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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Former Khmer Rough of Cambodia blames rich countries for climate change

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, has blamed industrialised countries for causing climate change, saying poor nations are the ones bearing the brunt from the fall-out.

Speaking during the launch of a new strategy to deal with the country's economic challenges, Mr Hun Sen said climate change is not caused by small countries like Cambodia, but larger countries that release smoke into the air.

He says it is unfair that the benefits go to big countries that release smoke, while small countries are being damaged.

The prime minister says while some countries cut the forests to develop their countries, they now ban nations like Cambodia from doing the same, adding that it's time for it to use natural resources to develop the economy.

Mr Hun Sen's comments came as nearly 190 countries gathered on Indonesia's resort island of Bali to come up with a roadmap for creating a fresh pact to combat global warming.
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Oil and petrol ‘bleed’ through border gates

Political conspiracy and economic suppression are the facts that sqeesing cambodian throats in order to make Vietnameses getting rich, this is the developing plan that Hun Xen operating through the whole country.

VietNamNet Bridge – A lot of petrol and oil is being illegally exported to Cambodia, as the petrol price there is VND3,000/litre higher than that in Vietnam.

A resident in the southern province of An Giang said the petrol price in Cambodia is $1/litre and the oil price is nearly the same, consequently, Cambodians have been crossing the border to purchase cheaper petrol they can sell at home for a tidy profit.

On So Thuong River in Dong Thap province, many boats can be seen carrying petrol and DO oil to Prey Veng province in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese farmers cannot purchase oil for their pumps because filling stations and privately owned petrol shops only want to sell oil and petrol to Cambodians who will pay more.

A lot of Vietnamese farmers now have a new job: they carry petrol and oil for Cambodians. On average, an ex-farmer may earn VND40-50,000 if they carry 60 litres of petrol or oil. Meanwhile, Vietnamese tobacco smugglers have shifted to the oil trade which is much more lucrative.

Tran Minh Tien, Head of the Ha Tien Border Gate’s Customs Agency, acknowledged that his agency cannot stop the illegal export of petrol.

He said that there are many reasons that encourage illegal petrol exports. While the petrol in Vietnam is cheap thanks to the Government’s subsidization scheme, the price in Cambodia is much higher as it follows global price fluctuations.

There are numerous filling stations along the N1 road in Kien Giang province, but the stations are not open during the day. Nguyen Van Na, a farmer in Tan Khanh commune, complained that he could not buy oil for his harvester, saying that petrol distributors only work in the evening and only sell petrol to Cambodians.

The An Giang Market Control Taskforce said that it has discovered several illegal export rings so far this year, seizing nearly 30,000 litres of oil, while Kien Giang and Dong Thap provinces seized 5,000 litres. However, Mr Tien said this figure is insignificant compared to the amount of illegally exported product, adding that their confiscations are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

“Our staff is too small to deal with the strong force of illegal exporters,” Mr Tien said.

The Ministry of Finance’s latest move was to issue the decision to increase A92 petrol retail prices on the domestic market by a maximum of VND 1,700 a litre and oil prices by VND1,500-VND1,600 a litre to VND13,000/litre. Vietnam announced it would float the petrol price back in mid 2007 and the Government subsidy programme is essential to curbing the inflation rate.

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River dolphins in bid to renew northeast Cambodian economy

The last 80 or so river dolphins in the Mekong River are at the heart of an ambitious development programme to tackle poverty and attract tens of thousands of visitors to two of the poorest provinces of Cambodia.

The Mekong River Discovery Trail Project will draw visitors to view the endangered fresh water dolphin which lives in 10 deep water natural pools in a 190-km stretch of the Mekong River, mostly between the quiet provincial capitals of Kratie and Stung Treng.

The main objective of the Discovery Trail is poverty alleviation. About 50% of all households in Stung Treng and 30% of those in Kratie live on less than US$1 a day. "The Mekong River Discovery Trail Project aims to bring about sustainable pro-poor tourism that helps develop Northeast Cambodia," says Dr Harsh Varma, Director of Development Assistance Department of the World Tourism Organization.

While Cambodia's tourism arrival statistics show growth in excess of 20% a year, it is not equitably distributed, says Ms Anne-Maria Makela, Senior Tourism Advisor for SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. "Too much of it goes to Angkor and Siem Reap. We want to bring more communities into the tourism picture, either as employees or as suppliers to the tourism industry."

In addition to 80,000 domestic tourists, the Cambodian government says that about 10,800 international visitors, mostly backpackers, visited Kratie in 2006, 35% up on the previous year. It estimates that 4,000 visited Stung Treng, an increase of 20%. Nearly all stayed in guest houses for less than US$5 a night and took motos, bicycles, motorbikes and longtail boats to see the dolphins, which must break surface every few minutes for air.

By seeking out the dolphins, backpackers have indicated the potential to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, which is now mobilising money and expertise from SNV and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

A study conducted jointly by SNV and the International Finance Corporation found that only 12% of the US$3.12 million dollars spent by tourists in Kratie in 2006 returned to people from a poor or near poor background. However, SNV says that when tourism spreads its roots this figure is likely to expand to around 30%. The survey showed that 80% of people working in the accommodation and restaurants in Kratie came from very poor families.

As part of the project to attract tourists to the Mekong, villagers near the pools will be encouraged to diversify economic activity away from fishing. Local authorities believe fishing is depleting the dolphins' food supply. Fishermen will be encouraged to take visitors to see the dolphins and sell food and drinks instead.

"No dolphins means no tourism. No tourism means no development," says Dr Thong Khon, Cambodia's Minister of Tourism. "Our challenge is to secure the long-term viable future of local communities and the river dolphin. Our priority is to build community awareness as well as hotels, guest houses and a boat jetty in Kratie to encourage more visitors."

Phase I of the project, the Tourism Development Master Plan for Kratie town, was completed in September 2007. Phase II, the design and development of the Mekong River Discovery Trail, community based tourism and training, will start in December 2007.

The project will only directly help selected villages along the route. However, the UNWTO believes "backward linkages" such as tourism demand for agricultural produce will indirectly help hundreds more. The UNWTO and its partners admit they will need to carry out a lot of public awareness and training programmes, as well as build jetties and seek investors for hotels.

Access and infrastructure in Kratie and Stung Treng are problematic. There is no international standard hotel. There is no local airport. The nearest is in Phnom Penh, a five-hour road trip or a six-hour congested public boat trip away.

Nevertheless, budget travellers and a few tour groups have already ‘discovered' Kratie, which still has some architecture and ambience from the French colonial period. Visitors to Kratie and Stung Treng praise the simple pleasures of travelling in country lanes near the river. There are enjoyable chance encounters with monks, school children and villagers in riverside huts selling snacks and toddy palm drinks. Apart from seeing the dolphins, gathering by the Mekong to watch the sun go down across the river is part of Kratie's simple appeal.

The few tour groups that do visit Kratie tend to only spend an hour or so viewing the dolphins, a nearby temple and a rubber plantation. The groups then continue on to the mountains and hilltribe attractions of Rattanakiri province before returning to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, where the Angkor ruins are.

"Kratie has potential," says Mr Luzi Matzig, Group CEO of Bangkok-based tour operator Asian Trails. "But there needs to be a lot more investment in three-star accommodation, restaurants and riverine attractions before it becomes a significant destination.

"What I do like about the place is the charm and friendliness of the people and the feeling that you're part of an authentic Khmer experience."

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Cambodians Get Medical Aid, English Lessons from U.S. Military

USS Essex, Marine unit work with Sihanoukville-area communities

By Peggy B. Hu
USINFO Staff Writer


Washington -- Providing medical and dental care, teaching English, fixing buildings and strengthening military ties between the United States and Cambodia were among the projects the USS Essex and a Marine expeditionary unit attached to the ship undertook during a recent port visit to Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

"Essex sailors are honored to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia as part of the broadening and deepening relations between our navies and our two governments," Captain Brian T. Donegan, the Essex's commanding officer, said in a U.S. Navy press release.

During their weeklong visit November 26-December 1, U.S. military personnel worked with Cambodian teams to provide medical services -- including cataract surgery -- and dental care to communities in Cambodia's Kampong Cham and Preah Vihear provinces and to construct two bridges and a culvert to connect the villages of Sre Sa and Oloy in Kampong Chhnang province.

The Essex and the Marine unit also conducted military-to-military training; participated in a three-day cultural exchange program at the National Defense University in Phnom Penh; and performed community relations projects such as making basic repairs to buildings, providing basic English classes and distributing donated materials such as books and clothing through the U.S. Navy's Project Handclasp program.

On the lighter side, sailors and Marines played duck-duck-goose, hopscotch, marbles and soccer (football) games with children at local primary schools; participated in a soccer tournament and barbecue with Cambodian army cadets at Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville; and attended the second annual Christmas lighting ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. The U.S. 7th Fleet band also performed with local musicians at an orphanage.

"Having Essex come here allowed us to give something to the Cambodian people," Lieutenant Commander Ronnie Mangsat of Amphibious Squadron 11 said in a release from the Essex's public affairs office. "Coming here shows them what we are capable of and that we are willing to take the time to help our new friends."

The Essex's visit was the second by a U.S. Navy ship to Cambodia in 2007; the USS Gary visited in February. The Sihanoukville port visit was part of the Essex's annual fall patrol to East and Southeast Asia, during which the crew and its Marine unit will conduct training events focusing on sea- and land-based capabilities and interact with local communities.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov ) Read more!