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Saturday, October 06, 2007

3,016 Chinese companies registered in Cambodia

A total of 3,016 Chinese companies have registered in Cambodia, far more than those from other investing countries like South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, local media said on Saturday.

South Korea has 1,162 companies registered in the kingdom, while Singapore has 1,036, Malaysia 918 and Thailand around 800, Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News quoted the statistics from the National Assembly as saying.

Since 1998, there have been 15,254 domestic and foreign companies registered in Cambodia, said the statistics unveiled here on Friday when the assembly debated the draft bankruptcy law.

Meanwhile, official figures showed that China has been Cambodia 's largest investing country from 2003 to 2005, but went down to the second largest after South Korea in 2006.

According to the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia, the bilateral trade volume between China and Cambodia stood at US$730 million in 2006, a 30 percent increase over 2005, and is expected to reach US$1 billion in 2010.

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Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam agree on tourism cooperation

VietNamNet Bridge - Tourism ministers of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam issued a joint declaration on trilateral cooperation at their meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on October 5.

The three countries agreed to encourage their national tourism agencies to boost exchange of information and experiences in tourism development and promotion. They agreed to jointly hold and attend tourism events and tours and cooperate in personnel training.

The three countries will take measures to facilitate tourists’ travel, boost tourism and cultural activities among their sister cities and heritage sites, as well as encourage public-private partnerships with regard to tourism development.

Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that the meeting of tourism ministers of the three countries, the first of its kind, was an important milestone in boosting trilateral cooperation to a new height matching their potential.

He expressed his belief that the scheme “three countries – one destination” would help build the three countries into a single tourist destination with diverse, unique and sustainable tourism products and high competitiveness in the region.

Sharing the host’s view, Cambodia Tourism Minister Thong Khon and Lao Minister and Chairman of the Lao National Tourism Administration Somphong Mongkhonvilay said their meeting laid a foundation for stronger tourism cooperation among the three countries, which will contribute to fortifying sustainable tourism development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and the ASEAN.

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Qur’an copies a rarity in Cambodia

Cambodian Muslims can hardly find a copy of the holy Muslim book in the Buddhist country.

"Copies of the Qur'an are hard to get in Cambodia," Mufti Karmaruddin Yusof said in statements carried September 29 by Malaysia's Bernama news agency.

He said copies of the holy book are usually stolen from mosques in the Southeastern Asian country.

This makes it difficult to explain and spread the Islamic teachings in the Buddhist country, he said.

Ahmad Zahid, the chairman of the Dewan Amal Islam Hadhari (Damai), said at least 200,000 copies are needed by the Muslim minority. He urged Malaysia, the chairman of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, to meet this serious shortage.

Zahid added that his organisation has collected so far RM200, 000 for its Wakaf Al-Quran programme.

There are estimated 700,000 Muslims in Cambodia, making up 5 per cent of the country's 13 million population.

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Cambodia's National Animal Is "Real," Study Says

Anne Casselman
for National Geographic News

October 5, 2007
A recent genetic analysis of a Cambodian ox called a kouprey matches fossil evidence that proves Cambodia's national animal is indeed its own species.

The latest study joins a growing body of evidence showing that the kouprey (pronounced "ko-prah") is not a hybrid between two related species of ox, the banteng and zebu, as was previously suggested.

French evolutionary biologists Alexandre Hassanin and Anne Ropiquet at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, sequenced kouprey DNA and compared it to that of related wild and domestic oxen species.

There are two types of DNA in a cell: nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Nuclear DNA is a combination of maternally and paternally inherited genes, and mtDNA is inherited exclusively from the mother. Hassanin analyzed both types of DNA in the new study.

"These molecular data allow us to study the evolutionary history of both paternal and mitochondrial lineages," he wrote by email from Vietnam.

If the kouprey is a hybrid of its close oxen relatives, its nuclear genes would have been a combination of the two hypothetical parent species. Instead Hassanin found that the kouprey's nuclear sequences differed from those of banteng and zebu.

"Our interpretations are therefore that the kouprey is a real wild species, different from all other wild oxen," wrote Hassanin.

The study will appear in the November issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Disappearing National Icon

The kouprey, which resembles a dark-coated ox with massive, curling horns, was first recognized as a species in 1937. In 1960 Cambodia made it the national symbol.

But habitat destruction and hunting took its toll, and many experts believe the last scientific observation of the animal in the wild was in 1957.

"I cannot imagine that if there were any kouprey left today we wouldn't be aware of them," said Gary J. Galbreath, an evolutionary biologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study.

In 1961 German zoologist Herwart Bohlken suggested that the kouprey might be a hybrid population of the banteng and zebu because of similarities between the animals' skulls.

Galbreath and his colleagues tested that hypothesis in a 2006 Journal of Zoology study by comparing kouprey and banteng mtDNA. If the hybridization hypothesis was correct, the mtDNA of both animals would be similar.

"We ran the DNA, and lo and behold, our prediction was correct," Galbreath said. "We now know that this [new study] is Murphy's law in action, but at the time it seemed very convincing."

But that December a fossil kouprey skull, described by Thai scientists Chavalit Vithayanon and Naris Bhumpakphan in 2004, came to Galbreath's attention. The skull possibly dated back to the late Pleistocene or early Holocene epoch, about 125,000 to 5,000 years ago.

"You can't have a fossil kouprey skull if the kouprey is a recent hybrid," he said.

Galbreath and his colleagues formally rescinded their previous view that the kouprey was a hybrid in the March 2007 Journal of Zoology.

Given that the kouprey was its own species after all, the question remained, how did it come to share mtDNA with the banteng?

The genetic data published by Hassanin and Ropiqet suggest that at some point in the Pleistocene, a female kouprey and a male ancestor of today's banteng mated, and that this coupling occurred at least once.

Somehow their offspring spread its maternally inherited kouprey mitochondrial DNA throughout the banteng population.

The artifact of this ancient hybridization event is that banteng carry kouprey mtDNA.
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