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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Visiting Buddha land is 'dream fulfilled' for Buddhist delegation

Bihar may evoke negative images for many, but certainly not for Buddhists. This was evident from the glowing faces of a 110-member Buddhist tourist delegation from five Southeast Asian countries visiting the land of the Buddha - a fulfilment of a lifetime dream for them.

'We have fulfilled our lifetime dream to come and feel close to Buddha,' said He Khun Kok Hour, a Cambodian member of the Buddhist tourist delegation.

The Buddhist delegation from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar arrived here Wednesday afternoon has been declared as state guests by the government.

State tourism secretary Anjani Kumar Singh told IANS Thursday that elaborate arrangements have been made for the team to give them a feel of the Indian tradition of 'Atithi Devo Bhavo' (Guests are like god).

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has described the tourists as 'enlightened ambassadors' of Bihar to their respective countries. The state government is keen to impress them in order to promote religious tourism to Bihar from Buddhist nations.

The delegation was given a warm welcome by the state government after their arrival and invited to lunch by the chief minister, followed by dinner by Governor R.S. Gavai.

'Nitish Kumar presented the delegation Madhubani paintings as mementos,' officials sources said.

The Buddhist delegation visited Patna Museum and spent about 90 minutes there.

The members are feeling very upbeat and happy with their visit.

'We are lucky to be in the land of Buddha,' said Nabhasporn Bhuttarichva, who is from Thailand.

The delegation is to visit Bodh Gaya, considered the birth place of Buddhism where the Buddha attained enlightenment 2,550 years ago, Thursday. They will also visit other Buddhist places like Vaishali, Nalanda and Rajgrih before leaving for Varanasi on Sep 9.

According to official sources, the delegation comprises ministers, bureaucrats and media persons who are visiting Bihar under the banner of Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC)

The Mekong Ganga Cooperation was named after two major rivers - the Ganges in India and the Mekong, the 10th longest river in the world which originates in the Tibetan plateau and runs through China's Yunnan province, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

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Bush invites Southeast Asian leaders to Texas

SYDNEY, Sept 7, 2007 (AFP) — US President George W. Bush on Friday invited Southeast Asian leaders, including an official from Myanmar, to Texas despite his increasingly sharp attacks on the isolated nation's military regime.

In recent days, Bush has branded Myanmar's leaders as "tyrannical" and their crackdown on pro-democracy activists and protests over fuel prices as "inexcusable" as US officials talked about "next steps" to pressure Yangon.

Bush made the announcement as he met with leaders of countries that are members of both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which was meeting in Sydney.

"I invited the ASEAN leaders to Texas at their convenience. I'm looking forward to hosting you down there," said Bush, who reserves invitations to Texas as a diplomatic plum for close allies.

He said democracy promotion, the war on terrorism, trade expansion, avian flu, and climate change would be on the agenda for the talks, which could take place at his ranch or "another location" in Texas, an aide said.

"I also am pleased to announce that we'll be naming an ambassador to ASEAN, so that we can make sure that the ties we've established over the past years remain firmly entrenched," said the US president.

White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said all ASEAN heads of state had been invited, except Myanmar, whose "level of participation is to be determined."

Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Jeffrey said later that Bush had made "an invitation in principle" and stressed "we have to work out the details later," including what he called Myanmar's presence "hypothetically."

The US president unveiled the meeting as he held talks here with leaders of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN's other members are Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

"ASEAN represents our fourth largest trading partner. In other words, this is a group of friends that represent more than just social acquaintances, you represent commerce and trade and prosperity," he said.

Bush's announcement came hours after he called on APEC leaders to pile pressure on the military rulers of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to free pro-democracy activists including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's military rulers have held the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy icon under house arrest for 11 of the past 17 years.

"We must press the regime in Burma to stop arresting and harassing and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations," he said in the keynote speech of his visit to Sydney.

His comments followed US State Department criticism of a Myanmar convention that drew up guidelines for a new constitution, and a political foray by First Lady Laura Bush who asked for UN condemnation of the crackdown.

"It's inexcusable that we've got this kind of tyrannical behaviour in Asia," he said at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard ahead of the 21-member APEC meeting in Sydney.

Bush had already last week criticised the junta's crackdown in a statement but his comments in Sydney were more direct and used harsher language.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990 but the military never recognised the result, and instead opened the National Convention in 1993 to draft a new constitution.

According to Amnesty International more than 150 people have been detained in Myanmar since August 19, when activists began rare protests against a major hike in fuel prices that left some people unable to afford even a bus fare.

The military regime has long dealt harshly with the slightest show of dissent during 45 years in power, but the latest protests have spread across the country, defying the threat of arrests and beatings.

Bush's invitation came after he postponed indefinitely a planned trip to Singapore for a meeting with all 10 ASEAN members.
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Cambodia can earn 174 mln USD from oil production in 2011: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted Cambodia could earn 174 million U.S. dollars from oil production in 2011, with the windfall rising to 1.7 billion U.S. dollars after 10 years, said the latest issue of the Phnom Penh Post published this weekend.

The IMF said in its new report that 2011 is a realistic date to assume that U.S. oil giant Chevron would begin production given that oil is already produced on both sides of Cambodia's waters in the gulf of Thailand, the newspaper said.

It projected that after 10 years of production Cambodia's share of oil revenues would peak in 2021 at 1.7 billion U.S. dollars. Then revenues would begin to decline.

The IMF called the report a "moderate scenario", which was based on a variety of assumptions, such as oil production sharing agreements, size of recoverable resources and oil prices.

The Cambodian government's current revenues are 11.5 percent of current GDP, or 632 million U.S. dollars, so an additional 174 million U.S. dollars in new revenues from a new source is a significant windfall, the newspaper said.

Source: Xinhua
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They fled horrors of Vietnam, Cambodia but need help


Lak Tev left war-torn Cambodia in 1985 with three children and only the memory of her husband, murdered by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

To find a better life, she came to the Bronx.

And life is better, but still a struggle. Tev, 52, and her children work hard, crafting bowls and hair accessories for money, and make do with the little help they get from the government.

But she is still haunted by her experience in Cambodia, working in the labor camps and watching as her family and friends disappeared, one after the other.

"I miss them a lot," she said through a translator. "Life hasn't been the same since."

She has pain, both mental and physical. But to her, the pain is one and the same.

Depression, trauma and war-related flashbacks are plaguing the Bronx's Southeast Asian community, and a new survey says treatment can be hard to come by.

Almost half of the Bronx's 10,000 Southeast Asians are at-risk for depression, according to a survey by New York University and local groups.

During the 1980s, many refugees fleeing war-ravaged Vietnam and Cambodia resettled in the Bronx, most making their home in Fordham.

Very few speak English and many live below the poverty line, relying on public assistance for their medical needs.

"The findings were quite striking," said Douglas Nam Le, director of NYU's Southeast Asian Program, who along with the Bronx-based Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) documented the community's history and current health.

Many Southeast Asian immigrants in the Bronx had firsthand experience with the Khmer Rouge, the Communist regime responsible for more than 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia during the 1970s.

Some are even former Khmer Rouge members who feel they were "used by the system" and have experienced trauma of their own, Le said.

A huge problem in seeking help for depression and other mental health problems is finding someone who speaks their language.

The Indochinese Mental Health Clinic at the Montefiore Family Health Center on E. 193rd St., for example, has translators available over the phone, which many residents find confusing and disrespectful, said Chhaya Chhoum, director of CAAAV's Youth Leadership Project.

Sister Jean Marshall, the founder of St. Rita's Center for Immigrants and Refugees, agreed.

"The problem is dealing with these translation services on the phone," she said. "They don't work well enough to get everyone - the doctors, the patients, the translators - on the same wavelength."

Even those receiving medicine through Medicaid and other public assistance programs would prefer access to more traditional Asian methods of treatment, such as acupuncture, massage and horticultural therapy, Le said.

CAAAV recently set out to record the hardships and struggles of its community, recording and putting immigrants' stories on display for the public.

Tev was relieved to finally be able to tell her story. For years she had remained silent, not even telling her children in full detail what had happened to their father. "We all have to share these stories," she said.

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Writers meet in Ha Noi for Mekong Literature Award

HA NOI — Well-known writers from Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia are getting together for a first-ever five-day conference in Ha Noi from Thursday.

Top of the agenda, the conference will mull over top-notch literary work from the three countries for the newly established Mekong Literature Prize. The meeting will also discuss translating a selection of outstanding pieces to be translated into two other languages.

Work to be presented at the event includes stories about the Indochinese resistance, Vietnamese volunteers in Laos and pieces about relations between people of the three countries.

Twelve Mekong Literature Prizes are up for grabs, with five allotted to Vietnamese writers, three to Laos and four to those from Cambodia.

The awards will be given out on Monday.

The conference is part of an agreement made at a meeting last December between chairmen of writers associations in the three countries. The move aims to encourage literary works exploring their friendship and solidarity. Both Cambodia and Laos will hold similar events.

Sidelining the conference, field trips with Vietnamese writers will be organised for foreign writers to learn about Vietnamese history and culture and their share experiences writing about Viet Nam. — VNS
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