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Friday, November 07, 2008

IMF says Cambodian economic growth to slow in 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's economy will grow by a modest 4.8 percent next year due to slowdowns in key sectors and a drop in foreign direct investment caused by the global economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

The projected decline for 2009 comes after several years in which Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, has enjoyed strong growth. The economy expanded about 10.3 percent last year, according to the IMF.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said in April that the economy grew an average 11.1 percent annually in 2004-2007. The government has forecast a growth rate of 7.2 percent for this year.

David Cowen, IMF's deputy division chief for Asia and Pacific Department, said growth this year would drop to around 6.5 percent, the same projection given by the Asian Development Bank last month.

He spoke at a press conference wrapping up his two-week mission to discuss the economic outlook with Cambodian officials and donor representatives.

"After a robust start, growth momentum eased over the course of 2008, and more recently, the economy has begun to experience adverse effects from global financial stress," the IMF said in a statement.

Foreign direct investment in 2009 is expected to be 25-30 percent lower than the $750 million the country has received this year, Cowen said.

Cowen said Cambodia, which has a very narrow production and export base, will not be immune to the slowdowns seen in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

He said garment exports — Cambodia's main dollar-earning industry — will weaken further, as will the tourism industry.

Construction, which has benefited from a recent real estate boom, will also slow down "partly as a result of tighter global liquidity conditions," the IMF statement said.
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Cambodia: HIV-positive Man Arrested In Teen Sex

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: An HIV-positive Cambodian man was arrested after allegedly paying an underage orphan to have unprotected sex with him at a rural treatment center for the disease, police said Friday (7 Nov).

Phat Sarath, 37, was arrested Thursday (6 Nov) after his wife informed police she had walked in on her husband having sex with the 15-year-old girl, said Ngan Sary, a district police chief of Takeo province in southern Cambodia.

Phat Sarath and his wife are both HIV positive and have been receiving life-prolonging treatment at the local center, which provides care for HIV-AIDS patients and also houses orphans, he said. Takeo province is 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of capital, Phnom Penh.

The girl was an orphan who lived at the center. Phat Sarath is accused of having paid her 5,000 riel ($1.25) on three occasions in October to have sex with him, the policeman said.

"He knows that he is HIV-positive and still had sex with the girl without using a condom. His act is unforgivable," Ngan Sary said. He could face up to 30 years in prison.

Under a Cambodian law on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, the man could face 10 to 15 years in prison for having unprotected sex while knowingly infected with the HIV virus.

Sex with a minor under age 18 carries a sentence of up to 15 years, Ngan Sary said. The man has not been formally charged.

In 2006, an HIV-positive Cambodian man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for intentionally trying to infect his wife with the virus that causes AIDS. (AP)
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Subregional summit pushes Single Visa Scheme for five SE Asian countries

By Han Quao

HANOI, Delegates attending the 3rd ACMECS Summit called for the implementation of Single Visa Scheme on Friday to facilitate entry into five southeastern Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

ACMECS is short for Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya and Mekong are three mother rivers that culturally and historically unify these five countries in heart of Southeast Asia.

"ACMECS shall expedite the implementation of single visa for tourists outside ACMECS to boost tourism in this area,"said Oknha Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce on Friday at ACMECS Business Forum, which was held on the sideline of the summit.

The move, allowing a tourist with one visa to travel through five ACMECS countries, will help ACMECS countries move towards the goal of"Five Countries, One Destination," said the chamber official.

The five southeastern Asian countries are rich in tourism resources, with well-known tourist spots in each country, like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Sukhothai in Thailand.

The Cambodian chamber official said tourism has contributed significantly to the Cambodian economic growth. In Cambodia where double digit growth has been registered for the past four years, tourism sector grew 18.5 percent in 2007 over the previous year.

As a pilot project for ACMECS Single Visa Scheme, Cambodia and Thailand signed agreement on the implementation of ACMECS Single Visa last year. According to Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thailand is now amending laws and regulations in response to the agreement.

In addition to the single visa for ACMECS countries, delegates at the summit also proposed the issuance of ACMECS Travel Card. With similar function as the APEC card, ACMECS card will be issued to people of ACMECS countries, first to business persons maybe, for traveling within the five member countries, without applying for any visa, according to a proposal submitted by the ACMECS Business Council at the summit.

To boost the dynamic cooperation within ACMECS framework, the council also proposed that ACMECS should expedite the granting of border pass to residents living in border areas and motor vehicles to travel across the border and go further into another country.

Considering that Thailand is a country with right-steering-wheel vehicles, the council urged other ACMECS member countries to allow the use of right-steering-wheel vehicles for tourism purpose and enable Thai tourists to drive and visit four neighboring countries.

The current global financial crisis has posed difficulty on many sectors and tourism is hit hard. To deal with this, delegates at the summit called for closer cooperation within ACMECS framework, which has just echoed the theme of this year's summit "Deepening Cooperation Towards A More Effective And Dynamic ACMECS".
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