for Mengla county in southwest China's Yunnan Province, clearly remembered the circumstances of that Saturday.
Around midday July 25, 2009, Zhao received a call from a senior police officer from Phongsaly Province, northern Laos, urging him to stop an international bus traveling from Laos to Mengla.
"I was told that a Laotian woman suspected of trafficking two girls was trying to bypass border check points," recalled Zhao, who speaks fluent Laotian.
The two cousins, aged 14 and 15, and with no identity certificates with them, were excited about the prospects of working at a restaurant in a neighboring county in Laos promised by the Laotian woman, who was married to a Chinese man. It was beyond their wildest dreams that they were actually heading for China.
"Thanks to the timely communication with the Lao side, the two girls were rescued at the border crossing and handed over to the Lao police the same day," said Zhao, who believed that intelligence and information is the most cost-effective way for efficient and speedy rescue.
Mengla is the southmost border county in Yunnan Province. It shares a 677.8-kilometer borderline with the Laos in the south and east, and is separated in the west from Myanmar only by a river. With 46 land crossings, 14 market places for border residents, as well as five motorways to the Laos and Myanmar border, it is regarded a major passageway to Southeast Asian countries.
Residents at the Lao-Chinese border usually share the same origin, custom and are therefore able to speak the same language. Different economic levels at both sides of the border have sparked cross-border migration as well as human trafficking.
During the ten-year since he was on the narcotics control task force under Mengla county public security bureau, Zhao has been involved in rescuing and transferring over ten abducted victims from Laos.
"Most victims are teenage girls from mountainous areas in northern Laos, who were lured by job or marriage opportunities at the other side of the border," said the police officer.
Although economy is the driving factor for cross-border migration, Zhao also cited the difference in gender ratio at the source and destination areas for human trafficking.
As more and more Chinese labors are engaged in helping the locals grow rubber trees and other cash crops to weed out poppy production in Laos, which is part of the notorious Golden Trianglefor drug manufacturing and smuggling, clandestine cross-border match-making services also came into being, Zhao added.
Since 2000, according to Wang Wei, police chief in Mengla, the police have received reports on 31 trafficked victims from Laos, of which 19 were rescued from provinces including Hunan, Shanxi, Henan and Shandong. Some were even trafficked as far as Suzhou in east China's Jiangsu Province.
"Maybe Laos is only a starting point or transit place for humantrafficking. Nonetheless, human trafficking has directly affected social security, it takes bilateral or multi-lateral efforts to address the issue," said Kiengkham Inphengthavong, head of the secretariat of Laos' National Steering Committee on Human Trafficking, under the Ministry of Public Security, during the Laos-China anti-trafficking meeting held in Mengla in mid-October.
A highlight of the joint meeting is the inauguration of a border liaison office for China-Lao anti-trafficking at Mohan landport, about 100 meters from the China-Lao boundary marker.
Compared with human trafficking along China-Myanmar, China-Vietnam border, trafficking along China-Lao border is relatively less serious. However, as the Kunming-Bangkok highway (via Mengla) was open to traffic last year, "we have to brace ourselves for more cases," said Hang Lintao, deputy director at the criminal investigation section, Yunnan Public Security Bureau.
A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons released this February by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that almost 20 percent of all trafficked victims are children. In some parts of the Mekong region, it noted, children are the majority. What's more, sexual exploitation and forced labor are common in human trafficking.
A latest report released by the United Nations Children's Fund titled Child Trafficking in East and Southeast Asia: Reversing the Trend warned that child trafficking still persists in east and southeast Asia.
"Poverty does not cause trafficking. The demand for cheap or exploitable labor, sex with children, adoption outside the legal cannels, women or girls for marriage, all contribute to the trafficking phenomenon," it said.
The liaison office in Mengla is one of a series of offices set up along China's southwest border to fight cross-border human trafficking to the effect of information sharing, investigation, evidence obtaining as well as repatriation and victim transfer.
Over the years, child trafficking within China has almost penetrated most provinces. During the 6-month special anti-trafficking operation this year leading up to mid-October, Chinese police have cracked 1,717 cases, rescuing 2,008 trafficked children. In the meantime, cross-border trafficking, however small in numbers, is also on the rise.
Ever since 2001 when the China office of UNICEF started its pilot project on China-Vietnam cross-border trafficking, it has supported the Ministry of Public Security in setting up border liaison offices in Dongxing, Pingxiang, Jingxi in Guangxi Autonomous Region, and Ruili, Hekou, Longchuan and Mohan in YunnanProvince.
"We have helped organize border visits, training and prevention advocacy for police officers and other stake-holders from both sides of the border," said Wang Daming, child protection specialist with UNICEF-China.
To help Chinese police better communicate with their Vietnamese counterparts as well as trafficking victims, UNICEF-China even facilitated a six-month Vietnamese learning session.
Two ad hoc anti-trafficking operations between Chinese and Vietnamese police in 2005 and 2006 have resulted in the rescue and return of hundreds of victims.
Rehabilitation centers were also established in Dongxing and Ningming in Guangxi, and Kunming in Yunnan, where victims of trafficking were provided with physical counseling before they were transferred back home.
"Trafficked victims used to be regarded as criminal suspects, having crossed borders illegally," said Wang Daming. Now the concept of child protection is placed at the heart of anti-trafficking, as children who have their rights as any other people are entitled to protection and assistance.
He Ye, a Yunnan-based anti-trafficking project manager for Save the Children, an international charity for children, has personally witnessed changes in cross-border trafficking patterns.
Since 2002, the number of Chinese girls being trafficked to Malaysia or Thailand has been on the rise, He said. Meanwhile, girls from the Laos and Vietnam were being trafficked to China.
From 2004 up to this year, said He, Save the Children has rescued 50 Chinese girls from Thailand and Malaysia, with the help of police and the women's federation in Yunnan Province.
Li Ping, director for communications at Save the Children (China), on reviewing the stages of intervention from awareness building to safe migration, poverty alleviation, job creation, to practical skills training, noted that an overall child protection mechanism is vital to anti-trafficking.
"As child trafficking is taking on different forms, such as a shift of boys trafficked for adoption to sexual exploitation, a holistic view of rights protection should be taken on board to address the root cause."
"Human trafficking has no borders," said Kirsten di Martino, chief of Child Protection Section with UNICEF-China. With rapid economic development at the border region, there is increased risk of trafficking as a result of migration, improved transportation routes, making children and women more vulnerable.
Although media figures of cross-border cases appear quite low, she noted, "it is in fact only the tip of the iceberg", as there isn't a good mechanism in place to report and follow any trafficking incidences when they unfold.
Nonetheless, she pledged that UNICEF and other international organizations "are committed to supporting the efforts of countries in preventing, combating human trafficking and protecting victims."
In 2004, six countries sharing the Mekong River -- China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand -- signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
To better coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, the Chinese police have over the years signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its counterparts in Vietnam and Myanmar.
"This ensures a long-term working mechanism for effective cooperation,” said Wang Daming from UNICEF-China, a major facilitator for the MOU.
In late 2007, China unveiled a four-year National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children, mobilizing 30 plus government departments to get involved in the mission. Meanwhile, an anti-trafficking office is set up in the Ministry ofPublic Security.
In May 2009, the Ministry of Public Security launched a DNA database for trafficked or missing children, designating 43 DNA laboratories affiliated to public security bureaus at provincial and city (county) levels to share and compare DNA information and recover children who have been trafficked when they are too young to remember any details.
But for Zhao Xianming, the police officer from Mengla Country, it's crucial to incorporate information relating to cross-border trafficking victims into the national database for trafficking victims.
He also called for a clear legal clarification of trafficking from marriages among border residents and international marriages, with the provision of simple marriage registration services.
"Otherwise, rescue efforts would be pointless and unappreciated if the victims choose to reunite with their 'buyer husbands'."
Editor: Lin Liyu
TINH BIEN, Vietnam — When her husband fell ill with AIDS, doctors at the hospital turned him away, fearing they would catch the virus.
"They told him, 'There's nothing we can do for you. Just go home and wait to die,'" said Do Thi Phuong. So when she too got AIDS, she didn't seek help, fearing that she would also be shunned. Instead, like her husband, she went home to die.
Then she heard about a little AIDS clinic in the Mekong Delta, in a place where the Americans used to train South Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Now, on a regimen of AIDS drugs provided by the U.S., she is getting her strength back.
The clinic at Tinh Bien is one of 55 across Vietnam funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, the initiative that President George W. Bush made a centerpiece of his administration.
As memories of the eight-year war fade, the America that older Vietnamese remember, of bombers, guns and Agent Orange, is now represented to many by places such as Tinh Bien, where 340 HIV patients are getting treatment.
The U.S. has spent more than $300 million fighting AIDS in Vietnam, and is now providing AIDS drugs to more than two-thirds of the 32,000 Vietnamese receiving treatment. At $85 million this year alone, PEPFAR accounts for 80 percent of U.S. humanitarian spending in the country.
The funding pays for treatment, support for patients' families, prevention programs and dispelling the AIDS stigma, which is entrenched in Vietnam.
Just how entrenched was demonstrated recently when a group of HIV-positive schoolchildren living at a PEPFAR-supported compound near Ho Chi Minh City were enrolled at a neighborhood school. They were expelled the next day because parents of other students objected.
"The other kids refused to play with me," said Huyen, 13, who wouldn't give her last name. "They pointed at me and said, 'She has AIDS.'"
Phuong feared the stigma too. She said that for a long time she didn't dare tell anyone she had HIV.
"In the countryside, the only thing people know about AIDS is that it's the 'Disease of the Century.' They're afraid they'll get infected, so they shun you," she said.
Then she saw a report on TV that life-extending AIDs drugs were available in Vietnam. But the doctors she asked didn't know where to find them.
Finally, outreach workers learned from a friend of hers that she was ill and invited her to the Tinh Bien clinic.
"The doctors and staff here treat me like I'm just another patient," said Phuong, 30.
At the Mai Hoa Center, home to the children who were turned away from school, a memorial display at the center holds rows of urns with remains of former residents.
Until the U.S. began providing AIDS drugs, "We used to have one or two funerals a day. Now we only have one a month," said Tran Van Nhan, a center volunteer.
PEPFAR has been criticized for its paperwork, which is regarded as onerous, and for the U.S. ban on spending the money to dispense clean needles and syringes, on the grounds that they might foster drug abuse. Infected needles are the main transmitter of HIV nationally in Vietnam.
Under the Obama administration, PEPFAR is reconsidering this approach, according to Steve Mills, who directs the Vietnam operations of Family Health International. The North Carolina-based nonprofit organization runs the Tinh Bien clinic and other programs in Vietnam and Cambodia, funded through USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Some question why Vietnam, whose 0.51 percent AIDS prevalence falls short of a generalized epidemic, was chosen. Most of the 15 PEPFAR countries are in Africa, and Vietnam is the only Asian one.
But for Mills, working in Vietnam is special.
"I'm continually amazed that the places we are working in used to be battlegrounds," he said.
Mills has lived in Hanoi for five years and has adopted a Vietnamese boy.
"As an American who remembers the war, I'm awed that Vietnamese are so welcoming of us, and I'm happy we're back now supporting the development of their health system," he said.
Tinh Bien is in An Giang, a poor province where some women supplement their income as prostitutes in the casinos and brothels just across the frontier in Cambodia. That makes commercial sex, rather than needles, the main transmitter of AIDS in the province.
"These drugs are making a very big difference," said Mai Hoang Anh, the top AIDS official in An Giang province.
"They allow people to stay active for many years, just like Magic Johnson," the American basketball ace who announced 18 years ago that he had AIDS and is still looking healthy at age 50.
On a recent day, Chau Thi Anh Loan, 23, sat on a bench outside the clinic, holding a one-month-old baby bundled in a green blanket. She caught the virus from her husband, a heroin user who shared needles with friends and is now dead.
Staffers at Tinh Bien make sure she takes her medicine on schedule and feeds her baby with formula milk.
"This will prevent me from passing HIV to my son," said Loan, who received medicine that helps prevent mother-to-child transmission. "The doctors tell me he's healthy."
PHNOM PENH — A last-minute bid for release by Khmer Rouge jail chief Duch has underscored deep rifts between foreign and Cambodian staff that threaten the UN-backed court, officials and diplomats said.
Duch's defence strategy imploded on the final day of his trial Friday, when he suddenly demanded his release after months of admitting responsibility. Then his international and local lawyers put forward opposing arguments.
French counsel Francois Roux asked judges to consider Duch's remorse in a bid to reduce a possible 40-year sentence. But his Cambodian colleague Kar Savuth said the court was not competent to hold the trial.
"There are, in Cambodia, a number of people who do not want this court," Roux told AFP, hinting that the strategy of his colleague, the lawyer of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, was motivated by political objectives.
The same criticism has been heard from prosecutors, judges and diplomats since the tribunal was created in 2006 as a final chance for justice for victims of the communist regime that killed up to two million people in the late 1970s.
Cambodian and international prosecutors have openly disagreed whether the court should pursue more suspects, while the Cambodian investigating judge has refused to summon high-ranking government officials as witnesses.
Hun Sen himself said in March that he would "prefer for this court to fail" than see further prosecutions that could stoke civil strife.
Asked recently about the possibility of opening further cases, a senior government official told AFP: "These are decisions taken by people who understand nothing about Cambodia."
The disharmony predated the court's creation, recalls David Scheffer, a former US ambassador who took part in the lengthy negotiations to set up the tribunal.
"This is what's unique about it. But that does not mean it is not workable. We just need to accept that there is a certain amount of discord," Scheffer said.
The issues run deep. How many former Khmer Rouge cadres should be brought to trial? Who should the witnesses be?
And how to attribute blame when several senior regime members are back in positions of influence -- not least Hun Sen, who defected in 1977 to join Vietnamese-backed anti-Khmer Rouge forces?
"The former Khmer Rouge people are not only in the jungle. They are in power now," said Thun Saray, the head of ADHOC, a Cambodian human rights organisation.
Unlike other international tribunals, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia functions under local laws, with the United Nations playing only a supporting role.
"The UN are invited here, we have a very weak mandate," said Knut Rosandhaug, the court's deputy director for administration.
"We have a parallel structure with a dual management. There are two bosses in each and every office," the Norwegian said.
"This is OK if the two brains think the same but if they don't, it can get sometimes complicated to make it work."
The 67-year-old Duch -- a former mathematics teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav -- is accused of overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people at a notorious torture centre. He is set to be sentenced by March 2010.
In its second case, the court is due to deal with four detained senior Khmer Rouge leaders including the regime's "Brother Number Two", Nuon Chea. All protest their innocence and their lawyers are gearing up to fight hard.
More than ever, said Scheffer, it is the Cambodians who are in control.
"It's up to the Cambodian society to decide who to reach beyond these (five) people," he said, referring to Duch and the other four facing trial.
Further cases involving five other suspects who are under preliminary investigation have barely begun.
Kar Savuth told the court last week that "only the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime and those most responsible would be brought to trial".
He then reeled off a list of 14 people, 11 of whom are dead.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
PHNOM PENH, Nov 28 (IPS) - "I would ask the chamber to release me. Thank you."
Those were the final words spoken by 67-year-old war crimes defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as ‘Comrade Duch’, on Friday at the end of his 77-day trial in front of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
To anyone following the trial, his request was staggering—it represented a complete change of defence direction at the last minute. Additionally, the legal reasoning behind the request was fatally flawed.
It stunned the court, the audience and trial observers: Here was a man, whose defence strategy had been built on contrition and accepting responsibility for his role in the deaths of thousands, telling the court in its final hour that international law does not apply and that he should not be on trial in the first place. Duch’s request provided an extraordinary conclusion to the trial of the Khmer Rouge’s former chief executioner, the first person to be brought to book in an international court for complicity in the deaths of some two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
Sentence will be handed down early next year, with a maximum term of life imprisonment since there is no death penalty in Cambodia. Duch’s closing words demolished a carefully crafted defence that was built up over nine months.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of Duch’s guilt, the defence’s argument was that Duch accepted responsibility for the deaths of more than 12,000 people at S-21 prison, and in return for showing contrition and cooperation would receive a reduction in jail time.
But if the week started well for the defence, it began to unravel on Wednesday. Duch’s final statement on Friday came two days after a rambling and legally flawed argument by his Cambodian defence lawyer, Kar Savuth, that the court had no jurisdiction over his client and that international criminal law did not apply since, among other things, Duch had only been following orders.
Other than the obvious legal flaws in Kar Savuth’s arguments, his pleading raised eyebrows, since it ran entirely counter to the nine-months-old argument put forward by Duch’s international lawyer, Francois Roux. It revealed a significant split in the defence.
And if the prosecution was understandably outraged by the defence tactic—it accused the defence of "riding two horses"—most other people were confused. As Wednesday closed, few were quite able to work out what was going on. On reflection Kar Savuth’s argument led the way for him to undermine the nine months of strategy put together by his defence teammate Roux—that of accepting responsibility, showing contrition and claiming to be following orders for fear of his own life.
Roux was as taken aback by the last-minute change in plea as everyone else. He told the court on Thursday that Kar Savuth’s pleading the previous day had necessitated a complete rewriting of Roux’s own approach. Roux told the court the two men had "disagreements" over the approach to the case. He went on to say that "of course" Duch was guilty, and that it was clear that international law applied.
Roux’s lack of awareness may seem unlikely, but is easily explained by the arrangement of the ECCC. As a joint United Nations-Cambodian body, the court has a dual structure in which every organ has an international component and a Cambodian one.
That is the case for the defence too—Duch has two lead lawyers: Roux on the international side, and Kar Savuth as his Cambodian counsel. Both lawyers have equal standing with the court, a design that has been shown up in the trial’s final week.
Roux knew from the start that Duch had no chance of trying to convince the court that he was not guilty, since his signature was on thousands of executions, he had run S-21, and he had admitted responsibility. It made the task of the defence one of mitigation. In a court that has no death penalty, the most severe sanction would be life in jail.
Roux reasoned that an effectively guilty plea, contrition and expressions of remorse were his 67-year-old client’s best chance of one day living as a free man. Throughout the 77 days of tribunal hearings, that was the defence Roux painstakingly assembled. And when the prosecution and lawyers for civil parties—mainly the relatives of those who were murdered on Duch’s instruction at S-21—charged that Duch was simply shedding crocodile tears and was not genuinely sorry, Roux railed at them, saying they were not giving his client a chance "to regain his humanity."
As the trial drew to a close this week, the defence was widely seen to have done a good job for its client. The prosecution called for a 45-year sentence, with five years off for time already served and for showing some contrition and limited cooperation with the court.
For Francois Roux, this last defence case of his professional life seemed to be heading to a predictable end: Duch effectively pleads guilty and benefits from a reduction in sentence.
That changed on Wednesday afternoon, when Kar Savuth stood up and with Duch’s blessing, told the court that his client should not even be on trial.
Quite why Duch chose to go along with a strategy that could well see him go to jail for the full 40-year term is unclear. After all, Roux’s approach offered his best chance that he could get somewhat less than that.
But whatever the reasons—and we may never know what they are—many Cambodians and the civil parties themselves were less surprised. Roux had asked the court to believe that a man—even one such as Duch—has the capacity to change and to return to humanity.
In Duch’s case that capacity appears lacking. (END/2009)
Date: 28 Nov 2009
Vientiane, Lao PDR/Hua Hin, Thailand
Hydropower, climate change, fisheries and flood management loom large for the Mekong Basin, with ministers from four countries meeting in Hua Hin this week to discuss strategies for trans-boundary river management.
The annual meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council was an opportunity for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to share views and discuss the future direction of the river basin, as well as how Member Countries can assist each other in addressing the challenges posed by increasing pressures on water resources.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, H.E. Mr. Suwit Khunkitti, addressing the meeting stressed the need for concerted action on a range of environmental issues.
"Environmental security is high on the agenda for all the Mekong countries," he said. "For example, we all stand to lose if we do nothing to adapt to and mitigate the threat of climate change or develop water resources infrastructure without ensuring that the extensive use of existing benefits of the river such as fisheries are protected. Likewise, we all collectively stand to gain from the sustainable use of water resources. The key principle here is that sustainability cannot be achieved without cooperation between Member Countries."
Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam are working together on a basin-wide "Integrated Water Resource Management" strategy, which will have a direct influence on the way in which each country manages such activities as irrigation, hydropower and other aspects of water-use over coming years. Also on the agenda was a five year strategic plan for the organisation.
"The increasing demand for hydropower, the potential impact of climate change and the expanding population of the region will add to the pressure on water resources," said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC. "However, if the river's resources are managed in a sustainable way, through regional cooperation and integration, they can be a great tool for poverty alleviation and development. The MRC is a unique example of how neighbouring countries can use natural resources to foster growth and prosperity."
The Ministers also discussed the potential impact on the environment, fisheries and people's livelihoods of eleven hydropower dams that are proposed by developers for the mainstream Mekong and how the four member Countries can work to balance these impacts against their economic and poverty alleviation priorities.
The MRC has recently begun a Strategic Environmental Assessment into these proposals and the Government of China has agreed to take part in this study, which will give a full picture of the consequences of hydropower in the entire basin.
Development Partners to the MRC were also present at the meeting – with the French government providing 500,000 Euros to the MRC's environmental management programme and the Belgian government announcing 7 million Euros worth of support to the MRC's navigation programme and initiative on sustainable hydropower.
Notes to editors:
The MRC Council's role is to make policy decisions and provide other necessary guidance concerning the promotion, support, co-operation and co-ordination of joint activities and programmes in order to implement the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin and it has overall governance of the MRC. The 1995 Agreement between the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam came about as the four countries saw a common interest in jointly managing their shared water resources and developing the economic potential of the river.
The MRC Secretariat, which is based in Vientiane, is the operational arm of the MRC and provides technical and administrative services to the Council as well as the MRC Joint Committee. Each member country also has a National Mekong Committee that coordinates MRC programmes at the national level and provides links between the MRC Secretariat and the national ministries and line agencies.
The MRC is responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin. In dealing with these challenges, it looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society on these challenges.
For more information, contact:
Khy Lim, MRCS Communication Officer; Tel: +(856 20)552 8726 +(856 20)552 8726 ;
Source: Bangkok Post
The diplomatic dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has been eased after the latter allowed the mum of jailed “Thai spy” to meet her son at Prey Sar prison, Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samutrak said on Saturday.
Mr Buranat said the political movements by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra received no responded from the armed forces of the two countries.
He said Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh had on Friday clearly said that the legal trial case against the arrested Thai engineer, Sivarak Chutipong, had nothing to do with politics.
Thai and Cambodian defence ministers vow to keep peace. They agree that a recent diplomatic row between two countries will not lead to conflict on border.
The Thai-Cambodia general border committee meeting in Pattaya concluded on Friday that only peaceful means should be used in settling border disputes between the two countries.
BANGKOK, Nov 28 (TNA) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that the Cambodian government misunderstood the Thai government might not extend a Bt1.4 billion loan to finance upgrading a road between the Thai border province of Surin and the Cambodian border province of Siem Reap and had decided to preemptively cancel the loan.
Mr Abhisit told journalists that the decision by the Cambodian government to cancel the loan, approved by his government in August to be used to upgrade the road from Surin to Siem Reap, resulted from a misunderstanding as Cambodia thought that Thailand would terminate the project and informed Bangkok that it had decided to cancel the loan.
There wouldn’t be a problem if both sides have a chance to talk with each other, he said. So far the Thai cabinet has not decided to alter the plan to extend the loan and if talks are held, the problem could be solved.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said in Phnom Penh Friday that his country did not need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own.
Diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring countries have turned sour after Phnom Penh appointed ousted, fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra economic advisor to the government, followed by a visit by Mr Thaksin and Cambodia’s rejection of a formal request by Thailand to extradite him.
Each country has also recalled their ambassadors while the Cambodian government is detaining Siwarak Chutipong, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), charging him with espionage in acquiring secret information considered to affect Cambodia's national security by releasing Mr. Thaksin’s flight schedule to a Thai embassy official in Phnom Penh.
Mr Siwarak’s mother was able to visit her detained son at a prison in Phnom Penh for the first time on Friday and plans to travel to Cambodia again on December 7 to raise his morale when he appears at a court for the first hearing which is due to start December 8.
His Cambodian lawyer Kao Soupha filed a bail request last Monday but the court has not yet acted on the request. Mr Siwarak has been imprisoned since November 12. (TNA)
Students look through Cambodia’s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history, which was issued to them earlier this week. Jared Ferrie for The National
PHNOM PENH // The 57-year-old teacher stood in a conference room packed with colleagues and observers and articulated what is perhaps the simplest yet most perplexing question about the regime that killed a quarter of its own population.
CAMBODIA NOV2009 Students at Hun Sen high school in Ta Khmeo City hold up Cambodia´s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history after receiving them during a distribution ceremony Jared Ferrie for The National
“Why did they behave the way they did?” asked Nguon Sophal, who teaches high school in the western city of Battambang.
She was one of 180 teachers attending a week-long training programme to acquaint themselves with the first Cambodian textbook to discuss the Khmer Rouge in detail. This week, they will fan out across the country to instruct about 3,000 more teachers who will finally begin educating young Cambodians about the horror their elders lived through three decades ago.
CAMBODIA NOV2009 Students at Hun Sen high school in Ta Khmeo City hold up Cambodia´s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history after receiving them during a distribution ceremony Jared Ferrie for The National
It was a professional question for Ms Nguon, but it was also a deeply personal one. In an interview afterward, she said her husband, child, father and sister were all taken away and killed for no discernible reason.
From his seat on an elevated panel at the front of the room, David Chandler, who first arrived in Cambodia as a US diplomat in 1960 and has written four books about the country and the Khmer Rouge, looked straight at her, thought about it for a few moments, and replied: “That is a very good question.”
The Khmer Rouge relied at different stages on support from Vietnam and China, as well as from the United States and its allies – odd bedfellows considering that the US dropped half a million tonnes of bombs on Cambodia while waging war against Vietnam, which then fended off a brief invasion from China in 1979.
Haunting questions about the Khmer Rouge live on. Why did they turn the country into a vast torture camp where as many as two million people starved to death or were executed on the basis of paranoid conspiracies? Why did they kill doctors? Engineers? Why did they smash babies against trees?
“If one of your students asks, ‘Why did the Khmer Rouge behave this way?’ it’s unfair to say you don’t know,” said Mr Chandler, who now teaches at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
The challenge of explaining this complex and confounding history fell to one Khaboly Dy, the textbook’s author who was born two years after the Khmer Rouge were vanquished to the jungles in 1979 by invading Vietnamese and Cambodian troops.
Previous history books issued by Cambodia’s Vietnamese-backed government boiled the Khmer Rouge down into five lines. Even those references were removed in the early 1990s when Khmer Rouge leaders signed peace accords, promising to end their guerrilla war.
As a high school student during the 1990s, Sayana Ser said she understood very little about her parents’ and grandparents’ experiences under the Khmer Rouge’s four-year rule.
Now 28, she is helping co-ordinate the teachers’ training programme that is run by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DCCAM), which produced the book. She began volunteering at DCCAM after she realised that all she knew about the Khmer Rouge were tales overheard from her mother talking with friends. The stories sounded so awful that she only half believed them.
“I heard them talking, but they didn’t tell their children,” she said. “I thought it was fiction, used to make us more careful.”
Poring over documents at DCCAM, she discovered that the stories of starving people foraging for leaves to eat, of torture, mass executions and rampant disease were true.
“The survivors want to us to know we won’t forget their suffering,” Ms Sayana said.
Khaboly Dy, the author, had another reason for writing the book: To “guide students away from anger, revenge, hatred”.
Rather than going into a detailed history of the Khmer Rouge, Mr Dy said he laid out a foundation that he hopes will encourage interested students to do further research on their own.
The textbook avoids in-depth political analysis of the movement. Instead it focuses on events. It names only the most senior leaders of the regime, including those now awaiting trial at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal. “Lots of people say the history of the Khmer Rouge is politically sensitive,” Mr Dy aid.
Many former Khmer Rouge members are now high-ranking officials, such as Keat Chhon, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Heng Samrin, the president of the National Assembly. The presence of former Khmer Rouge members in today’s government is no doubt one reason that Cambodia has been reluctant to educate its youth about the Khmer Rouge. But the textbook “doesn’t label too many individuals”, Mr Dy said, adding that he received “sincere support” from the education ministry.
On Wednesday, the ministry’s undersecretary of state, Tun Sa-Im, was on hand to help distribute the new textbooks to students in Ta Khmeo City, about one hour’s drive from Phnom Penh. A token number of students lined up and bowed politely to Ms Tun before receiving the textbook. Then the 180 teachers passed the rest of the books out to 3,000 students who were seated neatly in rows.
In their white uniforms, in the shade of large trees, many students eagerly flipped through the pages, examining the black and white photos, sometimes turning to comment to their schoolmates. A microphone was set up for some of them to ask questions. “Why did the Khmer Rouge kill people?” asked Sa Vattana.
Mr Dy explained that the Khmer Rouge leadership believed that their country was infested by spies and enemies of the revolution who needed to be eliminated.
“For more information go to chapter five,” he added.
The fishing ban against Thai fishermen by Cambodia's Koh Kong authorities last week might be seen as the start of a new series of political conflicts between the Thai and Cambodian governments.
A few medium-sized fishing trawlers lie at anchor in a Phuket port.
But experts from the local industry disagree, seeing the move as conventional practice for the Koh Kong authorities, without any political motivation.
As a way to raise concession fees, the island's authorities are trying to limit fishing activities, with reports already coming that officials are looking to raise the monthly concession fee from 60,000 baht to 80,000 baht per trawler. This could push the total expenses for fishing in these waters to more than 100,000 baht.
Part of the problem is depleted fish stocks in Thai waters as a result of rampant violations of regulations, leading many Thai fishermen to stray into the seas off neighbouring countries.
Another factor is the international reputation of Thai fishermen. Other countries think twice before allowing Thai fishing vessels to enter their waters for fear of losing their stocks to overfishing.
Reports that Thai fishermen have been caught encroaching in foreign waters have appeared quite often, in line with strong fishery exports that have brought revenue of more than 120 billion baht to the country, representing more than 13% of revenues earned by the agricultural sector.
"Overfishing and the use of vast nets and highly advanced tools has depleted the fish stocks in the Gulf of Thailand over the past decades, forcing Thai fishermen to explore new sources," said Mana Sripitak, chairman of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand.
Mana: Thai waters hit by overfishing
But as long as demand for seafood continues to grow, Thai fishermen have to head into the waters of neighbouring countries and sometimes as far away as the Middle East and Africa, he said.
He estimates that more than 800 big trawlers are now engaged in industrial-scale fishing in the waters of many countries, ranging from Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Malaysia to India, to Somalia and Benin in Africa.
More than 200 big trawlers are engaged in fishing joint ventures in Indonesia, 100 are in Malaysian waters, up to 300 are in Burma, and more than 100 trawlers are near Cambodia.
Some of these big trawlers with capacities of more than 100 tonnes are also fishing in the Middle East. These trawlers carry either the Thai flag or flags of partner countries to fish legally with operating licences and permissions from local authorities.
They catch a variety of marine produce such as tuna, Indo-Pacific mackerel, sardines and anchovies to meet the strong demand in markets such as Japan, Europe and the Middle East.
Most of the ships' catch is loaded and processed on the carriers, which are equipped with processing and cold-storage facilities, before being unloaded at the buying ports or brought back to Thailand, said Mr Mana.
In addition to overseas fishery operations, the Fisheries Department estimates that more than 5,000 commercial trawlers are fishing in local waters alongside small fishing boats, which help bring the total volume of marine fish being caught to 4 million tonnes a year.
But Mr Mana said the fishery volume has declined every year in line with the falling number of commercial boats, which have dropped from about 10,000 a few years ago.
The dwindling global fish supply could provoke international disputes unless the government enforces the law efficiently to ban the use of improper tools, while promoting sustainable fishery and improving the productivity of the Gulf of Thailand.
Banning fishing during the hatching season is essential, as is the promotion of more farming to help restore falling fish stock, he said.
Normally, the department bans fishing activity during the hatchery season from March to July but many fishermen have violated the ban.
In Japan, where raw fish is a popular food, falling marine production is also a serious problem.
The Japanese government has had to increase the fish supply by promoting more fish farming and releasing mature fish into the sea, he said.
The method not only increases fish stocks but also represents social responsibility, Mr Mana added.
In Thailand, Mr Mana says the department has increased crab output in the same way by processing only male crabs for local and export markets.
But measures seen as only temporary relief28/11/2009
Vietnam's decision to devalue its currency by 5% this week is likely to have a major impact on neighbouring countries, an expert on the country said.
"It is very attractive destination for investments and now it has just made itself more attractive," noted Wittaya Supatanakul, a retired general manager of Bangkok Bank's Vietnam office and now adviser to the Board of Investment's CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) projects.
Vietnam, one of the main competitors of Thailand, on Wednesday announced that it was devaluing its currency and raising interest rates.
Vietnam's central bank said the devaluation and the increase in the policy interest rate by 100 basis points to 8% was necessary to relieve the pressure on the dong and protect foreign reserves.
The State Bank of Vietnam devalued the dong by 5.4%, effective on Thursday, resetting the US dollar reference rate to 17,961 dong from its current level of 17,034 dong.
"This is not good news for Thailand, as there are various sectors in which Thailand is a direct competitor to Vietnam; namely, the garment, textile and footwear industries," Mr Wittaya said.
Other sectors such as agriculture and food processing could be hurt as well because Thailand and Vietnam compete in the global market for exports.
Santi Vilassakdanont, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said Thailand's exports could be hurt, especially rice, in which Vietnam is running neck-and-neck with Thailand to become the world's largest exporter.
He said that foreign investors may also turn to Vietnam instead of Thailand since costs would be cheaper, he said.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, however, disagreed, saying that the dong devaluation would not lead to Thailand changing its monetary policy as the impacts were going to be very limited.
He explained that Thai goods were of higher quality and are therefore less susceptible to potential impacts. Citing a similar move by the Vietnamese authorities in 2008, Mr Korn said Thai exports were barely affected.
Mr Wittaya said the impacts on rice and marine products would be very limited as rice prices are now determined by global demand and the marine products Vietnam is exporting serve the lower end of the market, although some of the Thai exports compete in this segment.
Despite the devaluation news, latest reports suggest that the dong was trading at between 19,600 and 19,800 to the US dollar.
The central bank also narrowed the trading band of the dollar against the dong to 3% from 5%. The move is Vietnam's third devaluation in two years.
Apart from this, the central bank will lift its benchmark interest rate to 8% from 7% from Dec 1.
"This move to raise the rates is going to have an impact on Vietnam but not too much as businesses there are already enjoying a 4% interest-rate subsidy from the government. This simply means the subsidy falls to 3%, and therefore the overall impact is minimal," Mr Wittaya said.
He added that the 4% subsidy was set to be halved to 2% next year.
Hanoi is offering the subsidy as part of the stimulus package to keep the economic growth going during the recent global financial crisis.
Yet economists pointed out that the new measures are likely to be only a temporary relief for the country.
"The SBV's (State Bank of Vietnam) moves may work temporarily, but as we have noted previously, inflation and the trade deficit are on the rise again, and the fiscal deficit and lack of institutional capacity are serious concerns," Matt Hildebrandt, an economist for JP Morgan said in a note to clients.
"Thus, even if these moves bring the official and unofficial dong rates closer together temporarily over the medium term, they will likely diverge again unless the government can effectively address the deterioration in the macroeconomic environment."
This move reflects the central bank's continued attempt to balance several economic objectives at once amid a weak policy framework and deteriorating economic fundamentals. The devaluation is aimed at making exports cheaper to support growth, reduce the trade deficit, and slow the pace of foreign exchange reserve losses, now reportedly down to US$16 billion from around $23 billion at the beginning of the year, he said.
The rise in the policy rate is aimed at restraining inflation, which just rose to 4.4% year-on-year in November, and slowing credit growth, which was already up 33% year-to-date in October compared to the full-year target of 30% in 2009.
The SBV seems to believe that by weakening the dong to a level closer to the unofficial rate, a more market-determined rate of around 20,000, tightening the band to 3% from 5% to show commitment to this new midpoint, and increasing domestic rates to support the currency at its new level, pressure on the dong to depreciate will diminish.
The interest-rate increase was its first move since lowering the base rate to 7% (from 8.5%) in January, and it makes the SBV the first central bank in emerging market Asia to lift interest rates.
"We expect inflation to rise further to around 10% year-on-year by mid-year, which will likely provoke further monetary tightening by the SBV in the first half of next year," Mr Hildebrandt said.
PHNOM PENH : The mother of a jailed Thai engineer facing a spying charge has made an emotional appeal to the Cambodian government to free her son from prison.
I hope the Cambodian government will give justice and mercy to my son. I want him to have freedom as quickly as possible. - SIMARAK NA NAKHONPHANOM MOTHEROF DETAINED THAI ENGINEER
"I hope the Cambodian government will give justice and mercy to my son. I want him to have freedom as quickly as possible," Simarak na Nakhon Phanom said yesterday, holding back tears.
She made the appeal after a one-hour meeting with her son Sivarak Chutipong at Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It was the first time they had met since the Cambodian Air Traffic Services official was arrested by Cambodian authorities on Nov 12.
Her youngest son Pongsiri Chutipong accompanied her to the meeting.
"We, three people, could not hold back our tears. We cried when we met and hugged together," she said.
Mrs Simarak said her son was still in good spirits and was treated well by prison warders.
"He did not complain about anything in his life at the prison. He only said he's still waiting for his release as quickly as possible," Mrs Simarak quoted her son as saying.
"I beg both the Thai and Cambodian governments to help my son, please," she said, bowed her head, and made a wai.
Mrs Simarak said she was extremely happy and felt relieved to know that her son was still healthy.
Simarak na Nakhon Phanom (above left) holds back tears as she appealed yesterday for the release of her son, Sivarak Chutipong, who is being detained on spying charges at Prey Sar prison (above) in Phnom Penh. PHOTOS BY TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Mr Sivarak, who has worked in Phnom Penh for eight years, was charged with supplying classified information on fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's return flight from Phnom Penh to Dubai to a Thai diplomat.
Mr Sivarak and the Foreign Ministry have denied the charge.
Mrs Simarak protested her son's innocence, saying "I believe my son never did this wrong thing nor caused trouble for others."
The Cambodian court will begin the first hearing into Mr Sivarak's case on Dec 8. His Cambodian lawyer Kao Soupha filed a bail request last Monday but the court has yet to make a decision.
Mrs Simarak returned to Bangkok yesterday but will go back to Phnom Penh on Dec 8 to attend the first hearing.
Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been strained since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser to his government and criticised the Thai judicial system over Thaksin's legal cases.
The two countries have downgraded diplomatic relations. Thailand has also scrapped a memorandum of understanding on attempts to define their overlapping territorial waters and jointly explore gas and oil in the Gulf of Thailand, and has frozen a 1.4 billion baht loan to upgrade a road from Surin province to the Cambodian province of Seam Reap. The termination of the MoU still needs parliamentary approval.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday the Cambodian government had told Thailand it was cancelling the loan.
Cambodia did not need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own, he said.
Former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai on Thursday urged the government to start talking with Phnom Penh to get relations back to normal.
But Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya rejected the suggestion yesterday and insisted on the Thai position that attempts to normalise ties must come from Cambodia.
Nationalism is obstructing attempts by Southeast Asian countries to turn the region into one community, experts say
Surachart Bamrungsuk, of Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science, said yesterday that the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple was due to Thailand's bias and ignorance of regional history.
"The Hague verdict is crystal clear that the temple belongs to Cambodia. And there should be no point trying to digress that the land underneath belongs to Thailand. The case is closed in court but it's still hanging and haunting our minds," said Mr Surachart.
He was speaking at a seminar on "Nation States and their Borders: Conflicts and Resolutions," jointly organised by the Foundation for the Promotion of Social Science and Humanities Textbooks Project, Toyota Motor (Thailand) and the Toyota Foundation.
The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia.
Ties between Thailand and Cambodia became strained last year after Bangkok withdrew its support for Cambodia to unilaterally list the temple as a World Heritage site.
The conflict has stirred up nationalism among many Thais who believed the court verdict could be appealed.
A new spat between the two countries broke out after former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Cambodian leader also criticised the Thai judicial process against Thaksin.
Sittha Lertphaiboonsiri, Thammasat University's special lecturer on Southeast Asian studies, cited the conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia as an example of attempts to solve bilateral problems.
The two countries ended their dispute over Sipadan and Ligitan islands in 2002 by accepting the verdict of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The court ruled that the two islands belonged to Malaysia.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan admitted problems between Thailand and its neighbours were inherited from a legacy of colonial disputes over boundaries.
He said Asean also needed to end the divisions among its 10 members to become one community by 2015.
"We need to move to that level so the Asean community can be based on the three pillars of politics and security, economic and socio-cultural bases," he said.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Source: Bangkok Post
The mother and brother of the Thai engineer arrested in Cambodia on spying charges, Sivarak Chutipong, flew to Cambodia on Friday morning to visit him in jail.
Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom said before leaving she was so excited at the prospect of seeing her son that she had not been able to sleep properly the last few nights. She would tell him to be patient because he would be soon be freed.
Mr Sivarak is being detained at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh. Mr Sivarak's younger brother, Phongsuree, accompanied his mother on the visit.
They were scheduled to meet him about 2pm.
Mr Sivarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Service, a Thai company, was arrested on charges of supplying state secrets - details of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule - to the Thai embassy when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh earlier this month.
Deputy director-general of the Consul Department Mathurapojjana Ittharong said the family had been allowed a 30 minute visit starting at 2pm. They would leave Phnom Penh for Bangkok around 10pm.
Mr Sivarak has applied for release on bail. The Cambodian court is expected to announce its decision on Dec 8.
The defence ministers of both Thailand and Cambodia on Friday agreed not to let the diplomatic row between the two countries sparked by the appointment of Thaksin as a political adviser to the government and personal adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen lead to the deepening of the border conflict.
"Thai and Cambodian armed forces will support every mechanism between the two countries to improve ties," Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters after a meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee in Pattaya.
"The highest goal will be the safety of the public and sustainable peace at the border," he said, adding that troops from the two sides have a "peaceful relationship".
Cambodian Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh told the press conference that Cambodia would not do anything that would affect the lives of the people of the two countries.
"We will avoid any action that would lead to a conflict between the two countries," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban brushed aside former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's call for the government to initiate talks with Cambodia to normalise diplomatic relations.
Mr Surakiart made the suggestion during a seminar on Thai-Cambodian relations at Chulalongkorn University on Thursday. He also said the Thai-Cambodian conflict should be raised for discussion in the Asean forum.
Mr Suthep said the conflict was between two counries and it should not be made a problem for Asean.
"It is not that we fear it would be a loss of face. It is a difference of thinking. Mr Surakiart may have his own thoughts on the matter, but the government thinks a problem between two countries should not be taken to Asean or a higher level," Mr Suthep said.
It would take some time before the two countries could reach a good understanding. As long as the core cause of the conflict remains unchanged it would be difficult to hold talks, he said.
He also said the conflict between the two countries was limited to a diplomatic disagreement, while military relations remained intact. Soldiers of the two countries had been in good communication to prevent tensions along the border, he added.
"We neighbours may have a quarrel, but that should not be allowed to develop to fighting. We have to maintain peace," Mr Suthep said.
Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the Thai-Cambodian border committee meetings would proceed as normal and there would not be a border closure because it would affect the lives of people living along both sides of the border.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said dispute between Thailand and Phnom Penh will continue to exist as long as Thaksin is Cambodia's economic adviser.
Mr Kasit was responding to questions about the diplomatic row could be settled.
"Thaksin is the problem," he said.
He insisted that the Foreign Ministry would not initiate talks with Cambodia, as former foreign minister Surahiart Sthirathai has suggested, or ask it to strip Thaksin of his advisory posts.
"What should be done has been done," Mr Kasit said.
As a Thai citizen, Mr Surakiart was entitled to voice his opinion, and the government welcomed suggestions, he said.
(Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia are embroiled in a diplomatic stand-off over the appointment of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, on the run from a graft conviction, as an adviser to the Cambodian government.
Rivalry between the two neighbors dates back centuries and tensions are never far from the surface. But ties have sunk to their lowest in almost seven years, with both sides recalling their ambassadors and freezing agreements.
Their defense ministers met on Friday, saying military ties were strong and there was no risk of conflict [ID:nBKK529850]. But tensions remain high on the heavily armed border.
WHAT CAUSED THE LATEST FLARE-UP?
The Thai government sees Thaksin's new job as a slap in the face, but what seems to have irked Bangkok so much is Cambodia's refusal to extradite him, should a request be made, using the argument that his graft conviction was politically motivated.
That is seen as an attack on Thailand's judicial system.
There are other reasons, however. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has had enough trouble from the self-exiled Thaksin as it is, and the prospect of him wielding his sizable influence from across the border could hamper his efforts to bring stability to his deeply polarized country.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF TENSIONS?
There is no love lost between the two countries. Cambodia's Khmer Empire, dating back to the ninth century, was once the dominant power in the region and ruled over much of modern Thailand from its Angkor Wat complex, prompting many rebellions.
A big source of tension is Preah Vihear, an 11th century temple straddling their disputed border. Although an international court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, it is still the source of nationalist squabbles that have led to deadly border skirmishes.
As recently as September, Cambodia accused Thai soldiers of burning a boy alive after shooting at villagers in the area.
Diplomatic ties were severed in 2003 for almost three months after Cambodians went on the rampage in Phnom Penh, torching the Thai embassy and vandalizing Thai businesses over an unsubstantiated rumor that a famous Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.
ARE TENSIONS GETTING WORSE?
Following Thaksin's departure from Cambodia on November 14, officials on both sides of the border have been more measured in their comments.
Thailand held back on plans to freeze low-interest loans to Cambodia and welcomed access to a Thai national detained in Cambodia charged with spying. The scheduled meeting between Thai and Cambodia defense ministers in Pattaya this week was not postponed as earlier expected.Defense ministers are discussing broad security and joint development-related issues. They did not make any commitment to withdraw troops from disputed land surrounding Preah Vihear temple, a move that would require parliamentary approval in Thailand.
SHOULD INVESTORS IN CAMBODIA BE ALARMED?
Not yet. Cambodia's economy depends heavily on China, Japan and South Korea, and very little on Thailand, which in turn relies on its neighbor for just 0.05 percent of total imports.
Despite endemic corruption and various internal problems, investors are still drawn to Cambodia and it is unlikely the latest tit-for-tat row with Thailand will change anything.
Providing the border remains open and peace prevails, it will not make much difference. However, the thousands of Thais that flock to Cambodia's border casinos each week might think twice about a flutter while tensions remain high.