Monday, October 31, 2011

Sihanouk: The great survivor turns 89

by Milton Osborne - 31 October 2011

There surely is no greater survivor among international political figures of the past and present centuries than Norodom Sihanouk, now titled the King Father of Cambodia, who turns 89 today, or 90 by Cambodian reckoning. He returned to Phnom Penh last week after three months of medical treatment in Beijing and vowed never to leave Cambodia again.

Over more than half a century Sihanouk has been king (he has abdicated twice), prime minister and chief of state of his country. Ousted in a coup in 1970, he became the nominal head of the Khmer Rouge-dominated National United Front of Kampuchea fighting against the Khmer Republic. He was then briefly chief of state of Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea.

Severing his ties with the Khmer Rouge after that regime's overthrow in 1979, he finally returned to mount the Cambodian throne again in 1993 after playing a predictably complex role in the negotiations that led to the settlement of the Cambodian problem. He abdicated for the second time in 2004.

Born into the Cambodian royal family in 1922, Sihanouk never expected to become king. He was plucked from relative obscurity as a student at a colonial lycee in Saigon by the French and placed on the throne in 1941 at a time of deep crisis in their colonial possessions in Indochina.

The French felt sure they could manipulate the shy 19 year-old and until almost the end of the Second World War the French were largely correct in their estimation. But from 1946 they found they were dealing with a different man. He proved to be, as a French general observed and Sihanouk has never ceased to quote, 'a madman of genius.'

I offered my own judgments on Sihanouk's career up to 1994 in an unauthorised biography published in 1994 (Sihanouk: Prince of Light Prince of Darkness), but on this notable occasion Sihanouk's unusually introspective judgment of himself in his memoir, Souvenirs Doux et Amers, published in 1981, is worth quoting:

It is true that I have been an authoritarian head of state, or more exactly a blend of Sukarno of Indonesia and Nasser of Egypt. But I have never been in the same class as Amin Dada of Uganda or Macias N'Guema of Equitorial Guinea, even less their undisputed master of cruelty, Pol Pot of Democratic Kampuchea. Neither have I been this insignificant and feckless 'little king' depicted by some right-wing French newspapers, which see me as a kind of 'negro king'...with yellow skin...Quite simply, I am a man. With his good points and his bad. I am neither more or less virtuous than my brother men, created in the words of 'Genesis', in the image of God, but having to assume the inheritance of original sin.

Photo by Flickr user patrickmloeff.

The shaky foundations of Angelina Jolie’s charitable operations in Cambodia

PRSEA | Oct 31, 2011

Angelina Jolie, Hollywood actress and a high-profile philanthropist, seems to have made an error when she expanded her charitable operations in Cambodia.

In 2002, Jolie purchased two plots of land for her Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which is named after her adopted Cambodian son. The seller of the land in northwest Cambodia was Tim Tith who has been alleged to be a mass murderer by the prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh.

Tith was brought up on charges of crimes against humanity at the tribunal in 2009. As a senior Khmer Rouge leader, he oversaw purges of other party officials and “cleanings” of the general population. He was in position of authority during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime under which an estimated 1.7 million people died of famine, torture and executions.

Although Jolie’s land deal with TIth precedes the tribunal’s existence, she has become under scrutiny by the international press, stating that although Jolie didn’t know the details about Tith’s past, he made her aware of the fact that he had held a senior position in the government of the communist leader Pol Pot.

The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation was created in 2003, for the conservation of Cambodia’s northern territories biodiversity and has since then expanded to reforestation, community protected area, park management and integrated rural development projects.

Vietnam PM in Tokyo to push atomic power, minerals

Dung is to meet Japanese Prime for talks on Monday (AFP/File, Hoang Dinh Nam)

TOKYO — Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung arrived in Tokyo Sunday on a four-day visit expected to promote Japan's export of nuclear power plants to his country and joint development of rare earths.

Officials confirmed Dung's arrival and said he was scheduled to attend a dinner with members of the Japanese parliament later in the day, before talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday.

On Tuesday, Dung will tour Japan's northeast coast, hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

According to Japanese media, Noda is expected to confirm that Japan will help build two nuclear reactors in Vietnam, despite the atomic plant crisis at Fukushima triggered by the March natural disaster.

On a visit to Vietnam a year ago, then Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan announced with Dung that the two countries would join forces in the nuclear reactor project.

Noda and Dung are also expected to reach an agreement on joint development of rare earth minerals in Dong Pao in Vietnam's northwest.

Two Japanese trading houses, Toyota Tsusho and Sojitz, will set up a joint venture with Vietnamese enterprises to start production of the rare earths in 2013, the business daily Nikkei reported last week.

Mines in Dong Pao are rich in such rare earths as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium which are indispensable for production of liquid crystal display panels and motors for gasoline-electricity hybrid vehicles, the daily said.

The two governments will inaugurate a research centre in Hanoi in 2012 to develop technology to separate rare earths from mineral ores and refine them without harming the environment, the Nikkei said.

Accompanied by his wife Tran Thanh Kiem, the Vietnamese premier is also scheduled to call on Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at Tokyo's Imperial Palace on Wednesday.

Vietnam economic reform faces crisis of confidence

Sunday, Oct 30, 2011

HO-CHI-MINH CITY - As Vietnam battles galloping inflation and a plummeting currency, a new challenge has emerged - a general collapse of confidence in the state's ability to heal the ailing economy.

With an eye on the brash success of neighbouring China, Vietnam's obsessive pursuit of growth lasted for two decades until economic threats forced it to shift attention to stability this year.

The ruling Communist Party, which has total control in the one-party nation, announced an overhaul of its economic model during a five-yearly congress in January and a slew of monetary and tax austerity measures have followed.

But as pressure on the economy continues to mount, the political system itself has come into question from businesses and the Vietnamese people.

"What is happening in Vietnam is a crisis of confidence," a foreign investor in the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City told AFP.

In 2008, as financial turmoil swept the globe, Vietnamese authorities responded by injecting massive liquidity into the economy, and speculative bubbles multiplied.

State-owned shipbuilder Vinashin embarked on a flurry of investments, racking up debts of US$4.4 billion (S$5.5 billion) that eventually saw it plunge into quasi-bankruptcy.

Now Vietnam is trying to bring down Asia's highest rate of inflation - nearly 22 per cent year-on-year in October - trim its trade deficit and strengthen the dong, which has seen four devaluations in 15 months.

The authorities have upped interest rates to try to cool the economy and choke off speculation, piling intense pressure on small- and medium-sized firms with lenders now charging upwards of 20 per cent.

Experts predict the pain will continue for at least another 18 months.

"The price to be paid is enormous. There are already a certain number of corpses on the pavement," said the investor.

But while he said the measures were "necessary", others are wondering if they will be enough.

Dominic Scriven, general manager at Dragon Capital, said the last five years have seen Vietnam's economic model "go out of balance".

"The question is does everybody realise that and are the measures put in place sufficient to restore the balance?"

Recent signs are that foreign and local businesses have yet to be convinced.

Pledged foreign direct investment into Vietnam slumped by almost a quarter in the first ten months of the year, to US$11.3 billion, according to official figures.

Business confidence has fallen for three consecutive quarters in 2011, according to a survey by the European Chamber of Commerce published earlier this month.

"The measures taken to stabilise the economy have so far failed to ease the concern of the business community about the macroeconomic outlook," the group said.

In a country still marked by a culture of opacity inherited from years of war, the true situation is difficult to determine.

And when even the official picture is far from rosy - with barely eight weeks worth of foreign exchange reserves and fears over the level of bad debts held by public banks - the lack of visibility is worrying.

The benchmark VN-Index at the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange, opened with great fanfare in 2000, slumped to just 383 points in August this year, barely a third of its peak in 2007 after Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation.

It is a far cry from the 1990s when Vietnam, then described as the next Asian 'tiger economy', bounded onto the world stage with a seemingly unstoppable roadmap to success - opening up vast swathes of unexploited land and mobilising a young and cheap labour force.

But the economy has struggled to build on that promise.

Jonathan Pincus, an economist and dean of the Fulbright School in Ho Chi Minh City, said the country's large trade deficit - US$12.4 billion in 2010 - is a sign that the previous growth strategy was past its sell-by date.

"Vietnam is kind of stuck producing the same sort of things... more and more coffee, rice, cashew, paper, shirts and shoes - and is having trouble moving into higher value-added production, a lot of which is therefore imported from China," he said.

The country's institutions have failed to endorse major reforms, he added. "Everyone knows it's time for another strategy, but they know they don't have the political structure that is coherent enough."

Even ordinary Vietnamese have shown nervousness over the economic future, ditching the currency in favour of the relative safe havens of gold and dollars in recent months - a move echoed by some banks which, according to one source, have profited handsomely by speculating against the dong.

"You got people voting the only way they could vote which was to sell the currency. So everybody - households, companies, banks, state enterprises, government people - were selling the Vietnam dong," said a businessman who asked to remain anonymous.

It was evidence of general distrust, he said, and the authorities "have more work to do to show they deserve the mandate" of the people.

Cambodia's former king vows to stay in homeland

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk, center, is assisted by his son King Norodom Sihamoni, left, and his wife former Queen Monineath during a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the former monarch's return to his homeland after years of civil war, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The ailing former King Sihanouk, his country's dominant figure for half-a-century, vowed Sunday at a rare public appearance never to leave his homeland again. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Philong Sovan) NO SALES

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk, center, is assisted by his son King Norodom Sihamoni, left, and his wife former Queen Monineath during a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the former monarch's return to his homeland after years of civil war, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The ailing former King Sihanouk, his country's dominant figure for half-a-century, vowed Sunday at a rare public appearance never to leave his homeland again. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Philong Sovan)

People hold Cambodian flags, portraits former King Norodom Sihanouk , his wife Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and his son Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

REFILE - CORRECTING AGE OF THE FORMER KING People hold Cambodian flags, portraits former King Norodom Sihanouk , his wife Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and his son Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh October 30, 2011. Cambodia celebrated the 90th birthday of former King Norodom Sihanouk and the 20th anniversary of the return from exile of retired king. REUTERS/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: SOCIETY ROYALS ANNIVERSARY)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk, his country's dominant figure for half-a-century, vowed Sunday at a rare public appearance never to leave his homeland again.

Sihanouk, his son King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen shared the podium at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the former monarch's return to his homeland after years of civil war.

The occasion may mark a last hurrah for Sihanouk, one of the giants of postwar Asian politics and the nonaligned movement of Third World countries.

In recent years, Sihanouk, who turns 89 on Monday, has suffered from colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension, and spent most of his time in China. He returned Thursday from his latest three months of medical treatment in Beijing.

The celebration of his Nov. 14, 1991 return was held Sunday in order to also mark his birthday Monday.

Tens of thousands of people turned out to attend the ceremony held in front of the royal palace in the capital, Phnom Penh. His picture and slogans were displayed there and along the city's main streets.

"I have the great honor to inform our lovely compatriots that from now on, despite still having health problems and needing routine checkups by my Chinese medical team, I and my wife, the queen, have decided to stay forever with our compatriots inside our country," Sihanouk said with a smile, eliciting cheers from the crowd. He said if the need arises, he would ask his Chinese doctors to come to Cambodia to attend him.

Sihanouk has a mixed legacy. He was admired for steering his small nation clear of the war in neighboring Vietnam for many years by deftly playing one side off against the other until he was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup in 1970.

He then fatefully allied himself with the communist Khmer Rouge, who waged a bitter struggle for power against the U.S.-supported regime until taking over the country in 1975 and plunging it into the "Killing Fields" of bloody purges and misrule that left an estimated 1.7 million people dead.

Sihanouk's support in the early stages won many adherents to the Khmer Rouge among ordinary Cambodians as well as diplomatic support

He became a mute prisoner in his own palace until a Vietnamese invasion ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Appalled at what the Khmer Rouge did to his country, he still fell into an uneasy tacit alliance with them against the Vietnamese occupation, with a new round of civil war coming to a formal end only with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991.

Sihanouk was still held in high regard by many Cambodians when he came back home again and seemed set to provide at least moral leadership as the country rebuilt itself.

But Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge who came to power with the backing of Vietnam and kept his position as prime minister after the peace accords, proved to be a tough and wily political rival.

He deftly sidelined Norodom Ranariddh, another son of Sihanouk who had been co-prime minister, and consolidated power in his own hands, marginalizing Sihanouk with threats to abolish the monarchy.

In 2004, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of son Sihamoni, a retiring reluctant monarch who posed no threat to Hun Sen. The prime minister maintains an iron grip over the country within a democratic framework while brooking no challengers.

Hun Sen on Sunday praised what he described as Sihanouk's idea of national reconciliation.

"Under the former king's leadership and along with the government, a win-win policy was implemented that has brought us full peace and national reconciliation," Hun Sen said.

Asean Nations Put Education Front and Center

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Across the 10 countries that constitute the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a diverse regional bloc encompassing 600 million people, the higher education landscape varies greatly.

From highly developed Singapore, which has two universities that often place well in international university rankings, to countries like Laos, which only established its national university in 1996, the region is home to an eclectic collection of institutions.

But with higher education recognized as a vital tool to stimulate economic growth in the region, efforts to raise standards and encourage greater collaboration among universities are gaining pace as Asean’s 2015 deadline to establish an integrated economic community draws nearer.

Universities are working on providing more opportunities for student exchanges within the region, credit transfer systems and improving quality assurance mechanisms.

Although there may be some similarities between what Asean is trying to achieve and the European Union’s Bologna Process, which seeks to harmonize the Continent’s higher education system to make European students more competitive globally, commentators say that the great diversity in education systems and economic development across Asia presents different challenges.

Raising standards at higher education institutions across Asean, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is considered a key aspect of the effort to train the skilled work force necessary for economic development.

“I think it’s very important that we improve our higher education quality in order to ensure the quality of our graduates,” said Nantana Gajaseni, executive director of the Asean University Network, which includes 26 universities from the 10 countries.

A recent World Bank report found that while higher education participation rates in less prosperous East Asian countries have increased sharply in recent decades, the number of graduates is still too low for labor markets in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam. The report also found that those same countries are neither delivering graduates with the skills nor producing the research that is required to address labor market and innovation needs.

To raise standards, the Asean University Network, or A.U.N., began operating a regional quality-assurance system to assess undergraduate programs at its member universities in 2007. It hopes to open the process to other universities next year and extend it to postgraduate programs in 2013.

Since 2009, national quality-assurance agencies from the various countries have been meeting regularly to learn from each other. Even Myanmar, one of Asia’s poorest countries, has begun establishing its own quality assurance agency, Ms. Nantana said.

Suos Man, vice rector of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s largest university, said that belonging to the regional network would help keep the institution “on its toes.”

The Royal University “will need to make constant efforts in building its academic, administrative and leadership capacity to live up to its name as a representative higher education institution of Cambodia,” she said.

Mrs. Suos Man said her institution decided to join the network because it wanted to play an active part in the development of Asean higher education and exchange educational experience with top universities in the region.

“From academic endeavors to administration and to leadership, R.U.P.P. can share and learn a great number of practical lessons from other member universities,” she said.

Encouraging students to spend time studying in other Asean countries is another key aim, a challenging task, given that many students still prefer universities in countries like the United States and Britain.

“The attitude is: Look West,” Ms. Nantana said.

To help reverse that trend, the A.U.N. has developed the Asean credit transfer system. The system, which is undergoing a trial, allows students to check online to find which courses will be accredited by their home universities.

While there are no attempts to standardize curriculums or grading across the region, there is awareness of the need to align the different academic calendars of the various countries.

Ms. Nantana said Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar started their academic year in June, while most other universities in Asean began their first semester in September.

Chulalongkorn University, one of Thailand’s top institutions, has sought to attract more international students by changing its academic calendar for the courses that are conducted in English, to coincide with semester dates in countries like Malaysia, which has similar semester dates as the United States and Britain.

Kalaya Tingsabadh, vice president responsible for academic and international affairs at Chulalongkorn, said some other Thai universities were considering changing their semester dates.

While only 85 of Chulalongkorn’s 540 programs are taught in English, Ms. Kalaya said the university wanted to attract more international students and was working to establish links with other Asean institutions.

Under a program funded by the Japanese government, an Asean donor, engineering students from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are working on their doctorates at Chulalongkorn, supervised by a Thai and a Japanese professor.

“It’s also improving our teaching and research,” Ms. Kalaya said. “We are not just giving but we benefit also from that project.”

While newer universities may appear to have the most to gain from enhancing links with other institutions in the region, established universities say they also benefit.

Lily Kong, vice president of university and global relations at the National University of Singapore, said being a member of the A.U.N. board gave the university the opportunity to exercise a “thought leadership role” and influence the development of Asean’s higher education sector.

As a member of A.U.N., she said, the National University of Singapore shares information with member institutions and contributes to training programs. Through these efforts, the university is “playing its role to enhance the overall capacity of the higher education sector in Asean,” which will also be in Singapore’s and the university’s long-term interest, Ms. Kong said.

But Simon Marginson, from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said the “unevenness” between the higher education sectors in more developed countries, like Singapore, and other Asean nations would make it difficult to replicate the European Union’s Bologna Process.

“It will take a lot longer — if it ever happens — before we see that kind of level of cooperation,” Mr. Marginson said, adding that regional cooperation required a “rough equality between partners.”

“You need a certain level of economic development across the region,” he said. “You need cultural commonality. Asean has that to some extent, but you need political will.”

Mr. Marginson said many governments were still preoccupied with establishing their own national education systems.

He said that East Asia, with countries like Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China, was more advanced in terms of regional cooperation than Asean, partly because its universities were more established and better funded.

Ms. Nantana acknowledged the great diversity among Asean institutions, but said the more established universities were helping the younger ones to raise the overall quality of education.

“Among the A.U.N. universities we have the core values of working together for the benefit of the whole region,” she said.

Cambodia Kicks Off Its First Ever Fashion Week

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Putin says smash faces of Russian fraudsters

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looks on while chairing a meeting with activists of the All-Russian People's Front in Moscow October 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

MOSCOW | Sat Oct 29, 2011

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir, already in campaign mode for a third term as president, said fraudsters who siphon off state money should have their faces smashed.

Putin plans to run in the March 2012 election and needs to improve his anti-corruption credentials tarnished by international ratings and statistics showing corruption has worsened under his rule.

"The practitioners of kickbacks and graft should not only get a rap on the knuckles, they should have their faces smashed," Putin told an audience of Russian financial policemen.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International rates Russia as the world's most corrupt major economy, ranking it 154th out of 178 nations in its corruption perceptions index last year, on a par with Cambodia, Kenya and Laos.

President Dmitry Medvedev made fighting corruption the main theme of his four-year presidency term which nears its end but has often been criticised for showing few tangible results.

Analysts say that, if elected, Putin is unlikely to make much progress in fighting a bureaucracy that has been deeply corrupt since Soviet times.

Putin, who grew up in a working class neighbourhood in St Petersburg, is known for harsh remarks and jokes which raise eyebrows in the West but are popular with ordinary Russians.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Louise Ireland)

A Tale of Two Quagmires: Iraq, Vietnam, and the Hard Lessons of War


A Tale of Two Quagmires: Iraq, Vietnam, and the Hard Lessons of War

Oct 29, 2011

Kenneth Campbell is an associated Professor of Political Science and International Relations and Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Delaware. He served with the US Marines in Vietnam and later joined the Vietnam Veterans against the War.

Whether Iraq is another Vietnam or not, is the first question that the author begins with. He shares different perspectives of scholars regarding the similarities and dissimilarities between Vietnam and Iraq. Some scholars affirm that Iraq, similar to Vietnam, was becoming another quagmire for the US that ultimately has to pull out in humiliation defeat. However, other scholars assert that Iraq, unlike Vietnam, US forces will eventually triumph over Iraq. The author claims that Iraq and Vietnam are exactly alike -on the strategic and political level- it was another quagmire for the US As the author mentioned quagmires “are built upon the quicksand of deception, deception about purpose, progress, methods, and exit.” (p. 9)

In this book, the author, who served in the Vietnam War for thirteen months and studied the war for thirty years, shed light on difficulties and torments of the War. Who suffered heatstroke, dysentery, malaria, trench foot, and jungle rot, but while they were fighting they forget about everything and they were fighting for their lives. Counting bodies, was the main strategy of military, and high enemy body counts made their superiors to be happy, in contrast low or no body count made them to be unhappy. As the war burden and soldiers experienced difficult situations, they started to “hate the war” and they just want to go home “alive” (p. 34). The author was to angry about the Vietnam debacle and started to say “I could not live with the lies any longer.” He affirms “Why we were in Vietnam”, the “progress” of the U.S forces and the way they treated the Vietnamese “was a lie.” (p. 37)

In Chapters three and four, the author focuses on the Vietnam War and its lessons. The author is angry about effects of the Vietnam War in the US The author declares that the War divided the US bitterly and deeply, failed two presidents and polarized Congress and paralyzed the courts. The author claims that US political and military leaders deceived the nation about justification of the war. As he uncovers that from 1964 to the mid of 1965s the US wanted Vietnamese military leaders to be capable enough to govern Vietnam under Washington’s guidance. Failing this, the US decided to take direct control over the war. Then, “the Johnson administration manufactured the Gulf Tokin incidents” (p. 45) in order to rally American people to support direct US military intervention in Vietnam. These facts were not officially confessed until thirty years later (p. 45). Moreover, the methods of fighting by the US military were essentially illegal and immoral. In order to obtain intelligence, they were torturing prisoners and detainees, the use of “fists, knives, pistols, and rifle buttes during the interrogation of Viet Cong suspect” (p 49). The author has no doubt that the Vietnam War was not about helping Vietnamese. The US political and military leaders were mainly concerned about beating other super power, the Soviet Union.

The lessons of Vietnam War according to the author classified into five schools of thought, Conservative, Liberal, Far Left, Far Right, and the Military. The Conservative school suggests that the main lesson from Vietnam debacle should be learned was the necessity of realizing the power limits of any nation, even superpowers like the US, to control the course of world event. For the Liberal School of thought, the principal lesson was the long-lasting significance of law, democracy, morality, and personal responsibility. The Far Left school which offers perhaps the most important lesson to be learned, states that poor people, if united, will never defeated by greedy capitalists. The Far Right School suggests that the US must ignore international legal and moral restrictions and use all superior US military power. Finally, the Military School advised US military and civilian leaders never to forget the strategic relationship between military force and domestic political support in initiating, maintaining, and winning a distant, gory war. The author also, mentions two other lessons by scholars, policy analysts, and policy makers. They declared the war with having uncertain purpose decreases nation’s public support as causalities among its troops rise. Public opinion is, also, another essential character, if the public opinion falls, other vital characters in the US political system being falling as well.

"If the political purpose of a war contradicts the nation’s potential values, the nation will not be patient about it for a long time"

The last two chapters are dedicated to the Iraq War. The author declares that Bush administration’s War on Iraq has become another “Vietnam-like quagmire.” Bush’s war in Iraq, he explains, is “a war of choice, not necessity” (p. 73). Therefore, it is illegal and immoral war. Bush had unsound purpose for the Iraq War. Therefore, it is expected that the war certainly produced failed tactics and strategy for fighting the war. The leaders of the war would do their best to reform strategy and tactics, but it will still be a failed war. The author affirms that Iraq War had nothing to do with terrorism. He claims that 9/11 was simply convenient excuse, for neoconservatives, to wage the Iraq War. They desired “for years before 9/11 to invade and conquer Iraq as a prelude “transforming” the entire Middle East into a solidly pro-US, pro-Israel region” (p. 75). Therefore, the reliable evidence is to be found in the writings of scholars, analysts or in the words of neoconservatives. The first attempt by neoconservatives to dominate over the world was in 1992, during the George H. W. Bush Administration. Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, ordered Neocon Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad, to prepare a draft “Defense Planning Guide” that clearly aimed to prevent the rise of any challengers to US global hegemony in any region of the world. But Bush rejected the plan (p. 77). During the Clinton administration years, neoconservatives continued with their plan. Once they were back to power with the George W. Bush administration, they tried to implement their plan to get rid of Saddam Hussein Regime. The author affirmed that “Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz argued for war against Iraq four days after 9/11 at an emergency meeting”; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “asserted that there was 10 to 15% chance that Saddam was behind the attack on 9/11” (p. 80).

After the essential victorious march in Baghdad in 2003, then the Bush Administration tried to convince the public opinion of the US that Saddam regime was defeated and Iraqi resistance was just its last throes. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in the Administration called Iraqi resistance fighters as terrorists, who were violently fighting US forces. During 2006-2007 as the war rose and US causalities risen, public support for the war declined. Similarly to the Vietnam War, US forces tutored detainees and intentionally killing unarmed Iraqi civilians. For instance “the Bush administration claimed that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were carried out by just a “few bad apples” in the Army” (p.86). But the investigation of Seymour Hersh, a journalist that published his investigation on New Yorker Magazine Web site, revealed that US torture was systematically applied in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Cuba, and in secret interrogation centers around the world (p.86). The sexual abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib can be labeled as a greatest shame to be done by the US Army. Some military analysts observed that the US troops treatment of their enemy in Iraq was fault because they were confused about who were their enemy was strives a spectacular charge as the US troops went through in the Vietnam War.

The author indicates that lessons of Vietnam debacle are reaffirmed in Iraq War. Firstly, if the political purpose of a war contradicts the nation’s potential values, the nation will not be patient about it for a long time. On the other hand, the US should be concerned about the relevance of, and complications of, its actions on international law. Domestically, the importance of protecting US constitutional law, and the significance of multilateralism in foreign policy are viewed to be further crucial issues.

Throughout the basic, the author holds pessimistic view of the Iraq and Vietnam Wars. He accuses the US political military leaders of deceiving the US public regarding reasons of these two wars and the ‘progress’ or ‘success’ they achieved. There is no doubt that some “strategic and political” antecedents of these wars are similar, but the US causalities in Vietnam War were more than ten times that of Iraq. The author provides solid data about Saddam’s regime not having relation with terrorist groups, but he did not shed light on the security situation after the Iraq war, which become flooded of host of terrorist organizations. He did not mention the decision of dissolving Iraqi Army by Paul Bremer, the top US civilian administrator in Iraq, that caused 500,000 man army to be jobless then become terrorists. The author did not mention the interference of neighboring countries in Iraqi politics by supporting Shiite and Sunni entities, which spoiled Iraqi political and security situation. While the author mentions that Iraqi government has been created by the US, he did not mention progress regarding holding elections and the formation of Iraqi government. Thus, it can be said that the author exaggerates when he demonstrates the situation of the US Army in Iraq.

Kenneth J. Campbell, A Tale of Two Quagmires: Iraq, Vietnam, and the Hard Lessons of War, United States: Paradigm Publishers, 2007; 136 pp; ISBN: 978-1-59451-352-7.

Koshan A. Khidhir, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Kurdistan-Hawler.


Vietnam rejects US push on state firms in trade talks

Oct 28, 2011

LIMA - Vietnam on Friday rejected a U.S. proposal to establish new trade rules for state-owned companies, which Washington says often benefit from unfair subsidies and protections.

The United States floated its plan in negotiations this week on the nine-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a free-trade zone that would stretch across much of the Pacific Rim.

"We don't think there is a need for specific provisions for state-owned enterprises," Vietnam's trade negotiator, Tran Quoc Khanh, told reporters.

He said Vietnam's state-owned companies already complied with World Trade Organization rules, so the U.S. proposal was not necessary.

Despite the disagreement, President Barack Obama and leaders of the eight other TPP countries are expected to announce next month in Hawaii they are committed to finishing the talks and have the "broad outlines" of a final deal. It could take as much as another year to conclude the ambitious negotiations.

Obama is hosting the annual summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. All the TPP countries are also members of APEC.

Washington wants strong rules on state-owned enterprises in the TPP partly because the pact could become the foundation for future trade talks with China, a country with more than 20,000 state-owned companies.

A study conducted for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission by the Washington consulting firm Capital Trade Inc said firms under various forms of Chinese state ownership controlled 50 percent of China's economy -- with huge impact on economic policy and trade.

Malaysia, another country in the TPP talks that has state companies, said it wanted to study the U.S. offer further before staking out a position.

U.S. negotiator Barbara Weisel said the proposal was drawn up after consulting with the business community and labor unions, which feel strongly that state-owned enterprises enjoy unfair support.

The United States for the first time this week also outlined its ideas on protecting workers' rights, another potentially contentious area of negotiation.

Delegates from the nine TPP countries -- Peru, Chile, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam -- said they made significant progress in Lima in other areas but that sticking points remained, especially rules for intellectual property rights and market access.

"The U.S. and other negotiating teams will return to their respective capitals and update their ministers on the specific outcomes of their work over the nine negotiating rounds, in preparation for assessment by the nine leaders at the APEC meeting," U.S. officials said in a statement.

Big Buddha statue found in Cambodian 'Tomb Raider' temple

Oct 28, 2011

(Reuters) - A 2.4 metre (8 foot) headless Buddha statue estimated to be 800 years old was found in the Cambodian temple featured in the Angelina Jolie film, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider", officials involved in restoration work said on Friday.

The sitting Buddha was uncovered by heavy rain at Ta Prohm temple in the Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap, said Im Sokrithy, deputy director of the local department that oversees the area.

Another statue was found beside a path and that led to the discovery of the bigger statue under a tree.

The temple is undergoing a $4 million restoration by an Indian-led team.

"It is indeed a magnificent example of Khmer art," said Saurav Ray, first secretary at the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh.

"Both statues are wonderful pieces of Angkorean art and are among the most valuable findings in recent history, beyond doubt," he said.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Brinkley: Libya, Tunisia still face obstacles on road to democracy

Oct 28, 2011
Source: Wickedlocal

What a glorious week for the world.

Free and fair elections in Tunisia, Muammar el-Qaddafi's demise. All the fomentation and death brought by the Arab Spring have produced two new states that stand as shining examples - not just for the still-struggling people of Syria and Yemen, but also for China, Belarus, Cambodia, Zimbabwe and countless other unyielding authoritarian states.

"You have won your revolution," President Obama proclaimed with a big smile just after Qaddafi's death. And on Sunday nearly 90 percent of Tunisians voted, visibly proud to be leading the way for the Arab world. Heady stuff.

But now is also a time to regard these two states with circumspection. Recent history demonstrates that the road from exultant revolution to functioning democracy is littered with obstacles - and not just for the reasons most people assume.

Yes, of course, there's always the danger that a fundamentalist Islamic party will take advantage of uncertainty and disorder to seize power, as happened in Iran three decades ago. Tunisia's Islamic Renaissance party won the most votes on Sunday, and its smiling leaders are offering flowery assurances that they will champion democracy and pluralism - assertions that warrant cautious skepticism.

In any case, even if they're telling the truth, consider how hard it is to turn an autocratic dictatorship into a free and open state. Recent examples make this plain. My favorite is Ukraine.

Not so long ago, back in the mid-2000s, President George W. Bush spent $58 million coaching Ukrainians to stage a peaceful uprising. Thousands of Ukrainians did stand up to their dictator and, in retrospect, those protests looked quite similar to the uprisings across the Arab world this year.

One U.S. government contractor, the Institute for Sustainable Communities, won an $11 million grant to help bring about "a fundamental cultural shift from a passive citizenry under an authoritarian regime to a thriving democracy with active citizen participation." That's how one of the group's officers described it to me at the time. Doesn't this sound just like the goals of the Arab Spring?

Well, just like in Libya and Tunisia, the demonstrators in Ukraine succeeded. They called it the Orange Revolution. President Viktor F. Yanukovych, Moscow's man, was ousted from office. Opposition candidate Viktor A. Yushchenko, Washington's man, moved into the presidential palace.

After the cheers faded and the balloons floated away, when Yushchenko looked out the palace window he saw a newly energized people. Their American coaches, as well as Western media, had showed them what was possible. They held sky-high-expectations - just like Tunisia today. A poll this year showed more than 80 percent of Tunisians now expect dramatic improvements in their standard of living.

But the truth was, Ukraine had none of the instruments of a free state. No civil society, no groups like Freedom House, the Sierra Club, the Children's Defense Fund - no one whose job was to stand up and tell the new government what needed to be done.

Nor were there any government agencies whose officers had been concerned with anything other than keeping the dictator in power and stuffing their pockets full of cash, in part because Ukraine also lacked the most important element of a democratic state - a free press.

Looking at Tunisia and Libya right now, are they any better equipped to host a democracy? Probably not, and in Ukraine that proved to be a fatal problem.

Yushchenko simply could not meet his people's expectations. He had none of the tools. And after the Bush administration paid for the revolution, Washington largely dropped interest.

Soon enough, Yushchenko was voted out, and guess who is president of Ukraine right now: Yanukovych, the man thrown from office in the Orange Revolution, the man who just put his most important political opponent, former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, in jail for seven years on bogus charges.

Already, however, we can see one important difference between Ukraine and Libya, at least. Ukraine had a longtime jealous patron, Russia. But Libya had no friends, none at all. Remember, even the Arab League urged NATO to intervene.

Obama already appears to be using a smarter approach than Bush did. He seems to realize that America must remain engaged. A few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped by Tripoli for a visit with the new government.

Just as the West joined forces through NATO to bring down Gadhafy, Western leaders now must remain involved with both Libya and Tunisia. The benefits of successful outcomes are manifest, the risks from failure grave.

Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times.

Barnabas Fund launches emergency appeal for south-east Asia flood victims

Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2011
Source: Christiantoday

Barnabas Fund launches emergency appeal for south-east Asia flood victims
People are using boats to get around Bangkok amid fears that the barriers may break AP

Barnabas Fund is appealing for donations as it assists Christians caught up in severe flooding across south-east Asia.

At least 377 people have been killed in Thailand alone, which is experiencing its worst flooding in 50 years.

Other countries affected by flooding are the Philippines, Cambodia, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.

Barnabas Fund said the floods, brought on by heavy seasonal rains, were proving “disastrous” for the region.

In the Thai capital Bangkok, people are trying to leave as around 90 per cent of the city remains under water.

Barnabas Fund has launched an urgent appeal to support Christians caught up in the disaster. It is working through partner organisations based in the region to distribute emergency food packages, blankets and mosquito nets.

In the Philippines, it plans to provide seed and fertiliser for Christian farmers who lost their rice crops just before harvest time.

International Director of Barnabas Fund, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, urged Christians to give whatever they could.

“Conditions in some parts of south-east Asia continue to worsen, and Barnabas Fund is helping many of our stricken brothers and sisters with their most urgent needs,” he said.

“But much remains to be done, and the costs of rebuilding shattered lives and livelihoods will be huge.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

S. Korea, Mekong nations launch first FM talks over economic, development cooperation

Oct 28, 2011
By Lee Haye-ah
Source: Yonhap

SEOUL -- The foreign ministers of South Korea and Southeast Asia's five Mekong River nations launched their first meeting on Friday aimed at boosting economic and development cooperation, as Asia's fourth-largest economy seeks to strengthen its diplomacy with the resource-rich region.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan opened the inaugural Mekong-ROK (Republic of Korea) Foreign Ministers' Meeting at a Seoul hotel with his counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand in attendance. The two-hour talks will focus on promoting economic and development cooperation, as well as deepening political ties, according to Seoul's foreign ministry.

"The Mekong region is blessed with abundant natural resources and labor force," Kim said in his opening remarks. "The rapid economic development that this region has achieved in recent years shows how it can turn such growth potential into reality."

The meeting comes as South Korea has been seeking to tap more business opportunities in the region rich in hydraulic, lumber and mineral resources, and jointly explore development projects suited for the region. The 4,800-kilometer Mekong River, which originates in China, runs through the five Southeast Asian nations.

The annual meeting was first proposed by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in October last year after a summit in Hanoi with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

South Korea has already pledged to double its Official Development Aid to ASEAN by 2015, a majority of which will be channeled into the Mekong region, while annual trade between the sides jumped from an average of US$1.5 billion in the 1990s to $25 billion last year, according to the ministry.

In boosting economic ties, the ministers are expected to discuss six priority areas, including infrastructure, human resources development, and information and communications technology, the ministry said.

In politics, the six nations will discuss anti-crime cooperation, joint drills for disaster relief, and the Mekong region's support for Seoul's hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit next year and North Korea's denuclearization, it added.

The meeting will end with a comprehensive partnership agreement, nicknamed the "Han River Declaration" after the main waterway bisecting the South Korean capital.

In the wake of the recent devastating floods in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, Foreign Minister Kim extended his sympathies, pledging his country's support "in every possible way."

He is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with each of his counterparts on the sidelines of the meeting. The visiting ministers will also pay a courtesy call on President Lee in the afternoon.

More than 200 factory workers faint at clothing factory in Cambodia

By Annie Dang
Source: Myfen
28 October 2011

Approximately 236 Cambodian workers have fainted this week at Anful Garments Factory, in Kampong Speu province, Cambodia, local police have told media.

The incident occurred on Monday and Thursday this week at the garment factory which makes clothes for Swedish fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz, Reuters reported.

The factory closed for three-days after about 100 workers fell ill on Monday. It opened on Thursday which saw about 136 workers falling sick that day.

According to the report, the incident was the third case this year of mass fainting at Cambodian factories used by the brand. Police said the factory has been using chemicals to prevent cockroaches from eating the clothing.

Fainting at the Anful Garments Factory is the latest in string of fainting incidents in factories in Cambodia. More than 1,200 garment workers have reportedly fainted this year.

The frequency of reported fainting at garment factories in Cambodia has police, as well as the local workforce concerned over conditions of work in the country’s manufacturing industry.

Cambodia calls


HELPING CAMBODIANS: Wainui nurse Bev Hopper with a Cambodian baby. The photo was taken last year when Ms Hopper went to Cambodia with a team of five nurses teaching basic health hygiene.

Oct 28, 2011

Bev Hopper cannot wait to return to Cambodia.

The Wainui nurse, who works at North Shore Hospital, wants to go back for nine days from November 6 to 17.

Ms Hopper received a grant from the New Zealand Orthopaedic Nurses Association last year to travel to Cambodia and teach "all things orthopaedic" at Sihanouk Hospital, a centre providing free medical treatment to poor and disadvantaged.

"We focused on educating and training the nurses at Sihanouk, and the nursing students at a local university so we could make a long-term impact," Ms Hopper says.

She is also inviting her Waitemata District Health Board colleagues to join her this time round.

"In a short space of time we were able to make a difference, so I want to invite other staff members to join us for this year's trip," Ms Hopper says.

Ms Hopper's Cambodian trip was featured in last year's North Harbour News.

She says Cambodians would "travel for miles around, sometimes taking days" just to reach Sihanouk Hospital, and wait at the outpatients clinic a marquee with plastic chairs for hours before they are seen by a doctor.

"But they waited patiently. They'd wait for the whole day and when evening comes and a doctor is still not able to see them they would just sleep on the ground or under a tree and come back the next day," she says.

Ms Hopper says this year's trip focuses on developing post-graduate nursing papers, leaving behind a "legacy of education and training".

Joining her is Mason Clinic's educator Raewyn Somers, who was in Cambodia five years ago for an Oxfam fundraising cycling trip.

"I want to go back because it's such an incredible place," Raewyn says.

"I plan to run mental health needs assessment and post-traumatic stress disorder training."

Raewyn will be joined by partner Shane who works at Counties Manukau DHB mental health unit.

North Shore emergency department doctor Adrian Kerner sees the trip as part of a long-term commitment.

"I want to build relationships and make a difference. It's about teaching, learning and educating."

Donations of educational DVDs for children, old laptops and nursing books are sought by the team.

Rotary Orewa has gifted Ms Hopper $500 for her travelling costs. North Shore Hospital chipped in $400 towards the $1130 medical charity organisation Impact Charitable Trust hopes to raise for use of facilities to carry out assessment courses.

Contact Beverly Hopper, email if you can help or for information.

UN Announces USD $4 Million in Flood Assistance at Meeting with Prime Minister to Celebrate UN Day

on 10 27, 2011

The United Nations announced at a meeting with the Prime Minister today that it will provide USD $4 million in flood relief and rehabilitation efforts.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cambodia, Douglas Broderick, explained that the USD $4 million would be used to provide food assistance; shelter; water, sanitation and hygiene; agriculture; and education support to affected communities.

The UN’s Humanitarian Fund, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated the funds as part of its rapid response window for lifesaving humanitarian activities. This is the first time Cambodia has received CERF funds.

Mr Broderick said the UN flood package would be delivered to priority sectors, benefitting hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.
• The World Food Program would distribute an essential two month supply of food valued at $2.5 million to 29,000 displaced and vulnerable households, benefitting about 145,000 people including 15,950 children.
• The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) would distribute $342,000 in essential shelter materials and offer livelihood generation activities to about 25,000 people
• UNICEF would spend $611,000 to respond to the immediate safe water needs of displaced and vulnerable households and assist the rehabilitation of water sites upon villagers’ return, benefitting about 100,000 people including 40,000 children.
• The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) would provide vegetable seeds and tools worth about $219,000 to selected farming families, benefitting about 25,000 people, and
• UNICEF would spend $316,000 to rehabilitate150 of the most-affected primary schools and provide school and play supplies to most-affected selected schools, benefiting about 445,000 students.

“The UN is very pleased to be able to provide the Royal Government and the people of Cambodia with additional, needed support during this year’s flooding season,” Mr Broderick said.

The Prime Minister appreciated the United Nations assistance and said the government was focused on the immediate needs of displaced people and ensuring livelihood generation during the longer-term rehabilitation phase of flood efforts.

The meeting, which took place at the Peace Palace earlier today, marked the 66th birthday of the UN and provided the opportunity for discussion on common development priorities and emerging issues.

“I would like to reaffirm that the UN Country Team in Cambodia remains a dedicated partner of the Royal Government, particularly at this time while flooding is affecting 1.5 million Cambodia people,” Mr Broderick assured the Prime Minister.

“The United Nations brings around USD$100 million of development assistance to Cambodia each year but our support stretches beyond the dollar value of this contribution. We have a long-standing history of promoting peace and human development in Cambodia and we are extremely proud to serve the Cambodian people.

The Prime Minister appreciated the UN’s ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Royal Government, efforts he said that have contributed to the significant progress toward meeting Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals.


Background notes:

The Central Emergency Response Fund was established by the United Nations General Assembly five years ago this month, to make funding for humanitarian emergencies faster and more equitable. Since then, more than 120 Member States and dozens of private sector donors have pledged some $2.3 billion to the Fund, which is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In the first five years of operation, CERF has allocated more than $2 billion for humanitarian agencies operating in some 80 countries.

Pakistani traders to attend int’l rice fair in Dubai

Oct 28, 2011

KARACHI: Under the patronage of Ministry of Foreign Trade UAE government, the international rice exhibition ‘Rice Dubai 2011’ is being held from November 3 in Dubai.

A large number of global rice exporters, importers and traders as well as authorities and organisations will gather under one roof to look into new opportunities in the Middle East region.

Leading companies from UAE, India, Brazil, Italy, Uruguay, Portugal, Germany, Turkey and Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries are taking part in the Rice Dubai.

TDAP chief Tariq Puri will lead Pakistan delegation of rice exporters and importers.

On November 3, a Round Table will be held with leading rce byers for promoting Pakistan rice in the Middle Eastern countries.

Another Round Table will be held with Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers. ppi

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Khmer Rouge tribunal rejects Kiwi case

Oct 27, 2011

Rob Hamill

ROB HAMILL: His brother was captured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge after his yacht strayed into Cambodian waters in 1978. This year Mr Hamill tried to take a civil case against five people under investigation for his killing, and other war crimes

Trans-Atlantic rower Rob Hamill, whose brother was murdered by the Khmer Rouge, has failed in his appeal to bring civil proceedings against several of those he believes were involved.

However, his case has raised serious concerns of judicial misconduct, and serious procedural irregularities, by investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Olympic rower Hamill's elder brother Kerry was abducted by the Khmer Rouge in 1978 when his yacht strayed into Cambodian waters. He was taken prisoner at Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, where he was tortured and murdered. Early this year Mr Hamill, who lives in Te Pahu, tried to take a civil case for his killing, and other war crimes, against five people under investigation by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

In April that application was rejected by the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) on the grounds that he did not demonstrate that he suffered psychological injury as a direct consequence of his brother's death.

Mr Hamill appealed against that decision, but this week found out he had failed. However, his lawyer, Lyma Nguyen, said the considerations of two international judges on the appeal panel raised serious concerns about the investigation of the case by the Khmer Rouge tribunal. They said the investigating judges refused to recognise civil party lawyers, in breach of Cambodian and international practices, and refused to give reasons for that stance.

They also kept victims in the dark about the case, preventing them from filing applications to become civil parties, and denied victims' lawyers access to the case file despite repeated requests.

Mr Hamill said "It has serious ramifications and the United Nations, or someone, is going to have to take a pretty good look at this now."

Ad Feedback

- Waikato Times

UN partners help least developed countries for effective tourism development

Published by Ozgur Tore
Thursday, 27 October 2011

Eight of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have begun to assess their tourism development needs and pinpoint relevant funding sources at a workshop held by the United Nations Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD) (Geneva, Switzerland, 18-20 October).

Representatives from the Tourism, Finance and Trade Ministries of Benin, Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Lesotho, Maldives, Sao Tome and Principe and Uganda came together with the nine UN Agencies that make up the SCTD at International Trade Centre (ITC) Headquarters in Geneva, to learn how to better work together to maximize tourism’s development potential.

“Tourism is one of the few economic sectors through which LDCs have managed to increase their participation in the global economy,” said UNWTO Executive Director, Márcio Favilla, opening the workshop. “The multiplier effect of tourism is also particularly effective in the LDCs, where tourism expenditure generates additional flows of revenue and consumption for other branches of the economy such as agriculture, local fisheries, handicrafts and the furniture and construction industries”.

International tourist arrivals in the 48 LDCs grew from 6 million in 2000 to over 17 million in 2010. In the same period, international tourism receipts climbed from US$ 3 billion to over US$ 10 billion.

The workshop, organized with the support of the Secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a multi-donor programme specifically for LDCs, allowed the countries to learn more about the EIF and how to best access the mechanism to develop their tourism strategies and action plans, as well as leveraging human and financial resources.

A break-out session of bi-lateral meetings between countries and UN agencies during the workshop helped to identify a number of specific tourism-related needs of the LDCs and match them with SCTD Agency capabilities.

The workshop builds on the momentum generated at the Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV), at which tourism was included as a poverty reduction tool for the first time. It is now expected that the LDCs, with the support of SCTD Agencies as well as the EIF Secretariat, will be able to prepare project proposals by the end of 2011, for local approval and subsequent submission to the EIF Board for endorsement by mid-2012.


Thu, 27 Oct 2011
By Margie Mason

It took only a second for the murky floodwaters swamping parts of Asia to swallow Nguyen Phuoc Hien's baby. His three-year-old daughter had been playing happily while her aunt studied, but somehow, the girl slipped quietly outside the family home deep in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta.

When Hien's wife returned to the shack from feeding the pigs and realised her youngest child was missing, "she was in a panic looking around," he recalled. "Our neighbours helped us look for her. Her body was found an hour later in the canal near the house."

Children make up around a quarter of the nearly 800 deaths reported since July across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines, according to the United Nations. The region has been ravaged by some of the worst flooding in decades, but drownings are a huge unreported epidemic in Asia. Every year, an estimated 240,000 children up to 17-years-old die - mostly because the majority of kids simply never learn to swim.

That annual number is roughly equal to the total deaths from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but day-to-day water deaths rarely get attention.

"Those (in the tsunami) were counted because they drowned in a space of six to eight hours in the region, and everyone was just stunned because the number was enormous," said Michael Linnan, technical director of the US-based Alliance for Safe Children in Bangkok, who has studied child drowning. "But the reality is that in that the 364 days before that, an equal number of mothers and children had drowned as well. But they drown one at a time and not in a disaster setting, so they weren't counted."

During excessive flooding, it's easy for children to accidentally get in over their heads while playing or wading in filthy water where it's impossible to see what dangers lurk beneath each step. Some fall into fast-moving canals or streams in their yards or villages, while others lose their footing on porches or windows, falling into waters surrounding their houses - sometimes at night. Often their disappearance goes unnoticed because parents are busy trying to salvage livestock, crops or meagre belongings vital to the family's survival.

"You have very little dry land and you have massive population movements," Linnan said. "It doesn't take very long for a child to slip away from an already harried mother or older sibling who are trying to schlep all the belongings. It takes only two or three minutes for a child to drown."

Monster seasonal monsoon rains have overwhelmed swollen rivers, dams and canals in the region, and back-to-back typhoons and tropical storms have hammered the Philippines, China and Vietnam. Some 4 million acres of Thailand have been inundated in the country's worst flooding in a half century, and the waters are creeping deeper into Bangkok, an anxious capital city of 9 million barricaded behind walls of sandbags.

In Vietnam's Mekong Delta, 49 of the 57 deaths since August have been children, according to the national flood and storms control department. In neighbouring Cambodia, at least 80 children have died in severe flooding there, while more than 50 have been killed in Thailand, all mostly from drowning, according to the United Nations. Myanmar also has suffered bad flooding, but no clear estimates on child deaths are available.

"It's painful to see that many kids drown," said disaster official Le Van Hung of Vietnam's worst-hit Dong Thap province. "All of them came from poor families where their parents had to struggle to make ends meet and did not properly watch over their children in their flooded homes."

Linnan said about three-quarters of children across Asia never learn to swim, despite living in a tropical region crisscrossed by rivers and canals. But even though drowning is the top injury-related cause of death among kids, it typically does not receive much attention or aid because only about 15 percent to 25 percent of water deaths ever get reported to health systems. Death certificates are often not required, and children who drown are simply buried. Because they aren't taken to hospitals or clinics first, their cause of death is never counted. That, in turn, means childhood drowning deaths are grossly underestimated regionally.

"Sometimes there's more water than land" where children grow up, said Justin Scarr, drowning prevention commissioner of the Belgium-based International Life Saving Federation, who says fear of water is linked to culture in many areas where his organisation is now teaching swimming skills. "Generations have associated water with drowning and so they've avoided basic things like learning to swim."

Community education is also key to reducing deaths, since half of all drowning deaths occur in children younger than 5 who are too small to swim. Research has shown that setting up village day care centres while parents are busy or working can reduce those deaths by more than 80 percent.

For the Nguyen family in Vietnam, it's too late. The loss they experienced during one minute of carelessness during this year's floods will forever haunt them.

"We did not expect our daughter would drown one day," said Hien, 31, who earns the equivalent of just US$100 a month fishing and doing odd jobs. "We are devastated by her loss."


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

KRouge defendant says he won't testify in trial

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary and three other senior regime members deny the array of charges against them (AFP/ECCC/File, Mark Peters)

PHNOM PENH — A top ex-Khmer Rouge leader charged with genocide and other atrocities said Wednesday he will not take the stand during his long-awaited trial at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

"With full knowledge of proceedings pending against me and my rights, I voluntarily, knowingly, and unequivocally put the trial chamber on notice that I will not testify," defendant Ieng Sary, 86, told the court in a statement.

The move would likely disappoint Cambodians who hope the trial will shed some light on the country's 1975-79 "Killing Fields" era.

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary and three other senior regime members deny the array of charges against them -- including war crimes and crimes against humanity -- for the deaths of up to two million people.

Their highly-anticipated joint trial is the tribunal's second and most important case. Opening statements are scheduled for November 21 and the presentation of evidence is to start on November 28.

"We are not boycotting the trial," stressed defence lawyer Michael Karnavas, explaining that the announcement was "out of courtesy" so the court can make the necessary scheduling arrangements.

Trial monitor Clair Duffy from the Open Society Justice Initiative funded by US billionaire George Soros said Ieng Sary's silence would be "a disappointment" to Khmer Rouge survivors.

"Cambodians generally come to the court to see these people and hear what they have to say," she said. "But the accused have a right not to say anything."

As the top Khmer Rouge diplomat, Ieng Sary was frequently the only point of contact between Cambodia's secretive communist rulers and the outside world, researchers say.

In its historic first case, the court last year sentenced former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav to 30 years in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people. The case is now under appeal.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the movement emptied Cambodia's cities and abolished money and schools in a bid to create an agrarian utopia before they were ousted from the capital by Vietnamese forces.

247 killed, 1.5 mln affected by flood in Cambodia

Oct 26, 2011

Cambodian children walk on boards put on jars in front of their flooded house at Kean Svay Krao village along the Mekong River in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Oct. 26, 2011. Nhim Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said Cambodia has been devastated by the Mekong River and flash floods since early August. To date, at least 247 people were killed and about 1.5 million people were affected. (Xinhua/Philong Sovan)

A Cambodian man walks in the floodwater at Kean Svay Krao village along the Mekong River in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Oct. 26, 2011. Nhim Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said Cambodia has been devastated by the Mekong River and flash floods since early August. To date, at least 247 people were killed and about 1.5 million people were affected. (Xinhua/Philong Sovan)

China May Resort to Force in Sea Disputes, Global Times Says

Oct 25, 2011
By B
loomberg News

China’s neighbors should prepare “for the sounds of cannons” if they don’t temper their positions in territorial disputes over the South China Sea, the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial today.

Countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea should not take China’s “mild diplomatic stance” for granted as they seek to resolve conflicting territorial claims, the newspaper said. The government distanced itself from the report today, saying it didn’t represent its views.

“If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons,” the unsigned editorial said. “We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.”

The Global Times is owned by the People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. The editorial said China’s current understanding is that such disputes should be resolved via negotiation. “But if a situation turns ugly, some military action is necessary,” it said.

In response to questions about the editorial, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters today in Beijing that China “adheres to the strategy of peaceful development” and is committed “to resolving the maritime dispute through peaceful means.”

“Sowing discord and hostility will only complicate” the issue, Jiang said.

Patrol Vessels

China has used patrol vessels in recent months to thwart efforts by Vietnam and the Philippines to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in July that increased confrontations in the area are a threat to sea lanes.

Competing claims to the South China Sea threaten to sour ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia as the countries compete over oil, gas and fisheries resources in the disputed waters.

China, citing historical evidence such as pottery shards, claims a tongue-shaped swath of the sea demarcated by nine dashes that extends hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island to the equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo.

--Nicholas Wadhams, Michael Forsythe. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Patrick Harrington

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nicholas Wadhams in Beijing at; Michael Forsythe in Beijing at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

Vietnam dissidents forced to flee after exposing Communist crackdown

Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang threatened with imprisonment after collaborating with the Guardian on a story about harassment of pro-democracy activists

Foreign staff,

Vietnam dissidents forced to flee after challenging Communist party rule
A policeman, flanked by local militia members, tries to stop a foreign journalist from taking pictures outside the Ho Chi Minh City people's court, where a human rights case was taking place in August. Photograph: Ian Timberlake/AFP/Getty Images

Two Vietnamese dissidents have fled the country under the threat of imprisonment or worse after collaborating with the Guardian on an article that highlighted a mounting crackdown in the country.

In addition, the correspondent who wrote the story, freelancer Dustin Roasa, was detained as he tried to return to Vietnam recently and held overnight at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airport before being put on a flight out of the country the next day. "You are not welcome in Vietnam for security reasons," Roasa was told.

The article published in January exposed how dozens of pro-democracy activists were monitored, harassed, arrested, beaten and imprisoned for challenging the authority of the Communist party. Two dissidents quoted, Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang, were forced to flee Vietnam under threat of arrest and now live uncertain lives as refugees, all for speaking to a foreign reporter.

Roasa set up a series of meetings during a two-day trip to Vietnam in January. His rendezvous with Nguyen Thu Tram in a cafe passed off without incident.

But when Nguyen Thu Tram returned to her mother-in-law's house, she found the police waiting for her. They returned several times that day to question her about meeting with Roasa. The next day, she moved to a church to protect her family, but the authorities found her there. A group of police showed up, beat a female pastor in the head with a baton until she collapsed bleeding, and threatened to arrest Nguyen Thu Tram.

"I knew I could not stay in Vietnam, because I wasn't safe," she said. "I had no other option. I had to go." The authorities began harassing her relatives, such that her mother and youngest sister decided to leave Vietnam, too, despite having no involvement in political activism.

Roasa said that when he returned to the hotel, he was pulled to one side by a receptionist. She told him the security police had come to ask about him. "You must have done very bad things," she said. "Run, before they come back for you."

Roasa told the Guardian: "I didn't want to endanger anyone, so I called them on Skype to let them know what had happened. No one was surprised, as they were all accustomed to being monitored regularly. Two of them agreed with me that it was too dangerous to meet."

But Nguyen Ngoc Quang insisted that the meeting go ahead. He brought along two friends: a dissident lawyer who often challenges the authorities on human rights violations in the government-controlled courts, and an English-speaking friend to interpret. After the interview, Nguyen Ngoc Quang and his lawyer friend prepared to drive away on a motorbike. They were immediately surrounded by plainclothes agents, also on motorbikes. A high-speed chase ensued, before Nguyen Ngoc Quang's lawyer friend managed to drop him at a large apartment block.

There, he took off a layer of clothes and covered his face with a surgical mask commonly used in south-east Asia to fend off dust. He slipped out past the 30 or so agents he estimates were in the vicinity. "It was audacious for me to leave like that, but they weren't expecting it," he said later. Upon hearing from a well-placed friend that he faced substantial prison time, he left the country that day with the help of the country's dissident network.

Nguyen Ngoc Quang has been granted refugee status by the UN and awaits settlement in a third country. Nguyen Thu Tram's case is still being processed, but there is reason to be hopeful that she, too, will be granted refugee status.

Interview: Para Hunzai of the World Food Programme in Cambodia

Source: Blogcritics
William Lambers
Oct 25, 2011

Para Hunzai of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) recently reported on the massive flooding taking place in Cambodia. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Livelihoods have been lost as farm lands have been swept away. This crisis is taking a great toll on the many families in the country already living in poverty.

WFP provides assistance in Cambodia, including a school meals program which is a crucial safety net to help the poor overcome shocks like the floods. School feeding keeps children fed, healthy, and learning. Para recently took time to discuss the impact of this program and ways you can get involved to help feed and educate children in Cambodia.

How many children are currently receiving the WFP school meals?

During the coming school year (October 2011 - July 2012) 342,000 primary school children will receive hot nutritious breakfasts consisting of rice, yellow split beans, fish, salt and oil. Over 65,000 of the poorest families also receive a monthly scholarship of either 10 kg of rice per month or the cash equivalent of US$5 as an incentive to send children to school.

In January 2011, Preahreach Akak Mohaesei School suffered a small setback when WFP was no longer able to provide fish as part of the school breakfast as a result of resource constraints. When the School Support Committee learnt of this, they initiated a resource mobilization campaign going village to village urging parents to contribute what they could to help supplement school breakfasts with much needed vitamins and protein for the schoolchildren. (WFP photo)

What has been the impact of the meals in terms of class attendance and performance?

An independent impact evaluation commissioned by WFP in 2010 showed that the impact of the school meals and food scholarship activities is evident on three levels:

Education: The impact of school meals was evident in higher enrolment (an analysis of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) data shows a 2-2.5 percent increase upon a school’s inclusion in the School Meals Programme, with a bigger increase for girls at 3 percent; furthermore, over the period 2002–2009 the increase in enrolment was 6.1 percent higher for schools that were part of the School Meals Programme); increased attendance (based on the household survey, food scholarship activities contributed to an annual increase of around 3 percent) and reduced drop-out rates (the School Meals Programme reduced drop-outs, especially in grades 2–4 by around 2.7 percent).

Nutrition: The School Meals Programme helped reduce morbidity among pupils in general and absence from school as a result of illness among girls. The potential for nutritional improvement through school meals was evidenced through a decrease in night blindness, attributed to the use of vitamin A-fortified vegetable oil.

Value-Transfer: The food scholarship constituted a predictable and regular value transfer to households worth 23.5 percent of household income. Among School Meals Programme beneficiaries the figure was 14 percent. Food scholarship activities enabled poor families to extend the period during which they did not have to buy rice and increased resilience to food shortages during lean periods, thereby reducing their vulnerability and increasing options for investing in assets. Households also confirmed that the food scholarship activities constituted a credible compensation for income lost if children were attending school, thereby reducing child labour.

Is there a plan to expand the program if needed?

WFP’s school meals and scholarship programme covers over 2,000 schools in 12 out of 24 provinces, reaching over half a million school children. Based on need, WFP’s Education Programme has been re-targeted to reach a greater number of children this school year. The Scholarship Programme is being scaled up from 900 to 2,000 schools (from 20,000 to 60, 000 households) (Oct 2011-July 2012). In addition, a pilot cash scholarship programme will reach 5,000 students in various schools. The expansion of the programme is reliant on resources and need and is re-assessed accordingly. WFP targets the most food-insecure provinces.

What are the prospects of a national school lunch program in Cambodia where all children can receive the meals?

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, this is especially true for children from poor households who sometimes eat little or no breakfast. This affects their ability to concentrate on lessons for the rest of the day. Therefore, WFP provides breakfasts before the school day commences. WFP has been implementing its school feeding programme in Cambodia since 1999. WFP is working closely with the Ministry of Education and with NGO partners to explore cost-effective options for possible nationwide scale-up in the future. Currently, WFP and the Ministry of Education target the poorest and most food insecure areas in 12 out of 24 provinces. There is currently no school lunch programme.

How can someone get involved and help school feeding in Cambodia?

Supporters of WFP can help create awareness of issues of food insecurity and malnutrition of vulnerable populations including primary school children in Cambodia. A recent national survey indicates that almost 40 percent of children under 5 are not as tall as they should be (stunted) and are not receiving the micronutrients needed to grow. Awareness-raising can be done by spreading the word of WFP activities through sharing communication and advocacy material published on the WFP website (for information on Cambodia, see

WFP is 100 percent voluntarily funded, raising every dollar it spends. Donations are greatly welcome to ensure programmes continue to reach the desired impact. The website is also a way to raise awareness, better your vocabulary, and raise money. The website lets users play word games. For every right answer users can donate rice directly to WFP beneficiaries including to the WFP school meals programme in Cambodia.

By playing Free Rice you can help the World Food Programme fight hunger in Cambodia.