PM Nguyen Tan Dung receives Cambodian Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung received visiting Cambodian Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana in Hanoi on August 30.
At the reception, PM Dung said he was pleased with the fine judiciary co-operation between the two countries’ Ministries of Justice recently and affirmed that Vietnam wishes together with Cambodia to further strengthen bilateral co-operation in all aspects, especially politics-diplomacy, economics, socio-culture and justice.
The Government leader suggested the two sides make more efforts to sign an agreement on judicial assistance which helps boost the economic-commercial co-operation between the two countries.
The signing of the agreement would create a legal foundation for Vietnamese and Cambodian people and businesses to exchange co-operative programmes and projects as well as strengthen mutual understanding and trust between the two nations, he noted.
For his part, Minister Ang Vong Vathana stressed that Vietnam-Cambodia ties have been continuously consolidated over the years.
He also said that during their talks, his ministry and the Vietnamese counterpart agreed on necessary contents for the signing of the judicial assistance agreement between the two countries. (VNA)
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Recently, the Malaysian embassy wrote to the Post defending its labour protection legal framework. As part of my recent research for an NGO, I interviewed, among others, 29 Cambodian migrant workers, some of whom had been housemaids in Malaysia. Their stories must be told. Their experiences and ordeals must be heard so that measures can be taken to assist them and to prevent others from becoming potential victims of trafficking, exploitation and/or abuse.
Migrant workers are generally poor and poorly educated. Many live in dysfunctional or broken families. Poverty and restricted employment opportunities force them to take risks and migrate internationally to look for a better livelihood. Their work includes domestic and factory jobs, employment in the fisheries sector and begging. Their ordeals of abuse and/or exploitation vary depending on their legal status, age, gender and the nature of their work.
My study identified six common problems that legal migrant workers encountered: (1) poor working conditions; (2) lack of proper health care and protection; (3) no payment or underpayment; (4) physical or sexual harassment; (5) inhumane treatment; (6) lack of freedom and family connectedness. Those who go through formal channels appear to experience lesser abuse and exploitation compared with those who go through informal channels. Even formal channels, however, are not perfectly safe, as workers voiced serious and often substantiated allegations of malpractice by recruitment agencies, employers and law enforcement agencies.
The Cambodian government has been making significant efforts to improve the labour-export system. Still opportunities for improvement remain,
and some immediate actions are necessary. The MOU between Cambodia and Malaysia should be concluded, and a comprehensive legal framework on labor export be developed. The relevant Cambodian embassies must assist migrant workers and need to have labour attachés. A former migrant worker to Malaysia told me: “When I set foot in Cambodian soil, I burst into tears because I was so happy. Only 500 riels left. The Cambodian embassy is our parents when we are abroad. It should have done much more to help us”.
Large-scale studies on labour migration/trafficking are imperative to inform future policies. Government inspections of recruitment agencies should be more rigorous. As long as poverty and limited job opportunity prevail, Cambodians will continue to migrate. Programmes for poverty reduction and local job creation would reduce the need for migration among the destitute. If Cambodians continue to be sent overseas, it should not be purely for labour-intensive work, especially domestic work, but for work that would contribute to the development of the country’s human resources.
Centre for Excellence in Policing and Security
The "Mekong Development Forum," scheduled for Seoul from Sept. 6-7, will focus on boosting cooperation between the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries and South Korea in such areas as transportation and trade, the environment, energy and telecommunications, it said.
According to the ministry, more than 50 overseas officials, including the ADB's vice president, will participate in the first GMS forum to be held in South Korea. Some 100 South Korean officials, scholars and businessmen are expected to be present as well.
The GMS refers to Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, which started a regional development program in 1992 with assistance from the ADB.
The program is designed to reduce poverty in those countries and help promote sustainable economic growth in the region. (Yonhap)
HA NOI — Viet Nam and Cambodia should speed up negotiations for a civilian and trade judiciary assistance agreement to create the necessary legal framework for enterprises of the two countries to co-operate more efficiently.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the statement while receiving Cambodia's Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana who has been on a six-day working visit to Viet Nam since August 27 at the invitation of Vietnamese counterpart Ha Hung Cuong.
Applauding the Cambodian Justice Ministry delegation's visit to attend the 65th anniversary of Viet Nam's justice sector, Dung expressed his pleasure at the co-operation in the judicial sector between the two sides.
He highly appreciated the outcome of the dialogue between the two ministries, saying that the signing of the agreement would lay the foundation for people and enterprises of the two countries to conduct trade co-operation projects and improve the understanding and mutual trust between the two nations.
Dung affirmed that Viet Nam was always willing to join hands with Cambodia in all sectors from politics, economics and culture to social affairs and justice.
Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that he and his Vietnamese counterpart had exchanged a lot of experience in the judicial sector such as building laws and training lawyers as well as discussing the contents of the assistance agreement and measures to boost co-operation in the future. — VNS
Monday, August 30, 2010
HANOI - VIETNAM and Britain are to sign a 'strategic partnership' agreement next week in a sign of their deepening ties, the British ambassador said on Monday.
The pact, covering everything from trade and investment to development and security, will be signed during a visit to Britain by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, British ambassador Mark Kent told reporters.
Mr Kent said relations between the two sides were growing rapidly in a wide range of areas and this was 'a good moment' to wrap them into a strategic framework.
Britain believed relations with Asia were going to be increasingly important, he said.
London and Hanoi established diplomatic ties in 1973. Two-way trade last year reached almost two billion dollars (S$2.7 million).Mr Kent said the strategic partnership also included human rights, and Britain believed 'that for societies to continue to develop and flourish, the free flow of information and ideas is important.' Western donors have said that Vietnam's restrictions on journalists, the Internet, and associations threaten the country's progress. -- AFP
By Bloomberg News - Aug 30, 2010
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung suspended two board members of Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, a state-owned company that came close to bankruptcy this year, as part of an investigation.
Tran Quang Vu and Tran Van Liem were removed from the board, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of the Government Office, which oversees implementation of state plans, said in a statement posted on the government’s website late yesterday.
The board is also considering the dismissal of Tran Quang Vu, chief executive officer, Tran Tuan Anh, Hanoi-based vice head of personnel at the shipbuilder, said by telephone today. The government statement said the prime minister had asked for Vu to stand down.
In July, Chairman Pham Thanh Binh was suspended from his post at Vinashin, as the company is known, as the government began an investigation into financial difficulties at the state-controlled company, which almost collapsed under 86 trillion dong ($4.4 billion) of debts.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung decided on the probe to review Binh’s “responsibilities and to investigate and clarify faults,” according to a statement on the government’s website on July 14. Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong was appointed as the replacement chairman.
Vinashin doesn’t have enough funds for some projects after its customers and lenders were hit by the global recession that started in 2008, the Ministry of Transportation said July 1.
The company also over-diversified its businesses and didn’t manage its cash flow and debt properly, according to the transport ministry statement.
By Bloomberg News - Aug 30, 2010
Vietnam’s benchmark stock index, the world’s worst performer this quarter, rallied the most in almost eight months as investors speculated losses that drove the gauge into a so-called bear market were overdone.
The VN Index on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange jumped 3.6 percent to 444.55 at the 11 a.m. close, the biggest gain since Jan. 4 and the largest increase among Asian benchmark indexes today. Bao Viet Holdings, an insurer, led gains.
“The market has slumped too much and stock prices have become very attractive,” said Giang Trung Kien, head of research at FPT Securities Joint-Stock Co.
The stock gauge fell as much as 23 percent from its May 6 peak through Aug. 25, exceeding the 20 percent drop which analysts define as a bear market, as the third devaluation of the nation’s currency since November spurred concern the government would add to measures to plug the nation’s deficit. The gap reached $7.4 billion for the seven months through July, almost twice the year-earlier figure.
The VN Index is the worst performer since June 30 among 93 global benchmark measures tracked by Bloomberg, with a decline of 12 percent. Stocks on the index trade at 9.9 times reported earnings, down from this year’s high of 12.6 times in March.
Inflation slowed for a fifth month in August, which may ease concern that the devaluation of the dong will stoke price pressures. Consumer prices climbed 8.18 percent this month from a year ago, down from 8.19 percent in July.
A rally in Asian markets also boosted investor “sentiment,” Kien said.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose as much as 1.6 percent today as the Bank of Japan expanded credit support for banks and the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged measures to spur economic growth.
Bao Viet jumped 4.8 percent to 48,100 dong, the biggest contributor to gains on the index. Vietnam Dairy Products Joint- Stock Co., the country’s second most valuable company, advanced 1.7 percent to 88,500 dong.
The Canadian Press, 2010
BANGKOK - The Thai government is publishing a new series of parenting brochures that instructs families how to keep their children from gambling on soccer matches, after kids as young as 7 were found betting on the World Cup.
"The Guide to Watching Football With Your Children and Loved Ones," will be the first in a three-part series to be distributed at schools nationwide in October, Thanakorn Komkris, a co-ordinator at the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, said Monday.
The agency, which is under the Prime Minister's Office, is sponsoring the series that uses cartoon characters to convey that professional soccer can be a fun family event — and one that sometimes requires parent supervision.
"Now that the major football leagues in Thailand and abroad have started, more gambling is expected. This is worrying. We don't want to see more young gamblers," he said.
The new guide will be aimed at children of primary school age and teens and will seek to inform them of the dangers of gambling, while trying to motivate youths with "inspiring stories from world-class football players," Thanakorn said.
"We want them to see the game as a sport that is good for the body and mind, not just entertainment," he said, adding that the series will also include information for parents and encourage them to make it a family activity. "Watching football together can help foster bonds within a family."
Gambling is illegal in Thailand, technically, but it remains a national pastime. Betting is common at sports events, at underground casinos or along the Cambodia border where casinos have flourished in recent years to cater to Thai customers.
"During the World Cup, police found children as young as 7 gambling," Thanakorn said. During the three-week sporting event, police arrested 1,700 illegal gamblers in Bangkok alone and confiscated 3.7 million baht (about $118,000).
A survey conducted by the foundation with Bangkok's Assumption University during the World Cup found 54 per cent of those surveyed gambled on match results. The survey polled 2,541 people between the ages of 12 and 60.
"Thais are fundamentally attracted to gambling. Thais can find ways to gamble on almost anything," Thanakorn said. "We focus on football because it is such a popular and accessible sport. And it's often the entry-point to other kinds of gambling."
by Sebastian Strangio
Phnom Penh Post
THE Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation has condemned the reported arrest of an ethnic Khmer abbot in southern Vietnam last month, while decrying the treatment of the country’s Khmer minority. According to a statement issued by the organisation on Wednesday, Thach Sophon was arrested by Vietnamese police on July 29, and his current location is unknown.
“This is only one instance of the many human rights violations carried out by the Vietnamese government,” UNPO General Secretary Marino Busdachin was quoted as saying. The statement called on the Vietnamese government to release Thach Sophon and “allow members of the Khmer Krom minority and other ethnic minorities and religious communities to voice their opinions freely”.
In an August 23 statement, the local Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community also slammed the arrest of Thach Sophon, calling for the Cambodian government to intervene on his behalf.
“We would like to appeal to the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and both national and international organisations to legally intervene,” it said.
The Cambodian government said on Monday that there is no date has been set for the next border talks with Thailand.
Nem Sowath, chief of cabinet of Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defense said that, as of Monday, no date yet has been set for the General Border Committee meeting.
Thai media has carried out reports citing the Thai government's statement as saying that the 7th General Border Committee meeting between Cambodia and Thailand would start on Sept. 8 in Bangkok, Thailand.
But Nem Sowath said Thailand has not sent any letter or intend for the meeting as it was reported.
However, he said, Cambodia is ready to hold talks at any technical level to help solve any remaining issues between the two countries.
The GBC is co-chaired by defense ministers from the two countries and the forum is designed to help solve any problems arising along the border of the two nations including transnational crimes, drug smuggling, security, terrorism among others.
Cambodia and Thailand has had border conflict just one week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple was registered as World Heritage Site in July 2008.
Since the conflict started, military standoff has been on and off along the two countries' border and several military clashes have already been happened with recorded small causalities from both sides.
The International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962 ruled in favor to Cambodia, saying Preah Vihear Temple is belonging to Cambodia, but after July 2008, Thailand has claimed the surrounding land covering over 4.6 square km near the temple.
This border conflict has not been resolved yet.
Source: VOV News
State President Nguyen Minh Triet has wrapped up his official visit to Cambodia to promote the traditional relationship between the two countries.
Over the past days, all of Cambodia was decorated with colourful banners and flowers to welcome Mr. Triet and his delegation.
The visit laid a foundation to bring the relationship to a new height, said Trung.
In a party for the President, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni said Cambodia people are very happy to have such good friends as the Vietnamese, who have helped them in their struggle against colonialism and imperialism.
Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong and Great Supreme Patriarch Bou Kry said Vietnam not only helped Cambodia in its struggle but also in its re-construction and the development of Cambodian Buddhism.
Cambodia is now a developing country with industrial parks emerging from the “killing fields.”
In 2010, Cambodia’s economic growth could reach 5 percent and annual per capita income is expected to hit US$1,900. Economic co-operation between the two countries has also increased strongly in recent years. Vietnam has 63 projects in Cambodia with combined investment capital of more than US$900 million. Two-way trade turnover is estimated to be more than US$2 billion and high-quality Vietnamese products are securing a firm foothold in the Cambodian market.
Investment between the two countries has been blooming in recent years, said Mr. Trung. Vietnam is one of the leading investors in Cambodia. At its current pace, Vietnam’s investment in Cambodia will reach a minimum of US$6 billion in the next five years, mainly in energy, hydroelectricity, aviation, banking, finance, oil and gas.
Over the ups and downs of history, close ties of solidarity and friendship between the two countries have been forged and developed. Mr. Triet, the Cambodian King and other leaders reaffirmed that those traditional ties are an invaluable asset which should last forever.
Mr. Triet said the two nations have lived together for a long time and they always stand side by side in hard times. Cambodia expressed its deep gratitude for Vietnam’s support, particularly for saving it from genocide, while Vietnam thanks Cambodia for its support during the resistance struggles. History has seen fine relations between the two countries so the current generation has the responsibility to develop the relationship and sustain it in the future.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will host for the first time the 4th Asia-Pacific Military Nursing Symposium 2010 to be held at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City starting on Monday until Sept. 3.
Burgos said the AFP collaborated with United States Pacific Command, 13th Air Force, Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii headed by the Assistant Surgeon General, Nursing Services, Maj. Gen. Kimberly A. Siniscalchi, to make the nursing symposium possible.
"The symposium is considered as the first nursing activity in the country wherein a total of 208 delegates of Military Nursing Leaders from 13 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific Region will be attending the prestigious forum starting on Monday. The countries who showed interest in joining the symposium are Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Lao, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and the United States of America," said Burgos.
"The activity aims to offer the participants a proper venue where they can discuss issues of mutual interest and expertise, share peculiar and diverse nursing care experiences, enhance professional partnerships, and foster interoperability with allied forces in terms of disaster and humanitarian missions," said Burgos.
A list of activities lined-up for the five-day nursing forum include scientific sessions where the participants are given the chance to converse about various nursing issues related to military operations and come up with resolutions that can help in the health preservation of the military personnel.
The activity also aims to discuss issues in connection with infection and control management, evidence-based nursing practice, significant roles of military nurses in disaster management and humanitarian missions, military nursing leadership, and military training methods related to nursing.
Burgos also said the delegates would have a tour that demonstrates the rich culture and colorful history of the Philippines. More importantly, this is an activity which will showcase the unity and camaraderie of the 13 participating countries with different cultures but one in the mission to provide the best health care for the military.(PNA)
BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- There are few places where you can stand on the grounds of a colonial church, gaze out at Southeast Asian shores at sunset and hear the call to prayer from a nearby mosque at the same time. Malaysia is one of them. Marta Cooper reports.
Malaysia's gorgeous landscape, vibrant colors, delicious cuisine and diverse cultural make-up are just a few reasons why this destination will never fail to impress.
Malaysia is geographically split in two: Peninsular Malaysia, on mainland Southeast Asia, houses 11 states and the capital, Kuala Lumpur as well as some scenic beaches.
Across the South China Sea is the Malaysian portion of Borneo, where lush rainforests occupy the eastern states of Sarawak and Sabah, home to diverse wildlife and tribal traditions.
However, for all its gorgeousness, Malaysia is often overlooked by travel junkies trawling through Southeast Asia, preferring to see their money go further in the cheaper spots of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. But don't be fooled: Your Ringgit can certainly stretch a long way here, not least thanks to the cheap flights offered by Air Asia from Shanghai-Hangzhou to Kuala Lumpur (see www.airasia.com for details).
I began my brief 10-day break in Kuala Lumpur, just over a five-hour flight from Shanghai. The city boasts a beautiful mix of Islamic, Indian and colonial architecture, hordes of air-conditioned malls to escape the tropical humidity, towering skyscrapers, lush parks and several museums displaying the diverse cultures of the land. Unmissable is a trip to the Islamic Arts Museum, near the vast Lake Gardens.
The accessible museum hosts a range of artifacts from the Muslim world, from North Africa to Southeast Asia and everywhere in between, from scrolls to ceramics, clothing to maps.
But, if you're put off by the high prices in the museum shop, the landmark Central Market is just a short walk away and could easily take up an afternoon.
Here you will find your run-of-the-mill souvenirs as well as Indian antiques, Islamic-style furniture and prints, Kashmiri carpets, Malaysian-patterned clothing, and convenient cafes to refresh yourself in.
And if Central Market feels too timid, crossing the road will land you in Chinatown, a bustling collection of souvenir and food stalls where you can barter for anything from vintage postcards to fresh durian.
Two of Peninsular Malaysia's other must-see places are Penang, five hours north of Kuala Lumpur, and Melacca, just over two hours south (each can easily be reached by the country's extensive coach network).
Both were recently declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. Strolling around Penang island's main town, the British-settled Georgetown, it's easy to feel you've headed back in time to the colonial era of whitewashed buildings jutting out in between rows of swaying palm trees. The town's vibrant Little India district is also a must-see, with its streets filled with smells of incense and fried jalebi sweets, and booming bhangra sounds.
But the other reason Penang stays on the map is food: blending Malay, Chinese and Indian flavors, it boasts some of the country's most delicious cuisine.
To try some, a trip to one of Malaysia's many hawker centers is an absolute must: Tables fill the food court, which is encircled by small stalls offering all manner of cuisines.
You simply pick your table, stroll around and choose your food, and then pay for it upon arrival (see left for a list of unmissable Malaysian dishes).
For another side of colonial history, Melacca boasts simple Dutch and Portuguese architecture and its own colorful Chinatown. A tour around this compact town is made all the more enchanting on a signature trishaw, a floral pattern-covered contraption blaring '80s and '90s tunes and a running commentary from the enthusiastic drivers.
After a spin around the colonial sites of St Paul's Church and A Famosa port, a walk around Chinatown is necessary, with its vibrant temples, antique stores and a host of restaurants boasting the fusion flavors of Nyonya cuisine (named so after the offspring of Chinese immigrants and Malay women).
Sadly, 10 days did not do justice to the vast wildlife and natural beauty Malaysia has to offer. I missed out on some stunning sights, such as the jungles of Taman Negara and Kuching, diving in the Perhentians and Pulau Tioman, the national parks of Sarawak and dizzy heights of Mount Kinabalu.
But I did get a small tropical park taster with a day trip to the Forestry Institute of Malaysia, a vast green expanse with hiking trails and a rickety walkway to satisfy my craving for nature.
There are few places where you can stand on the grounds of a colonial church, look out to the Southeast Asian shores and hear the call to prayer from a nearby mosque at the same time. That is not to say Malaysia is not without its problems.
But a trip to one of Southeast Asia's unsung heroes is highly rewarding. If you are looking for a place to blend jungle trekking, city strolling, a step back into colonial history and the chance to indulge your tastebuds, Malaysia should be your destination.
Check out www.travelfish.org/country/malaysia or www.lonelyplanet.com/malaysia for up-to-date and detailed travel guides. Don't leave Malaysia without trying Popiah - Light vegetable-stuffed rolls Yikan Pari Bakar - stingray coated in turmeric Char Kway Teow - fried noodles and rice cake strips with mixed spices Ais Ka Cang/Cendol - shaved ice decorated with red beans, jellies and cane sugar Ipoh Chicken Rice - steamed chicken served with rice and bean sprouts Candlenut Chicken - a Nyonya blend of chicken and spices Bak Kut Teh - a Hokkien hotpot of meat bone stew served with yam rice Hokkien Mee - thick yellow noodles fried in black sauce with crispy pork Quick Facts Population: 27.5 million (UN, 2009) Capital: Kuala Lumpur Area: 329,847 sq km Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam Exchange rate: 1 ringgit = 2 yuan International dialling code: + 60 (Source: Shanghai Daily)
Check out www.travelfish.org/country/malaysia or www.lonelyplanet.com/malaysia for up-to-date and detailed travel guides.
Don't leave Malaysia without trying
Popiah - Light vegetable-stuffed rolls
Yikan Pari Bakar - stingray coated in turmeric
Char Kway Teow - fried noodles and rice cake strips with mixed spices
Ais Ka Cang/Cendol - shaved ice decorated with red beans, jellies and cane sugar
Ipoh Chicken Rice - steamed chicken served with rice and bean sprouts
Candlenut Chicken - a Nyonya blend of chicken and spices
Bak Kut Teh - a Hokkien hotpot of meat bone stew served with yam rice
Hokkien Mee - thick yellow noodles fried in black sauce with crispy pork
Population: 27.5 million (UN, 2009)
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Area: 329,847 sq km
Major languages: Malay (official), English,
Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
Exchange rate: 1 ringgit = 2 yuan
International dialling code: + 60
(Source: Shanghai Daily)
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Asia Adventure holidays: hot tips for 2010 in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
1.MOUNTAIN TREKKING, SAPA, VIETNAM
Mount Fansipan is Vietnam’s highest peak located in the far north just outside of Sapa. Mt. Fansipan is a very steep mountain that gets a lot of moisture. Those looking to climb it should be in good shape and prepared to to have muddy wet feet. The scenery is incredible so travelers should remember to bring a camera. For most of Vietnam having a rain coat is a little excessive because it is so warm. On the mountain having a rain coat is not a bad idea especially at night. The trails around Sapa are a lot of fun. Travelers will get the chance to go through some minority villages if travelers have the time to explore. There are well-marked trails, both long and short, for all skill levels.
When it is the best time? October to May are the best months
Book it: Active Travel Vietnam (00 84 4 3573 8569; www.trekfansipan.com) offers a year-round, four-day guided mountain-trekking tour of Vietnam from $ 219 including hotel accommodation, some meals and travel gear rent. Flights are extra
2. MOTORCYCLING HO CHI MINH TRAIL, VIETNAM
The legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail was the supply line where it is used by North Vietnam to link North and South Vietnam during the American War. Soldiers, ammunition, weapons and supplies were carried by hand, bicycle and truck for hundreds of kilometers through the otherwise impenetrable jungle that it is covered Vietnam’s mountainous border with Laos.
When it is the best time? October to April
Book it: Active Travel Vietnam (email@example.com; www.activetravelvietnam.com) offers a 18-days with 11-days motorcycling guided trip from ,951, including accommodation, all meals and transfers. Flights are extra.
3. KAYAKKING HALONG BAY, VIETNAM
Ha Long Bay (also “Halong Bay”) is in northern Vietnam, 170 km east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic rock formations
If travelers thought the hideout in the James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun” was spectacular, travelers can imagine a place where there are 3,000 such limestone islands clustered together in the East Sea of Halong Bay. Paddle through caves into secret lagoons, drift down channels are surrounded by cliffs and forest and sail out into the open sea.
When it is the best time? October and early January
Book it: Kayak Halong Bay (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.kayakhalongbay.com) offers a 3-day trip from $ 299 including meals, accommodation and transfers
4. EXPLORE MEKONG DELTA, VIETNAM
A holiday in Vietnam would be incomplete without a trip to the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Popularly known as one of the ‘Rice Baskets’ of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is located in the South Eastern region of Vietnam, where the Mekong River meets the sea. A pride of the Vietnamese and the one of the most popular of the Vietnam tourist attractions, the Mekong Delta is exceptionally rich in scenic beauty. It is a place unique in itself.
When it is the best time? October to June
Book it: Active Travel Asia (0084-4-3573-8569; www.activetravel.asia) has a 4-day tour with over 3-day biking from $ 312 including full-board accommodation and transfers. Flights extra
5. CYCLING ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Travelers will discover the world’s remarkable awesome historical site through this adventure trip and grasp the reasons why the Tomb Raider’s film maker team chose the Angkor Complex in Siem Reap for its screen backdrops. Also experience the biodiversity of Tonle Sap listed as the World Ecological Wonder.
When it is the best time? October to June
Book it: Active Travel Cambodia (email@example.com; www.activetravelcambodia.com) has a 7-day tour with 5-day cycling from $ 685 including full-board accommodation and transfers. Flights extra
6. CYCLING LAOS
Cycling is a great way to get off the beaten track in this increasingly popular country. Start in Luang Prabang, in north central Laos, and head to Hanoi, in North Vietnam, travelers are going to travel along the banks of the Mekong River and past the intriguing Viengxay caves.
When it is the best time? October to March
Book it: Active Travel Laos (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.activetravellaos.com) has a 17-day tour with kayaking, trekking, biking and elephant riding Luang Prabang to Hanoi cycling trip from $ 1,553 including most meals, bike hire and sightseeing. Flights extra.
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling, overland touring and family travel packages.
Over 40 volunteers from Ho Chi Minh City Communist Youth Union (HCYU) have provided medical check-ups for poor patients in Cambodia’s Kompong Speu and Kompong Chhnang provinces.
During the five-day mission, August 22-27, the group treated 2,800 poor patients and distributed over 2,000 presents to the locals.
On the occasion, the HCMYU also donated US$40,000 to build a communal cultural centre and a school in Kompong Chhnang province.
“The company has already set a plan to buy 11 engine carriages, 500 freight carriages and some other train materials for their operation by the end of this year or next,” the ministry’s Secretary of State Touch Chankosal said yesterday.
He said that Toll Royal Railway was preparing the paperwork to apply to the Council for Development of Cambodia requesting permission to import the locomotives; however, he said he could not confirm where the trains would be purchased from.
He said that refurbishment of Cambodia’s existing trains would continue, but that the expectation was that they would not suffice.
“In fact, we still have many carriage heads and carriages which can be mended, but they do not completely run well, so we need to import the new ones,” he said.
Peter Brimble, Asian Development Bank senior country economist for Cambodia, said the main rationale for the railway upgrade, partly funded by the ADB, was to develop a more cost-effective freight system.
“The logistics cost of carrying agricultural produce is critical and if you don’t have an effective way of doing it then it’s difficult to get the product out. I think the idea behind this is that it’s one option that’s relatively cost-effective,” he said.
Touch Chankosal said it was also the first step to ease the amount of heavy transportation damaging roads.
The ADB and AusAID are providing $141 million in funding for Toll to upgrade the 254-kilometre line from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville town, a 388-kilometre line from Phnom Penh to Poipet and a 48-kilometre line from Poipet to Sisophon.
Brimble said there were no plans for the ADB to fund future railroad projects in the Kingdom, but that he understood a “spur” would be added to the rail line in Sihanoukville to link it to the nearby port.
Toll Chief Executive David Kerr declined to comment, and ADB senior transport economist Peter Broch said he could not confirm the figures provided by the ministry.
Toll is jointly owned 55 percent by Australia’s largest trucking and freight company, Toll Holdings, and 45 percent by Kit Meng’s Royal Group. The duo teamed up last year to secure a 30-year concession to operate the network.
Toll Holdings reported a full-year net profit yesterday of A$278.9 million (US$247 million) for the 12 months ending June.
Its shares rose 2.7 percent to A$5.99 at close of trading in Sydney yesterday.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
PHNOM PENH — A Cambodian provincial court has charged a Danish man with providing his young male guesthouse staff for sex with tourists in the country's northwest, an official said Saturday.
Svend Erick Jonasson, 64, was arrested in Siem Reap for allegedly letting his guests have sex with his male Cambodian workers aged 15, 17 and 21, said Chea Heng, from the government's anti-human trafficking department.
He said the victims charged 15 to 50 US dollars for sex with the suspect's customers, with Jonasson, whose was arrested Thursday, taking five US dollars of the fee.
"The victims have told us everything, but he has not confessed," said Chea Heng. "He could face up to 15 years in jail."
Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child-sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 to try to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam's president has ordered more than 17,000 prisoners freed as part of the country's annual National Day amnesty, officials said Saturday.
Twenty of those to be released have been charged with national security crimes, but no high-profile pro-democracy dissidents were included. Several were ethnic minorities from the restive Central Highlands bordering Cambodia.
Vietnam has been criticized by the United States and European Union for jailing political and religious dissidents. The Communist county does not tolerate any form of protest and often uses national security laws to convict those deemed a threat.
Of the 17,210 inmates being freed, 37 are foreigners from a number of countries, including France, the United States and Canada. The release will begin Sunday to commemorate National Day on Sept. 2.
During the visit, Mr Alongkorn said prior to his departure, he will inspect road transport and logistics development linking the two countries including transport systems, warehousing facilities and customs procedures.
Mr Alongkorn said he would also try to develop Thailand’s trade with the two countries as part of an implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) scheduled to be launched in 2015.
Also, he said he would survey proposed locations for special economic zones at the Thai border districts of Watthana Nakhon and Aranyaprathet.
The special economic zones will benefit both Thailand and Cambodia in terms of trade and tourism, Mr Alongkorn said.
During the first seven months this year, combined trade between Thailand and Cambodia totaled US$1.61 billion, up 76.1 per cent from the corresponding period of 2009. Thailand enjoyed a trade surplus of about US$1.3 billion.
Trade between Thailand and Vietnam between January-July this year totaled US$3.9 billion, an increase of 27 per cent from the same period last year, with Thailand enjoying a trade surplus of US$2.4 billion. (MCOT online news)
By DALJIT DHESI
SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) should tap into the rising consumption in the Asean region and China to boost their profit margins.
Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) Small & Medium Enterprises deputy chairman Koong Lin Loong says SMEs are entering into an era of “nano profit” where margins are thinning rapidly due to over reliance on domestic market and middlemen.
Among ACCCIM members, not more than 3% of local SMEs export directly overseas while the majority of them still use a middleman.
“The Asean region, particularly the Mekong river delta, which runs through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China, is rich in agriculture and has strong potential for downstream agriculture products. SMEs should change their mindset and start tapping into this market to ensure they do not lose out to their regional counterparts.
“By venturing into China and Asean which has a population of 1.3 billion and 600 million respectively, there will be a bigger market for SMEs to penetrate compared with 27 million in Malaysia,” he says during an interview.
The China-Asean Free Trade Area (CAFTA) which came into force this year is another platform for SMEs to springboard into the China market as well as into other Asean countries.
With this trade area in existence, they can export their products without any duties. Koong says it appears that only Chinese companies are taking advantage of this tax breaks to bring their products into the Malaysian market, hence flooding the market with Chinese goods and threatening SMEs livelihood.
As such, SMEs ought to act fast in this info-era and view CAFTA as opportunity rather than a threat.
Koong urge SMEs and the relevant trade associations to set up their own “buying house” like in Singapore and Hong Kong where it will facilitate small businesses to buy and sell their products in bulk overseas.
This, he adds, will save costs and curb the threat of dumping of foreign products in the local market and at the same time help small businesses to venture overseas.
Another way SMEs can effectively market their products overseas is participating in exhibitions organised by Matrade and by tapping its Market Development Grant (MDG).
Under this grant, successful qualified exhibitors or participants are allowed to reimburse 50% of their expenses incurred from exhibitions overseas.
He adds they should closely keep watch of Matrades exhibitions via its website rather than solely depending on the Government for assistance.
Of equal importance, he says for SMEs venturing abroad is to have their own brand identity and capitalise on information and communications technology (ICT), which at the moment is still lacking.
“They must be brand conscious to be competitive to market their products overseas. Otherwise they will lose out to their competitors. Money spent on branding is worthwhile to help their products stand out in the international market,” Koong notes.
Proper usage of computerised in all processes and marketing can also lower the cost of production and enhance earning margins.
Ultimately, for a small business to expand, it should not be too labour intensive as this is not workable and can result in shrinking of margins resulting from higher labour cost, hence defeating the Government New Economic Model for a high income nation.
In addition, Internet websites are not frequently used by small businesses for communications, which could hinder them from securing clients and retaining customer confidence, he says.
SURIN : Three Thai villagers being held in a prison in Cambodia are safe and feeling more at ease after learning they will soon be freed, say their families.
Seven family members of the three men returned home to Surin early yesterday after visiting them in Siem Reap prison in Cambodia.
The three Surin natives - Sanong Wongcharoen, Lim Puangpet, and Lan Sapsri - were hunting and gathering wild fruit in the forest on the border near Surin when they wandered over to the Cambodian side and were arrested by patrol officers.
The seven family members visited the three villagers on Thursday with the help of Surin authorities and local Cambodian officials.
Thongdee Thongkham, one of the seven family members and a brother-in-law of Mr Sanong, said the three villagers were healthy and safe. None of them had been physically assaulted, he confirmed.
He thanked all agencies for helping to secure the release of the three men.
Suwat Kaewsuk, adviser to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, said the three Surin residents have been charged with illegal entry and possession of weapons without permission. Cambodia said the three men had intruded about 300 metres into Cambodian soil when they were spotted by a Cambodian patrol unit.
Siem Reap governor Sou Phirin yesterday denied reports that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered the release of the three Thais. He said news reports about the matter and other border issues by Thai media had made it harder to solve the problems.
However, he said he was willing to help the Thais as it was common for Thais or Cambodians to wander into the border areas. He saw it as only a trivial matter.
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is now believed to be in Brunei, a Foreign Ministry source says.
Aside from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the other Asean leader Thaksin is reported to be close to is the Sultan of Brunei.
Thaksin visited both Cambodia and Brunei after he was ousted in the Sept 19, 2006 coup, said the source.
The source added that Thaksin has been treated very well when visiting these countries.
Also, he is thought to retain close ties to the Thai ambassador to Brunei, Phithak Phrombubpha, said the source.
Panich Vikitsreth, a Democrat MP for Bangkok and former deputy foreign minister, said he was able to confirm that Thaksin was now staying in a "neighbouring country" which does not share a border with Thailand. Mr Panich refused to name the country.
Mr Panich said checks of outbound air travel records from Thailand show the country has been visited by Thaksin's close associates of late. These associates' messages posted on their Twitter accounts confirmed Thaksin's whereabouts.
Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to the foreign minister, also said Thaksin was staying in a country close to Thailand.
Thaksin has not tweeted for a month.
In his last message posted on his Twitter page on July 25, Thaksin thanked his Twitter followers, whose number has surpassed 123,000, for keeping up with him. He had not tweeted much lately because he wanted to keep a low profile.
Friday, August 27, 2010
by Jeremy Mullins and Catherine James
Phnom Penh Post
CAMBODIA’S economy has emerged as a “mini-tiger” in terms of textile processing, despite a lack of attention from international investors, according to a report drawn up by Swiss banking giant UBS.
The Kingdom was one of the largest beneficiaries of the decade’s “globalisation boom”, said the report compiled by the Securities Asia division.
“The country has quietly established itself as a mini-tiger in textile processing and assembly, a fact generally overlooked by most investors including ourselves,” the emerging- market report said.
Of 80 emerging countries surveyed by the bank, only six – Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Thailand and Vietnam
– recorded more than a 25 percent increase in manufacturing exports as a share of GDP from 1997 to 2008.
The report, which described Cambodia’s performance as a “shock”, has drawn support in the Kingdom.
Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia Secretary General Ken Loo said yesterday the Kingdom was generally an attractive location for foreign investors. With wages for garment workers rising in the China and Vietnam, Cambodia stood to attract additional interest, he said.
“There’s a huge potential here,” he said, although a number of challenges – such as frequent strikes, high electricity costs, and poor infrastructure – needed to be addressed.
Cambodia’s garment exports increased 13.4 percent to US$1.628 billion during the first seven months of the year, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics.
University of Cambodia economics lecturer Chheng Kimlong said yesterday that although the domestic economy was doing well, it was stronger before the financial crisis.
At a reception in Phnom Penh on August 27, King Sihamoni thanked the Vietnamese leaders and people for providing heartfelt support and valuable assistance to Cambodia in the past as well as in its national development at present.
He also thanked them for warmly receiving Father King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Norodom Moninieth Sihanouk during their visit to Vietnam in June 2010.
The King expressed his admiration for Vietnam’s tremendous achievements in its Renewal process and its rising profile in the region and the world.
Vietnamese people are reliable friends of Cambodian people, said King Sihamoni.
He affirmed that Cambodia will continue to build up the long-lasting and neighbourly friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Vietnam.
President Triet praised Cambodia’s position in the world and expressed his belief that under the reign of King Sihamoni and the leadership from the Royal Government, Cambodia will obtain greater achievements in national construction for the sake of peace, development and prosperity.
He valued Cambodia’s support to Vietnam in the past struggle for national liberation and the current process of Renewal. He thanked the King, the government and people of Cambodia for creating conditions for the Vietnamese community to live and study in the country, contributing to its development and to cementing the friendship between the two nations.
Vietnam attaches great importance to and will do its utmost to strengthen the traditional friendship and all-round cooperation with Cambodia, said Mr Triet.Both host and guest agreed that Vietnam and Cambodia should maintain high-level visit exchanges to facilitate the expansion of their multifaceted cooperation. They also acknowledged their governments’ effort in implementing signed agreements effectively.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Regarding possible bilateral talks between leaders of the two countries, he said the matter from now on rests with the leaders of both countries pending appropriate times and venues.
Cambodian ambassador You Aye returned to Bangkok on Wednesday, one day after Thai envoy Prasas Prasasvinitchai arrived in Phnom Penh to resume his posting.
The Thai government recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh last November in protest against Cambodia's appointment of fugitive ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser. Cambodia retaliated by recalling its ambassador.
The Cambodian government on Monday announced that Mr Thaksin had resigned from his post. The Thai government then decided to send its ambassador back to Cambodia.
Regarding the three Thai villagers detained in Cambodia's Siem Riep province for over a week, the deputy prime minister said efforts have been made through negotiations at many levels to help secure them. He pledged the government would continue working to bring them home.
Meanwhile, Papob Korthai, an assistant district chief in the northeastern province of Surin led relatives of Thai villagers detained in Cambodia to visit them at the prison.
They crossed the border in Sa Kaeo province's Aranyaprathet to visit the trio. Cambodian officials provided a van to pick them up at the border.
A Thai official said the trip was to bring relatives to visit the detainees as Cambodia has not yet released them, but pending release, they will return home with the team.
The detainees are Sanong Wongcharoen, Lim Puangpet, and Lan Sapsri, arrested while collecting forest products along the Thai-Cambodian border in Thailand's northeastern province of Surin.
In a related matter, Mr Suthep also said Thailand resumes loans for Cambodia for road construction without any conditions attached.
It is Thailand's policy of peaceful coexistence to provide support to develop people’s livelihood in neighbouring countries, he said. (MCOT online news)
A Cambodian appeals court on Thursday ordered a Russian businessman to serve a reduced prison sentence of eight years for buying sex from 17 underage girls, including a deaf victim.
Alexander Trofimov was arrested in 2007 after six girls aged between six and 13 accused him of sexual abuse.
Since then, many more young girls have filed complaints against the property developer, making him the focus of Cambodia's largest-ever paedophilia case.
“World Bank statistics show 1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. Thus, poverty is indeed a global issue,” said Mr Mek Phanlack, Acting-President of the Lao National Leading Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication.
The United Nations has called for a summit next month to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In most developing countries, covering the larger superficies of the countries, rural areas are the living place of the people’s majority who are mostly considered poor and vulnerable, according to Mr Mek.
Most of the ASEAN countries are not an exception, most particularly the new members of the association—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV)—thus the rural development is usually in line with the poverty eradication.
While the overall ASEAN poverty rate has been decreasing, ASEAN are witnessing the increase in the endogenous development gap between urban and rural areas within the country and also the persistence of the gap among ASEAN member countries.
“In fact, the ASEAN exogenous gap dose not reside only the different urban areas but most of all the rural areas. Thus in order to narrow the development gap among ASEAN countries, ultimately to achieve the MDGs and ASEAN Community, it is crucial to devote efforts in the Integrated Rural Development,” said Mr Mek.
Laos is preparing itself for the next five-year socio-economic development plan towards the achievement of 2020 vision as having the country removed from the UN list of least developed countries.
Present at the workshop were Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP in Laos, Mr. Ian Holland, representatives of line ministries, agencies, ASEAN secretariat, and ASEAN ambassadors to Laos. (KPL)
Prak Chan Thul, Reuters
August 26, 2010
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Russian businessman accused of sexually abusing 17 children in Cambodia's largest-known pedophile case had his sentence reduced to eight years from 17 on Thursday in an appeal that riled human rights advocates.
Lawyers for Alexander Trofimov, 43, who is also wanted by Interpol and Russia for suspected sex offences, said there was no solid evidence to prove he had abused 17 girls while working as a director of a holiday resort company.
The judge said Trofimov paid as little as $5 and as much as $2,000 for sex with girls from 2006 to 2007 in Cambodia's seaside Preah Sihanouk province but reduced the sentence because he apologized and, as a foreigner, did not know the local laws.
Trofimov is the highest-profile case brought to court since Cambodia launched an anti-pedophile drive three years ago to ditch its reputation as a haven for foreign child abusers. The number of victims makes it the largest on record.
"The court's decision is surprising. The public will have difficulty accepting this," Noun Phanith, lawyer for the victims, told reporters. "Eight years is unacceptable."
The move comes as Cambodia, a country blighted by poverty, corruption, human rights abuses and a thriving sex industry, seeks to clean up its image and attract foreign investment.
Since 2008, 64 suspected pedophiles, mostly foreigners, have been arrested, with 45 convictions so far, according to Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a French group working closely with Cambodia's police to track sex offenders.
Bith Kimhong, head of Cambodia's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said there was a worrying trend of sex and rape involving children but that Cambodia was committed to stamping out a crime that was hurting its image.
"We want the offender to stay in prison for a long time. That is our work. But the sentence is the court's authority," he said.
Trofimov was executive director of Koh Puos Investment Group until his arrest in 2007 and lived in Sihanoukville, a beach town infamous for child prostitution and a magnet for pedophiles driven out of neighboring countries after similar crackdowns.
His company was leading a $300 million resort and shopping development for an island off Preah Sihanouk.
"Does our judiciary help to protect children or does it assist sex offenders?" said Naly Pilorge, director of local human-rights rights group Licadho.
"Apologizing or paying out-of-court settlements to victims cannot warrant reducing the sentence of child sex offenders."
Trofimov was originally charged with abusing 19 underage girls but the number was reduced after his appeal to 17.
Cambodia rejected Russia's request to extradite Trofimov to face similar charges in his home country where is he is known as Stanislav Molodyakov and wanted by Interpol .
Peng Maneth, a lawyer who represented one of his victims, a 14-year-old girl, described the Russian as a dangerous man who should never be freed. "He didn't just invest in (resorts), he also invested in sex with children," Peng Maneth said.(Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Nick Macfie)
The Cambodia News.Net
Wednesday 25th August, 2010
While every U.S. state experienced job losses during the recent downturn, states such as Minnesota, Kansas and Wyoming have a mix of industries and natural resources to cushion the blow.
For instance, the 9.5 percent national average of unemployment is lower in Iowa by almost 3%.
Outperforming other states with its diverse economy and agricultural base, Iowa still has a strong hiring market.
Minnesota, which has plenty of manufacturing, raw materials, and high education stands at 6.8 percent unemployment.
Wyoming, with its commodities and tourism strengths has a low unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
Kansas, powered by agriculture and oil and natural gas 6.5 percent is also lower than the U.S. overall rate by three percentage points.
Hawaii, the country’s tourism magnet has very low unemployment at 6.3 percent.
Vermont, at 6% unemployment, is strong in dairy production, logging, manufacturing, insurance and tourism. It also ranks 17th in mortgage affordability nationwide.
New Hampshire has an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, thanks to its agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.
Nebraska rates at 4.7 percent with agriculture and transport keeping it buoyant.
South Dakota has services and agriculture and rates at 4.4 percent.
North Dakota’s rate is even better at a very low 3.6 percent, driven by commodities and agriculture.
August 26, 2010
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Police have arrested a man for smuggling into Cambodia a huge quantity of cold medicine containing an essential ingredient used to manufacture the illegal stimulant methamphetamine.
A prosecutor of Banteay Meanchey province, So Vat, said that 35-year old An Pheakdey was charged Wednesday with three offenses related to smuggling medicine. He would not speculate what the penalty might be.
Provincial police chief Hun Hean said An Pheakdey was arrested Sunday after police raided his warehouse and found some 12.85 million South Korean-made cold pills.
He said the medicine was smuggled from Thailand and contains pseudoephedrine. He did not say whether police suspected the pills were intended for conversion into illegal stimulants.
By Peter Symonds
26 August 2010
Washington has recently taken several steps to boost its military relationship with Vietnam as part of a broader Obama administration strategy aimed at undermining Chinese influence in East and South East Asia.
Last week, the two countries held their first-ever defence dialogue in Hanoi. At a joint press conference on August 17, US Deputy Assistant Defence Secretary Robert Scher declared that the talks represented “the next significant historic step in our increasingly robust defence relationship”. Previous security talks, which began in 2008, were conducted by the US State Department and Vietnamese foreign ministry, rather than defence officials.
While nominally the topics involved marine security and international peace keeping, both sides obviously discussed China’s military presence in the region. “I did share at our meeting our impressions of Chinese military modernisation,” Scher told reporters. Last week, the Pentagon released its annual report to Congress, expressing concerns about China’s military expansion and warning that its “limited transparency… increases the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation”.
The dialogue followed provocative comments by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum in Hanoi last month. Clinton declared that the US had “a national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Her remarks cut across China’s claims to sovereignty over much of the South China Sea. Earlier this year, Beijing told senior US officials that the maritime area constituted one of China’s “core interests,” like Taiwan and Tibet.
Clinton also intruded into the longstanding territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. She offered “to facilitate initiatives and confidence-building measures” aimed at establishing an international code of conduct. Washington’s “offer” was aimed at undermining Beijing’s efforts to settle the disputes on a bilateral or regional basis, and provoked an angry reaction from Chinese officials.
Prior to the US-Vietnam security dialogue, the huge aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, and several destroyers arrived off the Vietnamese coast—ostensibly to mark 15 years since the normalisation of relations between the US and Vietnam in 1995. On August 8, US naval officers hosted a delegation of Vietnamese military and government officials, who flew out to the aircraft carrier.
As both sides were well aware, the real purpose of the exercise was to forcefully underscore US claims to “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Speaking to reporters as US warplanes took off from the deck, Captain David Lausman, commander of the USS George Washington, declared: “These waters belong to nobody, yet belong to everybody. China has a right to operate here, as do we and as do every country of the world.”
Two days later, on August 10, the USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer, docked at Da Nang in Vietnam to conduct the first-ever joint military exercises with the Vietnamese navy. The US described the program as a “series of naval engagement activities” focussing mainly on non-combat training, such as damage control and search and rescue. US and Vietnamese naval vessels did not operate together at sea, but the exercise was clearly a step in that direction.
Last month the US navy held large-scale joint operations with South Korea in the Sea of Japan, to the east of the Korean Peninsula, in which the USS George Washington was involved. The exercise was in part a show of force after the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March, allegedly by North Korea. While the war games were moved from the Yellow Sea after Beijing’s protests, the Pentagon has since announced the further joint naval exercises in coming months with South Korea in this sensitive area close to the Chinese mainland.
Commentaries in the Chinese press clearly expressed Beijing’s concerns regarding what one columnist described as the “Pentagon’s gunboat policy”. Another column in the state-owned People’s Daily by Li Hongmei, headlined “Vietnam advisable not to play with fire,” warned: “Vietnam’s actions now are very selfish… It might well overestimate the capacity of Uncle Sam’s protective umbrella. It is advisable for Vietnam to give up the illusion it can do what it likes in the South China Sea under the protection of the US Navy. Should China and Vietnam truly come into military clashes, no aircraft carrier of any country can ensure it will remain secure.”
Like governments throughout the region, the Stalinist regime in Vietnam is engaged in a delicate balancing game amid the growing rivalry between China and the US. Visiting Beijing this week, Vietnam’s vice defence minister, General Nguyen Chi Vinh played down ties with the US and described China as “a good friend of Vietnam”. China and Vietnam have already established military relations. Since 2006, the two countries have held at least nine joint naval patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin. Vietnam has hosted three port calls by the Chinese navy this year.
Nevertheless, there remains considerable suspicion and rivalry between the two countries. With the support of the US, China launched a devastating border war against Vietnam in 1979 aimed at undermining the regime, which had just ousted China’s ally Pol Pot in neighbouring Cambodia. China and Vietnam clashed in 1988 over their disputed claims to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Despite the bitter legacy of US imperialism’s war in Vietnam until 1975, Hanoi has had no scruples about developing closer economic and strategic relations with Washington. Having transformed the country into a cheap labour platform, the Vietnamese regime is reliant on the US as its top export market and source of foreign investment. Over the past year, the two countries have been negotiating a nuclear deal that would pave the way for US corporations to construct nuclear power plants in Vietnam, which already faces energy shortages.
While cautious not to offend Beijing, Hanoi has been forging closer defence ties with the US. Defence analyst Carlyle Thayer writing in the Wall Street Journal on August 19 observed: “Vietnam started last year to engage in a very delicate game of signalling that it views an American military presence in the region as legitimate. Last year, for example, Vietnamese military officials flew to the USS John C. Stennis to observe flight operations in the South China Sea. Later that year, Vietnamese Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh stopped off at Pacific Command in Hawaii on his way to Washington and was photographed peering through the periscope of a US nuclear submarine. The cooperation intensified this year when Vietnamese shipyards repaired two US Military Sealift Command ships.”
Vietnam clearly calculates that closer US ties will provide it with greater bargaining power in its disputes with China in the South China Sea. A US Congressional Research Service paper on US-Vietnam relations published last month noted: “Vietnam reportedly intends to use its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010 to ‘internationalise’ the disputes by forming a multi-country negotiation forum which would force China to negotiate in a multilateral setting. Vietnamese officials have begun to ask their US counterparts more frequently and with greater intensity whether the United States will support Vietnamese efforts to combat what they see as China’s encroachment in the South China Sea. In a news conference releasing the Vietnamese Defence Ministry 2009 White Paper, Deputy Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh [the same general who is now in China] said that sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea have created ‘concerns and new challenges for Vietnamese national defence.”
At last month’s ASEAN forum, Clinton clearly answered Vietnam’s appeals for US backing in the South China Sea in the affirmative. She also declared that the Obama administration was prepared “to take the US-Vietnam relationship to the next level”—as has now been rapidly demonstrated by the first security dialogue and first joint naval exercise between the two countries.
While Vietnam is looking for US backing in its disputes with China, the US is engaged in a far broader and more dangerous strategy of forging and strengthening alliances and security arrangements with a string of countries around China’s borders—from Japan and South Korea in North East Asia to Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Australia, through to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The South China Sea, however, has a particular strategic significance as the main sea-lane through which China ships the bulk of its energy imports from the Middle East and Africa. Since the end of World War II, a key element of American strategic thinking has been to ensure naval control over key “choke points” such as the Strait of Malacca, thus holding a trump card over its potential rivals, including China and Japan, in the event of war. Washington’s determination to hold on to its advantage is thus a direct threat to China, with the potential to further inflame the tense relations between the two major powers.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have recorded high growth rates but their per capita gross domestic product remains the lowest among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"The danger of (a) widening development gap remains a major obstacle to ASEAN's future development, especially given the context of expanded ASEAN economic integration," Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in opening remarks to an annual meeting of the bloc's trade and commerce ministers.
ASEAN is working towards establishing by 2015 a single market and manufacturing base of about 600 million people, a goal which was spurred by competition from China and India.
"A house divided by such a gap is not stable," he told reporters.
By Suy Se (AFP)
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty last month of war crimes and crimes against humanity
PHNOM PENH — Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch has appealed against his conviction by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, his lawyers said Wednesday, describing the verdict as a "miscarriage of justice."
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was last month sentenced to 30 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity for overseeing the execution of 15,000 people, including women and children, at Tuol Sleng prison.
The appeal, filed late Tuesday, calls for Duch's acquittal, partly on the grounds that the court does not have jurisdiction to convict him, his lawyer Kang Ritheary told AFP.
"A low-ranking person like Duch should not have been tried," Kang Ritheary said.
The appeal notice argues that the tribunal "applied victor's justice" and was established for the sole purpose of prosecuting Duch.
Prosecutors are also appealing against the sentence, seeking the maximum 40-year jail term.
They also want enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, extermination and other inhumane acts to be added to Duch's list of convictions.
The 67-year-old was initially handed a jail term of 35 years but the court reduced the sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years before the UN-backed tribunal was established.
It also took into account the years Duch has served since his arrest in 1999, meaning that he could walk free in about 19 years -- to the dismay of survivors and relatives of victims.
During his trial, Duch repeatedly apologised for overseeing the mass murder at the prison -- also known as S-21 -- but shocked the court in November by finally asking to be acquitted.
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork and execution.
Tuol Sleng was at the centre of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus and thousands of inmates were taken from there for execution in a nearby orchard that served as a "killing field".
But the court found there was insufficient evidence to prove Duch personally committed torture or other inhumane acts, the judge said.
The joint trial of four more senior Khmer Rouge leaders charged with genocide is expected to start in 2011.
The court is also investigating whether to open more cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres, after a dispute between the international and Cambodian co-prosecutors over whether to pursue more suspects.
The Khmer Rouge was ousted by Vietnamese-backed forces in 1979, but continued to fight a civil war until 1998. Pol Pot died that same year.
Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle. He was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.
by Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post
A LEADING Khmer Krom advocacy group has appealed to King Norodom Sihamoni to raise issues related to the treatment of Vietnam’s ethnic Khmer community when the Vietnamese president visits Cambodia later this week.
In a statement yesterday, Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, said that Khmer Krom have repeatedly been arrested because Vietnamese authorities did not allow freedom of expression and religion for the Khmer minority, which resides in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.
The statement requests that King Sihamoni discuss the “violation of human rights” when he meets with Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet, who is scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh tomorrow.
“Please, government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, release all Khmer people arrested because of land protests and expression,” the statement says. “Please allow Khmer people in Kampuchea Krom to study Khmer literature, respect its customs freely and avoid threats.”
In a separate statement released Monday, Thach Setha slammed Vietnamese authorities for arresting former monk chief Tach Sophoan, who is accused of “serving the actions of the Khmer Krom” in opposition to the Vietnamese government.
The statement says authorities have barred the monk’s family from visitingy since his arrest, and that no one knows where he is being held.
“The KKKC would like to call for Vietnamese authorities to free Tach Sophoan,” the statement says. “We would like to appeal to the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and both national and international organisations to legally intervene.”
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said people living abroad must respect the laws of the country they reside in.
“This means that people who live in Vietnam must respect Vietnamese law,” he said.
He did not comment on either statement, saying Cambodia “would not interfere” in Vietnam’s internal affairs.
Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's resignation as economic adviser to the Cambodian government is only a political ploy, People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul said on Wednesday.
Mr Sondhi said Thaksin's resignation was just part of a political strategy, since it can be done immediately by just getting approval.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen could show his sincerity by handing over a number of people charged with terrorism, like Arisman Pongruangrong, who are believed to be hiding in Cambodia.
The two countries would be good neighbours if Cambodia returned all of them to Thailand, the yelllow-shirt leader said.
"If Hun Sen fails to do so, then it means he is hiding his real intentions," he said.
Mr Sondhi said Thaksin had been quiet for some time and could be plotting some new action against the government that would cause problems for Thai people.
"I have no trust the situation and I believe Thailand will shortly be down in flames because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is not resolute in his decisions.
"It is dreadful that Thai people allow red-shirt leader and Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Prompan ramble on all the time," he said.
Mr Sondhi said he could agree with Mr Jatuporn if his opinions backed by reason and logic.
When Thaksin was running the government he was the centre of corruption, but in the Abhisit administration corruption had spread to to all ministries, he said.
"I believe there is more corruption now than during the Thaksin administration," Mr Sondhi said.