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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vietnam jails five for trafficking women to Malaysia

HANOI (AFP) — A court in communist Vietnam has jailed five people for up to 17 years for trafficking women to Malaysia and forcing them to work as prostitutes, a court official and media reports said Tuesday.

The gang had sent 18 women from Vietnam's poor southern Mekong delta region to Malaysia over the past three years before the ring leaders were arrested in January, said a Can Tho court official who declined to be named.

Hua Thi Thuy Trang, 35 -- identified in media reports as a former prostitute who had worked in Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore -- was jailed for 17 years, while her four accomplices received terms of five to 12 years, the official said.

The Thanh Nien daily reported that the gang lured the women to Malaysia with promises of waitressing jobs, paying their families 800 dollar each while forcing the women to sign promises to pay the group 4,400 dollars each.

Once in Malaysia, the women were closely guarded during the day and forced to have sex with about seven men per night each without payment, the report said, adding that while those who resisted were beaten and starved.

Thousands of Vietnamese women are believed to be trafficked every year, especially to neighbouring China and Cambodia, lured with promises of jobs but then forced to work as prostitutes or to marry.

Between 2005-07, Vietnamese police say they detected 900 trafficking cases involving 2,200 victims, state media have said.

The true extent of the trafficking is unknown and police suspect many of the more than 20,000 Vietnamese women and children who have gone missing since 1975 were victims of trafficking.
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Cambodian tour creates new awareness

By DUANE SCHRAG
Salina Journal


Growing up in Salina, when Ben Romans heard the word "genocide" he thought about Hitler and the Third Reich's concentration camps.

Romans had no idea that as he was completing his junior year at Salina Central High School -- he graduated in 1999 -- the architect of one of the 20th century's most brutal regimes, Pol Pot, died at the age of 73. The atrocities Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge visited upon Cambodians in just three years of power still horrify the world.

If they're even discussed.

"What's bizarre to me is how much I didn't learn about the genocide in Cambodia," Romans said. "That ended while I was alive."

Romans is best known locally as a member of The Click Five, a pop group based in Boston that is preparing to release its third album. The group just completed a series of concerts in southeast Asia as part of an effort to make the world more aware of human trafficking.

The tour, which included concerts in Cambodia and Thailand, allowed members to visit areas where some of the atrocities committed during Pol Pot's regime were committed.

"It was probably the most powerful trip I've been involved with," Romans said. "What an eye-opener."

The tour was a collaboration of MTV Exit (for End Exploiting and Trafficking) and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Click Five, along with groups from Britain, Australia and Asia, performed at the Angkor Wat temple, in Phnom Pehn, and in Bangkok.

Romans said that playing in concert in the iconic 12th century temple -- the first rock concert ever delivered there -- was humbling.

"That kind of stuff makes your dreams come true," he said.

Romans said that learning about human trafficking has been a wrenching experience. Authorities say it's a global and ancient problem. The poor are promised jobs and educational opportunities, usually overseas. When they get there they discover they've been lied to, and they are turned into de facto slaves. If they are women or girls -- and most are -- they typically are forced into prostitution.

"There was a point in my life when I had no idea about human trafficking, no idea about the Pol Pot regime," Romans said. "I've been to a lot of places, but all of a sudden ..."

His voice trails off. "It was so heavy."

The experience has affected him in a number of ways. As a musician and songwriter, it has made him hear different messages in familiar lyrics. As a human, it has tempted him to leave the music scene and become a social worker.

But he's not ready to do that yet. While he is wary of being overtly political with his music, he does believe it can help focus attention on important issues.

"This is my gift," he says. "This is what I have to do."

n Reporter Duane Schrag can be reached at 822-1422 or by e-mail at dschrag@salina.com .
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Fewer Human Deaths From Virus Even as It Spreads Among Poultry

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

With the arrival of winter, H5N1 avian flu is on the rise again in Asia and Egypt.

The outbreaks are part of an annual trend: cases peak between December and March each year in birds as well as humans.

Children have died from it recently in Indonesia and Egypt, and a Cambodian teenager tested positive but survived.

Only 30 human deaths have been confirmed by the World Health Organization this year. That is well below the 59 recorded last year and the peak of 79 recorded in 2006. All 30 deaths this year occurred in only four countries: Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Egypt. No large family clusters, like those found from 2005 to 2007, have been confirmed.

Indonesia may have had more flu deaths than it has admitted. Its health minister said in June that she “wanted to focus on positive steps by the government” and would not announce all confirmed deaths. There were several family clusters of fatal respiratory diseases this year, according to news reports, but all were officially attributed to other causes.

New poultry outbreaks have been found recently in Kandal province in Cambodia, Jiangsu province in eastern China, rural parts of Hong Kong, Bangladesh and West Bengal and Assam provinces in India.

Although there have been no human deaths in India, poultry outbreaks appear to be increasing rapidly. In other countries in this situation, human cases have usually followed.

India does not vaccinate poultry. China does, and mismatched vaccines may be to blame for new outbreaks, experts said.

Some vaccines were made from H5N2 virus strains, and their ability to protect against H5N1 may have faded.

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Cambodian FM: Thai FM plans to visit Cambodia for border issues

PHNOM PENH, Newly appointed Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya plans to visit Cambodia to continue discussion on the border issues between the two countries, said the Cambodian foreign minister here on Tuesday.

"Yesterday, the Thai foreign minister called me to extend the best wishes for a happy New Year and said that he plans to visit Cambodia," Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told reporters at his office.

"He is willing to continue the discussion to seek resolution inpeaceful and friendly ways for the border issues," he said.

We all put aside the possibility of military conflict and will keep restraints over the border issues, he said.

"As you all have seen, the internal matters of Thailand have made the border resolution so slow," he added.

Cambodia will resume talks with Thailand over their disputed border in late January, as a tense military standoff at contested areas of the frontier enters its sixth month, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Monday.

Cambodia and Thailand have never finally demarcated their 805-km shared border, but a meeting between both foreign ministers in November yielded an agreement to scale down troop numbers along the border and begin demarcation and demining operations from mid-December.
It was the most concrete progress made yet to resolve tensions on the border, which escalated after Cambodia first accused Thai troops of entering its territory in July, shortly after Cambodia'sPreah Vihear Temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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