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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flooding on Thailand-Cambodia border still critical

(NECN/MCOT: Sa Kaeo, Thailand) - The border district of Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew province was under water for the second day on Sunday, with more than 1,000 households being affected.
Flooding in the municipal area and Aranyaprathet's market was described as the worst in 13 years, forcing local residents and vendors to move their belongings and goods to areas with higher ground. Buddhist monks had to wade through floodwaters while on their morning alms rounds.
Many roads in the Aranyaprathet municipal area were heavily flooded and several sections of them could not be used by small passenger cars.

At the border market of Rong Kluea, which was earlier heavily inundated, saw receding levels of floodwater and was returning to business as usual. However, officials were removing large amounts of garbage brought by floodwater.

At Sa Kaew's Baan Klong Luek border checkpoint, cargo trucks from Thailand were prevented by Cambodian authorities from entering that country due to severe flooding in Cambodia's border town of Poipet. The Cambodians said there was no space left to store new goods and the local warehouses were being flooded.

Officials at the Aranyaprathet customs house said the Cambodian authorities order continued for the second day Sunday.

They said each day more than 150 trucks carrying Thai exports to Cambodia pass the Baan Klong Luek border checkpoint. It was estimated that the suspension of cargo transport caused 50 million baht in loss of revenue each day for Thai exporters.

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Mekong countries should delay dam projects for decade: study

Countries in the lower Mekong River region should delay any decisions about building hydropower dams for 10 years, an influential new study said Friday, warning of the many risks involved.

The recommendation was made in a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) report commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental advisory body that deals with all Mekong River-related activities.

The MRC -- which represents Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam -- is studying the possible construction of 11 hydropower projects on southeast Asia's longest river.

"The recommendation to defer dam construction for a 10-year period is very significant," said Tiffany Hacker, an interim communication advisor for the MRC.

Environmental groups have long objected to damming the river, arguing that it would damage fragile ecosystems.

The assessment, led by consultants with the help of the MRC, government agencies and civil society representatives, said more time was needed to study the risks that come with building dams in such a complex environment.

"The mainstream projects are likely to result in serious and irreversible environmental damage and... losses in biological diversity and ecological integrity," the report said.

It also warned that the dams would have a negative impact on fisheries and could "lead to increasing food insecurity for millions of people".

The MRC stressed that it was under no obligation to follow the report's recommendations, but Hacker told AFP that member countries were "likely to take the findings seriously".

The four countries will now study the findings "for at least six months" before deciding on how to proceed, Hacker said.

More than 60 million people rely in some way on the river, which is the world's largest inland fishery, according to the MRC.

The wildlife group WWF has warned that the Mekong giant catfish -- one of the world's biggest freshwater fish -- could be driven to extinction if plans to build hydropower dams on the river go ahead, blocking spawning grounds.
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Nine years old girl allegedly tortured

Officials are investigating allegations that a 9-year-old girl was tortured while working as a housemaid for a family in Pursat province.

Ben Sivla, a commune councillor, said the girl’s neighbours reported the case to police and rights workers on Saturday after she fled the house where she lived and worked in Krakor district’s Anlong Thnout commune.

“She ran away from home because her [employers] fought her and accused her of taking their money,” she said.

She said officials had found “many wounds” on the girl’s head, hands, face and back – some of which appeared to have been inflicted with knives and ropes – and that the girl appeared to have been the victim of ongoing abuse.

“She has both new wounds and old wounds on her body,” she said.

She said the girl – who had previously worked for two other families and was sold to her current employers in exchange for 100 kilograms of rice – was being sheltered in an orphanage pending the results of an investigation, which would include interviews with the girl’s former employers.
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