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Monday, June 29, 2009

Hwang-DBS to start Cambodia bank ops soon

HWANG-DBS (Malaysia) Bhd (HDMB) is a step closer towards operating a commercial bank in Cambodia.

HDMB said Cambodia's Minister of Commerce had on June 26 issued a certificate of incorporation of HwangDBS Commercial Bank Plc (HDCB) which is effective from June 19, 2009.
As required by the National Bank of Cambodia, HDCB targets to start operations in Cambodia by July 31, subject to a final licence to be issued by the National Bank, HDMB said in announcement on Bursa Malaysia.

HDCB is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the HDMB and will operate as a commercial bank in Cambodia.

Currently, HDCB has an issued and paid-up capital of US$2 comprising two ordinary shares of par value US$1 each.

The issued and paid-up capital of HDCB will be increased to US$20 million, comprising 20 million ordinary shares of par value US$1 each, all to be issued to HDMB before the start of business operations. - Bernama .
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I ate insects to live, says Pol Pot torture survivor

Former Khmer Rouge prisoner tells of haunting memories of 'killing fields'
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent


One of the few survivors of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture centre from which thousands of people were despatched to their deaths has revealed how he and the other inmates scrabbled to find insects to eat to avoid starvation and ate their paltry meals alongside the corpses of those who had died. At times he thought about eating the remains of the dead.

Van Nath, an artist who dodged death only because of his ability to produce a portrait of the regime's leader, Pol Pot, told a genocide trial in Cambodia that although he escaped with his life 30 years ago he was still shackled by his memories. Wiping away tears as he launched into a series of harrowing recollections, the 63-year-old said: "My suffering cannot be erased – the memories keep haunting me."

As he gave his testimony the white-haired survivor was face to face with his jailer, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as "Comrade Duch", the head of Tuol Sleng jail where Mr Nath was held between January 1978 until January 1979. Duch is one of five former regime members being tried by the joint UN-Cambodian inquiry.

"We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling. We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards," said Mr Nath, who lost two children during the four years the Maoist-inspired regime controlled the country. "We ate our meals next to dead bodies, and we didn't care because we were like animals. The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little. I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal."

In a country where 1.7 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge either by execution, starvation or disease, Mr Nath is that rare thing: a survivor. Of the estimated 14,000 people sent to Tuol Sleng to be tortured and interrogated before being dispatched for execution at "killing fields" on the edge of Phnom Penh, barely a dozen are known to have lived through it, and just six are still alive today. Mr Nath said the only reason he survived was because Duch learned that he was a trained artist. He was quickly asked to produce portraits of Pol Pot, the regime's leader who died in 1998. "I survived because Duch felt good when he walked into my workshop," he said.

But he also revealed details of the torture suffered before Duch learned of his talents. He was beaten, electrocuted, had his fingernails pulled out, and also underwent a form of "water-boarding". Prisoners, he said, were fed six teaspoons of rice porridge a day.

Duch, who showed little reaction as he watched Mr Nath give evidence, is the first former Khmer Rouge leader accused of crimes against humanity to go on trial. The others are deputy leader or "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the former foreign minister Ieng Sary; the former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith; and the former head of state Khieu Samphan. Duch, now 66, was arrested in 1999 after a journalist found him working for a Western aid group in northern Cambodia, having converted to Christianity. Earlier this year as final preparations were being made for the long-awaited tribunal, The Independent interviewed Mr Nath in his gallery in Phnom Penh. Almost every painting was starkly produced in dark colours. Many showed torture and execution.

"I cannot escape from being a witness," he said at the time. "It is so hard for me to tell you. I suffered so much from that prison; that is why I have been so sick."

Mr Nath said he had either witnessed everything he painted or else was told about it by other prisoners. "Now I have the ability to testify before this chamber. This is my privilege, this is my honour," he told the court. "I do not want anything more than justice."

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Kids as young as four are sold and then raped

CAR boss Peter Vardy was so traumatised by child sex trafficking in Cambodia that he couldn’t sleep at night — and now he’s vowed to help tragic victims.

The 31-year-old visited the Asian country several years ago and was shocked that families were selling their kids as young as FOUR to pimps.

He’s now teamed up with Swiss-based charity Hagar International to launch a campaign tomorrow to raise cash for forgotten victims.

The charity — which has taken a battering in the recession — needs £40,000 to build a new shelter in the country, and Peter is aiming to raise another £60,000 to help it survive.

Peter, from Durham, said: “I was left numb with horror. It’s hard to understand just how bad the poverty is.

“I was aware of children being sold by their families to pimps just to buy a fridge. That child is then at the mercy of rape and torture. If you walk onto the streets of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, within seconds you will be offered the chance to have sex with a girl or boy of any age.

“The damage done to these kids is immeasurable. That’s why we need to keep this organisation alive.

We want to help Hagar build a new shelter for the abused kids, to protect them so they get the chance to be educated.”

Peter — grandson of car magnate Reg Vardy — has started a new Vardy empire in Scotland with showrooms in Motherwell, Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh and Perth.

Last year Vardy’s showrooms raised £35,000 to help build water filters for 1,400 communities in the country, estimated to save one child’s life every month.

He even returned to Cambodia to help build the water filters. And now he’s urging employees to back the new campaign.

Peter added: “Colleagues throughout the dealership will be involved in sponsored events. They have really enjoyed being part of the process.”
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Cambodia, Bahrain to sign joint agreement of diplomatic establishment

The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Bahrain will sign a joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations to expand the cooperation between a country in South East Asia and a country in the Middle East, a Cambodian official said on Monday.

Hor Nam Hong, Cambodia's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, and his Bahraini counterpart will sign the joint communiqué of creating the official diplomatic ties, said Koy Khong, under secretary of state and spokesman for Cambodia's Foreign Ministry.

"It is the first time for the two countries to mend the diplomatic ties," he said, adding that in future the two countries will expand cooperation on tourism, investment, trade, and economy.

According to a press release from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, Hor is to join the first ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council Ministerial Meeting, to be held from June 29 to 30, in Manama, Bahrain.

At the meeting, "we will talk about the cooperation on the global economic and financial crisis, combating terrorism, poverty reduction, sustainable development and economy," Koy Khong said.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Gulf group includes Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
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Gillings lab at UNC wins $8.5M for USAID clean water initiative

A clean water program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has won a new award worth up to $8.5 million, the university announced Monday. The program traces its origins to a gift made by Quintiles founder Dennis Gillings and his wife, Joan.

The funding will be used to expand a project to bring clean drinking water and improved sanitation to homes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The five-year award comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The program is called Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development – or WaterSHED. It is a joint effort between UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Kenan Institute-Asia.

UNC says in a statement that its researchers will search for ways to increase the use of water filters in homes that lack clean drinking water in order to help reduce diarrhea and related diseases that kill nearly 2 million children a year. They will also investigate ways to achieve financially sustainable, scaled-up access to safe water sources. These include harvested rainwater, improved sanitation and greater practice of personal hygiene.

The USAID award will be managed by UNC’s public health school. The principal investigator is Mark Sobsey, the Kenan Professor of Environmental Sciences and

Engineering.

The award grew out of the Carolina Global Water Partnership, one of the first Gillings Innovation Laboratories funded through a $50 million gift to the public health school from Dennis and Joan Gillings.

Dennis Gillings, a former UNC professor, launched and built Durham-based Quintiles into the world’s largest contract research organization. CROs run clinical trials on drug candidates for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

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Pol Pot artist weeps at jail horror

One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture center wept yesterday as he told Cambodia's war crimes court how he was only spared because he painted propaganda pictures of Pol Pot.

Van Nath described how hunger drove prisoners to eat insects that fell from the ceiling at the communist movement's Tuol Sleng prison, and said he was so famished he dreamed about eating human flesh.

The 63-year-old is the first survivor to testify at the UN-backed trial of jail chief Duch, who is charged with overseeing the torture and extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through the notorious facility.

"The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Van Nath said. "I thought even eating human flesh would be a good thing for me at that moment."

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, slumped in his chair while the former inmate recalled how he was photographed, stripped and then shackled with other prisoners after being taken to Tuol Sleng.

Prisoners had three teaspoons of gruel for each meal and some ate insects, Van Nath said, although he could not as they fell too far from where he was chained.

"I lost my dignity. Even with animals they would give enough food," Van Nath said. "If they (guards) found out we were eating insects we would be beaten, so we could only do it if we avoided being seen by the guards."

Inmates shackled next to him died during his first month and at one point, too weak to walk by himself, he was summoned downstairs and thought his own death was imminent.

But he was instead told to paint a portrait of Pol Pot, the leader of the 1975-1979 regime, whom Van Nath did not recognise.

"I knew that if I did not paint very well, I would be in big trouble. I was so nervous," Van Nath said.

"I only had the feeling that I had to paint very good portraits so that he (Duch) would be happy," Van Nath said. "When he did not show good feelings in his facial expressions, I was scared and anxious."

Guards strung one prisoner up in the yard at Tuol Sleng when he was found to be a poor sculptor, Van Nath added.

Van Nath went on to become one of Cambodia's most famous artists. The court was shown his paintings of torture methods including prisoners being whipped, plunged in water and having their fingernails pulled out with pliers.

"Even though I've tried my best to forget, it still haunts me," Van Nath said. "I never imagined that I would be able to sit in this courtroom today to describe my plight, my experience."

Sketches showed how he was taken from his family and tortured with electricity, while a painting showed Tuol Sleng guards whipping prisoners and seizing their babies.

Earlier in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch, 66, begged forgiveness from victims of the regime after accepting responsibility for running the jail. He faces a life sentence.


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