Monday, September 9, 2013

Chinese Foreign Ministry provides office supplies to Cambodian counterpart

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The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday donated 50 laptops and 100 cellphones in equivalent to 70, 000 US dollars to its Cambodian counterpart to increase task efficiency.

Speaking while handing over the supplies to Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Bu Jianguo said the donation came as promised by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his official visit to Cambodia last month.

“We hope that these materials will assist office staff at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work fast and more efficiently,” she said.

Hor Namhong said the ministry was very happy to receive these modern office supplies as they would relieve the difficulties of staff in their work.

He highly spoke of excellent friendship relations between Cambodia and China in all fields and vowed to further enhance the ties in the future.

“The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ready to work closely with the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia in order to further develop our bilateral ties and cooperation for the mutual benefits of the two countries and peoples,” he said.

Cambodia’s ruling party confirmed election winner

Source: BBC Online
Cambodia’s ruling People’s Party (CPP) has been confirmed the winner of July’s general election which was marred by fraud allegations.

The election commission said Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP won 68 seats, compared to 55 for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The televised announcement comes after thousands took part in a rally in the capital Phnom Penh to protest against alleged electoral fraud.

Hun Sen has run Cambodia for 28 years.

The 61-year-old has vowed to stay in power until he is in his seventies.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy claimed there was widespread rigging in the election.
The result confirmation means he will no longer be able to legally contest the vote.

According to preliminary official figures, the CPP won 3.2 million votes, while Rainsy’s party obtained 2.9 million.

The election commission is yet to officially confirm these numbers.

On Saturday, huge crowds gathered in Phnom Penh’s Democracy Park in what organisers described as a peaceful protest based on Buddhist prayer.

Many demonstrators brought lotus flowers symbolising peace.

Rainsy told the crowd it was a “historic day”, saying that “those who steal our votes won’t live happily”.
With all the institutions of state, including the election commission, under the thumb of Hun Sen, this type of protest is the only way for opposition supporters to challenge the result, says the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.

He adds that the CNRP has vowed to keep up its street protests against the result.

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge court hit by new resignation

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's troubled Khmer Rouge war crimes court suffered a new setback Monday with the resignation of a key prosecutor -- the latest in a string of departures from the UN-backed tribunal.
The announcement came as a strike by court staff over unpaid wages entered a second week, threatening to disrupt a high-profile trial of two former top regime leaders from the "Killing Fields" era in the late 1970s.
International co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said in a statement that he was leaving for "personal reasons".
Sept 9, 2013

It follows the resignation of three international lawyers and two judges over the past two years amid allegations of government meddling.

Cayley, however, said his decision was unrelated to the court's woes.
"It's really personal circumstances. I am not leaving out of frustration with the court at all," the British lawyer, who was appointed to the role in December 2009, told AFP.

At the same time he voiced concern about the cash crunch at the tribunal, whose 250 Cambodian workers, including judges and prosecutors, have not been paid since June.

"Of course, the financial situation of the court is frustrating to all of us," Cayley said.

Court spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the UN, the Cambodian government, tribunal officials and donors were working to resolve the budget crisis.

"But so far, there is no solution yet," he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned last month that the "very survival of the court is now in question".
The tribunal has been frequently short of cash since it was set up in 2006 to seek justice for the deaths of up to two million people under the brutal communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79.

The UN pays for the international workers while the salaries of the local staff are the responsibility of the Cambodian government, with both sides relying on international donors.

Two defendants -- "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 82, -- are on trial for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The court is currently in recess and preparing to hear closing statements in the first part of the trial in mid October.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

So far the UN-backed court has achieved one conviction, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen -- himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre -- has repeatedly voiced opposition to pursuing more suspects after the current trial.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cambodian opposition rally pushes for poll probe

— Nearly 20,000 opposition supporters gathered Saturday in Cambodia's capital to cheer their leaders' demands for an investigation into alleged election irregularities, just a day before the victory of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party is to be ratified.

Final results from the vote six weeks ago gave 68 National Assembly seats to Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and 55 to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. The opposition says it would have won the majority of seats had the election been fair.

The opposition says protests will continue until an independent committee look into claims of voter disenfranchisement and vote tampering in the July 28 election. However, the government-appointed National Election Committee has rejected the demand, and Hun Sen has made it clear he intends to take office and continue his 28 years in power.

The 55 seats won by the opposition represent a sharp improvement on the 29 it held in the last assembly, and its strong performance — also reflected in a close popular vote — came as a surprise. The party has suggested its lawmakers may boycott the assembly sessions in protest at the failure to investigate its claims of unfairness.

The new parliament is supposed to be seated within 60 days of the election, and ruling party leaders say it can convene without the opposition.
Opposition leaders have emphasized non-violence, amid concerns about violence raised by the government's deployment of troops and armored vehicles to the capital days after the election. Hun Sen has a reputation for dealing harshly with opponents.

The government, through sympathetic media outlets, had played up fears of violence in an obvious effort to discourage protests.

 Monks and Cambodian people: "My Vote, My nation". Photo: Quoc Viet/RFA

Saturday's demonstration, however, was peaceful, with opposition supporters holding up signs with messages such as "My Vote, My nation" and "There is justice, there is peace."

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told the crowd that the Cambodian people have suffered from a culture of violence for 40 years, and that should end now.

Cambodia plunged into civil war in 1970, and experienced the holocaust of Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s, when an estimated 1.7 million people died as a result of their radical communist policies. Under Hun Sen, a culture of violence and intimidation of the poor and powerless has been widespread.

In recent years, land grabbing by government cronies has led to forced evictions, sometimes accompanied by deadly violence. The issue has caused popular resentment, to the political benefit of the opposition.

"Today, Cambodia is opening a new page, the page of ending the culture of violence," Sam Rainsy said, with the crowd echoing his words with a cheer of "End violence."

Several monks attended the demonstration, despite a ban against doing so by Cambodia's top Buddhist authority. One monk, Ngim Saossamkhan, said he was aware of the ban but believed he had a right to attend. "As monks, we can't be part of any party, but I support peace," he said.

Demonstrators dispersed after several hours, but opposition leaders say they will gather again tomorrow unless the National Election Committee yields. They have asked that any announcement of the results be postponed, and have called on Cambodia's king, Norodom Sihamoni, to intervene.

Observers do not expect clashes between demonstrators and security forces, as occurred after some past elections, but political analyst Kem Ley said the risk of violence might grow if opposition protests continue for many days.

Chan Aunleng, a 24-year-old student demonstrator holding a Cambodian flag, said she did not think the demonstrations would sway the National Election Committee, but that she would join future protests "for real democracy."

Read more here:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

TAT hosts Amazing Thailand “ASEAN Media Fam Trip from Bangkok to Siem Riep”

Thursday, 05 September 2013  
By  TAT  
TAT hosts Amazing Thailand “ASEAN Media Fam Trip  from Bangkok to Siem Riep” on September 6 -11, 2013
Bangkok – September 5, 2013: A total of 21 prominent online foreign media from East and South Asia – Japan, China, Taiwan, India, and Thailand – have been invited to join the Amazing Thailand “ASEAN Media Fam Trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap” during September 6-11, 2013. The international media joining will be top bloggers and online journalists from Thailand’s main tourist markets in Asia. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is conducting this media trip to promote land and air connectivity with neighbouring countries such as Cambodia in advance of Thailand’s entry into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.
Mr.Suraphon Svetasreni, TAT Governor, said “TAT is proud to present this eastern route from Bangkok to Siem Reap via the diverse attractions of Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, and Sa Kaeo.  We feel there are many unseen things in those provinces that tourists can enjoy before or after a cross-border visit of the splendors of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.  We want to show that this route is not only a convenient passage to the Greater Mekong Subregion, but is also a fabulously unique tourist region in itself.

The trip will take the media to explore another side of Bangkok at Taling Chan Floating Market then change gears to the busy and world-renowned Chatuchak Weekend Market.

On the second day, the tour moves out from Bangkok to Nakhon Nayok Province, the scenic Khun Dan Prakarnchon Dam, the largest and longest roller compacted concrete dam in the world. Not far from the reservoir, the group will pay a visit to the Bhumirak Dhamachart Project, which is a multimedia museum displaying His Majesty’s concrete ideas and theories for the development of agriculture.

Next day, the group will visit a historical building as well as relax with a traditional Thai massage at the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubate Hospital. After that, moving on to Ban Dong Krathong Yam, the tour will explore the local culture of the Thai Puan people. Then, one last stop before crossing to Cambodia is the bustling Rong Kluea border market in Aranyaprathet.

The Cambodian portion of the trip will include visits to the majestic historical sites of
Prasat Ta Phrom, Prasat Bayon and conclude at the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat.  Mr. Tith Chantha, Director General, Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, hosts a dinner for the group in Siem Reap on September 10.

Garment workers in Cambodia hold protest over mass dismissal

Garment workers sit beside police officers during a protest in front of a factory owned by Sabrina (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh. (File photo)
Garment workers sit beside police officers during a protest in front of a factory owned by Sabrina (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh. (File photo)
Thousands of garment workers in Cambodia have hold a demonstration after a factory supplying global brands allegedly dismissed hundreds of their colleagues for striking over conditions.

According to union leaders, the Singapore-owned SL Garment Processing factory sacked more than 700 workers on Wednesday. Over 5,000 others were also suspended after a two-week-long strike.

They had walked out claiming intimidation over regular factory inspections conducted by an official flanked by military police.

On Thursday, nearly 4,000 workers marched from the factory to the City Hall in the capital Phnom Penh to call on the government to intervene in the dispute.
“We want the factory to allow the workers to go back to work,” said Ath Thorn, who is president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.
“But if they want to close they factory they must pay compensation to workers according to the law,” he added.

Cambodia frequently faces disputes over wages, safety and conditions in its multibillion-dollar garment industry.

About 650,000 people are working in the lucrative industry, which is a main source of foreign income for the Southeast Asian country.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in July accused Cambodia of failing to improve working conditions in the sector.

In May, two workers were killed at a factory producing shoes for Japanese sports brand Asics after a ceiling collapse. The fatal incident led to intensification of concerns over worker safety in Cambodia.


Statement His Excellency Mr. Kranh Tony Acting Director, Office of Administration of the ECCC

05 September 2013

On behalf of the national judicial officers and staff of the ECCC, I would like to acknowledge
the efforts made by all involved stakeholders -- the Royal Government of Cambodia, the United
Nations, and the donors -- to support the court to fulfill its mandate from the beginning until

As at 31 August 2013, total cumulative funds provided by the donors countries to the ECCC
National Component amount to US$46.7 million, including in-cash contributions of US$8.7
million from the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC). The latter has continuously increased
its funding contributions on yearly basis from its US$0.6 million in 2006 to US$1.8 million in
2013. In addition, the RGC has also provided in-kind contributions totalling US$9.5 million from
2006 to 2012. In total, the contributions from the RGC are equivalent to 10% of the Court’s
overall costs.

Once again, the ECCC is facing the same crisis of lack of funding that has occurred every year,
and which is seriously damaging to the morale of all the national judicial officers and staff, as
well as to our international colleagues. Due to fact that this time the national judicial officers
and staff have not received their salary for three months, it is hardly surprising that the Court is
presently facing a high risk of disruption of its work.

I wish to express our thanks to a number of donors who worked with the Royal Government of
Cambodia and the United Nations to take new measures to address the previous funding crisis
several months ago, and who are again at this crucial moment actively considering possible
further measures. We remain hopeful that this present crisis will be resolved, preferably on a
firm basis that prevents its recurrence, so that the ECCC can go on smoothly to discharge its
historic mandate.

I am also thankful to all the national judicial officers and staff who are at this moment calm and
patient, and I hope that those who have suspended their work will be willing and able to return to
active duty as soon as we receive positive news on resolving the current funding crisisis.
In this regard, we appreciate the renewed commitment expressed in the statement made on 04
September 2013 by Ambassador David Scheffer, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on
United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, as well as his efforts, together with
Cambodian government representative, His Excellency Keo Remy, Secretary of State of the
Office of the Council of Ministers, to seek further contributions, especially from new donors.

An audience with Queen For A Night? No, thanks!

Sep 05, 2013

There comes a time in the life of every feminist critic and writer when, according to the law of sod, she happens across a press release bearing the immortal first line: ‘Vincent Broustet invites us into the passionate world of young Khmer women.’ To review or not to review, she wonders. Don’t be ridiculous. Martha, fetch me my gun.

My pen! I mean my pen! How Freudian, please excuse. Anyway, how kind of Monsieur Broustet to invite us to his exhibition, let us proceed post haste to see what we can see. The passionate world of young Khmer women, otherwise known as Broustet’s solo show Queen For A Night, is only on view in Siem Reap until October 31; what if you want to see it twice?? We should hurry.

Queen For A Night focuses on Khmer women’s “transformation from everyday selves into unabashed beauties for Cambodian weddings and other significant occasions”. Unabashed! Saucy minxes that they are. That may sound like an excuse for us all to ogle women in various stages of undress and picturesque disarray, hair all of a tumble, ballgown slipping cheekily off one ‘unabashed’ shoulder, but undoubtedly the exhibition’s iconographic subtext contains some contrapuntal critique.

Assiduously, your feminist reviewer scans the aforementioned press release for thoughtful comment on the egregious sins of the male gaze, or a meaty gobbet of French philosophy at the very least. “The ritual of preparing for special events takes hours of enthusiastic groundwork, usually beginning with a visit to a favourite hair salon to have tresses elaborately styled and curled.” Tonsorially accurate, no doubt, no doubt, but few of us go to exhibitions to think about curling tongs, it must be said.

Ever investigative, your roving reporter buttonholed Robina Hanley, manager of McDermott Gallery in Siem Reap, to explain further. “You are unable to tell the difference in the girl who works in a factory from the girl who comes straight from the countryside. Neither girl is chic in her everyday life, but when she has a chance to dress for a ceremony or party, she is usually unrecognisable, sometimes full of confidence, sometimes a little embarrassed. Vincent sees this every day in Cambodia and when you examine his paintings you can see tenderness and respect in every brushstroke.”

That brings us to the paintings themselves. Influenced by “Rembrandt, Hugo Pratt and all the great artists in between,” Broustet positions his work firmly in the Impressionist tradition, his paintings redolent of Degas showing fleeting, flirting, fin de siecle ballet dancers. Except with much manlier shoulders, it must be said. Suffused with slabs of toothache-inducing satin, oddly proportioned women hover in a perspectiveless world, largely bereft of distinctive facial features or expression, but probably wishing they were somewhere else. So might you be, dear viewer; so might you be.

In a week when Miley Ray Cyrus has been much on everyone’s minds and even more in our Facebook feeds, whether we like it or not, it’s perspicacious to ask whether the kerfuffle over cultural appropriation and neo-orientalism that resulted from Mi-Cy’s twerkathon has a wider relevance. Broustet, who has lived and worked outside of his native France for much of his life, says that his “sketches and paintings do not engage in exoticism, but instead are transcriptions of moods and atmospheres, the pursuit of what is and remains common to every human, every landscape, every shadow”.

That Broustet voluntarily exonerates himself from the charge of exoticism before anyone has the chance to lay it at his door is interesting. You might even say telling; I would not say that, of course, but you might. Whether Broustet’s paintings themselves present a postcolonial perspective of ‘the East’ – an East of sensuality, latent sexuality and quantifiable stasis – is moot. As Broustet says, he “doesn’t believe in exoticism; what is normal to one person can seem exotic to another. Just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t make it exotic.”

However, his works inarguably follow in the aesthetic tradition of painters who essentialised non-Western places and people in this tidy way. If you were one of the bajillion VMA viewers who was mild to moderately offended by Miley Ray Cyrus smacking a lady-bear’s ‘juicy butt’ before the 9pm watershed and making Willow Smith cry, you may also be offended by other postcolonial, patriarchal narratives. So, you know, buyer beware.

China's inland region key to growth

Publication Date : 05-09-2013

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has identified China's inland areas as "the biggest space" for the nation's development.

Li made the remarks in a pavilion tour during the 10th China-Asean Expo in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The city serves as a key gateway connecting China and its neighbours to the southeast.

The east-to-west shift is the trend for economic development, said the premier, as China's opening up follows the path that extends from the coast to the inland regions.

While maintaining the quality of growth in coastal areas, Li said much attention should be paid to exploring the possibilities of development in inland areas.

"It is therefore an inevitable choice to bolster the development of the three emerging economic powerhouses: the old northeast industrial bases, the middle and western regions adjacent to the Yangtze River and the southern and middle-western hinterlands," Li said.

The premier voiced the hope that the northwest areas will also become new frontiers in the regional opening up.

He called for the creation of favourable conditions to promote synergy among the eastern, middle and western parts of the country, so that regions complement one another and build on their respective advantages.

Li said he placed high hopes on unlocking the potential of the middle and western areas, which should play an active role in the westward migration of industries, and pushing ahead the opening of domestic and international markets.

Accompanied by local government authorities and residents, Li on Tuesday began his first trip as premier to the 10th anniversary expo, which attracted more than 2,300 companies from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The expo has become an important platform to promote trade and relationships.

With Li at the wheel, a simulated transportation graphic portrayed a dense network of cruise routes connecting Guangxi's Qinzhou port and 10 ports around Asean.

Better connectivity between China and Asean can only be achieved through intensified infrastructure development, which removes the final barrier to technology transfer and person-to-person contact, said Huang Hao, sales director of Guangxi Sacred New Energy Co Ltd, who was present at the event.

In light of the "diamond decade" that China and Asean are marking, Li encouraged Guangxi to firmly grasp its opportunities by fully leveraging its proximity to the sea and some 600 million people. Li urged Guangxi to strive to become a strategic focal point of local development.

Talking to young performers wearing their national costumes, Li said China and Asean members are like a big family with a common culture and vision for development.

"Bilateral relations will have a splendid future, like a brocade you are embroidering," he said.

In a pavilion with the theme "International Economic Cooperation", Li was introduced by some Chinese enterprises to their investment and business performances in Asean.

To achieve a win-win outcome and mutual reciprocity, Li urged them to abide by local laws and regulations, respect local customs, fulfill their social responsibilities and bring benefits to local people.

The premier was shown the use of agricultural and information technology in Asean markets at several high-tech booths.

He stressed the importance of locating mutual demand as a driving force to spark technological innovation and broaden the fields of cooperation.

Li also welcomed foreign businessmen to ride China's economic boom to expand their business in China and make more Chinese friends.

Ty Channa, deputy director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, said that strengthened bilateral ties can aid Asean, notably Cambodia, weather a slow global economy.

Huang Jincheng, assistant chief editor of the Malaysian newspaper Oriental Daily, said Li's remarks show the Chinese government's sincerity and its attention to Asean.

He added that it is quite necessary for China and Asean to develop close ties and there is great potential for bilateral cooperation in commerce, trade and culture.

To deepen pragmatic economic cooperation, Li proposed "an upgraded version" of the China-Asean Free Trade Area, adding that the Chinese side will strive to expand bilateral trade to US$1 trillion by 2020 and increase bilateral investment by $150 billion during the next eight years.

US embassy warns its citizens to avoid mass protest in Cambodia

Xinhua | 2013-9-5
By Agencies

The US embassy on Wednesday urged its citizens to keep away from a mass demonstration staged by the Cambodian opposition on Sept. 7 against the controversial poll result.

"Although recent political gatherings in Cambodia after the July 28 election have been largely nonviolent, even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence without warning," said a message posted on the website of the US Embassy in Cambodia.

"The US Embassy encourages you to avoid large crowds and immediately leave any area where crowds are gathering," the message said. "You should remain alert to local security developments by monitoring local news reports, be vigilant regarding your personal security and preparedness."

The warning came after Sam Rainsy, President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) announced last Thursday that the party would hold a mass nonviolent demonstration on Sept. 7 against the initial election result which delivered the ruling Cambodian People's Party a victory.

The opposition said about 20,000 protesters would rally at the capital's Freedom Park on that day.

The final result will be officially released on Sept. 8.

Japanese Investor in Talks to Take Stake in TV3

The Cambodia Daily

Japan’s TriAsia Group is in talks to acquire a majority stake in local television station TV3 and plans to broadcast Japanese-language shows, the television channel’s owner confirmed Wednesday.
According to TV3’s owner, Khampun Keomony, revenues at the channel have been dropping, which prompted him to look for new investment.

“We perhaps keep 20 percent… and give them an 80 percent share,” Mr. Keomony said. “We can say our income dropped by 80 percent…. If we don’t beef up our capital, we will not move forward because there are so many [TV] stations in our country now,” he added.

The stake in TV3 would be TriAsia’s second investment in Cambodia. Its first was the establishment of the Kiriya coffee shop chain in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang I commune last year.

Officials at TriAsia said Wednesday the deal was not yet complete and declined to comment further.
TriAsia CEO Yokoi Tomoyuki wrote on his personal blog on Friday that the firm had signed a deal to obtain 80 percent of TV3. However, the blog post was removed from the website after a reporter inquired about the investment.

“It was agreed to acquire from Khampun Keomony, the current owner of [TV3], 80 percent of the outstanding shares,” Mr. Tomoyuki wrote.

He also wrote that negotiations with Mr. Keomony started in May and that the venture would be the first Japanese-backed television station in Cambodia.

But Mr. Tomoyuki wrote little about his company’s plans for TV3, other than that the station would offer “excellent” Japanese content.

When the deal will go through is currently up in the air because the Phnom Penh Municipality owns part of the television channel and any agreement to sell a majority stake would need ap­proval from City Hall, said its spokesman, Long Dimanche.

Mr. Keomony dismissed City Hall’s involvement and claimed the city had broken their contract with him when they forced him to move TV3’s headquarters from Russian Boulevard in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district to Street 593 in Russei Keo district.

“[The deal] is up to me,” he said.

Cambodia: Government Obstructs Khmer Rouge Court

Tribunal Staff Unpaid Since May; End Hun Sen Delaying Tactics

(New York, September 5, 2013) – The Cambodian government’s refusal to pay local staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is the latest attempt to undermine efforts to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, Human Rights Watch said today.

On September 2, 2013, more than half of the Cambodians working on the government payroll at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), set up to try members of the Khmer Rouge, went on strike to protest the government’s failure to pay their salaries since May. The strike includes interpreters, translators, and various judicial and technical staff. The failure to pay staff threatens efforts to finish the first segment of the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Closing statements in the case are scheduled for October and a verdict is expected in the first half of 2014.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has spent years obstructing the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, but donors to the court have played along and continued to subsidize a seriously compromised court,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors should finally call his bluff and withhold future contributions until the Cambodian government pays its agreed share of the costs of holding the Khmer Rouge accountable.”

Under the agreement with the United Nations establishing the ECCC, the UN pays the salaries of UN-appointed staff, while the Cambodian government pays the salaries of government-appointed staff. The government has regularly demanded contributions from donors to pay the salaries of government-appointed staff. The resulting withholding of salaries by the government has periodically hobbled the court’s work.

International donors, led by Japan, have been the sole bankrollers of the UN side of the ECCC. Some have also previously provided financial assistance to pay some of the government’s agreed share, though donors have said they would no longer do so.

The ECCC was set up in 2006 following an agreement with the United Nations according to which it operates within the Cambodian judiciary but with UN assistance. The tribunal has the mandate to try “senior leaders” and others “most responsible” for Khmer Rouge crimes from 1975-1979. However, stalling tactics and obstruction by Hun Sen and the Cambodian government mean that thus far it has only convicted one person: Kaing Gech Eav, alias Duch, the chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison and torture center. Duch confessed to his crimes in case 001 and was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.

Two of the four “senior leaders” charged by the ECCC have either died or been declared too ill to stand trial. The two “senior leaders” still on trial, Nuon Chea, 87, and Khieu Samphan, 82, are charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in case 002. Concern that they might also die before a verdict led to a Trial Chamber decision to have a first trial segment trying them only in connection with the Khmer Rouge relocation in 1975 of urban Cambodians and others to rural areas previously under Khmer Rouge control. A trial for other crimes for which they are indicted, including genocide, may never happen.

Attempts by UN prosecutors and judges to investigate five additional Khmer Rouge suspects – divided into cases 003 and 004 – have been publicly and repeatedly opposed by Hun Sen. One died, and the health of several others is precarious. A UN-nominated investigating judge is currently investigating cases 003 and 004, attempting to ascertain whether some or all of the four suspects should be indicted for trial. But without government cooperation, trials will be impossible.

While Hun Sen has blocked the tribunal from holding speedy trials and limited the number of accused, many Cambodian staff have worked hard to bring the alleged perpetrators of some of the world’s worst international crimes to justice. However, many staffers are bitter at what they have described to Human Rights Watch as government interference and corruption at the court, which has contributed to the readiness of many to stop work in the face of government nonpayment of their salaries. One told Human Rights Watch: “Why should we work for free if the government doesn’t really care about who committed most of the crimes or our standard of living?”

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has never been committed to prosecuting more than a few Khmer Rouge leaders, apparently to protect members of his party and government who were also in the Khmer Rouge,” Adams said. “The government has demonstrated it has plenty of cash to pay a bloated army and buy elections, making its refusal to put money into the Khmer Rouge tribunal a symbol of its utter contempt for justice in Cambodia. Donors and the UN should insist that the Cambodian government stop pretending to be too poor to provide accountability to the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thai Central aims to invest up to $468 mln in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Central Pattana Pcl, Thailand's largest department store operator, plans to invest up to 15 billion baht ($468 million) to open 2-3 new stores in Southeast Asia in the next five years.
Central aims to spend about 4-5 billion baht per a store and planned to open its first foreign department store in Malaysia in 2016, said Wallaya Chirathivat, the company's senior executive vice president for business development.

"We see growth opportunities to invest in Southeast Asia as it will become a single market," he said in a statement.

Central Pattana, part of unlisted retail conglomerate Central Group, is majority owned by Thailand's Chirathivat family, the country's second-richest group, according to Forbes Magazine.
($1 = 32.0700 Thai baht)

Cambodians block border bridge

 Sept 3, 2013
Bangkok Post

Cambodian vendors have blockaded the Thai-Cambodian Friendship bridge near the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint in a protest against a crackdown on pirated goods by Thai authorities.

They used more than 10 two-wheeled pushcarts as a barrier to block the bridge lane heading into Thailand on Monday. The protest paralysed traffic between Sa Kaeo and Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia.
The vendors accused Thai officials of prohibiting them from selling second-hand clothes at the Rong Kruea border market in Thailand. Thai authorities denied the allegation during talks with the vendors.

The officials admitted confiscating some goods, but said this applied only to pirated goods, including bags and shoes, which were being smuggled across the border hidden in other products.
The vendors dispersed after the talks.

Cambodia: Can a Deadlock Be Broken?

Cambodia: Can a Deadlock Be Broken?
There is no problem that lacks a solution, though we may not like our choices. Manmade problems are solvable through imaginative, productive, creative thinking and carefully thought-out action. Some predicaments are harder to deal with than others. The pain from the loss of loved ones does not heal overnight. Some learn to live and cope with loss, some seek professional help, some never move on.
There is a Khmer saying that goes, Choss toek kropeu, leung leu khla – there is crocodile in the river, there is tiger on the bank. Yet, being imaginative and creative can help beat such a circumstance. There are alternatives, and a better alternative does come along.

Lord Buddha says, "Nothing is permanent." Life is a series of choices. There is not a perfect world. One makes the choice one thinks takes one closer to an ideal state.

At present, Cambodians have worked themselves into a political deadlock. There are two rivals: The Cambodian People's Party that has ruled Cambodia since January 1979 with Vietnamese help, and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, a mid-2012 merger of the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, that seeks to change the status quo.

Right after the national election on July 28, the CPP government-appointed National Election Commission rushed to declare preliminary election results that favored the CPP with 68 seats and CNRP, 55 seats. The CNRP objected, and declared it had been robbed of its election victory through election irregularities and flaws – a claim backed by many non-governmental organizations. If the election had been free and fair, the CNRP says, it would have won a majority with 63 seats – leaving the CPP with 60 seats in a parliament of 123 members.

The CNRP demanded an investigation by an independent joint committee, failing which street protests and boycotting of the first session of the parliament would take place.

Taunting, rhetoric, threats spiraled and augmented tension and news outlets reported the deployment of government troops and armored vehicles.

A few days after the election, on August 2, in a speech to farmers in Kandal province, Premier Hun Sen said that the constitutional rule of 50 percent plus one majority makes a CNRP boycott of the inauguration of a new parliament immaterial, for it cannot prevent the formation of a new CPP government: "We don't need to depend on or beg another political party to attend a meeting." He warned the CPP would take away the seats of CNRP legislators who are no-shows.

Hun Sen's interpretation of the constitution has been questioned. Attorney Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders, asserted that a quorum of 120 out of 123 legislators is required to open a new national assembly. Article 76 of Cambodia's 1993 Constitution stipulates, "The National Assembly consists of at least 120 members."

It may be the logic of CNRP leaders that without the presence of CNRP legislators at the National Assembly, there would not be the quorum required to open the Assembly; that without an Assembly a new CPP government, which it must approve, cannot come into being. Thus, a CNRP leader told me, "Time is on our side and we are fully aware we hold the key to a new Cambodia."

Talks failed on forming the joint committee requested by CNRP leaders to investigate alleged election irregularities. Then talks restarted, and talks failed again. The talks were doomed from the start, as reports indicated that neither party entered negotiations in a spirit of compromise, only with demands that the other party yield. The CPP wanted a joint committee to include the pro-government NEC. The CNRP objected. The CNRP, which first wanted the United Nations to be a negotiator, softened its stand and proposed observer status for a UN representative. The CPP objected to any foreign involvement.

But credit must be given to the CNRP as it declared in its latest statement on August 31: The CNRP wants a joint, independent, investigating committee to resolve election irregularities. "After this independent committee has been established and carried out all of its duties, the CNRP will accept any decisions made by this independent committee."

If the CPP is certain it has won fair and square, why not agree to a joint committee?

CNRP leaders have consistently vowed to try all avenues to find a peaceful solution to the election conflict and have promised that street protests would be a last resort. CPP leaders have warned they will arrest those responsible for any violence and destruction.

The CNRP filed its complaints at the Constitutional Council, another CPP-controlled institution, which is required by law to render a final verdict on election results by September 8 – a verdict CNRP leaders expect will repeat the NEC's announcement favoring the CPP.

The Ramvong circle dance is what the words say, a dance in a circle according to the drum beats, thak-thong thak-thong. Some foreign participants joined the circle briefly and left Cambodian circle dancers to perform their chak kbach.

On August 20, US and Australian diplomats in Phnom Penh renewed calls for an investigation of election irregularities. A few days earlier, the European Union High Commissioner's statement said, "Alleged irregularities will have to be dealt with before the final result can be announced" – i.e., on September 8.
But one day after, on August 21, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated and welcomed "the victory" of Premier Hun Sen and the CPP. The Chinese urged "all (Cambodian) parties" to hold talks peacefully and "to put in place quickly a new National Assembly and a new government."

Wang then warned outsiders: China – whose government provided Phnom Penh with 1,000 handguns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition for Cambodia's National Police just two days after the election, and has given more than 2.8 billion dollars in aid and loans to Cambodia since 1992 – will not tolerate "outside" interference in Cambodia's political process.

CNRP leaders have seemed to follow the late King Father's "popular consultation" technique when he was a Prince and the country's Chief of State. CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Vice President Kem Sokha toured Cambodia's provinces to report election-related developments to the electorate, to consult the electorate on their thoughts about the next course of action. On August 25, the CNRP held its public hearing, "Voters Seek Truth and Justice" at Freedom Park. Authorities said the number of participants would be limited to five or six thousand; between 10,000 and 20,000 people showed up.

The impression I have formed from correspondence and news reports is that the CNRP public hearing is reminiscent of the late King Father's Sakmach Cheat or National Congress. In the 1960s I attended a few congresses at Phnom Penh's Veal Men, where citizens from different provinces came to raise issues and present requests to those in authority. Scholars and writers referred to the Sakmach Cheat as a kind of town hall meeting under Prince Sihanouk's chairmanship – a "direct democracy," some called it.

The CNRP public hearing "Voters Seek Truth and Justice" brought mostly CNRP supporters and sympathizers and interested citizens to Freedom Park, where both sides exchanged views on how to seek "Truth," i.e., what really happened at the July 28 election, and "Justice," i.e., remedies for the irregularities and flaws that prevented the voters' true wishes from being implemented.

The hearing was reportedly lively. I enjoyed James Pringle's piece (8/29) that described the event (good cheer, laughing people, an old folk song sung by CNRP Mu Sochua, speeches, applause, brave words from participants, among others).

"This is to fulfill our responsibility, to keep the people engaged, and to take their complaints to His Majesty (King Sihamoni) at some point," a CNRP leader told me.

A subsequent statement released by the CNRP called on the CPP to hold talks to establish an independent investigative committee to examine election irregularities. The statement repeated the CNRP position that failure to form such a committee would compel "the last resort . . . a mass peaceful demonstration against the result of the election. It will be held on September 7." The international community would be urged not to recognize the election results, nor any government created by those results.
The CPP responded it also wanted to talk.

But these exchanges were only the chak kbach movements by the Ramvong circle dancers. There cannot be talks between two non-talkers.

On August 29, a CNRP training session facilitated by an NGO was provided to CNRP working groups on tactics for a nonviolent and peaceful mass protest on September 7. Two protest rehearsals were planned for September 1 and 5.

Sam Rainsy took the time to clarify that the purpose of the mass demonstration is to reinforce the demand for creation of an independent investigative committee.

As the CNRP has its first rehearsal on September 1, the Phnom Penh Municipality gave a special training to 2,000 anti-riot police on how to handle the September 7 mass protest.

Last Friday, August 30, came a royal letter from King Sihamoni, who is in Beijing for a medical check-up. He called on Cambodians to respect the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, and use it to resolve their conflict. A day later, CNRP MP Mu Sochua posted on her Website: "His Majesty has called for the respect of the Constitution" and "The voters will use the Constitution as the supreme law of the nation to call for freedom, rights and justice."

That brings me back to the CNRP's mini-congress at Freedom Park on August 25 and on what reminded me of the late King Father's legacy, Sakmach Cheat or the National Congress.

In light of His Majesty King Sihamoni's call, would it not be in the Cambodian people's interest to seek implementation of Article 147 of Cambodia's 1993 Constitution (formerly Article 128) on the National Congress?

Article 147 stipulates, "The National Congress shall enable the people to be directly informed on various matters of national interests and to raise issues and requests for the State authority to solve." (Italics mine)

In the old days, Cambodians from remote areas of the kingdom traveled to Phnom Penh for a few days to participate in the Sakmach Cheat. Of course, some government officials exploited their ignorance and fear of authority, and manipulated issues for the officials' own benefits. Yet, some folks had the courage to speak their minds.

Today, I am focusing on Cambodia's supreme law of the land that provides an opportunity for the people "to raise issues and requests for the State authority to solve." I am also focusing on Article 149 (formerly Article 130) which stipulates, "The National Congress shall adopt recommendations for consideration by the State authorities, Senate and the Assembly."

I see the recent CNRP public hearing as a mini-Sakmach that seized the spirit of Article 147. Why not take this CNRP mini-Sakmach of supporters and sympathizers, and concerned citizens, a step further and convene a Sakmach Cheat with emphasis on Cheat on National/Nation to include the Khmer people from anywhere in the country and members and supporters of all political parties ready, willing, and able to attend? Let the world observe how, when an army and a police force do not engage in politics, but remain neutral institutions, the people would be able to come to a peaceful solution to the country's problems?
The July 28 election has shown us that the Cambodian people on the whole have developed and matured in their thinking. They may lack political sophistication, but they are no longer seduced by the glitz of new construction in the capital. They know they are hungry, that many have had their land confiscated, that there are not health services, good schools for their children, or the capacity have their basic needs met. Their souls long for a higher level of contentment. They may not understand what change entails, but they know what they don't want. So they voted. And now they question how it was possible for this election to have been lost. What went wrong?

I am conscious that in Article 148 (formerly Article 129), it's the Prime Minister who has the responsibility to convene the National Congress that shall proceed under the King's chairmanship. I don't expect the CPP Prime Minister, to convene such a meeting, at which he would be confronted by dissatisfied citizens; but let there be an official request to the Prime Minister and the King. The King's recent letter reminded Cambodians of "responsible institutions" "tasked" by the Constitution to resolve national issues. Is the National Congress not an institution tasked by Article 147 and Article 149 to serve the people? I expect many reasons to be given why the Sakmach Cheat cannot be convened. Let the explanation flow. And let the people express what they think on September 7.

But if the answer is a Yes to a Sakmach Cheat, then let the Cambodian people come from across the land on September 7 to gather in Phnom Penh "to raise issues and requests for the State authority to solve," and to "adopt recommendations for consideration by the State authorities, Senate and the Assembly."
I like to think positively and take risks to reach an ideal.

If my ideas do not meet with your approval, you have only lost about 15 minutes of your time reading and you can toss this article away. But what if an idea or a process suggested here catalyzes productive change? I seek only to make Cambodia a better place for its citizens. I thank my compatriots for reading this article.
The AHRC is not responsible for the views shared in this article, which do not necessarily reflect its own.
About the Author:
Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. He currently lives in the United States.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

PM Dung holds talks with Chinese, Cambodian counterparts

Timor-Leste PM visit to promote relations
Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao will pay an official visit to Viet Nam for three days from tomorrow, Sept 4, to promote bilateral relations.

The visit, made at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung, will be the second one by Gusmao. He first visited Viet Nam in 2005 as President of Timor-Leste.

The two nations established diplomatic ties on July 28, 2002, but relations began in 1975 when Fretilin (Revolutionary Front for an Independent Timor Leste) unilaterally declared independence. Viet Nam was one of the first countries to recognise Timor-Leste's independence.

Prime Minister holds talks with Chinese, Cambodian counterparts
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has reiterated the Vietnamese Party and State's long-lasting and consistent policy of consolidating and strengthening neighbourliness and co-operation with China.
Timor-Leste PM, China-ASEAN Expo, East Sea, Egypt
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday (Sept 2) in Nanning City.
During his talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Nanning City yesterday, Sept 2, to mark the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and the 10th China-ASEAN Business-Investment Summit, Dung spoke highly of China and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region's careful preparations.

During the last 10 years, he said that CAEXPO has become one of the most prestigious and influential expos in the region and a good chance for ASEAN and China to strengthen their strategic partnership.

Premier Li said the delegation's participation in the expo and summit reflected Viet Nam's appreciation of strengthening the relationship with China.

He said that the Chinese Party, State and people were willing to deepen the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Viet Nam and China have agreed to increase high-ranking visits and meetings, enhance co-operation for mutual benefit in all fields in order to fulfill the target of raising bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2015 and implement joint large-scale economic projects, especially those in infrastructure while strengthening people-to-people exchanges.

Regarding sea-related issues, the two sides held that both nations needed to together maintain peace and stability in the East Sea, control the situation at sea and resolve every matter via peaceful negotiations.
PM Dung emphasised that the two sides should strictly obey the agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues between Viet Nam and China, settle disputes by peaceful means and on the basis of international law.

He suggested the two countries soon put into operation and promote the efficiency of hotlines between the two defence ministries and fishery agencies as agreed. He said this would help promptly deal with arising problems, especially those relating to fishing vessels and fishermen.

Dung invited Premier Li to visit Viet Nam at an early date and the latter accepted. Later, the Vietnamese Government leader received Chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Chen Wu, and Yunnan province's Governor, Ly Jiheng.

The same day, also in Nanning City, Dung met with his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, during which he congratulated Cambodia on its achievements in national development and the success of the fifth general election.

Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked the Vietnamese Government and people for their support and assistance in the past and said that the Cambodian Government would continue to make every effort to maintain stability in the country, thus contributing to regional and international peace.

The China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and the 10th China-ASEAN Business-Investment Summit (CABIS) have attracted the participation of more than 100 Vietnamese businesses from 17 provinces and cities.
Last year, Vietnamese businesses signed deals worth more than $90 million with foreign partners at CAEXPO.

Viet Nam, Nicaragua enhance friendship
Le Hong Anh, politburo member and permanent member of the Communist Party of Viet Nam Central Committee, is leading a delegation to visit Nicaragua from August 31, at the invitation of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

Anh congratulated Nicaragua on the developments it has made under the leadership of the FSLN Party and President Daniel Ortega in order to build a socialist, Catholic and united country for social justice, national harmony and for the happiness of the working class.

Addressing the meetings, leaders of local authorities praised Viet Nam's achievements in national building, considering them an encouragement for Nicaraguans and people all over the world.

They expressed their wish that the traditional relations between the two Parties, Governments and peoples will grow further, especially in trade and investment.

Lao newspapers highlights Vietnam’s National Day
On the occasion of Vietnam’s 68th National Day (September 2), Lao newspapers ran the congratulations of the country’s leaders as well as articles featuring Vietnam’s multifaceted achievements and the special relations between the two nations.

The first pages of such newspapers as Pasason, Pathet Lao, KPL News, Vientiane Times and Lao Phattahana published the congratulations of General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and President Chummaly Sayasone, Prime Minister Thoongsinh Thammavong and National Assembly Chairwoman Pani Dathotu.

They asserted the firm development of the Vietnam-Laos special relationship for the two peoples’ interests as well as regional and global peace, development and cooperation.

Pasason newspaper, the official organ of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, recounted the historic August Revolution and printed a photo of President Ho Chi Minh reading the Declaration of Independence on September 2 to mark the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The newspapers reiterated that the two countries’ special friendship and solidarity, which were formed by President Ho Chi Minh and his Lao counterparts Kayson Phomvihane and Souphanuvong as well as fostered by later leaders and the two peoples, have become a shared asset of the two nations that needs to be preserved and promoted in the future.

On the occasion of the 68th National Day, the Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow offered incense and flowers at the Ho Chi Minh Monument in the square of the same name.

Earlier, the embassy also coordinated with the Association of Vietnamese People in Russia in holding a sports exchange among Vietnamese here.

Egypt plays important role in Vietnam’s foreign policy
Egypt always plays an important role in Vietnam’s foreign policy, a senior Vietnamese diplomat has said.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Egypt Dao Thanh Chung has made the affirmation in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries (September 1, 1963 - September 1, 2013).

The ambassador reviewed the development of the Vietnam-Egypt relations over the five decades. He said that solidarity and traditional relations between the two countries have been reinforced and attained many important achievements.

Especially, since 1991, bilateral relations have entered a new period and developed in various fields, from politics, economics, socio-culture, scien-technology to education-training, tourism and investment.

The two sides have signed many cooperative agreements and established an intergovernmental committee in order to boost bilateral relations, Chung said.

He added that economic cooperation has also seen a strong development. Two-way trade between the two sides reached more than 304 million USD in 2012, making Egypt Vietnam’s second largest market in the Middle East-North Africa region.

Under the agreement on investment encouragement and protection, Egypt and Vietnam have discussed measures to foster investment between the two nations in the fields of oil and gas and telecommunications. The two sides also reached agreements to boost cooperation in aquaculture, farm processing, veterinary medicine and plant protection products production.

Chung also said he believes that potential for cooperation between the two countries remains huge and that bilateral relations will develop comprehensively and intensively.

He also expressed his hope that Egypt will soon overcome difficulties and challenges, to carry out economic reforms and improve its people’s living conditions.

Viet Nam, Angola look to enhance bilateral co-operation
Angola wants to further enhance co-operation with Viet Nam's Party and people in all areas, especially in economics, trade and investment.

Vice President of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) Roberto Victor De Almeida made the remarks during talks on Thursday with his Vietnamese guest, Le Hong Anh.

Anh, who is Politburo member and permanent member of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee's Secretariat, has been in Luanda for a visit to Angola.

De Almeida expressed his admiration for Viet Nam's significant achievements in its renewal process and national construction and defence.

He spoke of gratitude for the valuable support given by the Vietnamese Party, State and people to Angola, particularly in education, health care and agriculture.

Anh then briefed De Almeida about his talks with Secretary of the Central Committee for External Affairs of the MPLA Afonso Van-Dunem.

He affirmed that Viet Nam will do its utmost to step up comprehensive co-operation with the Party and people of Angola, particularly in the areas that suit each side's strength, such as oil and gas, telecoms, agriculture, health care, education and construction.

He expressed his hope that the Angolan Government would continue creating favourable conditions for the Vietnamese community to settle down in the country.

Later in the day, the Vietnamese delegation met with Candida Teceira, member of the MPLA Central Committee, Minister of Science and Technology and Chairman of the Sub-committee of the Viet Nam-Angola Joint Committee.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Vietnamese Party official and his entourage visited Bengo province where they were received by Joao Bernardo De Miranda, Politburo member and First Secretary of the Bengo provincial Party's Committee.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to boost co-operation in agriculture, particularly in the production of rice and coffee and the exchange of agricultural experts.

The same day, Le Hong Anh met with staff of the Vietnamese Embassy in Angola and representatives of the Vietnamese community in the country.

Late on Thursday, the Vietnamese delegation left Angola to continue with their trip, which will take them to Nicaragua and Cuba.

Authorities assess HCM City development
A Government delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh reviewed HCM City's socio-economic performance in the last three years and discussed goals for the next two at a meeting in the city yesterday.

Ninh, who was apprised about the city's good economic performance, said however that the administration had to be more pro-active to achieve the targets set for the next two years.

According to the municipal People's Committee, averaged economic growth in the last three years had been 9.5 percent, almost twice the country's averaged rate.

Ninh described HCM City as the economic driving force for not just the region but the whole country, with revenues reaching VND624 trillion (US$29.7 billion), or 30 percent of the country's total amount.
But it needs to help businesses overcome their problems and speed up restructure of State-owned enterprises in the city, he said.

He wanted the city to work with the State Bank of Viet Nam to deal with bad debts and liquidate the property market inventory.

He told Le Hoang Quan, Chairman of the People's Committee, and his deputy Nguyen Thi Hong, that the Government approves the city's tax revenue plans including breaks for companies that contribute to public welfare.

Despite the achievement of the last three years, the city leaders admitted that the quality of growth had been modest and the economic potential had not been optimally exploited.

Ninh hailed the city government for its successful efforts to stabilise the economy and ensure social welfare in the last few years.

Despite the challenges, the city had achieved impressive results, he added.

HCM City has announced plans to achieve annual economic growth of 10-10.5 percent and per capita income of US$4,800 in 2015.

HCM City has seen good signs this year with stable socio-economic growth in the first eight months of 2013, HCM City People's Committee Chairman Le Hoang Quan said at a meeting on Thursday.

According to the municipal People's Committee, the city saw retail sales and services turnover rising 12.9 per cent year-on-year to VND50,794 billion (nearly US$2.4 billion) in August.

Total retail sales and services turnover in the first eight months of 2013 was VND389,377 billion (nearly $18.4 billion), an increase of 12.2 per cent over the same period in 2012.

Industrial production grew 5.5 per cent in the first eight months, compared to 4.2 per cent during the same period in 2012.

As of 20 August of this year, HCM City had granted licenses to 260 new foreign direct investment projects with a total capital of $587.7 million, up by 0.43 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Quan said that in the last four months of 2013, the city will step up efforts to promote investment, trade, tourism and services; and strengthen the campaign to increase production and consumption of Viet Nam-made goods in the domestic market.

The city will also enhance inspections and supervision to speed up major infrastructure development projects, he said.

Quan asked the city's departments and district authorities to take measures to help businesses overcome difficulties and expand markets for Viet Nam-made goods.

He asked relevant agencies to improve budgetary income management by combating revenue losses, collecting tax arrears and ensuring strict and effective expenditure control.

The city will put more than 1,200 new classrooms into operation in the new school year that will officially opens on September 5. As a result, all school-age children, including children of parents with temporary residence status, will be admitted into primary schools in the city.

Quan asked the Department of Education and Training to inspect schools and ensure that they are not charging excessive tuition fees.

Addressing the issue of the managerial cadre rewarding themselves with high salaries and bonuses at HCM City-based State-owned companies, Quan said these wrongdoings are "unacceptable".

Even if these companies were making profits, the money must be reserved in investment and development funds instead of being divided up by its leaders, he said.

He said the city will take disciplinary measures against these wrongdoings to restore order and discipline among State-owned companies.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Nearly 200 staffers strike at Khmer Rouge tribunal


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A court spokesman for Cambodia’s U.N.-supported Khmer Rouge tribunal says nearly 200 of its staffers have gone on strike to demand wages that are several months overdue.

Spokesman Neth Pheakra says the majority of the court’s Cambodian employees, including interpreters and translators essential to the court’s functions, did not come into work Monday because their wages have not been paid since June.

U.N. spokesman Lars Olsen says the international body is very concerned about the strike’s potential to disrupt proceedings at the tribunal, which has faced frequent budgetary shortfalls since it began in 2006.

The court is tasked with seeking justice for atrocities committed by the communist Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s, when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died due to forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and execution.

Immigration police keep close watch on Cambodian Muslims in Thailand

Monday, 02 September 2013
SA KAEO, Sept 2 – Thai immigration police are closely monitoring the movement of Cambodian Muslims who entered Thailand through the eastern border to work illegally in the South.
Benjapol Rodsawat, deputy immigration police chief of Sa Kaeo province on the Thai-Cambodian border, said about 10,000 Cambodian Muslims entered the kingdom through the eastern border and travelled to Malaysia via the southern border checkpoint in Su-ngai Kolok, Narathiwat province in the past year.

The migrants told Thai authorities at the southern border checkpoint that they would visit their relatives in Malaysia but they re-entered Thailand shortly after to work in the three Muslim-predominant border provinces without work permits, he said.

Nearly 10,000 Cambodian Muslims are arrested in Narathiwat each year and charged with illegal entry after failing to produce legal documents, he said.

The illegal Cambodian migrants have become a burden for the Thai authorities who have to send them back via the Aranyaprathet immigration checkpoint in Sa Kaeo province, he said.

Pol Lt Col Benjapol said police could not take legal action against the illegal migrants due to an agreement between Thailand and Cambodia.

“Many Cambodian Muslims migrated to work in the South without work permits or legal documents. It’s the responsibility of Thai authorities to send them back to their home country without them having to pay for travel expenses,” he said.

At the checkpoint in Aranyaprathet yesterday, 57 Cambodian Muslims were stopped but later allowed to enter Thailand after producing legal passports with tourist visas.

They told immigration police that they intended to visit their relatives in Malaysia and would travel South to the checkpoint at Su-ngai Kolok.

Aranprayaprathet police sent their records and photos to Su-ngai Kolok checkpoint to keep a close watch on their re-entry, police said.

China seeks exchanges with Asean as agri cooperation takes root

Publication Date : 02-09-2013

Agricultural cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is expected to get more impetus from the increased seed and technology exchanges between the two sides in the next few years, experts said.

Long Jiang, director of the Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department, said that the agriculture technology transfer agreement signed between the two sides in 2002 would be the framework for future agricultural cooperation and for development and exchange of new technologies.

China has fostered nearly 10,000 new varieties of agricultural products in the past 30 years, he said adding that the nation's 3 billion-yuan (US$490 million) seed bank project, started in 1995, has helped increase annual food production by 20 million tons.

Long said that the keenness of both sides to enhance agricultural cooperation was evident at a recent meeting of more than 200 agricultural professionals from various Southeast Asian nations in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province. In their meetings with their Chinese counterparts, these professionals agreed to step up efforts to develop and exchange new agricultural technologies.

In Yunnan, more than 300 agricultural researchers and enterprises from all over China showcased their technologies and products, especially seeds of new breeds at the China-Asean Technology Transfer Forum on New Technologies and Varieties of Modern Agriculture in Yunnan. In addition, 16 companies from Yunnan signed contracts with partners from Asean nations for technology demonstration parks in super soft rice, corn and castor oil.

Long said that there have been increased efforts to cultivate agricultural professionals, boost technology exchanges and promotions, and foster agricultural trade between the two sides.

The Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, the United Nations Development programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation have all been providing funds for agriculture technology transfers between the two sides, along with some private companies such as Sime Darby from Malaysia, according to Jin Ke, director of the national cooperation division of the International Cooperation Department of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

As one of the three research institutions directly administered by the Agriculture Ministry, the CAAS has signed cooperation agreements with Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines to promote technical services, postgraduate education, joint research projects and technology transfers, Jin said.

The Gates Foundation has also teamed up with CAAS and provided $18 million for research and development of super rice that was subsequently transferred to other Asean nations like Laos and Cambodia. The super rice has increased rice yields by 25 to 30 per cent in these nations, he said.

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng called for the development of a pilot research centre in Asean nations during his visit to CAAS earlier this year. According to Jin, the first centre is expected to be established in Myanmar next year.

"Agriculture is the fundamental industry for both China and Asean nations. Both sides have strong competitiveness in their own fields of research. For example, Asean nations have more advantages in research into tropical plants and animals," Jin said.

The forum was also a platform for several participants to publicise new technologies and breeds. Shanghai Lianye Agricultural Science and Technology Co Ltd announced a new breakthrough in fertilising technology by developing a technique to mix water with fertilisers based on the plant's demand and the nutritional conditions of the land. The company has a joint venture with an Israeli enterprise to build a factory in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and will soon venture into the Asean markets.

"Our technology will reduce the consumption of water and fertilisers to the lowest level, and allow the plant to grow as fast as it can," said He Longhui, technical director of Lianye.

Seed trade is another crucial aspect for technology transfers, says Guo Chunyu, deputy director of the Technology Transfer centre at CAAS. Yang Bingpeng, researcher at the Institute of Tropical Bioscience and Biotechnology based in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, says that a newly developed sugar cane variety can increase the sugar yield to 90 tons a hectare from the current 60 tons. "The climate in Hainan is extremely similar to most of the Asean countries and the high-yield variety will be a bestseller in the region," he said.

Lu Yixuan, chairman of the board of directors of Yunnan Jinrui Seed Industry Co Ltd, said the super soft rice bred in Yunnan, a plateau province at a low latitude, is ideally suited to the climate in Southeast Asia and can help raise the yield, he says. "The yields from the new variety could be around 225 tons a hectare and we have already received interest from farmers in Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia," Lu said. "We have also sent technicians to instruct the Asean farmers on how to grow the super soft rice."

Viraporn Mongkolchaisit, division director of the National Science and Technology Development Agency of Thailand, says that her institute has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences to jointly cultivate expertise. Each year, the agency deputes three researchers to Sichuan and trains five Sichuan scientists in modern breeding techniques, she says.

"We have been working on new breeds resistant to bacterial wilt such as chili, cucumber and bitter gourd. The new varieties have higher yields and better taste as we found the antibodies against disease can keep the plant growing more safely," she said.

Lu Zhizhong, a technician from the international business department of Hubei Seeds Group says his company has exported 5,000 tons of hybrid rice seeds to countries in Southeast and South Asia, more than 30 times the amount in 2002.

In 2002, the Hubei Seeds Group became the first company to obtain an export certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture. "Seeds, unlike food, are usually governed by customs," he said. "Our seeds are of superb quality and have passed all the required inspection and quarantine tests for exports to Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh."

Some countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan have huge demand for high-yield seeds to feed their large population while their land is limited, Lu said.

However, obstacles still remain. Lu says that though Thailand is well known for its high-quality rice, it is reluctant to release its germplasm resources, while the marketing system is not that efficient in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

Jin Ke from the CAAS suggests that both sides step up bilateral exchanges in agricultural professional training and degree courses. Some joint laboratories and research centres can also be set up to further explore the role of agricultural technology transfer, he said.