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Monday, May 21, 2007

Thai products, franchise draw much attention in Cambodia

BANGKOK, May 21 (TNA) – Thai products and franchises have drawn a lot of attention from local people and businesspersons in Cambodia since their quality is recognised, according to Deputy Commerce Minister Oranuj Osathanont.

Speaking after attending Thailand Exhibition 2007 Fair in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, she said the event is being held for the 13th year during May 18-22 in which 144 Thai producers and distributors open 216 exhibition booths.

Their products including foods and drinks, building materials, machinery, cosmetics, OTOP goods, and spas, are of much interest to Cambodian people who recognise their quality.

Mrs. Oranuj also presided over the opening of the Thailand Franchise Day Fair in which 11 Thai franchisers in foods and drinks and spa businesses participate to give information to and negotiate with Cambodian people interested in joining the franchise business.

She said many visitors had sought details of the businesses, which fares well for Thai businesses in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s Senior Minister and Commerce Minister Chom Prasith said Phnom Penh was ready to open up for foreign investment.

At present, Cambodia has enjoyed a political stability with the economy growing 13.4 per cent last year and the inflation rate staying at 6 per cent.

It is expected the economy would expand 7 per cent this year with the inflation rate of 4 per cent. The country is ready to gradually reduce import tariffs of many products to zero in 2018 under the trade negotiation framework. (TNA) – E005
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Cambodian PM visits Myanmar

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen arrived in Nay Pyi Taw Monday to begin a three-day goodwill visit to Myanmar.

It is Hun Sen's another official visit to the country as a Cambodian leader since 2000.

Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Nam Hong and Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, Hun Sen is making the trip.

Hun Sen will have talks with Acting Prime Minister Lieutenant- General Thein Sein later after his arrival, official sources said.

Thein Sein, who is also First Secretary of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), was named acting prime minister in the absence of Prime Minister General Soe Win, who, 58, reportedly went to Singapore on May 13 for the second time to receive medical treatment after the first which lasted for less than two months since mid-March. Soe Win was said to have been suffering from leukemia.

Hun Sen is expected to call on SPDC Chairman Senior General Than Shwe in the new capital on Tuesday, the sources added.

Hun Sen's Myanmar visit also came after that to the country by Hor Namhong last month.

In October 1996, SPDC Chairman Senior-General Than Shwe visited Cambodia, during which three agreements were signed on tourism cooperation, air services and establishment of sister cities between Bagan (Myanmar) and Siemreap (Cambodia).

Then Cambodian First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh also came to Yangon the same year and another agreement on the establishment of a joint commission for bilateral cooperation between the two countries was also inked.

During Hun Sen's 2000 Yangon visit, an agreement on mutual exemption of visas for holders of diplomatic and official passports was further produced.

Representing Cambodia, Hun Sen attended a Mekong economic cooperation strategy summit of four countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand held in Myanmar's Bagan in November 2003.

In April 2005, Soe Win went to Phnom Penh as part of his three- nation tour to three member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Myanmar and Cambodia are not only cooperating in the 10-nation ASEAN as fellow members but also active in the five-country economic cooperation also known as the Ayeyawaddy-Chao Phraya- Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).

Source: Xinhua
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Burmese junta choose stand-in PM

Burma has named a senior army officer as a temporary replacement for Prime Minister General Soe Win, who is thought to be suffering from cancer.
Lt Gen Thein Sein, who ranks fifth in Burma's military, was referred to as acting prime minister in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

It is thought he will greet Cambodian leader Hun Sen, who arrives on an official visit next week.

Soe Win has recently visited Singapore for medical treatment.

Officials have not confirmed his illness, but he is believed to be suffering from leukaemia.

'Serious health matter'

Thein Sein has conducted a number of official duties during Soe Win's illness - carrying out high-level negotiations with Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Burmese state media has variously referred to him as first secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, and chairman of the National Convention Convening Commission.

Soe Win, an army general aged in his late 50s, travelled to Singapore in late February on what the city-state's foreign ministry called a "private visit".

But Burma's embassy in Singapore later said he was being treated for a "serious health matter".

He has been prime minister since 2004, when he replaced ousted Khin Nyunt.
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What If Every Child Had A Laptop?

Lesley Stahl Reports On The Dream And The Difficulties Of Getting A Computer To Every Child
CBS) Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at MIT, had a dream. In it every child on the planet had his own computer. In that way, he figured, children from the most impoverished places – from deserts and jungles and slums could become educated and part of the modern world. Poor kids would have new possibilities.

As correspondent Lesley Stahl reports, it was a big dream.

Negroponte thought he had a chance of actually seeing it happen if he could help invent a really inexpensive laptop.

So, two years ago he founded a non-profit organization called “One Laptop Per Child.” He recruited a cadre of geeks and viola! The hundred dollar laptop, designed specifically for poor children, was born.

But let’s go back to the beginning when Negroponte first got his idea in Cambodia.

The idea came to him in a remote village called Reaksmy – a 4-hour drive on a dirt Road from the nearest town. It’s as far from MIT as you can get. They don’t even have running water.

Negroponte and his family founded a school here in 1999, putting in a satellite dish and generators. Then they gave the children laptops. Instantly, school became a lot more popular.

Kids who had never seen a computer before were now crossing the digital divide.

Nicholas Negroponte was knocked out.

"The first English word of every child in that village was 'Google'," he says. "The village has no electricity, no telephone, no television. And the children take laptops home that are connected broadband to the Internet."

When they take the laptops home, the kids often teach the whole family how to use it. Negroponte says the families loved the computers because, in a village with no electricity, it was the brightest light source in the house.

"Talk about a metaphor and a reality simultaneously," he says. "It just illuminated that household."

Once the computers were there, school attendance went way up.

Negroponte says that in Cambodia this year 50 percent more children showed up for the first grade because the kids who were in first grade last year told the other kids, “school is pretty cool.”

Negroponte wanted this for all children, everywhere, but he realized conventional computers were too expensive. And so his dream of a hundred-dollar laptop was born.

And this is it!

A low-budget computer for children like second graders in a poor school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Each child has been given his or her own machine – as part of a test for the Brazilian government to see if they should buy them for all their school children.

"It’s very exciting," Negroponte says. "It’s very gratifying. It’s been two years in the making."

The children seemed to especially like the built-in camera that takes stills and video.

It also has Wi-Fi.

Negroponte’s idea was that kids don’t need teachers to learn the how to use the computer. They can pick it up by experimenting on their own – with help from a friend.

"That is what we are doing… is that that kid is showing this kid – that is key," he says.

"They get it instantly. It takes a 10-year-old child about three minutes."

When Stahl asks if he means children who have never used any computer before, Negroponte responds, "Children who’ve never, in some cases, seen electricity."

One Laptops are for sale in minimum lots of 250,000. Each costs $176, though Negroponte expects the price will go down to $100 within two years.

"You go into countries where there may not be enough food, where the children may not have good enough education to even teach them to read, why a laptop?" Stahl asks. "It almost sounds like a luxury for these people who need so much more than that."

"Let me take two countries, Pakistan and Nigeria. Fifty per cent of the children in both of those countries are not in school," Negroponte says. "At all. They have no schools, they don’t even have trees under which a teacher might stand…" CBS) "You’re saying give them a laptop even if they don’t go to school?" Stahl asks.

"Especially if they don’t go to school. If they don’t go to school, this is school in a box."

Negroponte took a leave of absence from MIT two years ago, and has done little else but work on this ever since.

He says it’s purely humanitarian, and non-profit. With start up money from Google and other big companies, he assembled a team of engineers and programmers to come up something that would stand up to Third World conditions.

"You can pour water on the keyboard. You can dip into – you know, you can dip the base into a bathtub. You can carry it the rain," he says. "It’s more robust than your normal laptop. It doesn’t even have holes in the side of it. If you look at it: dirt, sand, I mean, there’s no place or it to go into the machine."

Negroponte says it's designed for a child.

It looks like a toy – on purpose. But it’s a serious computer with many innovations. For instance, it’s the first laptop with a screen you can use outdoors, in full sunlight. Walter Bender, the president of software on the project, says there are loads of new features. You can draw on it...or compose music.

"It actually looks like an animal. These are meant to look like ears, right?" Stahl asks.

"Right. These ears are the way the laptop communicates with the rest of the world so the laptop listens with these ears," Bender says. "Those are radio antennas, sorta like the…"

"I don’t have that on my computer," Stahl says.

"No. And one of the reasons why this computer has probably two or three times better Wi-Fi range than your computer is because you don’t have that."

"It has 2 to 3 times better range?"

"Better range than your $3000 dollar laptop."

"How long does the battery work?"

"By the time we’re done with all our tuning, the battery should last 10, 12 hours with heavy use."

If the battery does run out and you live in a thatch hut in the middle of nowhere, you can charge it up with a crank… or a salad spinner.

A minute or two of spinning, Bener says, and you get 10 or 20 minutes of reading.

Wayan Vota is director of Geekcorps, a type of Peace Corps that brings technology to developing countries.

"The One Laptop Per Child computer is a computing revolution," he says.

He’s so fascinated by this computer he has a website devoted to it.

"It’s an entire change in the way you use computers," Vota says. "It's waterproof… I can’t wait to type outside without worrying about dust or heat. So the One Laptop Per Child technology is cutting edge. It’s clock-stopping hot."

But he doesn’t buy Negroponte’s contention that kids can figure it out without a teacher.

"If you hand a child a violin or a piano they can make noise with it, right? But will they be able to make music?" Vota says. "And if you give a child a computer they’ll be able to operate the computer// but will they really be able to learn without having a teacher, whether it’s formal, informal, to help them along that learning path?"

He says there are other problems. For poor countries like Cambodia, there are costs beyond the price of the computer like satellites to connect to the Internet. And what about theft?

"What says an older kid isn’t just going to swipe this thing?" Stahl asks. "It seems like it’s inevitable."

"Well we spent a lot of time on security," Negroponte says. "If this is stolen from a child, within 24 hours it stops working. It will not be useable."

But lately One Laptop has had to contend with a new challenge: competition. This lab in Sao Paulo is testing two other laptops the Brazilian government is thinking of buying for school children, including one made in India and Negroponte’s biggest competitor: the Classmate by Intel, the giant chip maker.

If Negroponte's program is purely humanitarian and only to benefit children, why would for-profit companies pursue the same goal?
(CBS) "Because the numbers are so large," Negroponte says. "They look at those numbers and they say, 'if we’re not in those, we’re toast'."

In Brazil there are 55 million schoolchildren, most of them poor, many live in favelas, or shanty towns. In China there are 200 million children. Worldwide Nicholas Negroponte says the potential number of kids who could get laptops is over a billion, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by Intel and other hi-tech companies.

Intel gave every student in this class in Mexico a Classmate – which Negroponte believes is part of an effort to kill him off.

At a recent lecture at MIT he accused Intel of dumping, of going to the same governments he’s trying to sell to and offering the Classmate below cost.

"Intel should be ashamed of itself," Negroponte says. "It’s just – it’s just shameless."

"Negroponte believes that you’re trying to drive him out," Stahl told Craig Barrett, Intel’s Chairman of the Board.

"We’re not trying to drive him out of business. We’re trying to bring capability to young people," Barrett responds. "And it’s more than just Intel. It’s going to take the whole industry to do this."

Barrett flies around the world bringing computers to schools in places like Malinalco, Mexico.

He says that like Negroponte, Intel just wants to help kids get affordable computers. And that they would be willing to reach an accommodation with One Laptop.

"There are lots of opportunities for us to work together," Barrett says. "That’s why when you say this is competition, we’re tying to drive him out of business: this is crazy."

Not to Negroponte who says the rivalry goes back to when he first introduced the One Laptop and Barrett dismissed it as “a gadget.” That infuriated Negroponte, who says the heart of it is that the One Laptop uses chips made by AMD, Intel’s biggest competitor.

"Intel and AMD fight viciously," Negroponte says." And we’re just sort of caught in the middle."

To prove that Intel has targeted his machine, Negroponte gave us some documents Intel sent to the government of Nigeria.

When Stahl shows those documents to Barrett, he says, "This is an Intel marketing document – there’s no question about that."

One document outlines the “shortcomings of the One Laptop Per Child approach” and lists the supposedly stronger points of the Classmate.

"So somebody at Intel sees this as direct competition, clearly," Stahl says to the Intel chairman.
"Well, someone at Intel was comparing the Classmate pc with another device being offered in the marketplace," Barrett responds. "That’s the way our business works."

For Nicholas Negroponte it’s not just business – it’s personal. It’s about his dream, his baby.

"Has Intel hurt you and the mission?" Stahl asks.

"Yes, Intel has hurt the mission enormously," Negroponte says.

These laptops are prototypes. To get them into mass production, Negroponte needs at least 3 million orders which he thought he’d have by now. But so far he has lots of promises but no definite orders.

And he blames Intel. He spends almost all his time – about 330 days a year he says – lobbying government officials, going from one country to the next.

He says he’s confident he’ll get his orders, even though he’s about to face even more competition as other companies are working on low-cost laptops.

That will result in more kids getting them – which is, after all, what Negroponte said he wanted in the first place.

"You call your project 'One Laptop Per Child,' and you mean that every kid in the entire world is going to have a laptop. Is that realistic?" Stahl asks.

"If I was realistic I wouldn’t have started this project, okay?" Negroponte responds.


"So it’s not realistic," Negroponte continues. "But we’ll come close."

If you’re wondering if the One Laptop will be available in the U.S., right now Negroponte’s in talks with some states and school districts. He says it will be sold commercially in the future, but you’ll have to buy two: one for your child and one for a child in a poor country.
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