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Friday, November 30, 2007

Cambodia: Saltus And Groom Share Lead After Two Rounds Of Cambodian Open

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: America's Bryan Saltus put his new putter to good use Friday (30 Nov) as he shot a 5-under 67 to claim a share of the lead after two rounds of the inaugural Cambodian Open.

Saltus joined first-round leader Adam Groom, with the Australian shooting a 68 on Friday in the $300,000 Asian Tour event.

This is the first Cambodian Open, played on one of just three golf courses in the Southeast Asian nation. It is being played in Siem Reap, the nearest town to the nation's prime tourist attraction, the temple of Angkor Wat.

Groom and Saltus were three strokes in front of their nearest pursuers: America's Anthony Kang, England's Ben St John and Scotland's Simon Dunn in third.

Californian Saltus adopted a new putter for this tournament, and fired off four birdies in the first four holes Friday.

"This new putter is great," Saltus said. " I shot five birdies on the back nine on this course but someone could even shoot a nine-under. The greens are in good shape but the wind could make it difficult over the weekend."

Groom was benefitting from a more laid-back approach upon the advice of his father.

"He told me that I shoot better when Im relaxed on course so I listened to him and the results are showing this week," Groom said.

"I will continue to have a calm approach over the weekend and look forward to a good finish."

Thailand's Chapchai Nirat shot a 71 on Friday to be equal 10th, six strokes off the leaders, as he continues his pursuit of Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Liang Wen-chong.

"Ive been playing back-to-back events and its taking a toll on my game this week," Chapchai said. "I am not driving it well and my putting is not very steady."

The cut was made at 2-over 146. (AP)

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Cambodia urges Myanmar to continue Suu Kyi talks


PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday urged Myanmar's junta leaders to continue fledgling talks with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a government spokesman said.

Hun Sen met with Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein in Phnom Penh and told him that dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi should continue "for the sake of both sides," according to spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen supports meetings between the Myanmar government and Aung San Suu Kyi and encourages (the ruling generals) to have more meetings for the sake of both sides," he told reporters.

Aung San Suu Kyi held a third meeting in Yangon on November 19 with Myanmar Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who has been appointed by the junta to handle contacts with the 62-year-old Nobel peace prize winner.

Aung Kyi was appointed as a liaison in the wake of global outrage against the regime following its bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in September. At least 15 people were killed and 3,000 arrested in the suppression.

The September violence led the United States and Europe to tighten sanctions against Myanmar, which was already under economic restrictions due to the junta's human rights abuses and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The pro-democracy icon has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

But Cambodia rejected the sanctions on Myanmar, saying such measures were only hurting its people.

"Economic sanctions will never hurt government leaders. They only hurt people," Khieu Kanharith told reporters following the meeting between Hun Sen and Thein Sein, the number four in Myanmar's military.

Thein Sein's three-day official visit, which began Friday, overlaps with that of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is in Cambodia as part of a regional trip to assess the positions of Myanmar's neighbours after the junta's crackdown.

But Thein Sein and Gambari, the UN secretary general's special representative to Myanmar, did not meet Friday, Khieu Kanharith said.

Cambodia maintains close diplomatic ties with Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962 and is one of the most isolated nations in the world.

Hun Sen last visited there in May for trade and tourism talks.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Thursday sanctions against Myanmar's ruling generals would not force the country towards democracy, following his talks with Gambari.

Hor Namhong said that the international community should instead offer more aid to the impoverished nation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Cambodia is a member, has come under increasing pressure to deal with its most unruly member since the unrest broke out two months ago.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Australia`s Southern Gold starts drilling in Cambodia

The Cambodian government had been trying to lift Cambodia from poverty by creating several kinds of developing plans and projects. But because the corruption law didn't exist, all high ranking government officials are the high ranking criminals. The ways that the government is dealing with foreign firms are secretly kept from public and no detail about how revenue will be managed to the government for the benefit the poor. Mostly the negotiations were shaking hand and under the table deals. Do cambodia know how to dig gold for itself or needs foreigner to steal their gold?

Phnom Penh (ANTARA News/Asia Pulse) - Australian mining firm Southern Gold Ltd (ASX:SAU) has begun drilling for gold in Cambodia's northeastern province Kratie, said a company press release received here today.

The firm has started its first drilling campaign in Cambodia at its 80-percent-owned Snoul Prospect, after completing a study at the site launched in 2006, said the release.

The company plans to drill eight 80 to 150-meter deep holes at the site over an area of 1,200 meters, and if the results are good, it will drill more. Assay results are
expected in early 2008.
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Cambodia faces immediate threats from climate change

Cambodia faces immediate threats to its agricultural production and food security from climate change in rainfall, temperatures and availability of water, said the UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) 2007 released on Thursday.

For most Cambodians live in rural areas and are reliant on agriculture, long-term risks associated with climate change include water insecurity, increased sea level, cyclones and disruption or collapse of Cambodia's critical ecosystems, said the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the report.

Climate change may increase occurrence of drought and flood while increasing the vulnerability of Cambodia's poor people to their effects, it said.

Increase of disease with climate change may have an adverse impact on people's health, particularly the most vulnerable poor, it said.

However, it said, climate change presents Cambodia many opportunities.

For example, it said, Cambodia can seek technical assistance and financial resources to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, and mobilize private sector partnerships to transfer appropriate technologies to promote renewable energy in order to support the development of other sectors such as health, education, and transport.

With 0.2 percent of world's population, Cambodia accounts for a negligible percentage of global emissions, it said.

The country has signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol and as a developing country, Cambodia has no obligation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but can contribute to emission reduction on a voluntary basis, including through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), it said.

Cambodia ranks 131 out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) with its HDI value moving up from 0.543 to0.598 in the last five years, according to the report.

Source:Xinhua
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Cambodia launches its first international golf tournament near famed Angkor temples

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: Asia launched its newest international golf tournament amid centuries-old Angkor temples when the Cambodian Open teed off Thursday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen teed off the first ball of the inaugural US$300,000 (€203,430) tournament at the recently opened Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap province, Cambodia's main tourist hub.

Siem Reap is the nearest town to Cambodia's most popular tourist attraction, the vast network of ancient temples including Angkor Wat — as well as one of just three golf courses in the southeast Asian nation.

"The launch of this event symbolizes the growing emergence of professional golf in new golfing countries like Cambodia and it augurs for the game in Asia," Kyi Hla Han, Asian Tour executive chairman, said in a statement.

Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant, a former Asian number one and holder of a record nine victories in the region, is among the golfers competing at the tournament.

Other players include Chapchai Nirat, also from Thailand, and Scotland's Simon Yates, both ranked in the top-10 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

There are 150 professional golfers from 25 countries taking part, said Hun Sen, who described the tournament as a historic event in his opening speech.

Touted as the only international-standard course in Cambodia, Phokeethra is the result of a campaign by the Cambodia government to boost its tourist revenues. The 18-hole, 72-par course is 23 kilometers (14 miles) outside Siem Reap town.

Cambodia's other two golf courses are located near the capital Phnom Penh, with a fourth under construction in Siem Reap.

Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia. There were 1.7 million foreign arrivals last year, and more than half of the tourists visited the Angkor temples.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

U.S. NGO trains female politicians from main parties in Cambodia

The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) here on Wednesday started to train 30 women from Cambodia's main political parties to help them participate in the July 2008 national election.

Stephanie Lynn, NDI's resident program director for Indonesia, oversees the training of 10 female members each from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said a press release from the non-governmental organization.

The three-day training course aims to help the female candidates of the contending political parties improve their candidacy and campaigning skills, it said.

After receiving the training course, the trainees will then train their own party's female members.

In the 2007 commune council election, 21 percent of all candidates and nearly 15 percent of the elected councilors were women, an increase of 9 percent from the 2003 national election.

Funcinpec has recently appointed Princess Norodom Arunrasmy as its premiership candidate for the upcoming election, unprecedentedin Cambodia's political history.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia beefs up maritime security against terrorists, cross-border criminals

Cambodia has strengthened its maritime security to fight against terrorism, transnational crimes and improve its sea environment protection, said Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday.

"I used to be very concerned that my country can become a safe shelter for terrorists in maritime areas because we lacked the materials and techniques to safeguard the territory. Now, we have cooperation with our friends and partners to combat all those terrorists and cross-border criminals and improve our sea environment protection," he told the Cambodia Maritime Security Seminar held in Phnom Penh city with the attendance of some 100 participants from Australia and Cambodia.

Cambodia is no more a safe place for terrorists, he added.

Meanwhile, he said, the increase of military ships and the augmentation of Cambodia's maritime security are not a threat for the neighboring countries.

The maritime security is improved to fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism acts, cross-border crimes, pirates, oil leaking and ship accidents and to protect sea transportation, he said.

"Cambodia opens its hands to cooperate with all sides to share experiences and techniques in the field of maritime security," he added.

For example, he said, the United States' amphibious assault ship USS Essex is currently docked at Sihnaoukville to cooperate with Cambodian side in humanitarian affairs for the Cambodian people.

"We also welcome warships from France, Australia, Japan and other countries to come," he added.

The USS Essex arrived in Sihanoukville on Monday to carry out medical, military and civic engineering missions in several provinces.

Southwestern port city Sihanoukville faces the Thailand Gulf, where the kingdom has a huge interest of marine products and a profitable prediction of oil and natural gas reserves.

Source:Xinhua
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Myanmar PM, UN envoy to visit Cambodia

YANGON, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein and the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari will separately pay their visits to Cambodia this week, said local media on Wednesday.

It will be the new Myanmar prime minister's introductory trip to another member country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) following those to Laos and Vietnam earlier this month.

Thein Sein, appointed as new prime minister on Oct. 24, will meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, after he arrives in Phnom Penh on Friday, said English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily.

Ibrahim Gambari will arrive on Thursday to meet government officials to discuss the situation in Myanmar, it quoted a statement from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as saying.

So far, there has been no official schedule for Ibrahim Gambari to meet with Thein Sein in Cambodia.

The envoy will leave on Friday and the prime minister on Sunday.
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Lowell inmate sues over Cambodia deportation

By Lisa Redmon

BOSTON -- A 22-year-old Lowell man has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was ordered deported to his native Cambodia six months ago, but is still behind bars at the Suffolk County House of Correction.

Samoeun Phroeun, formerly of 38 Grace St., Lowell, was convicted in Jan. 4, 2004, of larceny and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail. He had returned home when officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) knocked on his door on Nov. 28, 2006, and took him into custody to be deported.

Phroeun claims in his lawsuit that he is being unlawfully detained because his country does not have a repatriation agreement with the United States, according to court documents.

Phroeun argues that "an alien" who has been detained beyond six months should be released when the government is unable to present documented confirmation that the foreign government will accept that person.

No one from ICE was available for comment.

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Hornets kill Cambodia mother, 2 children

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—A woman and her two young children died after they were stung by a swarm of hornets whose nest they had disturbed while cutting firewood, a police chief said Tuesday.

The woman, her 1-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son died Monday shortly after they were attacked by hornets in a forest near their village in Siem Reap province, said a local police chief, Eng Kea.

Loy Sophea, 24, had taken her children into the forest while she cut firewood for cooking, he said. She accidentally disturbed the hornets' nest, triggering the attack, the police officer said.

The woman used her body to cover her children, but all three were repeatedly stung by the hornets, he said.

Villagers took them to a hospital, but the boy died en route, the officer said, adding that the mother and daughter died after reaching the hospital.

Siem Reap province is about 145 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.



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Monday, November 26, 2007

31st MEU, USS Essex Marines, Sailors arrive in Cambodia to foster relations





By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

SIHANOUKVILLE, Kingdom of Cambodia (Nov. 26, 2007) -- Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Command Amphibious Squadron 11 and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived here, Nov. 26 for a scheduled port visit.

More than 2,500 servicemembers are scheduled to provide medical and dental treatment to rural Cambodians, participate in engineering civic action projects, professional military exchanges, youth activities, and distribute hundreds of donated items, such as books, toys, clothes and medicals supplies across Cambodia to foster goodwill.

“Over the course of the next week, Marines and Sailors coming from the Essex will conduct two medical and dental clinics, build two bridges and participate in six community relations projects,” said Col. John Mayer, the 31st MEU commanding officer. “We will also (teach at) the National Defense University to help students with English and to understand our military forces.”

The MEU, Essex and CPR-11 have been granted a budget of more than 26,000 dollars for construction materials, 10,000 dollars for medical supplies and 2,000 dollars for community relation event donations, such as books, sporting equipment and school supplies, according to Maj. Eric Malinowki, the MEU logistics officer, and a native of Portsmouth, N.H.

During a visit to the Essex, Royal Government of Cambodia distinguished guests and U.S. military leaders spoke of the new beginnings this visit makes possible.

Piper Campbell, the Kingdom of Cambodia U.S. Embassy deputy chief of mission, explained this visit represents the continued friendship between the two nations and military services.

“I am honored to welcome the USS Essex and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to Sihanoukville,” said Campbell. “As you may know, this visit represents only the second time a U.S. Naval vessel has visit. These visits are a dramatic representation of the strengthening and broadening of the relationship between the United States and Cambodia. The visit of the USS Essex will build on these partnerships and help to deepen our ties.

“An important aspect of this visit is that thousands of Cambodians will have the opportunity to personally interact with some of America’s finest ambassadors,” added Campbell. "I can think of no finer symbol of the friendship between Americans and Cambodians than these people-to-people projects.

“I would like to thank his Excellency, the governor of Sihanoukville, and the entire Royal Government of Cambodia for all of their support in making this historic visit successful," Campbell continued.

Mayer expressed his gratitude for this opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“On behalf of all the Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, I would like to thank each and every one of you for having our Marines and Sailors visit the Kingdom of Cambodia,” said Mayer, to members of the Royal Government of Cambodia, during a visit to the Essex. “All the Marines and Sailors from the MEU are excited and absolutely see this as an opportunity to meet the people of Cambodia and see this historical land.”

The visit is part of the Cambodia Theater Security Cooperation, which is intended to build on the relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian governments and develop interoperability between U.S. forces and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Singapore working with Cambodia to fly bodies of five Singaporeans home

SINGAPORE : Singapore officials in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are working with family members and the Cambodian authorities on the repatriation of the bodies of the five men who died in a dragon boat accident at the Tonle Sap River on Friday.

At this point, it is still not clear when the bodies will be brought home.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the authorities are exploring the possibility of transporting the bodies home through non—commercial flights.

Some family members of the five men have said they want to go to the site of the accident to perform some rites or offer prayers before they head home.

The bodies of the five men were found on Sunday morning, two days after their dragon boat capsized in the annual Cambodia—ASEAN Traditional Boat Race.

The body of Chee Wei Cheng was found first at about 7.50 on Sunday morning, followed by that of Jeremy Goh near to the accident area.

The bodies of Stephen Loh, Poh Boon San and Reuben Kee were washed further downstream a few kilometres away, and were found near a small island off the Tonle Sap River, in the late morning the same day.

All were found by Cambodians.

Meanwhile, the family members were visibly distressed and distraught when they came to identify the bodies of the five men at the mortuary of Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Parents and siblings of the men broke down several times especially after they had to identify their loved ones.

One mother did not want to see her son’s body, so she wouldn’t have to remember him that way.

Counsellors from Singapore were on hand to help them overcome their grief and come to grips with the grim reality.

The families of the dead men all said they were very passionate and avid sportsmen.

Rower Stephen Loh’s father, 64—year—old Victor Loh, said his son even gave up an engineering career to pursue his love for sports.

Stephen, the second in the family of three boys, was a Physical Education teacher at National Junior College.

The elder Mr Loh said his son had plans to take up sports science, describing his son as "very focussed."

The brother of Jeremy Goh, who did not want to be named, said his brother enjoyed the team spirit that dragon boating offered.

He also described his brother as a very caring and good brother.

The rest of the team’s 17 rowers are expected to leave Cambodia for Singapore on Monday morning. — CNA/de

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Thailand gears up for a high-quality SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchasima

By Edward Thangarajah

SEA Games marketing chairman Santiparb Techanavanija believes the biennial celebration to be held December 6-15 in Nakhon Ratchasima will be the "best ever".

He said the fact that it is being held only for the second time in the provinces and during the auspicious year of His Majesty's 80th birthday means it has drawn striking attention from the kingdom and elsewhere.

He also said because the Games are a forerunner for next year's Beijing Olympic Games that a high standard of competition and performances should be expected.

Santiparb claims that he has already raised US$15m for the event and could have added more to the kitty had the organisers allowed him to sell television rights to the participating nations.

"I was told that all participants must be allowed to televise free of charge," he said.

"In fact I had signed Vietnam, but had to cancel the arrangement and refund their deposit."

Santiparb began his association with the SEA Games and Asian Games as a table tennis referee and served as secretary-general of the Table Tennis Association of Thailand.

He was one of those who helped build the road to friendship with China, during the time of "Ping Pong" diplomacy in the late 1960s. He has been associated with the SEA Games since 1961 and the Asian Games since its fifth celebration in 1966, which was the first of five Asiads which Thailand has hosted.

Since then he has been associated with nine Asian Games. In addition to helping with the organisation of the celebrations, he was solely responsible for raising the funds for the Games.

"The enthusiasm, support and the keenness of the people and athletes has opened the doors for Thailand to witness one of the best, if not the best Games held in Southeast Asia," said Santiparb.

Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam will take part.

Thailand has established many firsts in the Games. Besides launching the inaugural celebration, which was known as the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games in 1959. Six countries - Burma, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand - participated in 12 sports with 527 athletes in the first Games.

Thailand also enlisted Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines as members. The name was changed to SEA (Southeast Asian) Games in 1977.

The 18th edition of the biennial celebration in Chiang Mai in 1995 was the first to be held outside the capital of a hosting nation.

It was also the first time that all SEA Games members took part.

Perhaps, the most moving scene this scribe witnessed was the presence of the doyen of Asian sports, the late Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chullasapya, weak and hardly able to walk, discarded medical advise and was seated in a corner of the Chiang Mai Stadium, witnessing the track and field action.

He sat, clinging on to his walking stick congratulating the athletes.

ACM Dawee was one of those who helped elevate the SEA Games to a meaningful celebration for athletes in this part of the world.

This year, East Timor will be the youngest participant in the biennial celebration. According to Santiparp, 12,000 athletes will be part of this year's Games.

Chiang Mai made its mark in many ways and unfolded several exciting moments.

One fresh in my mind was the men's shot put event. It is normally, a dreary, long drawn out event, with muscular men trying to out-throw an iron-ball but we witnessed a memorable event in Chiang Mai.

The eyes of some 15,000 spectators were focused on the competition arena. That's because they were able to witness a titanic battle between two gladiators, Malaysia's Rahim Mohd Nazar Abdul and Thailand's Jittakorn Krasaeyan.

Rahim set the pace with a record-breaking opening throw of 16.31 metres, a mark which no one was able to beat. In fact he beat the 16-metre mark twice and held the lead, ready to capture the gold. Jittakorn had only one throw over 16 metres and that fell far behind Rahim's first effort.

Then came the sixth and final round and there was pin-drop silence in the stadium. Jittakorn took his stance and then hurled the iron-ball over 16.37 metres.

Yes, he beat Rahim's record-breaking mark.

Rahim entered the throwing circle, took his time and did try hard to beat Jittakorn, but only managed 16.20 metres, and it was Thailand's Jittakorn who not only garnered the gold, but also earned a SEA Games record.

ACM Dawee, like everyone, was so thrilled that he overlooked his feeble health and walked into the stadium to congratulate Jittakorn.

Perhaps Korat will unfold many more memorable, exciting scenes and big crowds will be there to witness the action.

I am also told that all countries will come this year with well trained teams, as they want to stake a claim to go to Beijing for next year's Olympic Games.

According to national track and field coach Supanas Ariyamongkol, one of the strongest challengers for Thailand will be Vietnam who have done hours of training, both at home and elsewhere.

Their women, particularly Vu Thi Huang who won the sprint double in Manila, clocking 11.61 seconds for the 100 and 23.77 for the 200, will go all out to complete the double again.
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Australia's PM-elect Rudd vows better global ties

Reuters

BRISBANE - Australia's incoming Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, has pledged closer ties with key friends and allies after sweeping away 11 years of conservative rule under John Howard.

Rudd, 50, presented himself as a new generation leader by promising to pull around 500 frontline Australian troops out of Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, further isolating Washington on both issues.

"To our friends and allies around the world, I look forward as the next Prime Minister of Australia to working with them in dealing with the great challenges which our world now faces," he told cheering supporters at a victory party late on Saturday.

"We extend our greetings tonight to our great friend and ally the United States, to our great friends and partners across Asia and the Pacific, and to our great friends and partners in Europe and beyond."

The surge to Labor left Howard battling to win even his own parliamentary seat, which he has held since 1974, putting him in danger of becoming the first prime minister since 1929 to lose his constituency.

"King Kevin the new conqueror," said the Sun-Herald newspaper in Howard's home town of Sydney on Sunday. "It's Labor in a Ruddslide", said the Australian national newspaper.

At least four and possibly six government ministers, including Howard, looked likely to be ejected after a swing of more than six percent across the nation, bringing only the sixth change of government since World War Two.

Election analyst Antony Green predicted Labor would win up to 86 seats in the 150-seat parliament, giving it a majority for the first time since it lost power to Howard in 1996.

Rudd is expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations and has said he wants a more independent voice in foreign policy, with past Labor governments more supportive of an energetic United Nations and global organizations.

Rudd promised to sign the Kyoto climate pact immediately and lead his country to next month's UN climate summit in Bali, expected to kick-start talks on a post-Kyoto deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions globally.

But Labor could be frustrated by a hostile Senate (upper

house), where the conservatives will have sway until July next year, possibly frustrating Rudd's Kyoto plan and promise to dump unpopular government labor laws which propelled his victory.

Centre-left Labor will have to negotiate with diverse minor Senate parties including the left-leaning Australian Greens and the conservative, Christian values Family First party.

In a message of unity, Rudd promised to govern for all Australians, including migrants and the poor.

"Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward," Rudd, flanked by his wife Therese and family, told around 1,000 wildly cheering home supporters at a football stadium in the tropical northern city of Brisbane.

The election was fought mainly on domestic issues, with Labor cashing in on anger at labor laws and rising interest rates which put home owners under financial pressure at a time when Australia's economy is booming.

"Like Howard, he will quickly attempt to secure his administration with the fortress of institutional and cultural change. In short, Australia will shift to the left," said the Bulletin news magazine.

"Rudd will have to open negotiations soon with the United States about the withdrawal of Australia's combat troops from Iraq. This is a delicate operation because it will be Labor's first testing of the alliance," veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan wrote in the Sun-Herald.

President George W. Bush congratulated Rudd on his election victory, and praised Howard's leadership.

"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship," the White House said in a statement.

Howard, who had won four consecutive elections and held power for 11 years, conceded his government had lost power in front of a crowd of supporters in Sydney late on Saturday, saying he took full personal responsibility for the defeat.

"This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr Rudd well," Howard said. "We bequeath to him a nation that is stronger and prouder and more prosperous than it was 11-1/2 years ago."

The result puts Labor in power nationally and in all of Australia's six states and two territories, with the lord mayor of the northern city of Brisbane now the senior ranking elected official in Howard's Liberal Party.

Howard, who on Sunday went for his regular morning walk in the wake of defeat, had won four consecutive elections and was Australia's second-longest serving prime minister behind Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies.
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Cambodia seeks $3bn investments in power plants

ANUCHIT NGUYEN

Cambodia is seeking $3 billion of investments to build power plants in the next decade to meet rising energy demand in Southeast Asia's fastest-growing economy, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said.

The nation plans to boost generating capacity by 2,000 megawatts from 300 megawatts by 2017, Cham Prasidh said in an interview in the capital Phnom Penh.

The government is in talks with Chinese and Vietnamese investors to build hydropower plants with a combined capacity of 1,100 megawatts, he said, without naming the companies.

Cambodia's economy has expanded at an average annual pace of about 11% in the four years ending 2007, according to the Asian Development Bank, spurring demand for energy. The nation, which emerged from a two-decade civil war in 1993, is wooing overseas companies to invest in natural gas exploration and power plants to ease electricity shortages and ensure energy supplies.

The energy shortage "problem must be resolved as soon as possible because it's hard to attract foreign investments with unstable power supply," Cham Prasidh said.

Cambodia's economy, which relies on garment exports and tourism, may grow 9.7% this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Nov 7. Companies such as Club Me'diterrane'e SA and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc are planning to build hotels to tap the country's rising tourist arrivals.

Poor Infrastructure "Cambodia has very low labour costs that can even compete with China," said Van Sou Leng, chairman of the Cambodian Garment Manufacturers Association, a trade group. "Investors are cautious to invest here because of poor infrastructure such as electricity, roads and ports."

Exports in 2006 rose 24% to $3.45 billion, according to Cambodia's central bank. Garments accounted for 70% of total overseas shipments, with the US and European Union the nation's biggest markets.

Foreign tourists to Cambodia may reach a record two million in 2007, Hun Sen said. Overseas tourists rose 19% to 1.4 million in the first nine months of this year, he said.

"Most large hotels in Cambodia have their own power generator because the power blackout situation has worsened," said Cham Prasidh.

The country currently buys electricity from Vietnam and Thailand.

The government is in discussions with Chinese investors to build two hydropower plants with a combined capacity of 700 megawatts in the northwest province of Pursat, said Cham Prasidh. A group of Vietnamese investors plans to build hydropower plants with capacity of 400 megawatts in the northeast province of Rattankiri province, he said.

Cambodia will also open bids for gas-fired power plants which will use natural gas from its onshore and offshore reserves, Cham Prasidh said, without elaborating.

The economy of Cambodia will be the fastest growing of nine Southeast Asian nations this year, according to the ADB. It also reported the quickest pace in the region in 2006 and 2005.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Cambodia to form new national flag carrier with Indonesian firms

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP): The Cambodian government signed a joint venture agreement with two Indonesian companies Friday to form a new national airline to tap the country's growing tourism industry.

The new airline, which has yet to be named, is expected to begin flying in six months, the partners said.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed a memorandum of understanding for the joint venture with officials from two Indonesia-based companies, the Rajawali Group and PT Ancora International.

"We will create an airline the country will be proud of,'' he said.

The new airline will be Cambodia's national flag carrier, its first since tough competition and mismanagement forced Royal Air Cambodge to shut down over five years ago. Air travel to and from Cambodia is currently dominated by foreign-owned airlines.

The Indonesian partners' businesses include cigarettes, cement, telecommunications, hotels, resorts, extractive minerals and airlines, a joint statement said.

The government will hold a 51 percent share in the new venture and its partners 49 percent, it said.

But since the two foreign firms are responsible for providing the capital for creating the new airline, they are entitled to total 70 percent of potential profit while the remaining 30 percent will go to the government, the statement added.

Peter Sondakh, chairman and CEO of Rajawali Group, declined to discuss other financial details of the new airline when asked by reporters.

But he said it will operate with "better aircraft and better service'' to compete with foreign airlines.

"We envisage more and more travelers coming to Cambodia, and the new national carrier will become indispensable for the tourism market,'' said Vichit Ith, managing director of PT Ancora International.

Cambodia received 1.4 million visitors between January and September this year, up nearly 19 percent from the same period of 2006, according to statistics of the Tourism Ministry, which has also forecast that total tourist arrivals this year will exceed last year's 1.7 million.

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5 Singaporeans missing after festival boat capsizes in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Five Singaporeans were missing after the boat they used to compete in a traditional Cambodian festival capsized Friday, officials said.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the chief Cambodian government spokesman, said the boat hit a swirling current in the Tonle Sap river.

He said the boat had just finished the race and was towed to a peer in the river, which flows through the capital, Phnom Penh.

A search for the missing was hampered by darkness, he said.

Mom Sitha, a municipal immigration police officer, said there were 23 Singaporeans on the boat when it capsized and 18 were rescued.

"At the peer, they asked the tow boat to untie the rope to let them go on rowing for leisure. They hit a swirling spot, and the boat capsized," said Chea Sokhom, a member of the festival organizing committee.

He said some of the Singaporeans were not wearing life jackets.

Nearby police boats managed to rescue most of the Singaporeans, he added.

Singapore Embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Singaporean team was among eight teams from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that took part in the event, he said. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
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23-11-2007: Muhibbah rides on Cambodia’s tourism boom

ALL of Muhibbah Engineering’s (RM3.48) divisions — construction, cranes, shipyards and the Cambodian airports — are enjoying strong double-digit growth rates and a favourable operating outlook, as we have noted in our previous update. Its success in clinching new contracts is testament to its reputation, competence and competitive advantage.

Today, we take a look at its Cambodian operations, which are enjoying robust growth as the country undergoes a major tourism boom. Growth will be further anchored by expansion plans in the Siem Reap airport and the opening of a third airport in Sihanoukville in mid-2008. We will take a closer look at its other divisions next week.

Robust growth at airports
Muhibbah’s Cambodian airport operations are held by 30%-owned Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA). The remaining 70% is held by French construction conglomerate Vinci.

SCA was awarded the concession for the international airport in Phnom Penh in 1995 and Siem Reap in 2001. Both concessions were originally scheduled to end in 2020, but have since been extended to 2040 following the award in 2006 of a third international airport, in Sihanoukville.

The airport operations are enjoying robust growth, reflecting the increasing popularity of Cambodia as a tourist attraction with new direct flights, low-cost flights, and the increasing popularity of the world-famous Angkor Wat temples, a Unesco World Heritage site.

For the first six months of 2007, international passenger arrivals at the two airports rose a hefty 36% year-on-year (y-o-y) from 1.25 million in 1H2006 to 1.69 million passengers in 1H2007. This was propelled by the Siem Reap airport, where international passenger arrivals surged 41% y-o-y from 640,000 to 902,000. Arrivals at the Phnom Penh airport rose 30% from 605,000 to 787,000.

International passenger arrivals rose 26% for the two Cambodian airports last year. Arrivals in 2006 totalled 2.683 million, compared with 2.121 million in 2005. In 2006, international passenger arrivals at the Siem Reap airport surged 31% to 1.36 million, while Phnom Penh airport arrivals rose 22% to 1.323 million.

The Siem Reap airport is shaping up to be among the world’s fastest growing airports — albeit from a low base. In 2006, its passenger arrival growth of 31% eclipsed that of global passenger growth of 4.9% and an average 9.7% growth for passenger arrivals at other Asian airports.

Airport expansion plans
To cope with rising passenger traffic, there are plans to expand the Siem Reap airport — whose new international terminal was opened just in August 2006. The terminal was built to handle up to two million passengers per year, but passenger arrivals are expected to top that level by next year.

Expansion plans will cost fairly little as the airport terminal is essentially arranged in resort-style single-storey modular structures centred around courtyards. Additional modular structures can be added to the existing ones at very low costs and without disrupting the existing structures or operations.

Meanwhile, the Sihanoukville International Airport, its third airport concession, is expected to open in mid-2008. The old terminal has been kept intact and renovated, while works are ongoing to expand the runway to cater for regional flights. As of mid-2007, US$16 million (RM54 million) has been invested in the airport.

Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s only deep-sea port and a major beach resort town. It houses many of Cambodia’s industries as well as an emerging oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Thailand. With enhanced air transportation links, Sihanoukville will be promoted as a major beach resort and industry base.

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Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos help drug users kick the habit

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos have held joint talks to strengthen services for intravenous drug users, hoping to increase HIV/AIDS prevention and tackle the other socio – economic impacts of the issue, local media reported yesterday.

The first project advisory committee meeting of the talks, organised by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA), was held here on Tuesday and presided over by Sar Kheng, Cambodian Interior Minister and the president of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

The meeting was organised as part of a Sida project to be implemented through the World Health Organisation and the two-year project will be launched this year in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, NACD’s General Secretary Lou Raminhe was quoted by the Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey as saying.

Cambodia is facing difficulties in establishing treatment and rehabilitation centres and the number of drug users is on the rise, he said, adding that Cambodia has yet to find the appropriate means to treat drug addicts.

"SIDA could help the Ministry of Health to train ministry officials and development partners on the establishment of a pilot project on the treatment of (drug users) with the use of methadone, " said Bun Heng, NACD deputy general secretary and also secretary of state for Health ministry.
In response to Cambodia’s drug challenges, Sar Kheng said that Cambodia has issued mechanisms, strategic and action plans with support from development partners, and the government has established provincial and municipal drug inspection committees, treatment and rehabilitation teams.

"I hope that members of project advisory committee of the three countries will hold a comprehensive discussion and develop an appropriate action plan in line with the legal framework of each country," He noted.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

U.S., Cambodian senior officials meet on trade, investment

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab met with Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh on Wednesday in Cambodia to discuss ways to broaden and deepen bilateral trade and investment ties, said a press release.

Schwab and Prasidh discussed Cambodia's recent strong economic growth, its domestic reform agenda, and implementation of legal and trade reforms committed to under Cambodia's 2004 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), said the release from the U.S. Embassy.

"Cambodia is working hard to put the right policies in place to support an open and welcoming environment for trade and investment," said Schwab in the release.

"There has been real progress on the ground. We will continue to work together to build momentum to sustain these reform efforts," Schwab said.

The two officials also reviewed Cambodia's current efforts to improve trade facilitation, protect intellectual property rights and enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of Cambodia's investment climate, said the release.

Discussions focused on marking the progress Cambodia is making in meeting the benchmarks for implementation of WTO-consistent trade practices, as well as highlighting areas where additional work remains to be done, it said.

The two countries agreed upon a plan of action under the U.S.-Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which will add momentum for trade-related reforms within Cambodia, it said.

The two ministers also discussed their mutual interest in a successful conclusion to the WTO Doha negotiations and the instrumental role that Cambodia can play as a least developed country (LDC) in contributing to that outcome, it added.

The visit is the first to the country by a U.S. trade representative and included a bilateral meeting under the TIFA, which was signed in 2006 and is the primary bilateral dialogue between the two governments to discuss implementation of these commitments and other trade and investment related issues.

Total two-way goods trade between the U.S. and Cambodia amounted to 1.95 billion U.S. dollars in the first nine months of this year and totaled 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2006.

U.S. foreign direct investment in Cambodia is approximately one million U.S. dollars.

Primary U.S. exports include vehicles and machinery and the U.S. is Cambodia's largest export market. Cambodia's major exports to the U.S. are knit and woven apparel.

Cambodia joined the WTO in 2004 as a least developed country (LDC) and agreed as part of its accession to implement WTO-consistent trading rules over a five-year transition period.


Editor: Du Guodong
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Cambodia to launch campaign to stop violence against women

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian Committee for Women (Cambow) will launch a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence to raise awareness of the issue and change the Cambodian 'mindset' on violence and abuse against women, local media said on Wednesday.

As part of the campaign, Cambow, an alliance of 34 non-governmental organizations which focus on women's causes, will organize TV and radio spots highlighting true stories of violence and discrimination Cambodian women have endured, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Sralanh Khmer.

The women's rights group will also publish and distribute books and audio CDs relating accounts of violence and how Cambodian laws discriminate against females.

It will release a report named Violence on Women: How Do Cambodian Laws Discriminate against Women on November 25, which will focus on how Cambodian laws related to domestic violence, rape, trafficking, and marriage contradict the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

"Thousands of Cambodian women suffer from violence every day. After studying in detail the laws which are meant to protect women, Cambow found that some of the articles of these laws directly and indirectly discriminate against women, which leads to further abuses," said Kek Galabru, chairwoman of Cambow.

"Now it is time for the government to reform the laws so that our obligations comply with the CEDAW, which Cambodia ratified in 1992," said Kek Galabru.

According to a Cambow briefing released on November 19, thousands of abused women are seeking assistance from the committee.

Many countries around the world hold the campaign annually from Nov. 25, the International Day against Violence against Women, to December 10, the International Human Rights Day.
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Cambodia's UN-Backed Tribunal Hears Appeal of Former Khmer Rouge Leader

A former Khmer Rouge prison chief has asked Cambodia's United Nations-backed genocide tribunal to release him on bail before he is tried for crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors argued in Wednesday's pre-trial hearing that Kaing Guek Eav - also known as "Duch" - should remain in custody because he may try to flee if released.

Duch's defense lawyers argued that the eight years he has spent in detention since his arrest were a violation of his rights.

The judges adjourned without saying when they would reach a verdict.

The 65-year-old former school teacher will be be tried for his role overseeing the infamous Khmer Rouge interrogation center, S-21, during the group's rule from 1975 to 1979.

An estimated 16,000 men, women and children were tortured at the prison before being executed at the infamous "killing fields." At most, 14 people held in the prison survived.

In July, the tribunal took Duch into its custody from a military prison where he had been held since 1999.

The tribunal has since arrested and charged four other former top leaders with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Those charged are former head of state Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, and the group's second in command Noun Chea.

Trials for their roles in the deaths of nearly two million people under Khmer Rouge rule are expected to begin next year.


The top Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

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ASEAN vows to create single market in the region

Special report: Premier Wen attends int'l meetings, visits Singapore

SINGAPORE, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed to enhance regional resilience and create a single market in the ASEAN Charter adopted here Tuesday.

As the regional group becomes 40 years old this year, it established the mini-constitution after about three year's preparation.

The Charter says in its Article 1, which defines the purposes of ASEAN, that the group aims to maintain and enhance peace, security and stability while further strengthen peace-oriented values in the region.

ASEAN leaders promised in the Charter to create a single market and production base with effective facilitation for trade and investment in which there is free flow of goods, services and investment. They also promised to gain freer flow of capital.

The Charter says ASEAN will endeavor to alleviate poverty and narrow the development gap within ASEAN through mutual assistance and cooperation.

As to nuclear problem, ASEAN will preserve Southeast Asia as a nuclear weapon-free zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction, the Charter says.

Founded in August 1967, ASEAN went through 40 years and has helped lift up the status of southeastern Asian countries as a whole in the international arena.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Expanding Treatment in Cambodia

AIDS Healthcare Foundation—the largest and most comprehensive provider of HIV/AIDS services in the United States—will open its seventh AIDS treatment facility in Cambodia tomorrow, November 21. Along with all of Cambodia’s free HIV treatment centers, the new facility—in the Pea Reang Province—is a product of the partnership between AHF, the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia and Cambodia’s National Center for HIV/AIDS (prnewswire.com, 11/20).

AHF runs similar clinics in the U.S., Africa, Asia and Latin America/Caribbean, and offers clients cost-free HIV treatment and support. It also trains local medical professionals.

Since Cambodia’s first reported case of HIV, in 1991, the country’s HIV prevalence has become one of the highest in Southeast Asia, with nearly 10,000 Cambodians dying of AIDS-related illness each year.

“We are grateful to AHF/NCHADS for opening lifesaving ART program for the people of Pea Reang,” says Ouk Oeurn, Prey Veng Province Health deputy director. “This is the answer to the needs of [people living with HIV/AIDS], and we know this will change the lives of many people for the better.”
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Backgrounder: Chronology of China-ASEAN summits

The 11th Summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China (10+1) was convened here Tuesday. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders of the 10 ASEAN member countries attended the summit. The Chinese premier hailed the Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity between China and ASEAN, calling for expanding the China-ASEAN cooperation for mutual benefit and win-win progress.

The following is a chronology of China-ASEAN summits since 1997.

Dec. 16, 1997 -- China attended the First China-ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. At the meeting, then Chinese President Jiang Zemin delivered a speech entitled "Establish Good-neighborly Partnership of Mutual Trust Oriented to the 21st Century." After the summit, the two sides issued the Joint Declaration of the People's Republic of China and ASEAN Summit, establishing guidelines for their relationship and common policies of good-neighborly partnership of mutual trust oriented to the 21st century.

Dec. 16, 1998 -- The then Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao attended the Second China-ASIAN Summit in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam. Leaders of the two sides agreed to maintain friendly exchanges between China and ASEAN countries in various fields, at different levels and through various channels within an all-around dialogue cooperation framework. They also reached consensus on appropriately dealing with differences to boost their partnership.

Nov. 28, 1999 -- The then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji attended the Third China-ASEAN Summit in Manila, capital of the Philippines. He offered China's advice on strengthening the good-neighborly partnership of mutual trust with ASEAN in the 21st century. The ASEAN countries praised China's achievements in its development, and spoke highly of its support and assistance to them in the Asian financial crisis.

Nov. 25, 2000 -- The Fourth China-ASIAN Summit was held in Singapore. At the meeting, the then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji spoke highly of the relationship between China and ASEAN, and offered advice on cooperation between the two sides in politics, human resource development, the construction of infrastructure projects on the Mekong River, advanced technology, agriculture, trade and investment.

Nov. 6, 2001 -- The then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji attended the Fifth China-ASEAN Summit in Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei. The two sides agreed on the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone over the following 10 years, and senior officials were authorized to begin negotiations on relevant agreements as soon as possible.

Nov. 4, 2002 -- At the Sixth China-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, the then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and ASEAN leaders signed the Framework Agreement on China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, deciding to establish the China-ASEAN free trade zone by 2010.

Oct. 8, 2003 -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attended the Seventh China-ASEAN Summit in the Indonesian resort island of Bali. During the summit, ASEAN and China agreed to establish "a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity."

Nov. 29, 2004 -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attended the Eighth China-ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, capital of the Laos. At the summit, Premier Wen delivered a speech on the appraisal of China-ASEAN cooperation, China's policy toward ASEAN countries, principles for cooperation and proposals for further cooperation.

Dec. 12, 2005 -- At the Ninth China-ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao put forward five initiatives to ensure more vigorous and fruitful growth of relations between China and ASEAN, including forging stronger bonds of friendship, putting in place a planned framework for relations, and vigorously promoting personnel exchanges.

Jan. 14, 2007 - At the 10th China-ASEAN Summit in Cebu in the central Philippines, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders of the10 ASEAN member countries witnessed the signing of the Agreement on Trade in Services of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.

Source:Xinhua
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11th century Cambodian temple to be renovated by India

By Devirupa Mitra. Delhi, India


An 11th century temple in Cambodia, located near its border with Thailand and the subject of lingering tension between the two Southeast Asian countries, will now be renovated by India.

The Preah Vihear temple has been in the limelight this year over Cambodia's bid to get a Unesco world heritage status for it, but was objected to by Thailand.

A senior official in the external affairs ministry said Cambodia had approached India to take up the conservation of the Preah Vihear temple about six months ago. 'The request had been routed through our ambassador,' the official, who could not be identified as per service rules, told IANS.

The government has already asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to start work on a conservation plan for the temple.

It is expected that an announcement would be made to coincide with the visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to India next month.

India has been conducting temple diplomacy across Southeast Asia, harnessing the ASI to renovate important medieval temples in the region built by dynasties that had links with India.

An ASI team has been conserving the Ta Phrom temple in Cambodia's world-famous Angkor Wat complex since 2004, with the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai conducting the structural study.

Similarly, ASI had also been asked to draw up a conservation plan for the ruins of Wat Phou temple in Southern Laos. In Indonesia, Indian archaeologists are helping to renovate the Hindu temples at Prambanan, Yogyakarta, that were damaged by the 2006 Java earthquake.

Indian diplomats said the strategy is to stress the common cultural links between India and Southeast Asia as medieval trade links with south Indian kingdoms led to the spread of Indian religion, language and culture in the region.

The Preah Vihear temple built during the Khmer empire is perched on a cliff in Dangrek Mountains, just across the Thai border. In fact, the easiest access to the temple is from the Thai side, while the Cambodian way is a ride through a mountain dirt road.

With its grand causeway climbing up the hill, the temple is supposed to be a stylised representation of Mount Meru, the habitat of gods according to Hindu mythology. Among the sculptures carved on the walls is a depiction of the Hindu mythological story of 'churning of the ocean'.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice had ruled that the temple was firmly in Cambodia. But with the country plunging into civil war soon after, the temple witnessed pitched battles between the Khmer rouge and the Cambodian army, with the former using it as a military camp.

Since 1998, the temple has remained open, with the only access being from Thailand. Six years later, the temple's importance in bilateral relations again came to the fore when a section of Cambodian media quoted a Thai professor as saying that Preah Vihear temple should be handed over to Thailand as compensation for the 2003 anti-Thai riots.

The latest difference of opinion over Preah Vihear between Thailand and Cambodia took place in June 2007, when the former objected to Cambodia's application before Unesco to grant the temple a world heritage site status. Unesco rejected the application this year but asked Cambodia to reapply in 2008 with a joint management plan with Thailand. In fact, the Thai embassy even warned its citizens in Cambodia to remain on alert against riots, which fortunately did not take place.

Even now, while a majority of the visitors come from Thailand to the temple, they are greeted by a large Cambodian flag atop the temple and a signboard, 'I have pride to be born as a Khmer'.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Cambodia's tribunal opens doors

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal arrested the former Khmer Rouge head of state and charged him Monday with crimes against humanity and war crimes, a spokesman said.

Khieu Samphan was the last of five senior officials of the brutal regime to be taken in custody ahead of a long-delayed genocide trial.

Police arrested Khieu Samphan, 76, at a Phnom Penh hospital where he had been undergoing treatment since November 14 after a stroke. Officers held his arms to support him as they led him to a police car, which sped away in a heavily guarded convoy to the tribunal's offices.

Khieu Samphan later was "formally charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes" during his appearance before the co-investigating judges, said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath. He added that Khieu Samphan's lawyers plan to appeal his detention.

In a milestone, the tribunal opened its doors Tuesday for its first public courtroom proceeding. Kaing Guek Eav, who headed the regime's notorious S-21 prison and torture center, entered the tribunal for a pretrial hearing to appeal his detention ahead of trials scheduled to begin in 2008.

Kaing Guek Eav and one other suspect, former Khmer Rouge ideologist Nuon Chea, were detained earlier this year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal was created last year after seven years of contentious negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia.


Khieu Samphan's defense team will include French lawyer Jacques Verges and a veteran Cambodian legal expert, the tribunal's defense support section said.

Verges' previous clients include Ilich Sanchez Ramirez, the jailed Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal; Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie; and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

In an interview with The Associated Press in 2004, Khieu Samphan said he has known Verges since he was a student in France in the 1950s, when the two were active in student movements against French colonialism and the French war in Vietnam.

"He and I used to attend meetings of student committees against colonialism. That's what bound us together in friendship," he said in the interview.

Khieu Samphan's Cambodian lawyer is Say Bory, the former president of the Cambodian Bar Association and a member of the constitutional council, the country's highest legal body. Say Bory currently is legal adviser to former King Norodom Sihanouk, the statement said.

The arrests came almost three decades after the group fell from power, and many fear the aging suspects could die before being brought to justice. After years of delays, the trial is expected to begin in 2008.

Most historians and researchers believe the radical policies of the Khmer Rouge, which sought a utopian communist state, led to the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians through starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Khieu Samphan has repeatedly denied responsibility for any atrocities. An insight into his defense hit bookstores last week, when he published his version of the Khmer Rouge's story.

In "Reflection on Cambodian History Up to the Era of Democratic Kampuchea," Khieu Samphan said the Khmer Rouge only wanted what was best for Cambodia.

"There was no policy of starving people. Nor was there any direction set out for carrying out mass killings," he wrote. "There was always close consideration of the people's well-being."

He wrote that the Khmer Rouge was resilient "in the struggle to defend national sovereignty, (and) in demanding social justice."

Khieu Samphan described Pol Pot, the regime's late leader, as a patriot concerned with social justice and fighting foreign enemies. He "sacrificed his entire life ... to defend national sovereignty," the book said.

However, Khieu Samphan assigned Pol Pot with responsibility for the group's policies, and said he was involved in the purges of any Khmer Rouge suspected to be disloyal or spies, claiming they probably numbered in the hundreds.

A week ago, authorities arrested Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, and his wife Ieng Thirith, its social affairs minister. Both were charged with crimes against humanity; Ieng Sary was also charged with war crimes. The genocide tribunal formally placed them in provisional detention for up to a year.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Surviving Lieutenants Of Cambodia's Pol Pot

The Surviving Lieutenants Of Cambodia's Pol Pot
After Many Delays, a Tribunal Appears Close to Trying Three Khmer Rouge Leaders for Crimes Against Humanity

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 18, 2007; Page A18

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Pol Pot, the despotic leader of the Khmer Rouge whose brutal rule from 1975 to 1979 left as many as 1.7 million dead in the killing fields, labor camps and prisons of Cambodia, died a free man in 1998. His lieutenants, however, might not be as lucky.

In recent weeks, the three key surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, who have lived largely unhindered but fitful lives in the aftermath of the communist government's collapse, have been detained to face charges of crimes against humanity.

The wave of arrests has reached as high as Nuon Chea, 82, Cambodia's infamous "Brother No. 2," who operated aside Pol Pot as the Khmer Rouge's second-in-command. Nuon Chea had been living out his twilight years in a modest home near Cambodia's border with Thailand. But since his arrest last month, he has been confined to a special judicial compound in a cell about as long and wide as a coffin.

Also seized: Ieng Sary, 82, the Khmer Rouge's foreign minister, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 75, Pol Pot's sister-in-law. The couple, both French-educated communist revolutionaries, were plucked by police from the tranquility of a prosperous retirement in their three-story villa in Phnom Penh on Nov. 12.

All three are facing what is set to be Cambodia's first series of public trials for the torture, starvation and execution carried out by the Khmer Rouge during its fanatical crusade to create a peasant society free of foreign influences.

The detentions come as a U.N.-backed tribunal made up of international and domestic judges has defied critics inside and outside this nation of 14 million by finally resolving several internal squabbles over legal procedures that had stalled the trials. The court is now able to pursue its mission to deliver long-overdue justice for the countless victims of the Khmer Rouge.

"This process is serious now," said Elizabeth Becker, a German Marshall Fund fellow and author of "When the War Was Over," a history of modern Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. "There is finally a confidence that this thing is going to get to trial."

Such confidence was virtually nonexistent earlier this year. The United Nations was on the verge of pulling out of the tribunal process -- the latest of several efforts since the 1990s to hold trials -- outraged over Cambodia's initial unwillingness to agree to international legal standards. But a compromise agreement reached this summer ultimately led to the recent arrests, officials said.

Without doubt, hurdles remain. The tribunal's $56 million in international funding is expected to run out by the middle of next year, and donor nations will have to deliver a fresh infusion of cash if the trial phase is to move forward. Discord persists between U.N. and Cambodian officials over whether to limit the arrests to about five major Khmer Rouge figures or expand them to a broader pool of suspects. In addition, the tribunal is still reeling from allegations that several of its Cambodian members have accepted bribes or are grossly underqualified for their positions.

But some observers say the recent arrests have demonstrated the political will of Cambodian officials to move forward with the trials, even with many lower-ranking former Khmer Rouge members blended into the current government.

"What was a bumpy road now seems to be moving very quickly," said Joseph A. Mussomeli, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia.

"There's been a lot of positive development in the judicial process; it's now clear that the tribunal feels they will have international standards or will walk out," he said. "That's on Tuesday, the tribunal is scheduled to hold its first public legal proceeding involving a major Khmer Rouge figure, a bail hearing for Kaing Guek Eav, the former warden of the S-21 prison. The session will be broadcast live nationwide.

By the time Vietnamese forces liberated the prison in 1979, only seven of 20,000 prisoners were still alive. Kaing, one of the few Khmer Rouge figures who has been previously jailed, was handed over to the tribunal by Cambodian authorities in July. He became the first resident of the newly built prison for Khmer Rouge detainees in the court's special compound on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The trials for Kaing and the three newly detained Khmer Rouge leaders are projected to begin within the next six to eight months, said Robert Petit, the tribunal's co-prosecutor.

Few of the trials, however, are likely to be as high profile as Nuon Chea's.

Known as Pol Pot's chief ideologue and henchman, Nuon Chea was driven out of Phnom Penh along with Pol Pot by the Vietnamese in 1979. They took up a guerrilla war in the jungle that ultimately ended in the surrender of the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge in early 1999.

Rejecting international calls for justice, Hun Sen, Cambodia's then and current authoritarian leader and himself a former member of the Khmer Rouge, agreed to forgo prosecution of Nuon Chea and other surrendering Khmer Rouge forces. He famously argued that they should be greeted with flowers in the name of national reconciliation.

After their welcome back into society, Nuon Chea and many other former Khmer Rouge members went into retirement in the western Cambodian jungle town of Pailin. Last year, Nuon Chea gave an interview to the Cambodia Daily newspaper in which he speculated about a possible life sentence -- the toughest penalty he would face if convicted. Nuon Chea, now a slouched old man with a penchant for tinted glasses, had said, "When I die, it will all be finished."
Now behind bars, however, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith have proclaimed their innocence. "We did not have any direct contact with the bases, and we were not aware of what was happening there," Nuon Chea told the tribunal last month, according to court documents.

In a country where the vast majority of the adult population remains scarred by the Khmer Rouge era, the arrests have brought hope.

"We can't allow Cambodia to be a society where the killers of millions go unpunished while chicken thieves are locked behind bars for 10 years," said Theary C. Seng, who spent years in a labor camp as a child after her parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. "I hope this is the start of a process that is going to force us to confront our past. Cambodians need this -- we deserve justice."
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rich Brown: Program aids victims of human trafficking

Stephanie Freed had just begun home-schooling her two daughters when it hit her.

“I saw a tremendous evil that I just had to do something about,” she said. “There was a time about four years ago when I stood in my girls’ bedroom and looked at them asleep and I remember thinking, ‘How could I not do something?’”

That’s when the Joplin woman decided to take on the enormous task as USA director of Rapha House, a program her father, Joe Garman, had founded in 2002 as an outreach of American Rehabilitation Ministries.

Garman founded ARM in Joplin nearly 30 years before as a ministry to U.S. prisoners that today extends to 1.7 million people incarcerated in federal and state prisons as well as the nation’s jails.

Rapha House, located in Battambang, Cambodia, is committed to helping girls from 4 to 19 years old who have become victims of slavery and prostitution and providing them with a safe home to heal and get an education.

Garman was introduced to the plight of such human trafficking during a trip to Cambodia to conduct Christian leadership training.

A commotion broke out behind the church where he was holding one of the meetings. It eventually led to sex traders breaking into the session in search of a girl they had purchased and wanted to take into captivity.

Garman said that upon learning the intent of the intruders and what they had paid for the girl, he and other training leaders came up with the money to redeem her.

That was to be the spark for Rapha House, which today houses 60 girls but with the expected completion of another wing next month will add 40 more, said Freed.

“The problem is so vast that we literally have thousands of girls waiting,” said Freed, who left this week for a missionary convention in Cincinnati and a fund-raising stop at a church on the way back. “We could build 10 more houses right now and not even touch the step of the project.”

Freed said she visits the home in Cambodia three or four times a year, with little time to relax when back in Joplin.

“I have been gone every weekend since early September to share this story with churches and others,” she said.

She added that her two daughters — Blair, 11, and Brooke, 9, as well as her adopted son, Barrett, 3 — often travel with her.

“I think the way they help the most is being a support for me and understanding why mom has to travel so much,” she said. “Blair has been to Rapha House twice and she calls herself a child advocate against human trafficking.”

Freed said in addition to providing the Rapha House residents with a safe haven, volunteers help arrange education grants for the older girls and even small business grants. The girls are often trained for work in beauty salons as well as restaurants.

“We have had some of the girls graduate from a school in cosmetology, which is kind of an up and coming career for Cambodian women,” said Freed, whose husband, Brandon, has a trucking company in Webb City.

Besides U.S. volunteers, there are 26 paid staff members at the Rapha House, ranging from guards to house mothers and social workers, she said.

“Our program is facilitated through church and individual sponsorship,” she said. “We do have some non-government organizations like World Vision that help as well.”

Freed said that a new development in the Rapha House ministry has come from a church in Riverside, Calif.

“Pathway Christian Church in Riverside began a foundation for our girls (Rapha House Freedom Foundation), which focuses on reintegration of the girls after they have been to Rapha House and have to re-enter Cambodian society,” she said. The Web site for the foundation is www.freedomforgirls.org.

Garman said that not only does Rapha House provide a safe haven for the girls but, also, gives them spiritual help.

“We feel like there is no hope for these girls without knowing Christ,” she said. “These kids have been traumatized and hurt so badly in the worst ways.”

In addition to the foundation Web site, more information may be obtained by calling American Rehabilitation Ministries at 781-9100, visiting the ARM Web site at www.arm.org, or calling Freed at 782-5341.


Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802.
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Cambodia: Khmer Rouge Couple Decry Charges Against Them As False, Unacceptable

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: A couple who belonged to the Khmer Rouge inner circle strongly denied charges lodged against them by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal, a legal document released Thursday (15 Nov) said.

Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who served as social affairs minister in the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, were arrested Monday (12 Nov) and charged with crimes against humanity. Ieng Sary was also charged with war crimes.

The 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime was blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution. None of the group's leaders has yet faced trial.

The couple offered their response to the charges at a Wednesday (14 Nov) hearing where the tribunal judges ordered them to be formally placed in pretrial detention for up to one year.

In the hearing, where they were allowed to present their case against the detention orders, Ieng Sary called the charges against him "unacceptable" and demanded evidence to support them, according to the copy of his detention order released Thursday.

It quoted him saying that he was "very happy that this court has been established because it will be an opportunity for me to discover the truth."

"I would like to know the truth about a dark period in our history. I do not know where the truth lies," he said, although he and his wife were close associates of the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

The orders said the couple are being prosecuted for supporting Khmer Rouge policy and practice "characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labor."

Ieng Thirith described the charge against her as "100 percent false," according to her detention order.

The couple asked not to be detained by the tribunal, citing ill health, but the judges rejected their requests. Ieng Thirith, 75, told the judges that she is chronically ill, physically and mentally.

The order against Ieng Sary, 82, quoted him telling the judges that he is afraid of dying in tribunal detention, and that if he does, "the first victims will be my family."

His plea showed disrespect for the suffering and loss of lives caused by the regime he served, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group collecting evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

"Has he ever tried to understand the pain of millions of lives? He destroyed us while preserving his own, and he continues to do so today," Youk Chhang said angrily.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal was created last year after seven years of contentious negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia.

The arrests of the Khmer Rouge suspects _ four so far _ come almost three decades after the group fell from power, with many fearing the aging suspects might die before they ever see a courtroom. Trials are expected to begin next year. (By KER MUNTHIT/ AP)

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Cambodia 'not a perfect place' for journalists, says union

Siem Reap, Cambodia - Murders of Cambodian journalists may have decreased in recent years, but the threat is increasingly becoming one of legal intimidation, the country's most powerful journalist union said Friday. The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) made the statement at a two-day meeting of local and international journalists, government officials and representatives of the Konrad Adenhauer Foundation in this northern city, some 400 kilometres from the capital.

"Cambodia is not a perfect place for journalists. There were six journalists killed between 1993 and 1997. In recent years, while there have been no killings, arrests, threats and legal intimidation have become of increasing concern," the CCJ said.

"The trend against press freedom has turned from violence to legal means as politicians and others become more sophisticated."

A spokesman for the CCJ said while the 2003 shooting of royalist radio journalist Chour Chet Tharith was perhaps the last murder of a journalist, in 2006 alone there were seven lawsuits and arrests and 12 serious threats recorded against CCJ member journalists.

Ministry of Information secretary of state Srey Channy countered by saying that Cambodia respected press freedom, but no journalist had the right to abuse their position for personal or financial gain.

"Press freedom without responsibility can also put democracy in danger. Therefore I appeal to Cambodian journalists to stick to the principals of journalism and perform their duties ethically and professionally," Channy told the meeting.

Cambodia recently decriminalized defamation but it still carries hefty financial penalties.
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Girls name Russian in Cambodia sex case

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Nineteen girls have claimed they were sexually abused by a Russian businessman arrested in Cambodia last month — the largest number of children to allege abuse by one person, police said.

Alexander Trofimov, 41, the chairman of Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd., was detained in the southern resort town of Sihanoukville and accused of raping at least six girls. He was charged Oct. 17 with debauchery — a Cambodian legal offense covering sexual abuse of children.

Investigations since his arrest indicate he may have abused as many as 19 girls, said police Maj. Gen. Bit Kimhong.

"Never has there been anything like this," Bit Kimhong said.

The victims are now between the ages of 11 and 18 but were younger at the time of the alleged abuse, said Samleang Seila, director of a Cambodian child advocacy group, Action Pour Les Enfants. At least two of the alleged victims were sold to the Russian by their parents, he said.

If convicted, Trofimov could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for each offense, though the total number of victims he will be charged with abusing will be known only when his case comes to trial.

Three Cambodians were also arrested and charged in the case, said Bit Khimong.

Poverty and weak law enforcement make Cambodia a preferred destination for foreigners seeking to prey on children.

In September last year, the Cambodian government gave Trofimov's company permission to develop an island near Sihanoukville into a tourist resort. Koh Puos, or Snake Island, is located just off Sihanoukville, about 115 miles southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

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Police Clash Over Land Leaves 2 Villagers Dead

By Chiep Mony

An armed standoff between hired gunmen and reported victims of a land grab has left at least two villagers dead and five injured in the northern province of Preah Vihear, officials said.

Sor kim Ol, Preah Vihear deputy governor, said villagers had incited the violence, and the security forces had only defended themselves.

"The authorities did not open fire on the villagers; that is only their right of self defense," he said. "At first the authorities just shot into the air, and the villagers came toward them."

The villagers were driven from their land following its sale to businessmen, said Chan Saveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc.

"When the villagers were aware that the land was sold to bad businessmen and not for any preservation purposes, they started to protest against that," he said.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Women warriors may have battled in ancient Cambodia

This handout picture, taken early this year, shows a female skelton buried with metal bracelets on her arms, found in a relic in Phum Snay, northwestern Cambodia. Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors.


Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday.

The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team.

"Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females," Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD.

The five were found buried together with steel or bronze swords, and helmet-shaped objects, said Yasuda, who is from the government-backed International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

"It is very rare that swords are found with women. This suggests it was a realm where female warriors were playing an active role," he said.

"Women traditionally played the Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday.

The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team.

"Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females," Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD.

The five were found buried together with steel or bronze swords, and helmet-shaped objects, said Yasuda, who is from the government-backed International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

"It is very rare that swords are found with women. This suggests it was a realm where female warriors were playing an active role," he said.

"Women traditionally played the central role in the rice-farming and fishing societies," he said. "It's originally a European concept that women are weak and therefore should be protected."

"The five skeletons were well preserved because they had been buried in important spots at the tombs," he said.

It was the first time that large-scale research was conducted on the Phum Snay relics, which were found in 1999.

It is believed there was a civilisation inhabited with several thousand rice-farming people between the first to fifth century. — AFP Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday.

The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team.

"Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females," Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD.

The five were found buried together with steel or bronze swords, and helmet-shaped objects, said Yasuda, who is from the government-backed International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

"It is very rare that swords are found with women. This suggests it was a realm where female warriors were playing an active role," he said.

"Women traditionally played the central role in the rice-farming and fishing societies," he said. "It's originally a European concept that women are weak and therefore should be protected."

"The five skeletons were well preserved because they had been buried in important spots at the tombs," he said.

It was the first time that large-scale research was conducted on the Phum Snay relics, which were found in 1999.

It is believed there was a civilisation inhabited with several thousand rice-farming people between the first to fifth century. — AFP .
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Cambodia, Lao face off on proposed Mekong dams

Thailand and Vietnam had been the one that caused so much problem to Cambodia in the past. But now, the small country Lao have started to Show its muscle to Cambodia too. Lao country had relied a lot on Cambodia to keep their territory from Vietnam, and now this small country had caused so much trouble in all kinds of negotiation.

Siem Reap, Cambodia - After facing the wrath of environmental groups earlier this week, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries engaged in their own battles Thursday during a meeting of the four-member body with donors and observers. Although the meetings were closed to media, Cambodian delegates made their frustration with what they called neighbouring Lao's lack of transparency clear outside as tensions over six proposed hydro- electric dams in a number of countries on the lower Mekong mounted.

Scientists said in May they feared Laos' proposed dams in particular could destroy fish migration and spawning, decimating the catch people in MRC member countries Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam rely on and causing irreversible environmental damage.

"We sent an official letter to Laos months ago to voice our concern and ask for an explanation, but so far we have received no answer," vice chairman of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, Sin Niny, told Deutche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Cambodian MRC representative Lim Kean Hor said the MRC was a complicated organization which relied on cooperation from members and donors - which include energy-hungry China - to reach consensus. However, that cooperation may be fraying in some areas, he added.

"At the moment this is just an initiative by Laos. When they begin to build them we will stop them," he said, saying the MRC needed independent expert studies of environmental impact assessments.

The six dams across the Lower Mekong River are currently in the planning stages, more than a decade after they were dismissed as too costly and environmentally damaging, non-government organizations said in a press conference in Bangkok earlier this week.

At least one is believed to be the project of a powerful Lao politician's son, raising questions about whether the environment is taking a backseat to money, one environmentalist said on condition of anonymity, adding now was the time for the MRC to stand up.

"Since early 2006, Thai, Malaysian and Chinese companies have been granted permission to conduct feasibility studies for six large hydropower dams on the lower Mekong mainstream," they said in a press statement.

China delegate Biao Ling Sheng, however, urged a balance of development and conservation Thursday as that country announced continued strong funding for the MRC. "We need sustainable conservational development," he said.

In the end, however, the onus remained on the MRC to prove its role as a strong, independent forum for member countries and other interested parties to raise concerns which was transparent and had teeth, World Conservation Union representative Kate Lazarus said.

"The role of local communities should be given a higher priority by the MRC. There is some important information which is not being made public by the MRC," the Lao-based representative said.
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TM Subsidiary Invests To Expand Business In Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Nov 15 (Bernama) -- Telekom Malaysia International (Cambodia) Co Ltd (TMIC) is investing to expand its cellular mobile services business in the growing Cambodian market.

Describing the amount of investment as "significant", TMIC chief executive officer, Yusoff Zamri, said the company was committing US$150 million (US$1=RM3.36) to upgrade network capacity and add 500 base transmitter stations from this year to 2009.

The Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) subsidiary had already spent US$25 million to install 100 new base transmitter stations, he said, adding that new stations were needed not only to improve coverage in the Cambodian capital here but also in rural and provincial sites.

Yusoff said a "substantial sum" was also being spent on the TMIC rebranding campaign launched here today with the aim of projecting a new image following TM's takeover of the company in March 2006.

According to him, TMIC is already the fastest growing mobile player in Cambodia and is targeting to grow its current subscriber base of 283,000 to 500,000 by next year with the new campaign under its "Hello" brand.

"This is just the beginning. We plan to stay in the game until we reach the top," he said.

TMIC currently has 18 percent market share and is ranked third behind Mobitel and Camshin in the competitive Cambodian market with seven mobile players.

The mobile penetration rate is, however, still low at 13.5 percent in a population of 14.3 million and TMIC sees plenty of opportunities for growth.

The company operates under a 35-year cellular concession beginning 1996 from Cambodia's Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

Yusoff said TMIC was expected to achieve a revenue growth of 25 percent in its current financial year ending December 31, 2007.

With the rebranding as well as other efforts, he said, the company expected to record a growth of more than 25 percent next year.

He added that TMIC achieved an average revenue per user of US$9 which was one of the highest in emerging markets where the industry average was US$7.

As part of the rebranding effort, TMIC will also be setting up new Hello Point service centres, with the latest centre launched here Thursday.

Yusoff said the company planned to open eight Hello Point centres by first half of next year, with three in the capital area and five outside.

"We are committed to being customer-focused. In emerging telecommunications markets like Cambodia, it's not technology that drives demand. It's about the basic need to communicate that drives both demand and technology," he said.

Yusoff said TMIC would leverage on strategic partnerships for mobile phone distribution and preferential rates.

"We are more than doubling our global roaming network to 450 partners," he said, adding that TMIC was the first to provide GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) with EDGE technology here and the tourist area of Siem Reap.

A significant sum would also be spent on training programmes, covering the TMIC staff which numbered 665 as well as vendors, dealers and distributors, Yusoff said.

"This is to ensure operational, systems and day-to-day performance efficiency and effectiveness," he said.

Cambodia's Posts and Telecommunications Minister, So Khun, who officiated at the rebranding ceremony, said the government was actively promoting policies and strategies to develop the telecommunications sector.

The Cambodian government, he added, would also provide a favourable and attractive environment for the private sector to invest in the sector.

-- BERNAMA
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