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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Human Traffickers Target Young Cambodian Men for Fishing Industry

Women and children are commonly believed to be the main targets of human traffickers. But in Cambodia, scores of men have recounted stories of modern-day slavery on board Thai and Malaysian fishing boats.

Manfred Hornung, a legal adviser with the Cambodian human rights group Licadho, says that although figures are very limited, it is possible thousands of Cambodian men have been trafficked onto regional fishing boats in recent years.

The group has interviewed more than 60 men who were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats since 2007. Their stories typically begin the same way.

"Normally these young fellows are approached by a local broker who works through connections in a commune or a village and approaches a group of young males to convince them to go to Thailand," said Hornung. "So, in most cases this broker won't tell these youngsters that they have to work on a fishing boat."

Instead they are promised jobs in construction or on plantations, then smuggled into Thailand. According to Hornung, once there, some are taken to a fishing port, where they are locked in guesthouses and eventually sold to fishing boat captains.

Conditions on the worst boats amount to nothing less than slavery said Hornung. And the young men have few ways to escape since the captain and Thai crew are often armed.

Victims say they get two or three hours sleep each day, are beaten and drugged to keep them working. Human rights advisor Hornung has heard reports that men who fell ill were thrown overboard.

Declining fish stocks close to land mean many boats spend months at sea, docking only with mother-ships to unload their catch. That makes escape impossible.

"In a current case, we have one person who stayed consecutively for three years on a boat without seeing land," said Hornung. "He was basically sold on the high seas from boat to boat over a three-year period. And these cases are not infrequent."

Hornung estimates the range of time people are enslaved on boats runs anywhere from three months to several years. And he adds none of the 60 men the group Licadho interviewed received any pay for their work.

Experts say Cambodia's poverty drives most of the trafficking in the country.

Louise Rose, a victim protection officer for The Asia Foundation, says a survey of 258 Cambodian men - most of whom worked on foreign fishing boats - found that debt had driven half to seek work abroad. But two other factors were even more significant.

"Lack of food was a huge one," said Rose. "Three-quarters of the men reported not enough food being a motivator for migrating. And the other one that was even higher again - no source of income. That was about 78 percent."

One in five of the men in the Asia Foundation survey said they had worked in slave-like conditions on Thai and Malaysian fishing boats.

Thailand's multi-billion dollar fishing industry demands a supply of cheap labor. And the stories of some Cambodian men indicate unscrupulous agents and ship owners are prepared to meet that need in any way possible.

Anti-trafficking groups say the solution is for regional governments to work harder to protect migrant workers and to prosecute those guilty of abuses.

But that is not happening. In Cambodia, activists say, the laws against trafficking are weak, and until the laws and law enforcement improve, many young men here will remain at risk of forced labor abroad.
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Elixir Gaming Technologies Announces Expansion of Gaming Machines on Participation with NagaWorld

Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc. (NYSE Amex: EGT) (“Elixir Gaming” or “the Company”), a leading provider of electronic gaming machines on a participation basis to the Pan-Asian gaming industry, today announced that it has entered into a Supplemental Agreement (“Agreement”) to the December 2009 Machine Operation Participation Consolidation Agreement with NagaWorld Limited (“NagaWorld”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Hong Kong listed.

NagaCorp Ltd. (HKSE:3918), to place an additional 30 electronic gaming machine seats on a participation basis at its NagaWorld casino resort. The Agreement increases the total maximum number of machines which the Company is permitted to place and operate at NagaWorld from the original 640 seats to 670 seats. Elixir Gaming’s operations within NagaWorld currently consist of approximately 590 gaming machine seats, which achieved average win per unit per day (WUD) of over $180 for the past six months on a growing installed machine base. NagaWorld is a luxury casino resort in Cambodia and is the only licensed full service casino in and around the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Under the terms of the Agreement, Elixir Gaming will place 30 additional electronic gaming machine seats (“Additional Machines”) on NagaWorld’s casino lobby floor, which will serve to complement and expand its VIP slot area established under the Company’s December 2009 contract. Elixir Gaming anticipates the Additional Machines to be in operation in July 2010 following the floor space renovation by NagaWorld. The Additional Machines will be sourced from the Company’s existing inventory and the purchase of new machines.

All the terms regarding operations and revenue sharing under the December 2009 Machine Operation Participation Consolidation Agreement with NagaWorld will apply to the Additional Machines. For example, Elixir Gaming and NagaWorld will have joint control over the operation of all the Additional Machines, including floor staff and respective audit rights. Elixir Gaming and NagaWorld will share the revenue and certain operating costs, such as marketing and floor staff, at a 25% / 75% split, respectively, and Elixir Gaming will receive on a daily basis its portion of the daily win in cash. The contract duration is six years and expires on February 28, 2016.

In consideration for the Agreement, Elixir Gaming shall pay to NagaWorld an upfront commitment fee of $1.0 million for the Additional Machines.

The commitment fee will be paid in mid June 2010.

Given the Additional Machines serve as an extension to the floor area designated by the December 2009 contract under which Elixir Gaming was entitled to place 200 machines for a commitment fee of $4.1 million, Elixir Gaming will be entitled to 100% of the WUD from both the Additional Machines and the 200 machines under the December 2009 contract until it has received the accumulated total of $6.8 million.

This represents the aggregate of the $1.0 million commitment fee from the Additional Machines, the $4.1 million commitment fee from the machines under the December 2009 contract, and Elixir Gaming’s 25% share of the WUD for the total 230 machine seats. While Elixir Gaming collects 100% of the cash gross net win from the machines subject to the commitment fee arrangement until such time as the Company recuperates the commitment fee plus its share of the WUD of these machines, only the Company’s share of 25% is recorded as net revenue.

Clarence Chung, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Elixir Gaming, commented, “We are pleased to work with our partner NagaWorld to continue to expand our jointly operated slot floor operations. With the addition of these 30 seats plus the remaining 50 seats under our December 2009 contract, Elixir Gaming’s installed machine base at NagaWorld is expected to reach 670 seats during July of 2010 covering most of the currently available prime ground floor slot space at NagaWorld. Given these 30 additional gaming machine seat placements are intended to expand our existing and well-performing VIP slot area, we anticipate they will provide us attractive growth in participation revenue and cash flow and enable a relatively rapid payback period on our commitment fee.”

About Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc.

Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc. (NYSE Amex: EGT) is a leading provider of electronic gaming machines on a participation basis to the Pan-Asian gaming industry. The Company secures long-term contracts to provide electronic gaming machines and related systems to premier hotels and other well-located gaming venues in Asia. The Company retains ownership of the gaming machines and systems and receives recurring daily fees based on an agreed upon percentage of the net gaming win per machine and provides on-site maintenance. The Company has established a strategic presence in the Asia Pacific region with a focus on the Philippines and Cambodia markets. For more information please visit www.elixirgaming.com : .

About NagaCorp Ltd.

NagaCorp Ltd. (3918.HK) operates NagaWorld, the only licensed 5-Star Hotel Casino Resort in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. NagaCorp holds a casino license issued by the Royal Government of Cambodia, which gives the company the rights to operate the casino for 70 years commencing January 1995 with 41 years exclusivity within a 200 kilometer radius of Phnom Phen (except the Cambodia-Vietnam boarder area, Bokor, Kirirom Mountains, and Sihanoukville.) One of Cambodia’s most popular tourist destinations, NagaWorld currently has, among others, 508 rooms, 176 table games, a premium meeting, incentive travel, convention, and exhibition (MICE) facility, a retail shopping area, a collection of restaurants and bars, a karaoke lounge, and a spa. NagaCorp Ltd. is incorporated in Cayman Islands with limited liability and its securities are listed on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements concerning Elixir Gaming, within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Those forward-looking statements include statements regarding expectations for the business of Elixir Gaming, its working capital requirements and future revenue and profitability. Such statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, and actual circumstances, events or results may differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to differences include, but are not limited to, risks related to the costs incurred by Elixir Gaming in defending shareholder litigation and the outcome of any judgment or settlement with respect to such litigation, Elixir Gaming’s inability to place gaming machines at significant levels, whether the gaming machines placed generate the expected amount of net win, the ability of Elixir Gaming to acquire additional capital as and when needed, the ability of Elixir Gaming to collect revenue and protect its assets and those other risks set forth in Elixir Gaming’s annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009 filed with the SEC on March 30, 2010 and subsequently filed quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. Elixir Gaming cautions readers not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. Elixir Gaming does not undertake, and specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise such statements to reflect new circumstances or unanticipated events as they occur.
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More Government Appointments Rankle Opposition

The National Assembly is expected to approve 11 new high-level government appointments on Thursday, nine of which are additional posts that opponents say are a waste of money.

The nine new appointments are for members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with positions mainly for secretaries of state, but members of the opposition say they are unnecessary in an ever-expanding Cabinet.

“We don’t need to increase more pay of Cabinet members while Cambodians are facing poverty and the global economic crisis,” said Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party. “It is not necessary to appoint more appointees as Cabinet members. In this situation, it increases the bureaucracy, corruption and expenditures. The Sam Rainsy Party will not support the increase of the Cabinet members.”

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the appointments may be a way to help maintain stability within the government, but they would cost more money.

“We are very concerned about the shortage of national resources for supplying or supporting the increase of government members larger and larger,” he said.

The Cabinet has grown significantly since 1993, when there were 55 ministers and secretaries of state, including the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and other senior ministers. By 2008, there were 258, following increases in each five-year mandate of the government.

Thursday’s new appointments, which are in addition to increases already made in 2008, will bring the total to 269.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep said the appointments would lead to more effective government in the long term and so would not cost the government more money overall.

The appointments include: Chheang Yanara, an adviser who will become “delegate minister” to Prime Minister Hun Sen; Yuth Phuthong, former Koh Kong governor, to secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture; Bun Sambo, personal interpreter of Hun Sen, to secretary of state at the Council of Ministers; and others.

Thursday’s vote is expected to reshuffle two Funcinpec officials: Tum Sambo as secretary of state to the Ministry of Defense; and Tan Vutha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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Unions Want Longer Contracts for Workers

Labor activists met with international union reps in Kandal province on Sunday as part of a wider effort to improve contracts workers have with their employers.

The educational meeting was an effort to convince workers to refuse short-term labor contracts in favor of longer guarantees.

More than 100 garment factory workers met with union representatives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Belgium.

Of Cambodia’s 400 legal and illegal factories, about 60 percent of them apply short-term contracts for workers, said Ath Thum, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, during the campaign.

Short-term contracts put pressure on employees, who can easily lose their jobs, he said. They push employees to work longer hours and dissuades them from joining the trade unions that can protect them, he said.

“We explained to them the inconvenience of the short-term contract,” he said, adding that they were encouraging workers to “gather in one voice to claim the elimination” of such contracts. “If employers continue to use these contracts, it means they abuse the law.”

Cambodia’s $2.4-billion garment sector employs more than 300,000 workers, with wages ranging between $30 to $100 per month. The industry has struggled to compete with other nearby countries, where labor can be cheaper or more skilled or both.

Ath Thum said the reliance on short-term contracts meant limited experience for workers, adding to the the lack of competitiveness. Ath Thum said he plans to lead a campaign against the contracts in garment industrial zones in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kampong Speu and Preah Sihanouk.

“I wish for employers to stop from now on the short-term contract,” said On Phally, a garment factory worker from Takeo province who attended Sunday’s meeting.

Yin Serey Vathanak, national project coordinator for the International Labor Organization, said Sunday’s meeting was also to help the government “understand what workers are facing.”

“The workers can’t support these contracts, and the government must settle this problem,” he said.

Koy Tep Daravuth, director of the conflict resolution department of the Ministry of Labor, said short-term contracts were legal and were “no violation” of worker rights.

Still, labor leaders from other countries said Sunday Cambodian unions need to push for the elimination of short-term employment.

“There is a lot of violence, a lot of problems, with short-term contracting,” said Ferdra Vanhuyse, Asia coordinator for the Belgium-based World Solidarity Movement.

She said her organization hopes to bring short-term contracts onto the political agenda at an annual ILO meeting in Geneva that begins in June.
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