Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Border memos panel seeks more time

Bangkok Post

The joint House-Senate committee scrutinising the three Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission memorandums will ask for another 90 days to complete its work, panel secretary Ratchada Thanadirek said on Tuesday.

Ms Ratchada said a letter would be submitted to to Paliament President Chai Chidchob seek the extension to allow the committee to look into the three memos in full detail.

Representatives of all agencies concerned would be invited to give information to the committee because the documents on hand did not provide enough details.

Members of the committee would also travel to the border area to gather first-hand information, she added.

The joint committee reviewing the memos, comprising seven senators and 23 MPs, was initially given until Dec 1 to complete its job, she said.

Ms Ratchada said at this stage Thailand was not at a disadvantage because it was still in the stage of negotiation and surveying the area.

The people could rest assured that the parliament was duty-bound to protect the national interest and should not worry, she said.

The parliament agreed to set up the committee on Nov 2 when about 2,000 yellow-shirts of the People's Alliance for Democracy rallied to show strong opposition to the memos tabled for endorsement.

The PAD is concerned parliament's endorsement of the Thai-Cambodian memos, signed last year and in 2008 by the JBC, would result in a significant loss of territory to Cambodia.

PAD co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul said his group would rally on Dec 11 at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Avenue if it was not satisfied with the committee's review.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had reaffirmed the three JBC memos would not affect Thai sovereignty as it kept the territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple on a bilateral, rather than a multi-lateral, level.

Alternatives suggested for north-south road, railway

A train on Vietnam's north-south Thong Nhat Railway

Management experts have proposed a route connecting Laos, Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to ease the traffic on national highways.

At a conference held by the HCMC Association of Consultants in Science Technology and Management (HASCON) on Saturday, former airline and military pilot Mai Trong Tuan suggested to build a road and parallel railway line across Indochina.

Tuan said that buses playing the HCMC-Hanoi route on National Highway 1A and Ho Chi Minh Road, each 1,700-1,800 kilometers, only average about 50 kilometers per hour despite major road upgradations and repairs. It still takes two days and nights to travel between the two major cities.

Meanwhile the proposed Indochina road will be 1,410 kilometers long, running across flat areas of Vietnam and 910 kilometers of Laos and Cambodia.

It will be extended from existing roads which mostly run across sparsely populated regions.

The plan said the new road will be constructed on high, flat ground, so it will be more convenient than National Highway 1A or Ho Chi Minh Road during the monsoons , which are vulnerable to landslides.

Tuan estimated vehicles on the new road will be able to travel at 80-120 kilometers per hour, and the commute time between Hanoi and HCMC will be reduced by 60 percent to 16-18 hours.

The current meter gauge north-south railway, Thong Nhat, can only travel at 60 kilometers per hour at most, he said.

Tuan suggested that the parallel railway be 1.435 meters wide to allow trains to travel faster, between 100 and 200 kilometers per hour, and reduce the time to travel between HCMC and Hanoi to 10 hours, one-third of the time taken by express trains at the moment.

Le Ba Khanh, infrastructure expert at HCMC University of Polytechnics, said it is necessary to discuss alternative routes for Vietnam’s roads and railways.

Khanh said the National Highway 1A and Thong Nhat Railway are usually damaged in heavy rains or floods, and the coastal routes will face severe flooding due to the rise of sea water.

The Indochina route can be considered a solution to the problems of Vietnam’s north-south transport, he said during the conference.

Yet the expert said the plan should deal with real market demand to make the investment practical.

Khanh said most people would choose air travel if the distance is more than 1,000 kilometers.

Engineer Vu Duc Thang, vice chairman of HASCON, said Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been thinking about joint railways to connect Hanoi, Hue, HCMC and Vientiane, and another one to connect Da Nang, Vientiane and Phnom Penh.

The network can be extended to more destinations including China, Thailand and Myanmar, Thang said.

Reported by Phuong Thanh

Preah Vihear temple border gate with Thailand likely to open on weekend


Ten Thai soldiers stationed in Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda at Preah Vihear temple have already withdrawn and the Preah Vihear temple border gate with Thailand is likely to open on Sunday, said a top official at the Preah Vihear National Authority.

"Since Monday's evening, both sides have pulled out each side of the 10 soldiers stationed in Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda and Thai side asked to keep five of them dressed uniforms and equipped with radio transmitters, but no weapons to station at the Police station 795 nearby the Cambodian market nearby the temple," Hang Soth, General Director of the Preah Vihear National Authority told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Both sides have also been re-filled bunkers since on Monday, he added.

"We, both sides, agreed in general to open the border gate at Preah Vihear temple on December 5 upon the request by a Thai army commander," he added. "However, we are not yet to agree with the Thai request to allow her vendors to sell in our market nearby the temple."

Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who is in charge of the army at Preah Vihear temple, said Tuesday that tension between the two countries have been eased since four times of meetings between the two countries' leaders and subsequent meetings between commanders of both sides' armed forces.

The border gate has been closed since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage site, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Since then, tourists have been allowed to enter the hilltop temple from only Cambodia side, preventing a larger influx of visitors from Thailand.

Source: Xinhua

Inter-party talks shelved till mid December


KATHMANDU, Nov 30: Absence of the prime minister and top CPN-UML leaders in the coming weeks is going to affect inter-party talks, the scheduled work of the high-level taskforce on constitution-writing and the summoning of parliament.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal is leaving for Cambodia on Tuesday, UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal will fly to Johannesburg Wednesday and another top UML leader, KP Sharma Oli, has already left for Cambodia.

"Talks will take place after we return home," Khanal told Republica. The leaders including him are scheduled to return latest by December 10.

The prime minister is leaving on a nearly two-week visit two days after leaders from the two largest parties-- UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress (NC) -- urged Speaker Subas Nembang to summon a House session at the earliest.

Second-rank leaders involved in inter-party talks said the top leaders´ foreign trips come at the wrong time since it was urgent to settle issues including government formation, summoning a parliament session to endorse the budget introduced through ordinance and expediting constitution-writing.

"Foreign trips by the head of government himself and top leaders from the ruling party UML will certainly affect the talks and the scheduled work of the high-level taskforce on statute-drafting," said UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha.

Summoning parliament has become essential for endorsing the ordinance budget through parliament and forming the government.

There was an expectation that leaders would intensify talks after the gap of 10 days allocated for the Maoist plenum that concluded on Saturday. But a day after Maoist leaders arrived back in Kathmandu, leaders from the ruling party started leaving the capital.

The leaders had earlier agreed to resume the work of the high-level taskforce from December 1. The taskforce, headed by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and with represention of top leaders of the major parties, had resolved around 40 contentious issues in the constitution-writing process. The extended deadline of the taskforce expires on December 11.

"Summoning parliament has become quite urgent to form the government. Similarly, reaching an agreement on concluding the peace process has become equally pressing also since the term of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is expiring on January 15," said a leader, preferring anonymity. "Leaders seem quite irresponsible in leaving on foreign junkets at such a crucial period."

Published on 2010-11-30 00:00:01

China gives Cambodia $6 million to help restore temple at Angkor complex

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - China has given Cambodia $6 million to help restore a deteriorating temple at the Angkor Wat temple complex, one of Asia's greatest landmarks.

Soeung Kong, an official with the agency that oversees the Angkor Archaeological Park, said Monday the renovation of the Hindu-style Ta Keo temple will begin early next year and should be completed in eight years. He said the temple is deteriorating badly and its walls are at risk of collapse due to natural deterioration.

Ta Keo is a pyramid of five levels, built entirely of sandstone in the late 10th century to early 11th century.

China previously gave $2 million in 2000 to help restore Chausay Tevada, a 12th century Hindu temple at the complex, he said.

Ethnic groups to get more say in herb and spice industry future

Fresh coriander

Fresh coriander is one of the herbs produced by Asian gardeners (Henrique Vicente)

The Herb and Spice R and D levy proposal is getting a makeover in a number of different languages.

The Australian Herb and Spice Industry Association has extended the submission period to translate documents and reach the industry's ethnic growers.

President Robert Hayes says during the consultation period the association became aware of a number of ethnic groups involved in the industry, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodia and Laotian growers.

"We have had the proposal and submission forms translated into Chinese, we're doing so with Vietnamese and we're just trying to establish what other ethnic groups may be involved in the industry, so that we can give them a full opportunity to consider the proposal and make a submission."

UN climate talks in Mexico seek to bridge rich-poor divide

Campaigners and farmers hold placards displaying the symbols of international
currencies during a climate campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

30 November 2010, Tuesday

A new round of UN climate talks opened on Monday with almost 200 nations meeting in Mexico in hopes of clinching an agreement on a narrow range of crunch issues dividing rich and emerging economies.

The two-week conference at the beach resort of Cancun aims to agree on funds and approaches to preserve rain forests and prepare for a hotter world. It will also seek to formalize existing targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Fanfare is far below levels of last year’s Copenhagen summit which aimed to agree a new climate deal but endedinstead with a non-binding agreement rejected by a clutch of developing countries. The long-running UN talks have pitted against each other the world’s top two emitters, the United States and China, with US demands for greater Chinese emissions curbs echoing similar pressure on free trade and human rights.

On the eve of the talks, Mexican President Felipe Calderon pointed to the economic opportunities from fighting climate change, aiming to end the distrust of the previous summit.

“This dilemma between protecting the environment and fighting poverty, between combating climate change and economic growth is a false dilemma,” he said pointing to renewable energy as he inaugurated a wind turbine to power the conference hotel.

Calderon said the talks would focus on preparations for a hotter world, a central concern for poorer countries. “Basically, what we’re going to discuss is adaptation,” he said.

That comment jarred European Union negotiators, who said that the talks must also achieve harder commitments to existing emissions pledges, including from developing countries.

“We will look for a limited set of decisions in Cancun. We hope we will lay out the path forward,” Artur Runge-Metzger, a senior EU negotiator, said on Sunday.

“We do see the outlines of a compromise,” said Peter Wittoeck, senior negotiator with Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

The main aim of the talks is to agree a tougher climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round ends in 2012, to step up action to fight warming.

Hun Sen warns cash-strapped ministries to watch air-con bills

Nov 30, 2010
Source: Monsters and Critics

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told government staff they must stay within budget for electricity use or take pay cuts to compensate for any overruns, local media reported Tuesday.

He was speaking at the inauguration of a ministry building on Monday.

'Starting today, if ministries have electricity costs such as those from air-conditioning higher than the target in their budget, the minister (and deputy ministers) will face a three-month salary cut,' Hun Sen said, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

He said officials who objected to having their salaries cut were welcome to quit, and promised to monitor the electricity usage of the worst offending ministries.

Most of Cambodia's electricity is imported from neighbouring countries. Electricity prices, which are among the highest in the region, are regularly cited as a barrier to investment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Each Dead from Stampede Receives at least $12,000- Cambodian PM

Web Editor: Xu Leiying

Each of 351 people killed during a stampede at Diamond Island bridge on Monday night last week has received the cash donation of at least 12,000 U.S. dollars, said Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday.

So far, 3,771 U.S. dollars from the King, the government, Cambodian Red Cross, and the owner of the Diamond Island has already been donated to each family of the dead, Hun Sen said during the inauguration of the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation on Monday.

"And at least another 9,000 U.S. dollars will be donated to each corpse through their families," he said, adding that the donations were raised by the foundations of Bayon TV, CTN ( Cambodian Television Network), and donated from China, Malaysian investors, and Vietnam.

"I would like to thank our compatriots from all walks of life for their generous donations to help the dead and the injured in the stampede," he said. "And also thank to foreign countries."

The government has negotiated with ACLEDA Bank to open bank accounts for the families of the dead to deposit the cash donation in order to avoid any robbery, said the premier.

He said that for the 395 injured, they get free treatment and if they are critical and cannot treat in the country, the government will pay for them to get treatment outside the countries such as to Vietnam or Thailand.

The stampede tragedy on Monday night at Diamond Island's Dianmond Bridge killed at least 351 people and injured 394.

Primary investigation found that the swinging of the bridge is the cause of the accident. The bridge is a kind of suspension one, but people were not aware of it and when it (the bridge) swung, some people thought it was collapsing and burst out shouting and the crowded people on it began to push each other back and forth and causing fatalities.

The dead were from suffocation, stampede and drown and no any evidence found about terrorism or electrocution.

And the official result of the investigation will be released this evening by the committee on Koh Pich (Diamond Island) Casualties to conclude the case of Koh Pich Casualties, said Hun Sen.

Cambodia's Water Festival from Nov. 20 to 22 is the largest annual festival in the Southeast Asian nation, around three million Cambodians, especially those from rural areas converged to the city to enjoy the regatta.

100 children hurt in school stampede

November 29, 2010

ABOUT 100 children were injured in a stampede at a primary school in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Xinhua news agency reported.

Students at the school in Aksu city were walking down stairs to the playground when some children fell and triggered a stampede, an official said on the condition of anonymity.

The injured students were taken to a local hospital and no deaths were reported two hours after the incident occurred.

The school has more than 1800 students.

Last week, a deadly stampede in Cambodia during the annual water festival left 351 people dead in the country's worst tragedy in decades.

Cambodia goes crazy for local fish sauce

The SsangYong dealership on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, yesterday. Imports of Korean road vehicles have risen by 289 percent. Photo by: Pha Lina
29 November 2010
Phnom Penh Post
Rann Reuy

DOMESTIC fish sauce firms are increasing production this year, as local demand increases due to improved distribution and quality standards.

Chan Sitha, owner of Ngov Heng Fish Sauce Enterprise, in Kampot province, told The Post yesterday that he is producing 120,000 litres of the condiment per month – compared to around 100,000 litres per month last year. Rural demand, he said, was a reason behind the 20 percent increase. He said: “Most of the houses have at least a bottle of fish sauce.”

Other sauce experts said that an increase in quality and distribution networks were proving a boost for business. Hong Mouy, owner of Thai Hong Keat enterprise, which produces 12,000 litres per day of fish sauce and soy sauce , said that her sales had increase due to wider distribution of bottles.

While Phe Chantravuthy, deputy director of Industry Department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said more and more Cambodian people were turning to domestically-made products due to an increase of hygiene and quality standards.

He estimated that around 50 percent of fish sauces on the market were now supplied by local enterprises, with the other 50 percent imported.

“People in rural areas now like the Cambodian-made products, due to their fair price,” he said. “Really, Cambodian products are of a good quality, and now the ministry is giving production advice to entrepreneurs."

China finances restoration of historic Shiva temple in Cambodia

From ANI

Nevada (US), Nov 29: Hindus have applauded China for reportedly financing the restoration of deteriorating Ta Keo Hindu temple in Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor temple complex, which began on November 27.Restoration will take about six million dollars and eight years to complete. People's Republic of China also assisted in the restoration (2000-2008) of 12th century Hindu temple in Angkor named Chausay Tevada, costing about two million dollars, reports suggest.Said to be built entirely of sandstones by kings Jayavarman V and Suryavarman I in late 10-early 11th century, Ta Keo (Preah Keo) is a pyramid of five levels. Fragments of pedestals and lingas are found in/around its towers. Its primary deity is said to be Shiva. At the foot of the eastern stairways, there is a statue of kneeling Nandi, which indicates that Ta Keo was a Shaivite temple.Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that more needed to be done to safeguard the Angkor temple complex and its surroundings and deteriorating bas-reliefs; save it from vandalism and looting; put some controls on unchecked tourism; check the demand for water table which could undermine the stability of sandy soils under the temples.Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, also urged UNESCO World Heritage Convention and Cambodia government to provide more funding for the upkeep of the temple complex and spend more than half the ticket revenue on the temples. He commended China for bankrolling the restoration of historic Hindu temples.Angkor Archaeological Park contains magnificent remains of over 1000 temples going back to ninth century, spread over about 400 square kilometers, and receives about three million visitors annually.

US praises Malaysia’s autocratic government

By John Roberts
29 November 2010

In separate visits to Malaysia by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates this month, the Obama administration heaped praise on the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-led coalition government. The visits, just before President Barack Obama’s own Asian tour, were part of a US diplomatic offensive directed against China’s growing economic and political influence in Asia.

Clinton met with Foreign Minister Anifah Aman on November 2, as Prime Minister Najib Razak was ill. After the meeting, Clinton talked up the relationship between the US and Malaysia, saying it was a “strong partnership” based on “pluralism”, “cultural diversity”, “religious diversity” and “important business, trade and investment ties”. Clinton declared: “We know that Malaysia is a leader in this region ... and increasingly being looked to as both a thought leader and a model globally.”

Clinton hailed the Malaysian government for deploying a 40-member medical team to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Malaysia is one of the few Muslim majority countries that have given support to the nine-year US-led occupation.

In reality, UMNO which has been in government since independence in 1957, presides over an autocratic regime based on communal politics and discrimination against the country’s substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Clinton’s praise for the UMNO government was in stark contrast to the stance of Vice President Al Gore in 1998, who was the last senior US official to visit Malaysia. Gore, while attending the 1998 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Kuala Lumpur, expressed support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who had just been sacked as deputy prime minister and finance minister and expelled from UMNO. Gore also expressed concerns over “crony capitalism” in Malaysia.

Anwar gained US favour at the time as he had clashed with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and advocated the opening up of the Malaysian economy to foreign investors in the aftermath of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. His stance coincided with the efforts of the Clinton administration to exploit the crisis to open up Asian markets to the penetration of US corporations.

The US demands, and Anwar’s alignment with them, threatened the business figures who depended on UMNO’s patronage and protection. To develop a base of support, Anwar had raised also opposition to UMNO’s autocratic control of the judiciary and state apparatus, and the gerrymandered and ethnic-based political system that discriminates against the country’s Chinese and Indian minorities in favour of the Malay ruling elite.

In 1998, Gore’s criticisms of UMNO and Mahathir were portrayed as a stand in defence of human rights. Soon after Gore’s visit to Malaysia, Anwar was prosecuted for sodomy and abuse of power in a politically-motivated frame up. For several years, US-Malaysian relations were tense.

Anwar served close to six years in prison. He now leads an opposition coalition that has over one third of the seats in the national parliament and controls four of the country’s 13 state governments, but he is facing trial on new trumped up sodomy charges. Anwar’s lawyers are being denied access to the alleged “evidence” and the purported victim has close ties with the government.

Times, and the needs of US imperialism, however, have changed. At this point, Washington has no desire to be seen to be supporting Anwar or the opposition to UMNO.

Clinton declined to meet Anwar during her visit. At her major press conference alongside Anifah, she refused to condemn the new charges, saying only that the US expected a “transparent” trial. The Malaysian foreign minister made unchallenged statements that the prosecution was “not political”.

Inside Malaysia, Clinton’s effusive praise for the government was interpreted as a cynical bid for closer relations with the UMNO regime. An op-ed piece in the Malaysian Sun Daily commented: “The last time the US eased up on its human rights agenda, it was to secure the support of Asian countries for its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In 2010, US imperialism is seeking closer ties with states throughout the Asia-Pacific to counter China’s rising influence. Clinton declared during her visit: “We know that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in this region, because it is the centre of so many of the world’s greatest opportunities and challenges.”

Clinton lauded the UMNO government for agreeing to join the so-called Trans Pacific Partnership group, through which the US is seeking to develop a regional trading bloc against the free trade pacts that China has struck with countries in East and South East Asia, including Malaysia.

Three agreements were signed as a result of the Clinton visit: a memorandum of understanding on researching new technologies; a deal on a new medical school and teaching hospital; and the sale of 50 Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines to Malaysian airlines. In addition there was an agreement on English language education.

The visit by Defense Secretary Gates a week later focussed on the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen its military relations with Malaysia. Gates met with Najib and Defence Minister Aahmad Zahid Hamid. According to the American Forces Press Service, the talks centred on expanding the military-to-military relationship between the two countries and increasing Malaysian participation in US-led exercises.

In June and July, Malaysian forces took part in major multi-national RIMPAC war games off Hawaii—the largest naval exercise in the world. RIMPAC is part of a series of exercises that the US conducts in the Asia-Pacific, increasingly clearly aimed at rehearsing for a potential confrontation with China. Over the past year, US-led military exercises have been held in India, East Timor, Cambodia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

The Najib government demonstrated a willingness to deepen its military ties with the US, primarily because it is seeking to attract greater levels of US and other Western foreign investment, which fell sharply following the 2008 global financial crisis. Malaysian officials made clear, however, that there are limits to this cooperation. Clearly the government does not wish to alienate China on which it is increasingly reliant economically.

Following a meeting with the American team on November 9, Defence Minister Zahid insisted that China was a “traditional friend” of Malaysia and “we do not feel we are being bullied”. Zahid continued: “We are more comfortable to engage with China rather than to have a sour relationship with them.”

Zahid’s remarks were an indirect reference to the territorial dispute between China and Malaysia over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The US has labelled as “bullying” the Chinese insistence that such regional disputes be settled through bilateral negotiations between the rival claimants. Washington has declared that the US and other non-claimants should be involved in any talks. Distancing Malaysia from the US position, Prime Minister Najib commented during Gates’s visit that he wanted to see the territorial disputes with China resolved “in an elegant way”.

The caveats on the closeness of US-Malaysian relations are the product of the changing trade and investment patterns in the region. The US remains one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners. In 2009, Malaysian exports to the US were valued at $US23.3 billion and its imports were $10.4 billion, giving Malaysia a surplus of $12.9 billion.

However, trade with China is growing rapidly, facilitated in part by a free trade agreement with Malaysia and five other key members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year. From January to August this year, Malaysian exports to China reached $16.58 billion and imports $13.66 billion.

At present, the Malaysian elite is seeking to straddle the growing rivalry between the US and China. The visits of Clinton and Gates were intended as a pointed reminder that, in calculating its economic and political alignments, the UMNO government needs to pay due to Washington’s determination to retain its influence in Asia. If not, the praise and overtures could rapidly be replaced with condemnations, provocations and explicit support for the Anwar-led opposition.

China planning to extend high-speed rail network into Southeast Asia


China is laying plans to extend its growing high-speed rail network outward into neighboring countries, with Yunnan as the jumpoff point for several planned lines into Southeast Asia.

There are now three high-speed rail projects between Yunnan and neighboring countries that are at various stages of consideration, according to local media reports.

The project slated to start soonest is a 1,920 kilometer line linking Kunming and Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. Work is scheduled to begin within two months and the trains are expected to travel at speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour).

There are also plans for a Kunming-Cambodia high-speed rail line which would pass through Vietnam. The line would be an important step in plans to eventually build high-speed rail extending from Kunming to Singapore. Specifics of the line are currently being negotiated.

Meanwhile, China and Laos are conducting a survey of the best routes for a proposed high-speed rail line between Kunming and the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

All three of these rail lines could facilitate development of a pan-Asian high-speed rail network. The line to Yangon would be an especially important stepping stone for westward expansion, should China and India find a way to cooperate.

Beijing announced in March of this year that it was interested in building rail lines as far west as London, via a northern Asia route. Yunnan also figures heavily in the government's plans, with a proposed southern high-speed rail line that could go through Myanmar to India and eventually terminate in Tehran, Iran.

Image: People's Daily

Cambodian PM Hun Sen says no one to be punished from stampede accident

Nov 29, 2010

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that no one to be punished from stampede accident that occurred last week in the country.

Delivering speech at a newly-constructed building for Ministry of Social Affairs, Hun Sen said "no one is deserved to be punished for this accident," but the whole of them.

He said the main cause of the accident was the "under- estimation and the carelessness to the situation."

On the last day of a three-day water festival, 351 people died and 395 others injured by the stampede occurred at Diamond Island Bridge in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said the water festival will be celebrated as usual in the following years despite such accident, saying it is the national event, while at the same time, the island known as Diamond Island will be developed as planned without any change.

But, he said, his government will take strong measures and all necessary precautions to avoid a repetition of the accident.

He also said the government will use the island for one of the venues for the upcoming meeting of more than 100 political parties which is set for Dec. 1-4, 2010.

The roughly more than 100-hectares of Diamond Island is being developed into residential and commercial area, now one of the most attractive spot for happy goers in Phnom Penh both day and night.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government was trying utmost efforts on the day of accident to help the victims on the spot and to avoid mass chaos or panic from the public gathering in the whole city on the day.

He called this year's gathering for the water festival was a " sea of people", referring the largest ever number of people in the country's history.

With 395 injured people are still in hospitals, Hun Sen expressed his apology to the victims and the people, and urged all doctors to treat them well and if necessary for those in critical condition, to send them abroad, the government will hold responsible for the cost.

However, in his concluding speech, Hun Sen expressed his second time of tear drop following the event and questioned himself why he was so emotional with the dropping tears while he is known to have an "iron heart".

Editor: An

Boy who fled Cambodia's 'Killing Fields' returns as US naval commander

As a boy in Cambodia Michael Misiewicz fled the civil war with the Khmer Rouge. Now 37 years later he is about to return to the country of his birth as commander of US warship.

The guided missile destroyer USS Mustin, with a complement of 300 crew, is due to dock in the south-western port of Sihanoukville later this week.

As a boy in Cambodia Michael Misiewicz fled the civil war with the Khmer Rouge. Now 37 years later he is about to return to the country of his birth as commander of US warship.
US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz who left Cambodia and his family 37 years ago to escape the Khmer Rouge

It will be the first time Commander Misiewicz, 43, has set foot on home soil since he left in 1973.

"I have been fighting a lot of emotions about coming back to my native country," he said by ship-to-shore telephone. "To know that I have relatives there who have wanted to see me for decades . . . I don't know if I will be able to hold back the tears." Commander Misiewicz, who was born in Vannak Khem, left Cambodia as the fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the US backed regime of Lon Nol intensified.

His father had arranged for him to be adopted by a woman at the US embassy who was leaving for home as the situation in Cambodia grew more perilous.

While studying at naval college he began to learn more to of the atrocities committed by the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished in the "Killing Fields", of torture, starvation or disease.

He had heard nothing from his parents or four siblings since he had bid his mother a tearful goodbye and assumed the worst about their fate under the murderous Khmer Rouge.

What he did not realise was that his mother and four siblings had managed to escape Cambodia in 1983, four years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and had settled in Texas.

Years of searching by the rest of the family finally bore fruit when he received a telephone call from his brother out of the blue.

But the joyous reunion was tinged with sadness with the news that his father was executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977 and an infant sister had died, probably from malnutrition.

The USS Mustin will dock in Sihanoukville on Friday for four days when he and the crew will connect with Cambodians during naval exercises and community outreach work.

"I've been so blessed to have these opportunities and I feel honoured and privileged to come back," he said.

Foreign skills seen as opportunity, not threat

Published: 29/11/2010
Bangkok Post

Importing foreign skilled workers should be seen as an opportunity for exchanging knowledge to raise Thailand's competitiveness rather than a threat, says Labour Minister Chalermchai Sri-on.

The country would definitely experience problems if there is no prudent planning and preparation for the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, when freedom of movement for workers will become much easier, he said.

"What we need is to assess demand for labour in each industry," he said. "I think there are both benefits since we will be able to choose the kind of labour that we want, and drawbacks, because on the other hand it will be kind of a competition."

Kampon Adireksombat, a senior economist at Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Center, said many sectors lacked skilled labour, such as the IT sector in which Indians have a specialty, and also automotive technicians. "Thailand now focuses only on bringing in unskilled labour without focusing much on skilled labour. The AEC will provide us an opportunity to bring in highly skilled human resources to share knowledge, but we also need to adapt," said Dr Kampon, who also proposed that sectors that need skilled labour should be provided with lower taxes.

Alex Gordy, editorial manager of the Oxford Business Group, said that while increased competition from low-skilled labour markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos may benefit from opportunities in the Thai market, this will also allow for Thais to move further up the value chain with productivity gains that would justify wage increases.

"The creation of a regional labour market will introduce more flexibility in national labour markets and could allow for further specialisation of human resources," said Mr Gordy.

He said that in general, economic analyses tend to prove that the benefits of a common regional labour market far outweigh the disadvantages.

"The goal of 2015 presents a strong incentive for governments to upgrade their human resources. ... Another element the Thai government may wish to consider is to allow for employment by the hour rather than by the day. This would allow for more part-time employment and help bring more Thais into productive employment," he added.

China calls for calm as North Korea builds tension

The Cambodia News.Net
Sunday 28th November, 2010

China has called for talks between the two Koreas as tension builds on the divided peninsula.
China has called for talks between the two Koreas as tension builds on the divided peninsula.

Anger in the region has been sharpened since North Korea bombarded a South Korean island last Tuesday, provoking world condemnation, retaliatory rhetoric from the South and war games being conducted between the United States and South Korea.

China has now called for emergency talks about the crisis and has already spoken to representatives from the neighbouring Koreas.

China, an ally of the North, has called for diplomatic meeting of six nations in response to the tension.

The two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia have been invited.

China has proposed the heads of delegation should meet in early December in Beijing to exchange views on the major issues of concern.

But China has made clear it will not preside over a resumption of the disarmament discussions, which North Korea walked out of two years ago.

China Invests in Asian Infrastructure

China, facing the positive problem of being a capital surplus economy, is diverting more funds to assist with the development of Asian infrastructure, and is in high level talks with several countries to provide funds and loans for high-speed rail and related projects across the region.

China and Thailand are set to agree on a plan to build high-speed rail lines that will pass from Southern China through Laos to Thailand, and then to the border of Malaysia. The Thai Parliament approved the deal last month in a project likely to cost some US$27 billion. The trains on this line would be expected to run at about 250 kilometers per hour. According to Thai Transport Minister Sophron Sarum, the first section will be built in Northern Thailand on the Thai-Laos border and will link Bangkok with Nong Khai. Construction has just commenced.

The Chinese link through to Malaysia would be expected to link up with the Malaysian-funded high-speed rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore; however this has still to be formally approved. China is still held at arm’s length by Vietnam and the China-Thai link bypasses Vietnam all together. Vietnam is planning its own, 1,570 kilometer high-speed rail between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, as we reported here. That line is being built with Japanese technology and funding.

China and Vietnam have a history of border skirmishes despite both being communist states and recent tensions over disputed islands in the South China Sea have not helped alleviate long standing problems between the two. Vietnam’s politicians are divided between factions that want nothing to do with China, and those who want China’s investment, tourism and trade. China has offered to develop a high-speed rail link between Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh, the capital of neighboring Cambodia some 257 kilometers away. That would make the journey between Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh achievable in less than 90 minutes. It currently takes six hours by road and although there are direct flights, the security issues and airport travel makes the journey about a four hour excursion.

Cambodia agreed to a US$1.6 billion infrastructure development deal with China earlier this month, set to assist with the development of roads, bridges, dams and railway links. China has some way to go to make inroads into Cambodia, which is more politically aligned with the United States, although that may change. Western aid usually comes with strings attached in the form of human rights and political reform, something that China tends not to push as a condition.

China has also been making inroads with Indonesia, ASEAN’s largest member nation, and has signed deals worth US$6.6 billion with Jakarta for projects in infrastructure, energy and agriculture. That Indonesia lies just off the coast of Singapore makes the future prospect of linking Jakarta to Singapore via rail, and then into the pan-Asian high-speed rail system to China, something that could worked on.

About the Author

This article was written for China-Briefing.com. The site is contributed to by Chris Devonshire-Ellis. Vietnam Briefing and Asia Briefing were also founded by Chris Devonshire-Ellis.

'No punishments' over deadly Cambodian stampede --PM

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 11/29/2010

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's premier said Monday that nobody will be brought to justice over a festival stampede last week that left more than 350 people dead, adding the tragedy was the result of a "joint mistake".

"Nobody will be punished for the incident," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new government building in the capital.

"We were careless," he added. "This was a joint mistake that nobody expected."

Cambodia's annual water festival ended in tragedy last Monday after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.

A total of 351 people lost their lives, the majority of them women, and questions have been raised over who is to blame for the tragedy.

Authorities have said a full report on the incident would be released in the coming days.

Initial findings from the investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumors rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island was about to collapse.

"The tragedy started with our wrong assessment of the situation," said Hun Sen, who has described the stampede as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The three-day festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Vietnamese supermarket to open in Cambodia

The Vietnamese supermarket in Phnom Penh. Photo by: Quoc Viet/RFA

The first Vietnamese supermarket in Phnom Penh Cambodia will open at 717-719 Monivong Street on December 29.

This was announced by the Chairman of the Vietnamese Supermarket brand and Deputy Chairman of the Vietnamese Business Association in Cambodia, Seng Meng (Le Minh).

The supermarket was build with a total investment capital of US$3 million by the Z38 Company to introduce and sell Vietnamese products to Cambodians and overseas Vietnamese living in Cambodia.

Vietnamese Supermarket hopes to become an effective promoter and distributor of Vietnamese goods for the country’s businesses and create credibility among the Cambodian consumers.

VOV News

Cambodia calls for resumption of six-party talks on Korean Peninsula tension


The Cambodian government issued a statement on Saturday calling for a resumption of six-party talks on problems in Korean Peninsula.

The statement sent out to the media on Saturday morning said the Royal Government of Cambodia has "learned with great concern the exchange of artillery shelling on the Yeonpyeong Island of the Republic of Korea, on 23 November, resulting in damages and casualties."

"The Royal Government of Cambodia calls for the resumption of the six-party talks at the earliest possible in order to prevent further escalation of the tension which will endanger peace, security in the Korean Peninsula as well as in the whole region," according to the statement of the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The statement also appealed to "all parties concerned to stop any act of provocation and exercise maximum self restraint in order to prevent the situation from escalating and to seek for a peaceful settlement of problems in the Korean Peninsula."

South Korea and the Democratic People 's Republic of Korea ( DPRK) exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, leaving four people dead.

Source: Xinhua

U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center Recognized with Heritage Award for International Excellence

Posted: 27/11/2010

The U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) has recognized the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center with the first annual Heritage Award for International Excellence. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock received the award on behalf of the Cultural Heritage Center on November 9th at a dinner and ceremony at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC.

The award recognizes organizations, programs, projects, individuals, and publications that exemplify worldwide excellence in the protection, revitalization, or interpretation of the world’s historic monuments and sites; or that educate the public about global heritage or otherwise further the goals of the World Heritage Convention.

As part of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Heritage Center supports the foreign affairs functions of the U.S. Department of State that relate to the preservation of cultural heritage. Serving as a source of expertise on global cultural heritage protection issues, the Cultural Heritage Center administers the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the Iraq Cultural Heritage Initiative, and special cultural heritage programs. The Center also administers U.S. responsibilities relating to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Assistant Secretary Stock, in conveying the US/ICOMOS award to Cultural Heritage Center Director Maria Kouroupas and her staff, also presented a Certificate of Appreciation from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who cited the positive impact of the Center’s work and of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation: “Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. This marvelous program has made a lasting contribution to America’s efforts to preserve the common heritage of humanity. On a recent trip to Cambodia, I had the pleasure of visiting Angkor Archaeological Park, where the Ambassadors Fund is supporting a project to help preserve the 10th-century Phnom Bakheng Temple, one of the greatest cultural achievements of the Khmer Kingdom. Your professional and personal dedication to cultural heritage is both commendable and inspirational.”

Media Contact: Catherine Stearns, (202) 632-6437 or StearnsCL@state.gov

Musical confronts dark period of Canada's history

Posted: 27/11/2010
by Al Campbell

VANCOUVER, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- A bit of Chinese history, that of the Canadian variety, is about to be told in Vancouver starting Friday with a new musical play chronicling the lives of early Chinese settlers in a country that wasn't exactly rolling out the welcoming mat for people that were essentially viewed as aliens.

The Red Letters, a two-act play by Alan Bau, narrates the struggles of early Chinese in Canada in a society where they faced extreme racism and exclusion through a series of government policies that tore apart many families.

The play comes four years after the Canadian government formally apologized in 2006 for the country's racist practices of the early 20th century. At the time, Chinese immigrants were charged a 500-Canadian-dollar head tax to enter the country, a huge sum in the day, and were the only group levied with such a charge.

To add to insult, the Exclusion Act of 1923 effectively banned all forms of Chinese immigration to the country, effectively tearing apart thousands of families who could not be reunited. After recognizing the contributions of Chinese during the Second World War, Canada repealed the act in 1947.

Set in 1922, Red Letters puts Shen, the play's young protagonist, right in the thick of the racist times of the era. As a young farmer in a Guangdong village who is about to marry his childhood sweetheart Mei, Shen dreams of a family and providing a better life for them -- all his dreams can be answered with a move to Canada, the so-called "Gold Mountain" where fortunes are made.

After securing his ticket to Vancouver through a series of loans from his parents, in-laws and the villagers he has grown up with, the young Shen arrives to a job waiting for him in a Chinese laundry of essentially long hours of menial work and more hardship in a strange land. With his new bride pregnant back home, his sense of alienation is even more pronounced in his strange new homeland.

Alvin Tran, an ethnic Chinese whose parents are from Cambodia, plays the lead character. With his own family having escaped the mayhem of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, the 21-year-old actor says he can relate to the struggle faced by the young migrant.

He hoped that play, which features seven actors, six of them Chinese, would be something the new Chinese immigrants to Canada could learn from.

"I think it is great for them (new Chinese immigrants) to see what we have achieved and done because over the years you can really see how the Chinese have made a huge impact on Canadian history, like we built the railroad. It's a big thing," he said.

"We do have lots of history here and this is one of the big stories that need to be told," he added.

Joyce Lam, the play's producer, said the production had been four years in the making. When the Canadian government formally apologized in 2006 for the head tax, it also announced funding would be available to publicize what had happen. As the only theater company showing history through performing art, the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theater received a grant to stage the play in Vancouver, the neighboring suburb of Richmond and Victoria through mid January.

The play is being presented in English with Mandarin subtitles.

"Red Letters is about a significant historical event in Canada. It's about the Chinese head tax and the immigration laws of 1923 when Chinese people were restricted from entering Canada," said Lam, whose own grandfather was separated from his family.

Lam added Bau's original script was only 10 pages, but was later expanded when writer Kathy Leung was brought in to extend the script into a full production.

"I knew that this was a significant event and this was a chance to show history through performing arts and make people experience what the laws did to the Chinese people, not so much that they would know about the Exclusion Act or the Humiliation Day was July 1, 1923, but to feel the impact and the hardship that tore families apart because of being separated by law," said Lam.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

BD textile sector opposes EU's new GSP criteria

November 27, 2010
Nation. Com

LAHORE - The Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) has opposed the new criteria of the EU Commission, which has allowed 14 Least Developed Countries the GSP plus status for exporting duty-free goods to the European Union countries, on the ground that substantial investment has been made in Primary Textile Sector (PTS) in its country.

The Bangladesh Textile Mills Association said that a huge investment of $4 billion has been made on spinning and weaving in the country to get the benefit of GSP facility on supply of yarn and fabric to local garments manufacturers but after the revision of ‘Rules of Origin’ by the European Union Commission their all investment would go wasted.

Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, Federal Advisor on Textile, said that Bangladesh was one of the major beneficiary to this concession which had boosted their textile garments export.

He observed that Bangladesh was the major importer of textile fabrics from Pakistan but the duty-free concession of garments export to the European Union was only allowed if the garments were made from locally manufactured fabric i.e. if the fabric is of Bangladesh origin.
This restriction had seriously discouraged their import of fabric from Pakistan.

Moreover, to support their local industry, Bangladesh government allowed 5% rebate to their garments exporters if the fabric is procured from the local Mills.

Dr Baig said that he took up the matter in the European Union commission on 20th October 2009 in Brussels to change the rules of their certificate of origin which eliminates the existing two step process for production of readymade clothing.

This would mean that imported fabrics can be used by LDCs and they can still get duty free GSP plus status for exporting to EU countries.

Finally European Commission (EC) has adopted the new regulation effective from 1st Jan. 2011 with the new rules of certificate of origin, he added.

Pakistan will be the main beneficiary of exporting fabric to Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and many other African countries, Dr Baig informed.

He thanked European Commission and said that the new rules will help the developing countries including Pakistan to benefit from the trade preferences.

He advised our fabric exporters to get the maximum benefit of this concession to enhance Pakistan textile exports.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lawyers for Khmer Rouge jailer appeal conviction

Friday, Nov. 26, 2010 | 3:16 a.m.

Defense lawyers for a former Khmer Rouge prison chief have formally appealed his conviction for war crimes and other offenses that landed him a 19-year jail sentence.

Kang Ritheary, a Cambodian lawyer representing Kaing Guek Eav _also known as Duch _ said Monday his team has filed the appeal with the Supreme Court chamber of the country's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal. They seek his release from detention.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from starvation, disease, overwork and execution due to the radical policies of the 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Kang Ritheary said the appeal, lodged Friday, argues that Duch was wrongfully convicted because the court had a mandate to try only top Khmer Rouge leaders. Duch (pronounced DOIK) claimed there were others who held positions similar to his.

"The tribunal is confused in convicting my client," Kang Ritheary said. "Based on the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodian government, Duch is not a main suspect for trial by the tribunal."

While Duch was one of some 100 officials supervising separate prisons around the country, the S-21 prison that Duch supervised _ also known as Tuol Sleng _ was the ultimate destination for most important political prisoners, many of whom were tortured into making false confessions.

Prosecutors had already appealed Duch's sentence, arguing that it was too lenient. Found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as torture and murder, Duch was originally sentenced to 35 years. Judges reduced the sentence by five years for time served illegally detained in a Cambodian military prison, and ended up commuting it to about 19 years after taking into consideration that he cooperated, showed some expression of remorse and was not in the Khmer Rouge's inner circle.

The prosecutors said the original judgment "gives insufficient weight to the gravity of Duch's crimes and his role and his willing participation in those crimes." They want a life sentence _ equivalent in legal terms to 50 years _ commuted to 45 years to take into account his earlier illegal detention.

The appeals are expected to be heard next year.

The 67-year-old Duch was the first defendant to be tried of the five held by the tribunal. He admitted to overseeing the torture and deaths of as many as 16,000 people at the prison he ran. He has expressed remorse for his actions.

The four other defendants are expected to go on trial by the middle of next year: Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, its former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.

ASEAN members collaborate on higher education to realize ASEAN Community

BANGKOK, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Ten ASEAN members agreed to promote collaboration on research and educational development in contributing towards the realization of the ASEAN Community by the year 2015, said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday.

"As the ASEAN Community is expected to come out in the 5-year time, I think it will be the most appropriate if we start to talk about the issue together so that we have enough time to start preparing our resources for the ASEAN research clusters," the prime minister said while presiding over the first conference on pioneering ASEAN Higher Education Research Clusters.

During the two-day conference, the representatives from 10 ASEAN nations will set up few pilot clusters which are likely to be food security and climate change, according to Thailand's Office of Higher Education Commission Secretary-General Sumate Yamnoon.

Considering research as an important tool to enhance the country's competitiveness, Thai government has earmarked about 2 billion baht (66.23 million U.S. dollars) for 3 years from fiscal year 2011 to support the accelerated development of university research activities nationwide, the prime minister said.

The representatives of 10 ASEAN members also signed Joint Statement on Promoting Research Clusters as they believe the research will be a solid foundation that will lead ASEAN to sustainable development.

"Currently, China, Japan and (South) Korea are the leaders in research development at the global level. ASEAN countries, therefore, should synergize to support each country's research strength in order to uplift research competitiveness to keep up with other countries in Asia," Sumate Yamnoon said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded in 1967 with an aim to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development among its members. The organization consists of 10 member nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Ghosts descend on bridge of death

Haunted ... Sopheap Meng at the end of Rainbow Bridge, where his brother Sovaan died on Monday night.

Haunted ... Sopheap Meng at the end of Rainbow Bridge, where his brother Sovaan died on Monday night. Photo: Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty
November 27, 2010

PHNOM PENH: The short, narrow suspension bridge that links Phnom Penh with Diamond Island has not re-opened, but it hardly matters. Few are likely to walk on it again.

The Khmers of Cambodia are Buddhists, but they hold strongly to ancient animist beliefs. The bridge is a bad place now. The spirits of those killed - the 347 who died when a crowd celebrating the water festival stampeded here on Monday night - will keep people away.

Sopheap Meng has come back one last time to farewell his brother. They were together when the panic hit.

He gripped Sovaan's hand as tightly as he could, fighting the crush that pushed him to the ground. "But there was no air; I could not breathe. I got pushed to the side of the bridge. People were falling all around, onto my arm, so I had to let go."

Dragged out by police, it was hours before he found his brother. Sovaan's corpse, bruised and bloodied, was among the crush of lifeless bodies on Rainbow Bridge.

Sopheap lives with his family north of the capital in Kandal province. He will not return to this bridge again. "Never," he says.

All week, this city has sought a way to cope. Monks have held vigils, family members have burned incense, flowers and fruit have been left by the water's edge.

It is a city still in shock.

The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said it was Cambodia's "greatest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime".

Under the Khmer Rouge leader a quarter of the population, an estimated 1.7 million people, was killed from 1975 to 1979.

"I ask you all to understand me and forgive me for this very bad situation," Mr Sen said.

The Khmer Rouge wiped out a generation of Cambodia's best and brightest. It targeted the educated.

This week, again, it is the country's future that has born the brunt of tragedy.

This disaster took the young. Most of those killed - 221 of the 347 - were girls, physically unable to resist the crush of human bodies pushing them to the ground.

The government has pre-empted its own inquiry, due to report next week, by saying it was a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse that began the stampede.

As the panic grew, the mass of people on the bridge pressed closer together as everyone fought to find a way out.

People began to lose consciousness. Those who fell were trampled under the hundreds of feet of helpless people being pushed backwards and forwards by the force of the crowd.

Afterwards, most of the dead were found here, on the bridge. Bodies were four and five deep in places.

Some had sought refuge by jumping from the bridge into the water. Some drowned - it is believed they fell unconscious into the river - but most of those who jumped survived. The water was barely waist deep.

The finger pointing over who is to blame has begun in earnest.

The government has admitted overcrowding on the narrow bridge was not a contingency it had planned for.

"We were concerned about the possibilities of boats capsizing and pick-pocketing. We did well, but we did not think about this kind of incident," a spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, conceded.

But he said security on the three bridges that span Phnom Penh and Diamond Island, also known as Koh Pich, was the responsibility of the company that built them, the island's developer, the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC).

The OCIC in turn laid blame with the government's police force. "It happened mainly near Diamond Island, but … not really on the island," a project manager, Susi Tani, said.

"For the policing [responsibility], it is the government. We built the bridge; we are not responsible for the public. What we try doing is assist the public. We don't have the right to control the public."

One hundred and six private security guards and 12 police officers were on Diamond Island on Monday night, jointly responsible, it seems, for crowd control.

But as the night of celebrations reached a climax, and the crowd grew larger and larger, it appeared no one was in control.

Sopheap Meng wants answers, and he wants someone to blame. He knows he will probably have neither.

"Our family is very sad. We cannot believe this has happened … it should never have happened. My brother shouldn't have died."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thailand 2011 rice exports to reach 8.5-9.5 million tons

November 25, 2010
BANGKOK (Commodity Online) : World’s largest rice exporter Thailand said its exports to reach 8.5-9.5 million tons next year.

Speaking at the seminar titled "Thailand's Rice Policy for 2011" here, country’s commerce minister Porntiva Nakasai said despite the floods, rice exports will not decline.

She said export quality, not quantity, will be the focus the next five years, particularly for premium-grade rice. Thailand’s target for this year is 8.5 million tons worth 200 billion baht.

With the focus on quality, the value of rice exports could increase to 500 billion baht or more.

She also said Thailand will co-operate closely with neighbors such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to curb price-cutting by them, while the country will help with marketing.

Global rice prices are expected to be volatile next year but generally on an uptrend, as natural disasters have dampened output worldwide while demand remains high.

However, Thailand’s Agriculture ministry said output from this year's main harvest may fall below previous estimates, as the worst floods in five decades have devastated crops.

It could be the worst damage to rice crops since the 2006 floods, it said.

Output of rough rice from the main crop, which began being harvested last month and accounts for 70% of total production, may fall by 7% from last year.

Production from the main crop is estimated to decline by 1.6 million tonnes to 21.7 million, it said.

The flooding, which affected two-thirds of the country, may slash the country's economic growth by 0.3 percentage point this year to 7.9%, state planning agency the National Economic and Social Development Board said this week.

Some 11 million rai of agricultural land or 8.5% of the total have been inundated, Floods deluged 8.3 million rai of riceland or 15% of the area for main-crop production, Agri ministry in a report said.

Four million rai of rice crops are believed to be entirely devastated, he said. Actual damage numbers will be finalised about mid-December, the ministry added.

Second-crop production, which begins next April, may rise to 9.3 million tonnes from 8.26 million last year, when drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon and the spread of brown planthoppers hurt yields, it said

Thai Rice Millers Association, said the combined milling capacity of all Thai millers is 100 million tonnes of paddy rice, while total output is 30-33 million tonnes.

With the excess milling capacity, Thailand could make use of its Asean Free Trade Area privilege with Vietnam, which has up to 45 million rai of ricefields and expects to export seven million tonnes this year, part of which is imported paddy from Cambodia for milling and export.

This positions Vietnam as a rice trader while Thailand cannot import paddy from its neighbours to mill. Association urged the government seriously to consider importing paddy for processing and export.

Meanwhile Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand, said rice prices will remain on an uptrend next year, particularly jasmine rice, which will suffer reduced output output from the flooding.

From January to October, Thailand exported 7 million tonnes of rice, down by 2.27% from the same period last year, but still expects to reach 8.7-9 million tonnes by year-end.

New drug fights SEAsia liver fluke

Agence France-Presse

PARIS--Researchers said Thursday they had successfully tested a Chinese-developed drug against opisthorchiasis, a neglected tropical disease that threatens some 67 million people in Southeast Asia.

Tribendimidine is as safe and effective against the tiny worm that causes the disease as the frontline drug, praziquantel, marketed as Biltricide, they reported in a study published online in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Opisthorchiasis is caused by a fluke, known by its Latin name as Opisthorchis viverrini, that passes from freshwater snails to river fish, and then to humans if the fish is eaten raw or undercooked.

The fluke holes up in the liver and bile duct, where it reproduces, causing abdominal pain and diarrhoea but also, in the long term, boosting the risk of jaundice, gallstones and cancer.

Around 67 million people in Southeast Asia are at risk from the fluke, and nine million people have already been infected by it, according to a 2005 estimate.

The parasite is endemic to parts of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, but especially in Laos, where as many as 50 percent of schoolchildren and 90 percent of adults are infected.

A team led by Jennifer Keiser from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute randomly assigned 125 infected schoolchildren in Laos' Attepeu province to receiving either tribendimidine, praziquantel or a drug designed to combat the parasite that causes malaria.

Tribendimidine scored the highest cure rate, of 70 percent, followed by praziquantel (56 percent). The three malaria treatments that were taken scored a cure rate of only four percent in two of the drugs and zero in the third.

Both tribendimidine and praziquantel also scored best in clearing the patient of parasite eggs, and were generally well tolerated, with "mild or moderate" side-effects.

The study was a "Phase II" trial in the three-phase process of evaluating a new drug for safety and effectiveness. Wider trials would be needed before it can be licensed internationally for this disease.

Chinese enterprises donate over 100,000$ to stampede victims


Chinese enterprises in Cambodia as of Thursday donated altogether 120,000 U.S. dollars to the victims of a major stampede Monday night in the capital city.

A letter to encourage donation to those killed and injured in the stampede was posted on Phnom Penh Evening Post by the Chinese Business Association in Cambodia.

In a special councilor meeting, Sun Yanqian, Secretary-General of the association said, "China and Cambodia enjoy a long-lasting friendship. We feel the same pain and sorrow as the Cambodians do as the tragedy occurred to them. And we will do what we can to help them overcome the difficulties."

The members of the business association had donated to the victims through various conduits. So far Huawei (Cambodia) Technologies Co., Ltd made a donation of 30,000 U.S. dollars, General Manager Office of Cambodia Branch, Shanghai Construction Group, 25,000 dollars, China Road & Bridge Corporation, 30,000 dollars, and China (Cambodia) Bank, 10,000 dollars.

Some other Chinese enterprises also donated various sums, with the total amount of 31,000 dollars.

Monday, the final day of Cambodia's Water Festival, saw a deadly stampede on a bridge connecting the mainland Phnom Penh and the Diamond Island, which claimed at least 347 lives and wounded 395 others.


Holy Jolie: Cambodian temple takes Angelina's name

Thursday 25 November 2010

The 'Angelina Jolie Temple'

Hindu leader says locals now call 12th-century site the 'Angelina Jolie Temple' following 2000 shooting of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Name drop ... the temple at Ta Prohm – now commonly referred to as the 'Angelina Jolie Temple', according to a local religious leader. Photograph: Alamy

Angelina Jolie may not have charmed all the locals at her most recent filming location but the people of Cambodia, where she shot Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2000, are said to have renamed a temple after her.

Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, told the WENN news agency that the star is so beloved in Cambodia a world-famous Hindu religious site in Angkor has been renamed the "Angelina Jolie Temple".

"It's a 12th-century site called Ta Prohm; it is otherwise known as Old Brahma and was initially named Rajavihara or the royal monastery," he said. "Now it's popularly called the Angelina Jolie Temple."

The building was the setting for various scenes in Tomb Raider – in which Jolie, as Lara Croft, battled a secret society called the Illuminati for possession of an ancient talisman. Today, local restaurants sell a Tomb Raider cocktail (Cointreau, lime and soda – said to be Jolie's tipple of choice). Meanwhile, the actor's son Maddox was born in the Siem Reap province in which the temple complex is located.

Jolie's unofficial honour appeared to come with responsibilities, as Zed called on the actor to use her public profile and her status as "the patron saint of Cambodia" to help conserve the site. He added: "I'd urge Angelina Jolie to raise awareness about better preservation of this world heritage, as more needs to be done to safeguard the temple complex and its surroundings [and] save it from vandalism and looting."

Source: Earth Time

Hanoi - Domestic violence is a serious problem in Vietnam that is damaging the physical and mental health of many women, the government and the United Nations said Thursday.

One in three married women report that they have suffered physical or sexual violence from their husbands at some time in their lives, according to the first National Study on Domestic Violence against Women in Vietnam, a joint effort of the government and UN.

"It is a stark fact that women in Vietnam are at more risk of experiencing violence in their homes than anywhere else," said Jean Marc Olive, representative of the World Health Organization in Vietnam.

Almost one in four women with children under 15 years of age reported that their children have been abused physically by their husbands. When three main types of domestic violence - physical, sexual and emotional - are considered, 58 per cent of Vietnamese women report experiencing at least one type in their lifetime, according to the study.

Overall, 32 per cent of women currently or formerly married reported having experienced physical violence in their life and six per cent had experienced physical violence in the past 12 months.

Ten per cent of those women reported that they experienced sexual violence in their lifetime and 4 per cent in the past 12 months.

The study also says 54 per cent of women report lifetime emotional abuse and 25 per cent current emotional abuse, perpetrated by husbands. Pregnant women are also at risk. About five per cent of women who had been pregnant reported being beaten during pregnancy, the report found.

Thai parliament votes with slight margin against red-shirt draft bill

Source: Xinhua

Thai parliament on Thursday voted to reject a constitutional amendment draft sponsored by a key leader of the anti-government red-shirt movement.

Senate president Prasobsuk Boondech, who chaired the meeting, announced that the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate voted 235 to 222 against the draft sponsored by Weng Tojirakarn, a leader of the red-shirt movement who has been detained since the military cracked down their street protests in May this year.

Abstentions amounted to 123.

Weng's version of the amendments, supported by the opposition Puea Thai Party, virtually sought to replace the current constitution with the previous 1997 charter, the most progressive supreme law Thailand had ever installed.

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had earlier resolved to reject the draft, saying it could have the implication of pardoning former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his associates currently being banned from politics.

There will be three more constitutional amendment drafts awaiting a voting on Thursday on whether the bicameral parliament will accept it for further deliberation or not.

Any draft bill accepted in the first reading will have to sail through two more readings before becoming law.

Thai oil giant chief warns of imminent currency and trade wars

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

BANGKOK: PTT president Prasert Bunsumpun on Wednesday warned of the imminent currency and trade wars between developed and developing countries, saying it could lead to a new round of the global economic crisis, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

Delivering a keynote speech on the “Perspective on the Future of Thailand in 2010 and Upgrading Thai Industries into the International Arena,” he said the world economy had begun recovery, driven by the impressive growth registered by new economies including China, India, and Russia.

He said the economies of the world's developed countries remain fragile since they still had substantial public debts, which represents 70-80 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), and unemployment of up to 10 per cent.

Currently, the global economy remains imbalanced as could be witnessed by the vigorous growth of the Chinese economy and the negative growth of the US economy.

He said the economic growth imbalance between developed and developing countries would result in many countries issuing varied measures to stimulate their own economies. It would finally lead to the currency war.

The currency war between the developed and developing countries could escalate and develop into a full-scale trade war, which might lead to a new round of global economic meltdown.

Prasert said the Thai economy had recovered due to a continued increase in local consumption and exports to new economies.

However, Thailand must brace itself for the continued weakening of the US dollar in the year ahead, which would have an negative impact on exports to the US.

The PTT chief believes the Thai economy will grow normally at an average of 4 per cent, but it will not expand 7 per cent as it is doing this year.

Thai entrepreneurs, particularly exporters, must keep a close watch on such key risk factors as the currency fluctuation and the global economic unncertainty.

Prasert said Thailand should cash in on its industrial strength to boost competitiveness of various industries and count on its fundamental advantages to enhance trade and tourism.

State-owned PTT is a listed company formerly known as the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, having extensive submarine gas pipelines and a nationwide network of LPG terminals. Its interests include electric power generation, petrochemical production, oil and gas exploration, and gasoline retailing.

PTT has substantial business interests abroad, in Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Canada.

Cambodia PM weeps for stampede dead

Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen weeps during a memorial service for victims of the stampede (AP)

Cambodia's prime minister has wept at the spot where hundreds died during a wild riverside stampede, as the country began a day of mourning for victims.

Hun Sen's tears came as he lit candles and incense at the narrow bridge where tens of thousands of festival-goers panicked, trampling hundreds underfoot, on Monday.

There has been confusion over the exact number of deaths. The latest official casualty tally from the incident was 347 dead and 395 injured, down from earlier official figures.

The premier was joined at the Bassac River in the capital Phnom Penh by his wife Bun Rany and cabinet members. Flags throughout the country were flying at half-mast and a Buddhist ceremony was being held.

A government investigation showed that as the suspension bridge swayed under the weight of thousands of revellers, some began to shout that the structure was going to collapse. Others pushed, heaved and even jumped off the span as a panic took hold that ended in the mass deaths.

The official probe into the accident continues with a final report expected next week, said Om Yentieng, a member of the investigating committee. He said earlier casualty figures were not correct due to overlapping of counts by various institutions.

Hun Sen described the stampede as the biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, which killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

During the day of mourning, the tourism ministry asked all entertainment venues, including karaoke parlours, nightclubs, beer gardens and discos, to close for the day.

The stampede happened during celebrations of a three-day holiday marking the end of the monsoon season, when as many as two million people were believed to have come to the capital.

As festivities wrapped up on Monday night, tens of thousands flocked to a free concert on an island in the Bassac River. An estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people were streaming over a bridge that connects the island to the mainland when it began to sway, according to Banyon TV, which serves as a mouthpiece for the government and was citing the investigation committee.

Vietnam, Cambodia cooperate in fighting malaria


Health services of the Vietnamese central highland province of Kon Tum and its neighbouring Cambodian province of Rattanakiri have agreed to enhance cooperation in fighting malaria along the common border.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed at the first border malaria fighting conference in Kon Tum province on November 24, both sides agreed to increase anti-malaria measures for local people along the border, to reduce the rates of infection and fatality of the disease and prevent malaria outbreaks.

They will also increase quarantine at their border gates and build a set of regulations on malaria-related information exchange.

At the first conference, delegates discussed a plan on cooperation and experience sharing on fighting malaria.

Border districts were urged to keep a close watch on the disease, increase education and train grassroots officials to detect and prevent outbreaks.

Sa Thay district in Kon Tum province has reported 202 malaria cases this year, up 10.38 percent over the same period last year.


Leaders from 13 Countries Come Together to Save Tigers

November 24, 2010 | Writer Toni Brown

At the four-day International Forum on Tiger Conservation, which ended Wednesday, Governments and conservation groups pledged $327 million with the goal of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022. The summit included guests such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Leaders from all 13 countries where tigers still live in the wild: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam, took part in the St. Petersburg, Russia, summit.

It was presented as a last chance for the wild tiger whose numbers have dropped from 100,000 to 3,600 over the past 100 years.

According to the Global Tiger Initiative, Poaching, illegal trade and habitat destruction have forced the animal to the brink of extinction. They estimate that wild tigers exist today in less than 7 percent of their historic range.

World Wildlife Fund Director Jim Leape said, “I am confident that we will look back on this day as a turning point in the effort to save one of the world’s best-loved animals.”

The wild tiger population is less than 4 percent of what it was a century ago.

Cambodia gov't revises down death figure of stampede to 347

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- The latest statement by the sub- committee for urgent settlement on the Diamond Island bridge accident Thursday morning revised the death toll figure of the major stampede to 347, a big drop from the previous 456.

The statement, signed by the chairman of the sub-committee Ith Samheng, who is also the minister of social affairs, said the previous figure of death toll was incorrect due to some overlap in the statistics.

This is a major amendment for the death toll figure of 456 provided by the same sub-committee Wednesday afternoon.

By 00:30 a.m. on Thursday, after verification, 347 were dead in the stampede, of which 126 men and 221 women, said the latest statement.

It also revised down the injury number from 755 to 395, saying the latter was based on the statistics by the hospitals.

Earlier the Bayon TV, owned by the daughter of the Prime Minister Hun Sen, reported 755 people had got injured in the stampede on Monday night, the final day of the Water Festival.

The tragedy occurred as thousands of people tried to flee a bridge connecting the mainland of Phnom Penh and the Diamond Island due to rumors of bridge collapsing. Enditem
Cambodia gov't revises down death figure of stampede to 347.