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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Khmer Defence Minister Tea Banh visits Thailand

By The Nation


Cambodia's Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh arrived in Thailand on Thursday to co-chair a meeting of Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee.

The meeting which will be held in Chon Buri's Banglamung district will be held in tight security as Thai-Cambodia relations have been on the line following visit of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Phnom Penh earlier this month.

The senior officers of both countries then enjoyed golf games at a golf courses in Chon Buri.

Dozens of police and soldiers in full gear are deployed at Dusit Thani Hotel in Chon Buri where the group was staying.

The mutual relations have been strained following Thaksin's visit with Thailand and Cambodia recalling their ambassadors and first secretaries. Thailand has reviewed mutual cooperations to protest the visit.

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Khmer Rouge torturer had to "kill or be killed"

By Ek MadraPHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The Khmer Rouge's chief torturer and jailer had to "kill or be killed" and operate like an "obedient machine," his lawyer said on Thursday in defending the first member of Cambodia's murderous regime to face justice.

In the final two days of testimony in the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, a lawyer for the commander of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison said his client's life was at stake when he ordered the murder of more than 14,000 people in the 1970s.

Speaking a day after prosecutors asked the court to sentence Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 40 years in prison, the lawyer said the tribunal should show leniency because the 67-year-old former maths teacher had fully cooperated.

"Without Duch, the trial could not have unfolded if he, like others, had decided to remain in silence," Francois Roux, Duch's lawyer, told a courtroom packed with more than 600 people, including many survivors of the ultra-communist regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in 1975-79.

"The accused was absolutely, himself, in the hands of the party. And in fact, he had to operate like a machine, an obedient machine," said Roux. "He himself was in a situation where he had to choose to kill or be killed."

"We do not wish our client to be the scapegoat," he added.

Duch is scheduled to take the stand again on Friday on the final day of the trial. A verdict is expected by March.

He is accused of "crimes against humanity, enslavement, torture, sexual abuses and other inhumane acts" as commander of Tuol Sleng prison, a converted high school also known as S-21, during one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

Only seven of 14,000 people who passed through S-21 survived.

Prosecutors have urged the tribunal's five-judge panel to reject Duch's assertion he had little choice but to carry out orders, saying Duch was "ideologically of the same mind" as the Khmer Rouge leaders and did nothing to stop prison guards from inflicting rampant torture.

QUARTER OF POPULATION DIED

Lead prosecutor William Smith told the court this week "the accused was neither a prisoner, nor a hostage, nor a victim. He was an idealist, a revolutionary, a crusader - prepared to torture and kill willingly for the good of the revolution."

The tribunal seeks justice for nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population who perished from execution, overwork or torture during the Khmer Rouge's agrarian revolution, which ended with the 1979 invasion by Vietnam.

Duch faces up to life in prison if convicted. Smith said on Wednesday he should get 40 years. Cambodia does not have capital punishment.

Now a born-again Christian, Duch expressed "excruciating remorse" on Wednesday for the S-21 victims, most of them tortured and forced to confess to spying and other crimes before they were bludgeoned to death at the "Killing Fields" execution sites.

Witnesses in 72 days of hearings spoke of beatings with metal pipes, electrocution, near-starvation, violent rape and prisoners forced to eat their own excrement.

Duch has asked if he could apologise in person to his victims' families, and has said he was convinced he was fighting to free Cambodia from U.S. imperialism during the Vietnam War.

Four other senior Khmer Rouge cadres are in custody awaiting trial. They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, his wife Khieu Thirith and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea. Unlike Duch, they have not publicly apologised.

Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998.

The chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges -- known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia -- requires four to agree on a verdict.

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Thai Foreign Minister stresses Thai-Cambodian problem is bilateral issue

BANGKOK, Nov 26 (TNA) – Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya stressed when meeting with visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr RM Marty M Natalegawa that the diplomatic standoff between Thailand and Cambodia was a bilateral issue and could be settled between the two governments, according to a ministry senior official.

Information Department deputy director general Thani Thongphakdi told reporters after the Thai and Indonesian foreign ministers met that Mr Kasit explained the current situation between Thailand and Cambodia to his Indonesian counterpart.

Mr Kasit added that Thailand and Cambodia are trying to resolve their problem and that both consider the rift is a bilateral issue, not wider, and should be settled by the two governments, according to Mr Thani.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier expressed concerns over the continuing Thai and Cambodian rift and offered to serve as a mediator in the matter.

Mr Thani said Mr Natalegawa had listened to the Thai minister’s explanation and expressed hope that the diplomatic rift can be mended peacefully.

The Indonesian official was in Thailand on an introductory trip after being appointed foreign minister on October 22.

He is a career diplomat with more than 20 years of solid experience in diplomacy and international relations. He served as Indonesia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and permanent representative to the United Nations in New York before being appointed as foreign minister.

The diplomatic falling out between the Thai and Cambodian governments flared up after the Cambodian government appointed fugitive ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser. The two kingdoms recalled their respective ambassadors in retaliatory actions.

The Cambodian government also invited Mr Thaksin to Phnom Penh to lecture Cambodian business leaders and economists as his first assignment, at the same time rejecting Thailand's request to extradite the fugitive former premier.

As the diplomatic row continues, Mr Thaksin's interview with Britain’s Timesonline website continued to rankle Thais.

In the article, Mr Thaksin commented about the Thai monarch and his successor, with remarks considered offensive to the monarchy. The ousted premier, however, reportedly defended himself by saying his interview was ‘distorted’ by the reporter.

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) board decided to investigate TimeOnline, an arm of Britain’s Times of London as a special case due to its exclusive interview with Mr Thaksin deemed offensive to the monarch. (TNA)

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VIP Falls Behind Expectations

Nov 26, 2009 (Zacks.com via COMTEX) -- VimpelCom (VIP) reported third-quarter 2009 earnings of 42 cents per ADS (based on an average exchange rate of 31.26 RUR/US$) that narrowly missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 44 cents. However, the result beat the year-ago earnings per ADS of 27 cents.

The second-largest Russian telecom carrier reported quarterly net income of RUR13.5 billion (US$432 million), more than double the net income of RUR6.5 billion (US$208 million) reported in the year-ago quarter. This significant year-over-year growth is largely attributable to foreign exchange gains from a strong Russian ruble versus the US dollar.

Operating revenue increased 3.5% year over year to RUR71.3 billion (US$2.3 billion) as growth across Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was partly offset by declines in Ukraine and Armenia. Revenue from the wireless operation was RUR60.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) while the fixed-line business generated revenue of RUR15.1 billion (US$483 million).

Reported OIBDA of RUR36 billion (US$1.2 billion) reflects a year-over-year growth of 7%, yielding an OIBDA margin of 50.4%. The annualized growth reflects the company's ability to reduce costs amid the volatile economic environment. VimpelCom is pursuing various strategies to maximize cash flow through several cost-control measures.

The company's total active cellular subscriber base grew by roughly 7.6 million year over year and by 1.7 million sequentially to 65.4 million. Its broadband subscriber base increased 11% sequentially to approximately 1.9 million.

On a geographic basis, revenue from Russia increased 4.1% year over year to RUR61.2 billion (US$1.9 billion), representing roughly 86% of the company's total sales. Mobile subscriber base in Russia grew 13.2% year over year to 51 million. VimpelCom added 174,000 broadband subscribers during the quarter, bringing the total customer base to 1.83 million. The results were supported by a resurgent Russian economy.

Consolidated revenue from the CIS markets grew 3.9% year over year to RUR11.1 billion (US$355 million). Revenue from Kazakhstan (the largest CIS market) registered RUR5.4 billion (US$173 million), up 11.9% year over year. However, sales declined year over year in other key markets such as Ukraine (down 22.3%) and Armenia (down 3.4%).

During the quarter, VimpelCom spent RUR3.8 billion (US$122 million) in capital expenditures (CAPEX). The company has revised its CAPEX guidance reflecting a stronger ruble versus the dollar. VimpelCom expects CAPEX to be in the range of 10%-12% of its 2009 annual sales. The company plans to lift capital spending by at least 50% in 2010 to support 3G network expansion. VimpelCom's 3G services currently cover all regions of Russia.

VimpelCom repaid debt worth US$690 million during the third quarter. The company successfully reduced its net debt to US$5.5 billion at the end of the quarter from $6.3 billion registered in the previous quarter.

In October 2009, the company's two major shareholders Telenor and Altimo announced plans to merge their holdings in VimpelCom and Ukranian mobile operator Kyivstar to create a jointly owned telecom operator.

VimpelCom remains the second-largest wireless operator in Russia with over a 25% market share. Nevertheless, the company has a higher projected growth rate than its Russian peer Mobile Telesystems (MBT) as it continues to demonstrate the ability to succeed in emerging markets on the strength of sustained subscriber growth.

Besides maintaining its strong market position in the rapidly maturing Moscow metropolitan area, VimpleCom has successfully expanded into incipient Asian markets such as Vietnam and Cambodia. The company completed the commercial launch of its cellular operation in Cambodia in May 2009 under the Beeline brand. This was followed by the launch of wireless operation in Vietnam in July 2009. Moreover, VimpleCom recently signed an agreement to enter the Laos mobile market.

VimpelCom plans to cover more than two-third of Cambodia's population by the end of 2009 and reach over 40 provinces and 41 million people in Vietnam by the end of January 2010. The relatively lower mobile penetration in these new Asian markets offers attractive growth opportunities for the company.

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Cambodia to develop solar power to meet domestic need

PHNOM PENH: Ten companies from eight countries have sought permission to invest in solar energy projects in Cambodia, after the removal of a 15% duty on imports of the materials needed to build solar plants in August, China’s Xinhua news agency cited a local media as saying.

“We have received many proposals for our approval, and we are now instructing them to study the domestic electricity market,” the ministry Secretary of State Sat Samy was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

“Two companies, from Japan and Malaysia, are close to beginning development on solar investment projects.” The other companies are from the United States, China, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Singapore, he said.

They were planning developments capable of generating between 10 and 50 megawatts of electricity.

The Cambodian government plans to supply electricity throughout the entire country by 2020 by developing renewable energy resources, specifically looking at solar, hydro and biomass fueled power, Sat Samy said.

Energy demand in Cambodia is expected to grow 3.7% per year from 2005 to 2030 as manufacturing industries are established and more households are connected to the electricity grid, according to a report released this month by the Asian Development Bank.

Just 20% of households are currently connected to the national grid, which is fragmented into isolated power systems centred on provincial towns and cities.

Sat Samy said the unserviced households present an opportunity for environmentally friendly electricity investment, adding that the solar industry had greater potential than in more developed countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Sat Samy said he anticipated electricity generated from solar panels would range from US$0.12 cents to US$0.15 cents a kilowatt-hour, higher than the expected price of the power to be generated from hydroelectric dams under construction along the Kingdom’s rivers. -- Bernama

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Death toll of A/H1N1 flu in Cambodia increases to 5

PHNOM PENH, Nov 25, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The death toll of A/H1N1 flu in Cambodia has increased to five and the virus infected rate topped 28 cases for one week, official of the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

"The fifth person who died of the flu late last week is a 20 year-old Khmer man," Ly Sovan, deputy director of the communicable control department of Health Ministry told Xinhua by phone.

He could not elaborate in detail for fatality case. But he said that the cumulative number of confirmed cases in Cambodia are 472, up from 444 cases last week. It spreads in 13 provinces and city in the country including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal, Takeo, Kampong Speu, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Mondul Kiri, Kampot, Prey Veng and Banteay Mean Chey provinces.

According to a report from the Cambodian Heath Ministry, the ministry will receive 300,000 doses of A/H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of November from the World Health Organization.

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