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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cambodia faces new HIV threat as 'condom campaign at risk'

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Threats to a successful Cambodian condom campaign has raised fears the country could experience a second epidemic of the disease, health officials said Wednesday.

Tia Phalla, of Cambodia's National AIDS Authority, said the country's so-called 100 percent condom use programme, which provides sex education and distributes condoms to sex workers, "is facing difficulties" because of a new anti-sex trafficking law and lack of financial support.

Police began a crackdown on brothels after the new law was passed in February, which has reportedly forced prostitutes to leave condoms behind as they move from place to place.

"Enforcement of the anti-trafficking law harms the 100 percent condom use in brothels," Tia Phalla told a three-day national AIDS conference in Phnom Penh.

The percentage of sex workers who consistently used condoms with clients had already begun to drop to 94 percent in 2007 from 96 percent in 2003, according to AIDS authority data.

Additionally, only six of the country's 24 provinces and cities currently have funds to carry out the programme, Tia Phalla said.

"The main risk of a second wave of HIV infections occuring in Cambodia is from female sex workers, their clients and sweethearts," said a statement by the AIDS authority.

Before the 100 percent condom use programme began, Cambodia's overall HIV rate was the worst in the region, peaking at 3.7 percent of the population in 1997. Rates among prostitutes were estimated at 40 percent.

The aggressive condom and sex education campaign is believed to have helped drop Cambodia's overall HIV prevalence to 0.9 percent.
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Cambodia, U.S. to sign trade, agriculture, industry deal

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and the United States will sign a trade, agriculture and industry deal on Sept. 15 when the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visits here on Sept. 14-16, a senior official said Wednesday.

Negroponte's visit will make the two countries move a step forward for bilateral ties, said Sok An, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Negroponte will preside over the signing ceremony of a grant aid project for 24 million U.S. dollars in health sector, he said, adding that the fund of the health project will be operated by NGOs but monitored by the Cambodian government.

During his trip, Negroponte will meet with government officials, opposition leaders and representatives of Cambodia's civil society, a press release from the U.S. embassy said earlier this week.

As the centerpiece of the visit, the deputy secretary of state plans to meet with Hun Sen, it said.

Cambodia's apparel exports to the U.S. totaled 1.16 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of the year, up from 1.13 billion U.S. dollars in the same period of 2007, according to official statistics.
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Inflation driving Cambodia garment workers to quit

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Soaring inflation and stagnant wages have forced thousands of Cambodian garment factory workers to quit and look for better-paying jobs or return to the countryside, union leaders said Wednesday.

The development raises concerns about the future of the country's main dollar-earning industry.
"Their factory wages could no longer cope with rising food prices," said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which had 80,000 members at the start of the year.

Since then, 27,000 have quit, he said. Many are now working in entertainment clubs such as karaoke parlors, where they can earn more than at their previous jobs, he said.

"Sometimes they collect $5 to $10 in tips per night from guests, and they work even fewer hours than when they were in the factories," Chea Mony said.

Others have returned to homes in the countryside, where living costs are lower.

In April, garment manufacturers raised wages by about US$6 to an average of US$50 a month.

But union leaders said the raise has done little to help the workers cope with the high costs of living in and around Phnom Penh, where most factories are located.

Consumer inflation in July rose to 22 percent in July, up from 18.7 percent in January, the last time the figure was released.

High food prices are adversely affecting Cambodia's poor, who spend approximately 70 percent of their total household consumption on food, according to a recent World Bank analysis.

Chhay Than, Cambodian Minister of Planing, said the July inflation rate was the highest recorded in 15 years and has been driven mainly by high price of oil.

The consumer rate remained at 22 percent for August, though that figure will be officially released only next week, said Khin Song, deputy director of the ministry's price index department.

Factories have been having difficulties trying to hire new labor to fill the empty slots in their assembly lines, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, another labor group.

The garment industry is the country's major export earner and employs about 350,000 workers, mostly women.

Kaing Monika, the external affairs manager of Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the country's clothing exports in the first six months of this year were worth about US$1.35 billion, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

But the profit margin, calculated to have been around 2 percent, is becoming thinner or nearly nonexistent for most factories due to high production costs caused by skyrocketing oil prices and inflation, he said.

"The buyers did not pay higher prices, and the workers are demanding more wages because of the inflation that makes them really hard to cope with the current cost of living," he said.

He said the future of the industry "is getting very tough," adding that the competitive situation looks to tighten even more when U.S. measures, which have served as de facto limits on imports from trade rivals China and Vietnam, are lifted at the end of the year.
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NCR Launches Next Generation Family of NCR SelfServ ATMs in Cambodia to Help Drive Banks' Revenue and Improve Consumer Satisfaction

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, September 10, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- - NCR SelfServ ATMs Helps Banks to Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction

NCR Corporation (NCR:ncr corp new com

NCR 24.71, +0.35, +1.4%) today announced the launch of its new NCR SelfServ(TM) family of automated teller machines (ATMs) in Cambodia. NCR SelfServ ATMs are designed to help drive more revenue by enabling easier introduction of multi-function services and ensuring higher ATM availability to customers, while reducing environmental impact.

ATM availability is one of the key priorities for banks in Southeast Asia, and the NCR SelfServ family with its "self-healing" capability addresses this need. This new ATM family recovers automatically from software failures without intervention, cutting down recovery time previously ranging from three to four hours, to just ten or fifteen minutes, therefore ensuring higher ATM availability.

Matthew Heap, NCR industry marketing director for Asia Pacific, said, "NCR is committed to the Cambodia market and the launch of NCR SelfServ today reinforces the same. The NCR SelfServ family reflects a key NCR strategy to link the consumer experience across the ATM, the Internet and mobility. Clearly, consumers want self-service banking to be convenient, easy to use, secure and always available when and where they want. As consumers do more through the ATM channel, it becomes imperative for financial institutions to ensure their ATM network is constantly up and running. NCR is committed to deliver the best in technology and services and will continue to innovate in changing the way consumers connect, interact and transact with businesses."

Over half of ATM downtime is due to low-level maintenance tasks - often performed by branch staff - such as replacing receipt rolls and clearing cards or paper jams. With intuitive interactive graphic operator panels, NCR SelfServ allows staff to fix more faults the first time and do so more quickly, leading to better availability. NCR SelfServ units include NCR's patented two-sided thermal (2ST(TM)) receipt printers that reduce the amount of paper consumed. Its larger paper rolls and dual receipt roll dispensers also include auto-change functionality.

The new NCR SelfServ family is designed to deliver the most advanced services, including bill payments and no-envelope intelligent cash and cheque deposits, while reducing environmental impact. NCR SelfServ is also the only ATM family to feature protected USB technology. This means that modules needed to deliver future services on ATMs can be added quickly, without compromising the security of the ATM. As 2D barcode technology emerges, bill payments and other transactions that use this technology can be handled on new modules available on NCR SelfServ. Technologies such as contactless card and mobile payment systems can also be easily integrated with NCR SelfServ ATMs to improve convenience for consumers and create revenue-generation opportunities for financial institutions and other ATM deployers.

China Banking Corporation is the first bank in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia to purchase the new ATMs, with an initial order of SelfServ units to fulfill its objectives of providing more convenient banking to its customers.

About NCR Corporation

NCR 24.71, +0.35, +1.4%) is a global technology company leading how the world connects, interacts and transacts with business. NCR's assisted- and self-service solutions and comprehensive support services address the needs of retail, financial, travel, healthcare, hospitality, gaming and public sector organizations in more than 100 countries. NCR ( is headquartered in Dayton, Ohio.

NCR is a trademark of NCR Corporation in the United States and other countries.

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