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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cambodia Approves 2.8 Bln Public Investment Plan

Cambodia's Council of Ministers approved a three-year plan drafted by the Ministry of Planning to spend 2.8 billion U.S. dollars on public investment from 2010 to the end of 2012, national media reported on Monday.

Cambodia's Council of Ministers approved a three-year plan drafted by the Ministry of Planning to spend 2.8 billion U.S. dollars on public investment from 2010 to the end of 2012, national media reported on Monday.

The plan related to 536 projects, 389 of which are direct investment with the remainder technical assistance projects, the Cambodia Daily quoted the council as saying.

Minister of Planning Chhay Than said earlier that the majority of the budget would be spent on infrastructure and irrigation systems to boost agricultural production.

The list of planned projects also includes the construction of major roadways, hospitals and schools, Than said.

The new three-year plan is part of the broader national development planning strategy 2006 to 2010, which was approved by the National Assembly in May 2006.

The entire state budget approved for 2009 totals approximately 1.9 billion U.S. dollars, meaning that each year the proposed infrastructure projects would consume the equivalent of about half of the current national budget.
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Cambodia debates merits of land sales

PHNOM PENH, At first glance, one could hardly ask for better circumstances for bilateral trade agreements: Cambodia is economically poor, but rich in farmland; Gulf states lack land to grow food, but have money to pay for it. So Cambodia has been signing deals with Kuwait and Qatar to help develop its agricultural sector.

Cambodian officials, however, refuse to disclose details of the agreements, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Such secrecy has triggered warnings that foreign investors could find themselves embroiled in violent land disputes, which have plagued Cambodia in recent years.

Those concerns were raised recently by the UN’s committee on economic, social and cultural rights. Committee experts asked Cambodia’s representative, Sun Suon, “whether everything, including companies, land rights, could be bought; whether a rice concession made to Kuwait could have negative effects”, according to a May 12 release.

Mr Suon said Cambodia “wished to develop its rice exports and therefore welcomed not just Kuwait, but all countries who wished to invest in agriculture”.

Although he said Cambodia’s justice system “had room to improve”, he said the country operated within a legal framework to protect its citizens.

The UN was not overly reassured. Its conclusions, released on May 22, noted: “The committee was gravely concerned that since the year 2000, over 100,000 people were evicted in Phnom Penh alone.”

Opposition politicians and non-governmental organisations are concerned that agricultural agreements could follow the same pattern of evictions as deals involving such sectors as property development, forestry and mining.

“Nobody has much information on this deal or many other similar deals that the Cambodian government makes with foreign investors,” said David Pred, Cambodia director of Bridges Across Borders, which is involved in land rights issues. “Very often, affected communities are not made aware that their land has been granted as a concession until the bulldozers turn up.”

Son Chhay, an opposition MP, predicted that the implementation of the agricultural agreements would lead to violence.

“When the time comes, no doubt we will see that the armed forces will be sent to break down houses and shoot people, as they have in the past, to force them off the land,” said Mr Chhay, of the Sam Rainsy Party.

Until September, Mr Chhay chaired the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs and international co-operation, which he said was involved in negotiating deals with Kuwait and Qatar. But even so, he could not obtain copies of documents outlining the agreements. He claimed his deputy chairman, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), went over his head, attending meetings from which he was excluded.

Un Ning, the former deputy chairman, denied he had any information about agreements made between Cambodia and Gulf states. “I haven’t dealt with this affair. I was not involved in talking about this.”

Cheang Vun, who replaced Mr Chhay as head of the commission, said: “I cannot help you with that.”

Long Visalo, a secretary of state for the ministry of foreign affairs and international co-operation, also refused to discuss the agreements. “I have no duty to talk to you,” he said when contacted by phone.

Mr Chhang said a culture of silence has infected Cambodian politics since a 1997 coup led by Hun Sen, the prime minister, which consolidated CPP power and marginalised opposition parties.

This lack of transparency allows ruling elites to enrich themselves by selling off the country’s natural resources, he said.

The government has made some information regarding the dollar value of deals with Gulf states public: Qatar intends to invest US$200 million (Dh734m) “in rice farmland” as well as provide a loan for irrigation systems, according to a speech given last year by Mr Sen.

After returning from an official visit to Kuwait on Jan 16, Cambodia’s minister of foreign affairs, Hor Namhong, told reporters the countries signed a memorandum of understanding, with Kuwait agreeing to finance a $350,000 irrigation project that would cover 130,000 hectares of rice fields.

But the government has not divulged what Kuwait or Qatar will receive in return. Critics say the devil is in the details.

Mr Chhay and others suspect Qatari and Kuwaiti companies will receive land concessions of 99 years (it is illegal foreigners to own land), as other companies have.

Many agree that Cambodia’s agricultural sector needs an overhaul; its rice farmers produce lower yields than their counterparts in neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand. But Mr Chhay said it was up to the government to invest in infrastructure and aggressively seek export markets.

“You don’t need Middle-Eastern countries who have no expertise in rice farming to come here and take land from farmers. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

“There’s potential for this to be a win-win situation,” he added. “Farmers should sell rice to the government and the government should sell rice to Kuwait.”

An April report by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute advised developing countries to find investors willing to work with small farmers. In return for such investments as credit and technical assistance, farmers would be contracted to sell their crops to the investor. According to the institute, land agreements similar to those in Cambodia have proliferated globally since the food crises of 2007-2008.

“Details about the status of the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are still murky,” said the report entitled Land Grabbing by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries.

The institute urged developing countries to encourage foreign investment in agriculture, but to ensure that deals are made transparently and include measures to protect local residents.

The Kuwait Embassy in Bangkok, which covers Cambodia, did not respond to requests for comment.

jferrie@thenational.ae
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vietnam, Cambodia upgrade two border gates

Two border gates in the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang and the Cambodian province of Kampot will be upgraded to become national border gates.

The People’s Committee of Kien Giang province and the Administrative Committee of Kampot province held a ceremony on May 29 to launch the work for Giang Thanh border gate of Kien Giang and Ton Hon border gate of Kampot. They also inaugurated border landmark No 302.

These efforts aim to satisfy the daily needs of people from both countries and give a new impetus to bilateral trade and import-export activities.

Apart from the Giang Thanh border gate, Kien Giang province also has another border gate at Ha Tien, which has become one of the busiest international border gates in the Mekong Delta region over the past three years. Exports through this border gate reached nearly US$30 million in the first five months of this year, an annual rise of 30 percent. Read more!

Cambodia to have first airplane taxiway next month

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia will have its first taxiway next month in Phnom Penh International Airport, a path that connects the runway to where airplanes park to increase the flight capacity of the airport, local media reported on Friday.

The US$9 million taxiway, which is 1,250 meters long by 44 meters wide, roughly the same size as the existing runway, will allow for more takeoffs and landings each day, Khek Norinda, communications and marketing manager for Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA), was quoted by English newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

SCA, which is financing construction, is a French-owned company and manages Phnon Penh International Airport, as well as the airport in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, under a contract with the government that runs until 2040.

The construction began in May of last year and will be finished in June of this year.

Currently, only 10 passenger planes can land or take off in an hour from the airfield at Phnom Penh's airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun, director of the airport's engineering department. That will jump to at least 16 planes with the planned taxiway.

"It is the first parallel taxiway for Phnom Penh International Airport," he added. The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation also has a master plan to build a parallel taxiway at Siem Reap International Airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Out of a temple in remote Cambodia, a world-class ballet dancer is discovered

By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Sokvannara Sar leaps during his dance routine as shown in Anne Bass’ documentary, “Dancing Across Borders.” Photo provided by Pacific Northwest Ballet.



While visiting Cambodia in 2000, American arts patron Anne H. Bass witnessed a rising star. Then 15 years old, Sokvannara “Sy” Sar performed a dance at Cambodia’s famous Preah Kahn temple and caught Bass’ eye.

Nine years later, Sar is a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, and Bass has documented his journey every step of the way. On May 25, Sar’s story, in a film titled “Dancing Across Borders,” produced and directed by Bass, was showcased at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Sar’s journey began on the streets of Cambodia.

“I pretty much just followed my friends,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was really. I just wanted to try [dancing] out.”

At the age of 9, Sar began his dance education at the Wat Bo School and eventually found himself performing as a lead at the Preah Kahn temple. Bass happened to catch one of his performances.

After Bass returned home to the United States, she continued to think about Sar’s performance of the fisherman’s dance.

“I just kept thinking about … the fact that Cambodian dancers, especially male dancers, don’t have much of a future,” Bass said. “He was just so unbelievably and naturally gifted. He was a totally charismatic performer. The next thing I know, I was writing a letter to him and inviting him to dance ballet.”

Bass served as Sar’s sponsor on his trip to the United States.

Sar arrived a few weeks before turning the age of 17, an unusually late starting age for a ballet dancer.

He did not speak any English and was initially rejected from the School of American Ballet (SAB). Peter Boal, then a principal dancer and faculty at SAB, felt that he was not ready and said there was a language barrier.

“Already the cards were stacked against him,” Boal said in the film.

Sar also had to deal with the culture shock of moving to a different country. He enrolled in a high school and received his diploma in three years.

“It was tough,” Sar said. “I had never left home. There was nobody around who I could talk to. I was a little bit of an outsider.”

“He didn’t like anything from the standpoint of food,” Bass said. “We tried everything. He just really missed his mother’s cooking.”

One summer of intense training later, Sar was accepted into SAB and began classes with children ages 6 to 9.

To make up for lost time, he spent hours studying privately with ballet teacher Olga Kostritzky.

“It wasn’t easy,” Kostrizky said in the film. “Every day he would go through an enormous amount of material.”

“It’s a one in 1,000 chance that this could work, and I think we found that one,” Boal said.

In January 2006, the U.S. State Department in Cambodia organized an evening of cultural performances to celebrate the new embassy building. Sar was among the list of those invited to perform.

“[The Cambodians] are so proud of him,” said Roland Eng, a former Cambodian ambassador to the United States.

When Boal left SAB in 2006 to become the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, he invited Sar to attend the company’s school. Sar enrolled one year later.

That was the same year Bass developed the idea for the documentary.

“When he first came here, I got a video camera so I could film his classes to send a record of his progress to his mother,” Bass said.

“That clip just kept running until we had a movie,” Sar said.

“I hope that some people who come to this film with no feeling for ballet might develop an interest in dance,” Bass said.

“Maybe [this film will] inspire some kids in this country or in my country,” Sar said.

Bass hopes that the film will also prompt viewers to offer their support when they recognize unusual talent, like in her case with Sar.

“[The film] is good because it’s not just about me.” Sar said. “It’s just a story. … There are not many Cambodians who do ballet. It’s more about that than me.”

Bass plans to continue attending film festivals to distribute the documentary. In January, she previewed the film in Cambodia to great success. Bass and Sar plan to return to show the film to children in various schools.

As for Sar, now 24, his future plans involve dance, academics, and some self-discovery.

“I think I’m going to stick around in PNB for a while,” he said. “I’m going to go back to school, college, just part-time, but I’m not quitting dance. … I’m just trying to figure out what exactly I want to do as an individual,” he said. “I’m not sure specifically who I want to be yet.” ♦
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Cambodia to have first airplane taxiway next month

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia will have its first taxiway next month in Phnom Penh International Airport, a path that connects the runway to where airplanes park to increase the flight capacity of the airport, local media reported on Friday.

The US$9 million taxiway, which is 1,250 meters long by 44 meters wide, roughly the same size as the existing runway, will allow for more takeoffs and landings each day, Khek Norinda, communications and marketing manager for Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA), was quoted by English newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

SCA, which is financing construction, is a French-owned company and manages Phnon Penh International Airport, as well as the airport in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, under a contract with the government that runs until 2040.

The construction began in May of last year and will be finished in June of this year.

Currently, only 10 passenger planes can land or take off in an hour from the airfield at Phnom Penh's airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun, director of the airport's engineering department. That will jump to at least 16 planes with the planned taxiway.

"It is the first parallel taxiway for Phnom Penh International Airport," he added. The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation also has a master plan to build a parallel taxiway at Siem Reap International Airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun.
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Resistance to malaria drug growing, experts warn

Growing resistance to the world's most effective drug treatment for malaria in Cambodia is a development that could threaten the lives of millions of people, scientists warned today.

Malaria experts said that the problem in Cambodia must be contained as there were no other effective drug treatments available. The drugs are now taking up to four or five days to clear all malaria parasites from the blood rather than two or three days, according to the UK study by the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit.

Dr Glenn McConkey, a malaria expert at Leeds university, said: "This could be a major threat in terms of drug resistance."

He said there was a danger that the prevalence of resistance to artemesinin could become as widespread as that to chloroquine, which used to be the mainstay of drug treatment.

"It's a matter of time before resistance to artemesinin in widespread. The concern is that it will spread before we can develop a new drug to replace it," said McConkey.

Professor Brian Greenwood, professor of tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said resistance to the drug was at present only partial and patients should still be cured if they took artemisinins in combination with another antimalarial, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.

He said that Cambodian pharmacies were supplying patients with artemisnin alone, or flawed courses of the drug were sold that did not contain enough active ingredients to kill the malaria parasite.


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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cambodian PM calls for more ASEAN-EU partnership, cooperation

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Senon Thursday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) to continue strengthening partnership and cooperation in response to the global challenges.

"I strongly believe that ASEAN and the EU can play a more active and more forceful role in the world," the premier said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

"There is no room for a passive role for us, and we - ASEAN and the EU collectively - need to take on the global challenges with head on," he added.

The 17th AEMM which opened here Thursday will focus on ASEAN-EU's enhanced partnership and cooperation, as well as the world economic and financial crisis and other regional and international issues.

The meeting under the theme of "ASEAN-EU Partnership for Peace, Economic Growth and Development" is also scheduled to address issues of ASEAN integration, food and energy security, and the environment.

Hun Sen, in his speech, reviewed and spoke highly of the ASEAN-EU cooperation, saying "our close relations at present are becoming ever stronger and covering a wide range of areas."

The premier also underlined six areas for further enhancing the cooperation and partnership between the ASEAN and EU, such as continuing implementing the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, moving quickly to realize the EU/EC's accession to the TAC (the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia), supporting each other in the areas of integration and the community building process, and strengthening ASEAN-EU cooperation in the regional and international forum.

On the issue of the global economic and financial crisis, Hun Sen said "the current crisis presents both the danger and the opportunity for some countries, particularly those in the developing world."

But he warned that "the danger is that some countries may resort to protectionism." He asked to "reform the international financial institutions" to serve the interests of all.

This biennial ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting were attended by representatives from all the 10 ASEAN countries and the 27 EU member states, as well as the delegates from ASEAN Secretariat and EU Commission.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong and Jan Kohout, Czech deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs whose country is current EU president, are co-presidents of the meeting.

The 16th Ministerial Meeting between ASEAN and EU was held in Germany in 2007.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Activists in Cambodia urge release of Suu Kyi

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Rights activists demanded freedom for Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, ahead of a series of meetings between European Union and Southeast Asian ministers in Cambodia.

Dozens of Western, Myanmar and Cambodian rights campaigners demonstrated at the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh, urging ministers to pressure the ruling junta to release the opposition leader and other political prisoners.

"We are asking ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) that is meeting with the EU (European Union) to raise this issue to be discussed during the meeting," said Kek Galabru, president of a local rights group.

"ASEAN must push for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," she added. Asian and European foreign ministers on Tuesday called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar political prisoners after two days of Asia-Europe meetings in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

She is on trial in military-ruled Myanmar where she faces up to five years in jail on charges of violating her house arrest after an incident in which an American man swam to her house.

Representatives from the EU and the 10-member ASEAN were scheduled to attend a welcome dinner Wednesday evening, ahead of Thursday meetings intended to focus mainly on cooperation between the two regions amid the global financial crisis.

"According to the official agenda of the meeting, they will not discuss about issues of any specific country," Cambodia's foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

"We don't know whether the ministers will raise the issue of Myanmar to be discussed or not. If they do, it will be an unofficial agenda," he added.

Several local diplomats, however, told AFP they expected Myanmar to be at the forefront of discussions.

Myanmar's treatment of prisoners, along with North Korea's recent nuclear test, dominated much of the agenda during Hanoi's ministerial meetings this week.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for 13 of the past 19 years since her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in 1990 polls but was not allowed to take power.

The Nobel laureate took the stand for the first time on Tuesday in her trial at Yangon's notorious Insein jail and argued she had not violated the terms of her house arrest.
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Cambodia breaks ground on its first overpass

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) — Cambodia broke ground at its capital's busiest intersection Wednesday for what will be the country's first road overpass.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of the project, intended to reduce Phnom Penh's increasing traffic problems, at a ceremony opening another new bridge at the intersection.

"It is will be the first overpass bridge of Cambodia," Hun Sen said at the ceremony.

Officials said construction of the 308-metre (1,010-foot) overpass would cost more than six million dollars and would be finished within one year.

The premier said Phnom Penh had changed from "ghost city, a city that has no people, and a shocked city, into a vivid city."

All residents of Phnom Penh were forced into the countryside during the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime, as the hardline communists enslaved the nation on collective farms.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Hun Sen also called on the people to respect traffic laws, saying that doing so meant they "respect their own lives."

Traffic fatalities have more than doubled in Cambodia over the past five years, becoming the second-biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS.

Better roads and more vehicles have contributed heavily to this toll, but bad driving is the main cause behind most accidents, police say.

Cambodia has finally begun to emerge from decades of civil conflict, but has been hit with gridlock as well as a building boom that has begun to change radically the face of its once-sleepy capital.

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In the Cambodian Judges' Court

The judiciary has the power to investigate alleged fraud at the war-crimes tribunal

By JOHN A. HALL From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.


The Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia is facing a serious crisis stemming from unresolved allegations of a kickback scheme. Yet the United Nations, the Cambodian government and donor nations aren't dealing effectively with the allegations. That task has been handed to the tribunal judges, who have a golden opportunity to make a difference.

Cambodian government officials are alleged to have received kickbacks from Cambodian employees in exchange for securing them lucrative positions at the court. These are serious allegations. Refusing to address them could deal a fatal blow to the court's credibility. That would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who seek justice for the Khmer Rouge's crimes. It would also be a blow for the international donors who funded this important court.

With the trials now underway, the need to finally address the allegations is urgent. And it's becoming clear that the tribunal's international and Cambodian judges are the court's best option to investigate and clear up the corruption claims. The Cambodian judges have vigorously denied that they have in any way been involved in improper practices. All the more reason, then, for them to investigate alleged corruption at their court with similar vigor.

They have already missed one opportunity. In March, defense lawyers for Nuon Chea, the former chief ideologist of the Khmer Rouge, filed a request asking the two co-investigating judges who are responsible for judicial investigation in the civil law tribunal to obtain the results of a U.N. investigation into possible corruption at the tribunal and to launch a review of the corruption allegations. The lawyers argued that this was needed to "assess what, if any, corrosive effects such alleged corruption has had on the administration of justice thus far at the [tribunal]" and to determine whether their client's right to a fair trial has been compromised. Co-Investigating Judges You Bun Leng and Marcelle Lemonde rejected that request.

The judges said that they lacked the jurisdiction to proceed as the requested information was "totally foreign to the facts covered by the current judicial investigations." They added that they couldn't intervene in response to "speculations as to hypothetical negative effects" of corruption, and that an administrative inquiry "would be superfluous" as the U.N. and Cambodian government were "seised of the situation." The defense teams filed an appeal May 4 with the tribunal's pre-trial chamber asking the three Cambodian and two international judges to reconsider the ruling of the co-investigating judges, arguing that "because exposure of the alleged scheme would likely discredit senior officials and embarrass the U.N., neither institution possesses the requisite impartiality to deal with the matter." Lawyers representing civil parties have since joined the appeal.

If the judges continue to reject requests to investigate the allegations, they risk seeing their tribunal's successes overshadowed by persistent defense claims that corruption renders the trials unfair. Lawyers for civil parties have correctly warned that "arguments in this vein would not only undermine the principle of finality of proceedings, but would render elusive the justice and closure for which the victims of these proceedings have been waiting."

Judges have a responsibility to ensure the proper administration of justice within their court. The claim of the co-investigating judges that they lacked jurisdiction to investigate allegations of corruption involving court personnel was arguably in conflict with this core judicial responsibility. Moreover, a court must satisfy itself that the overall proceedings are fair. Yet the allegations implicate individuals responsible for making legal decisions and administrators and staff responsible for collecting, transcribing, translating and producing the evidence.

The judges' decision is crucial because there are few remaining options if the corruption allegations are ever going to be properly investigated. High-level negotiations between the U.N. and the Cambodian government to produce a credible investigative mechanism failed in April, and donor nations appear unwilling to press the point.

Donor nations have also failed to pressure the court into dealing with the allegations. Last year the U.N. Development Program froze donor funds to the Cambodian side of the tribunal pending a resolution of the allegations, but donors have recently signaled a willingness to support the tribunal regardless. Canberra has asked the UNDP to release Australian funds, stating that it is generally satisfied with the progress being made at the tribunal. When the UNDP refused, Japan provided more than $4 million directly to the Cambodian government -- enough to fund the tribunal through the end of the year.

In an apparent tit-for-tat response to continuing calls for an investigation of Cambodian court officials, Phay Siphan, secretary of state and spokesman at the council of ministers, stated on May 11 that the Cambodian government is currently investigating allegations of undisclosed wrongdoing involving U.N. court personnel. He said: "We have a file of who's the enemy of the [tribunal]. We don't want to expose any wrongdoing of the U.N. side in order to discredit the [tribunal]. We know who's the enemy of the tribunal and we know who's trying to manipulate what's going on. One day, if we feel the need to release it, we will release it." Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consulatant for the defense team of Nuon Chea, characterized this as "the childish, thuggish behavior we have come to expect from the government."

With the U.N. stymied, donor nations lacking political will and leadership, and the Cambodian government stonewalling and raising counterallegations, all eyes are now on the tribunal's judges. Trial Chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright has stated that "one of the major issues that has been troubling for all the judges is that of corruption within the [tribunal]. We welcome all efforts to ensure that the allegations are dealt with fully and fairly and that independent measures are put in place to make sure [that claims] are resolved in a transparent manner." The judges now have an opportunity to put these fine sentiments into concrete action and throw their weight behind a competent, credible and transparent investigation of the allegations. It is time for them to deal with an issue which if left unresolved will expose all future judgments to crippling legal challenges.

Mr. Hall is an associate professor of law and research fellow in the Center for Global Trade and Development at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

KRouge leader Pol Pot 'not a Cambodian patriot'

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The former Khmer Rouge prison chief told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes trial on Tuesday that the regime leader Pol Pot "had blood on his hands" as he pitted his country against neighbouring Vietnam.

"I did not think of Pol Pot as a patriot. He had blood on his hands. Pol Pot used the slogan that if we wanted to defeat the Vietnamese we had to be clean in our ranks and clean in ourselves," Duch told the court.

Duch is accused of overseeing the torture and extermination of some 15,000 people who passed through the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, during the late 1970s regime.

"In that conflict Pol Pot was a murderer, and more than one million people were killed under the hand of Pol Pot. At S-21, my hand is stained with the blood of people killed there," said Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav.

Duch was responding to testimony by Nayan Chanda, former editor of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review, who spoke of how the Khmer Rouge's 1975 communist revolution descended into a bloody territorial conflict with Vietnam.

Duch said that Chanda had mis-named his book about infighting between Asia's communists, "Brother Enemy," because Cambodia regarded Vietnam as a rival.

"The title of your book is 'Brother Enemy'. If you talked about Korea, then I would support it. They have a joint history, they have a joint territory and they have a joint language," Duch said.

"As for us and Vietnam, we never had any joint territory."

Duch, who faces life in jail for alleged crimes against humanity, apologised at the start of his trial in late March for his role in the regime, but maintains he never personally executed anyone.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
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Cambodia receives 400,000 kWh of electricity from Vietnam per day

Cambodia has now received around 400,000 kWh of electricity from Vietnam a day since a 220kV power line linking Chau Doc district in An Giang province to Phnom Penh via Cambodia’s Takeo province was put into operation on May 8.

The Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Do Huu Hao, announced this in Hanoi on May 26 at the signing ceremony of a contract for the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) to sell power to the Electricity of Cambodia (EDC).

At the event, Mr Hao confirmed that the 220kV Chau Doc-Takeo-Phnom Penh power line shows the Vietnamese government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments to help Cambodia ease its current power shortages, even though Vietnam itself faces energy difficulties, especially during the 2009 dry season.

He expressed his hope that Vietnam would increase its power supplies to Cambodia to 200 MW in 2010, with an annual sales output of 1 billion kWh. Read more!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cambodia to create national committee for maritime security soon: PM Hun Sen

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Tuesday announced that the country will have the national committee for maritime security in next three months.

The committee will be led by Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defense and It will contribute to fight against terrorism, kidnappers, pirates, human trafficking, crimes crossing border, and drug trafficking, the Prime Minister said at the second workshop of maritime security.

"It is time for us to create this committee to strengthen maritime security," he said, adding that "we need to provide the safety security for oil and gas exploration ships and containers cargo ships."

"We have been heavily cracking down the crimes regularly on land, we also have to consider criminals matters at sea. The criminals will be able to enter into Cambodia as fishermen and tourists," the premier said.

Cambodian sea water will not be shelter for terrorists or other criminals and the country is not the shelter for pirates, Hun Sen said. Even Cambodia has a small area of sea water, we have to strengthen capacity of maritime security, he stressed.

At the same time, he called on the countries in the world to cooperate each other to combat with terrorists and pirates, but he pointed out that it is not a time for us to compete armed forces for maritime to conquer the islands in the sea.
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Cambodia's floating villages

Tonle Sap largest freshwater lake in Asia

By Michael McCarthy, Vancouver Courier


One of the great wonders of the world is the vast temple complex of Angkor Wat, spread through the jungles of northern Cambodia. Aside from the gigantic size of the complex --it was the largest city in the world in the Middle Ages before the jungle consumed it after its unexplained abandonment--one wonders why the Khmer empire was located here in the middle of nowhere, with no rivers or trading routes to support the city and its huge population. However, another great wonder of the world can be found a few miles away.

Tonle Sap is Cambodia's Great Lake and the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia, a huge body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake becomes the largest freshwater lake in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 square miles, and the largest freshwater floodplain in the world. More than three million people live on the floodplain around the Tonle Sap but what's interesting are the 170 floating villages found on the lake itself.

In the rainy season, a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the Mekong River to reverse direction, filling the lake up instead of draining it. The inflow expands the surface area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100 varieties of waterbirds and over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Tonle Sap provides more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia.

Sitting on the edge of the lake are these distinctive floating villages, many sitting on towering stilts, with their economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters. Visiting them is not easy unless you happen to travel with your own motorboat, but not far from Angkor Wat you'll find the tiny port of Chong Khneas, where a fast ferry departs daily for the capital of Phnom Penh, a five-hour journey across the great waters. Here the Khmer and Vietnamese boat people live in their floating homes and a guided two-hour boat trip through the floating village costs $6 U.S. and is an experience worth the time and effort.

Drifting through these drowned villages on a boat is the weirdest thing. In the dry season the houses stand eerily atop stilts in a sea of mud. At the height of the rainy season, the tops of trees poke through the surface of the water in a drowned landscape. Depending on the time of the year and the depth of the lake--it can be as little as a foot deep at times--trucks and cars look like they are being driven on top of the water and villagers appear as if they are walking on the surface. Huge fish traps are placed everywhere. Some of the houses float, others are on stilts, and yet others are boats on which entire families live.

Being so close to a major tourist site like Angkor Wat, this floating village gets plenty of visitors, and the villagers have devised interesting tourist attractions like the crocodile farm, where you can get face to face with some nasty creatures who are, thankfully, kept in a pit. Just don't fall in. Then there are the snake girls, who live on barges and run up to visiting boats thrusting giant water snakes into people's faces. Certainly you can take a photo, but be prepared to pay a fee. There are even floating bars and restaurants, markets, a clinic and a school. Watching kids play basketball in the middle of a vast lake is something different. If you don't want to descend from your boat to explore, villagers will paddle out to meet you, offering excellent ice-cold Cambodian beer and snacks.

Other more remote floating villages can be visited at more time and expense, and bird watchers will go crazy floating through the giant mangrove swamps spotting the 100 different species of waterbirds. But make sure you don't fall out of the boat, because a floating clinic 200 miles away from the nearest hospital likely won't be able to patch up any crocodile attacks.

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Cambodia's entertainment industry falls sharply

Cambodia's entertainment industry has fallen sharply due to piracy and the economic crisis, local media reported on Tuesday.

The number of Cambodian companies producing films and karaoke albums has fallen more than 75 percent since mid-2008, a trend that officials and company owners attributed to increasingly widespread piracy and the economic crisis, the Phnom Penh Post quoted the new data collected by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts as saying.

There were 67 film and karaoke production companies registered in Cambodia last year, according to the figures cited by Sin Chanchhaya, director of the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department.

The most recent survey revealed that only 15 companies remained -- 11 karaoke production companies and four film companies, Sin Chanchhaya said.

"Our film industry is on its last breath," Sin said. "Most producers have been forced to shut down, and cinemas almost no longer exist."

He said that in addition to rampant piracy and the economic downturn, low-quality products and steep prices for Cambodian films had contributed to "the collapse of the industry".

Sin Chanchhaya said law enforcement officials had improved anti- piracy efforts toward the end of 2008 but that progress had not lasted.

In some cases, even those companies who have been able to continue production said they have been forced to adjust to harsh new conditions.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Discover your inner Indiana Jones with adventures in Angkor

The Naga causeway leading to the temple of Angkor Wat crosses a vast moat that looks more like a mighty river than a man-made defence. The temple was begun in 1112 by King Suryavarman II to honour the god Vishnu and serve as his crypt.
Photograph by: Elaine O'Connor , for Canwest News Service


After playing amateur archeologist, relax amid the restaurants, street stalls and night markets of Siem Reap.

I'm two hours into a backroads motorcycle ride through the Cambodian countryside -- wind cutting the baking 34-degree heat, dust flying up from the road -- and as I ride I'm treated to a parade of rural Khmer life.

Two women bicycle by in peaked straw hats, a farmer passes with a load of hay strapped to his scooter, another hauls a slaughtered hog, kids ride three to a bike, parents with toddlers sit four to a scooter.

We weave around each other, trying to avoid the worst of the road's ruts. With every teeth-rattling, spine-shattering swerve, I remember my airport taxi driver's ominous warning after I landed in Siem Reap. Three tourists die every month trying to see the wats (temples) from the back of a scooter, he'd said. I thought he was just trying to land a gig as my chauffeur.

Now, I'm not so sure.

It clearly takes a sense of adventure to get here, perhaps not on the Indiana Jones scale, but real enough. As I clutch my driver Reurm for dear life, we buzz past school girls in white blouses and blue pinafores bobbing through rice paddies spiked with lone palms and roadside shacks where naked babies play with slingshots and women dressed in traditional sampot skirts or krama scarf-turbans sell palm liquor in old Johnnie Walker bottles.

But the effort to uncover Angkor's Beng Malea -- a remote 12th-century forest shrine more than 60 kilometres from the heart of the ancient city of Angkor, which is a UNESCO world heritage site -- proves well worth my bruised tailbone.

Angkor, Cambodia's star attraction, is considered the seventh wonder of the world, and its archeological mysteries lure four million visitors a year.

The temples of Angkor ("holy city" in Khmer) were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the kingdom was at its height, with a million people.

It was the seat of the Khmer empire, whose influence extended into Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and it was the region's most sophisticated city for over 500 years. Archeologists believe it was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.

In the 13th century, faced with incursions from the Thais, the kingdom fell under attack and by 1432 the king moved the capital to Phnom Penh. Over time, the region's stunning wats or temples (the best known being Angkor Wat) with their gorgeous lotus-shaped towers, vine-twisted monuments, moats and stone-carved murals, were abandoned to the jungle.

But they were not forgotten. They were rediscovered by French naturalist Henri Mouhot in the 1860s after he wrote breathlessly of his visit to the ancient temples.

It's that sense of new discovery that comes over me as I lurch off the scooter and stumble through the as-of-yet barely touristed jungle temple early one morning and step into another world.

Beng Malea is a massive, kilometre-square crumbling monument strewn with tumbled rocks the size of small cars, set quietly in the jungle. It was built by King Suryavarman II, who also built Angkor Wat, But in contrast to Angkor Wat's tourist throngs and iconic status, Beng Malea seems forsaken, lost and abandoned. Here, the trees have taken over, their roots digging between the crevices of the stones, cracking and distorting carvings in their journey to find water -- nature returning civilization to the earth.

I spend a meditative hour wandering around its colossal walls and along the ramps in the interior of the temple that lead up to its remaining stone ramparts. It's breathtaking, all the more because it's struggling not to fall apart.

Cambodia itself has profoundly struggled, and tourism to its ruins is just beginning to help it rebuild.

The nation of 14 million was bombed during the U.S. war in Vietnam to flush out Viet Cong, creating two million refugees. A famine followed in 1975 and that same year the rebel Khmer Rouge took power. Pol Pot's Communist Party renamed the country Kampuchea and tried to return it to its agrarian roots, forcing educated Cambodians to work on farms, killing doctors and teachers and outlawing anything Western.

One to three million people were tortured, slaughtered or died from lack of food or medicine. A Vietnamese invasion in the late 1970s ousted the regime, but the Khmer Rouge rebels continued to fight in pockets throughout the countryside: 1999 was the first full year of peace in 30 years.

There are reminders of war everywhere. On the streets, it's rare to see a man over 40. At one wat-side stall, a young girl with a stack of plastic-wrapped books offered a slim volume, reading off its title: Children of Cambodian Killing Fields. That a child would have to know about her country's brutal history, let alone sell the tragic story to make a living, was a sobering thought.

But the development and dollars that accompany tourists to Angkor Wat -- arguably the country's top renewable resource -- seem to be having a positive impact.

Angkor Wat itself, the world's largest religious building, makes a profound impact.

The temple is surrounded by a huge moat that has more in common with a river than a man-made defence. Visitors approach from a causeway that spans the water and is guarded with statues of mythical serpents -- seven headed nagas -- warding off invaders.

The temple was begun in 1112 by King Suryavarman II to honour the god Vishnu and serve as his crypt. Today most tourists see it by sunrise or sunset, watching the light pick out details in the 65-metre high stone prasats (towers) and staying to examine the intricate bas-reliefs of devas and asuras (gods and demons) and 2,000 apsaras (divine nymphs) that decorate the palace.

Nearby, lie more remarkable ruins. The gates of Angkor Thom, a three square-kilometre city built by King Jayavarman VII starting in 1181, are flanked with giant, Buddha-like statues -- passing through can feel like entering another world. The otherworldly Bayon temple lies on the other side.

The Bayon, with its 37 towers chiselled with dozens of enigmatic, all-seeing Buddha faces (some say they resemble the king himself) offers an eerie introduction to Angkor's wonders. Eyes seem to follow you as you explore the temple, climbing over ruins, ducking under lintels, running fingers over the ancient bas-reliefs, and clambering up stone steps. The mysterious Bayon is one of Angkor's most affecting temples.

For those put off by the two-hour trek to Beng Malea, the temple of Ta Prohm is a fine substitute.

Ta Prohm is perhaps one of the most atmospheric of the inner temples, overgrown with thick vines with slabs of rock smothered in snaking tree roots. No wonder it was used in scenes from Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. The 12th-century temple has been left as it was found -- and has become beautifully meshed with the jungle.

It can be exhausting playing amateur archeologist all day in the 30- degree heat but, thankfully, Siem Reap has lots to offer in the way of rejuvenation. The city comes to life after sunset and though Siem Reap is a small town, restaurants, night markets and street stalls in the tourist-centric core remain lively well after midnight.

Start the evening with a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned Angkor Palm restaurant near the Psar Chaa (Old Market) and admire the delicate silk wall hangings before tucking in to a Khmer feast featuring the Cambodian national dish, fish amoc. The creamy coconut-milk fish curry is served with jasmine rice, and the restaurant offers a host of other Asian bites, from pumpkin soup to a spicy papaya salad called bok l'hong and a peppery beef dish called lok lak.

For a communal dining experience share a Khmer-style hot pot (yao hon) with a friend, dipping beef, shrimp, cabbage, rice noodles and mushrooms to cook in bubbling broth. Or try a meal at Cambodian BBQ, where guests sizzle exotic meats -- crocodile, snake and ostrich are available -- on their personal phnom pleung or grill.

French colonial roots run deep in Cambodia, so good bread here is almost as common as rice, and vendors balance baguettes on their heads on their morning rounds.

For a taste of colonial cuisine try Le Malraux (named for French adventurer Andre Malraux, arrested for stealing temple bas-reliefs in the 1920s), for salade Parisienne, salmon rillettes and cream puffs amid Art Nouveau interior.

Stop for dessert at the Blue Pumpkin café, which offers exotic ice cream flavours like banana galangal, green lemon and kaffir lime, and ginger and black sesame.

After dinner, take care of wat-wandering tensions with streetside foot massages. They're a dime a dozen (actually, about $3 US for half an hour). Or enjoy an affordable body massage ($10) or pedicure ($7). Several shops also offer massages by the blind; at Seeing Hands Massage on Sivatha Road, part of the proceeds go back into training Cambodia's vision-impaired citizens in the trade.

But for a more refined experience step into Bodia Spa, a cool, inviting retreat across from the Old Market. A chilled ginger tea and cold herb-infused facecloth greet clients as they enter the white, high-design minimalist space en route to their oil body massages and herbal compresses.

Once refreshed, practise your bargaining skills at the Night Market off Sivatha Road -- where endless rows of silk scarves beckon -- or shop for social good at several local stores that support non-profit ventures. Rehab Craft near the Old Market sells handmade carvings, wallets and silks made by disabled employees and Artisan's D'Angkor trains poor youth in carving.

Top off the evening with a drink or two on the terrasse of the Red Piano, a restored French Colonial home with a sweeping corner balcony. Raise a glass of Angkor or Chang brand beers or sip a "Tomb Raider" cocktail (the restaurant was known as the place Jolie and crew hung out during filming) and toast to the spirit of Cambodia, to the beauty of Angkor, and to the adventurer in you.

If you go

- Passes to Angkor are sold at the gate of the archeological park for $20 US for one day, $40 for three days and $60 for a week. Two-day passes aren't offered. A three-day pass will give you time to see the central temples and to explore the countryside to see more remote treasures. There are as many ways to get to the ruins as there are ruins. You can hire a motorcycle, motorcycle-pulled trailer, car, mini-bus or bicycle. Feeling adventurous? Try an elephant, hot-air balloon or helicopter.

- Prepare for extreme heat -- high SPF sunblock, wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, sun glasses and litres of bottled water are crucial. It's easy to get sunburned and dehydrated staring with awe at yet another astonishing apsara. After 10 a.m. the heat is unbearable. Hydrate early and often. Huge young coconuts, cracked open and strawed, offer refreshingly cold, sweet coconut water.

- Don't bother stocking up on Cambodian currency (the Riel; about 3,300 Riels to $1 CAD) before your trip. Most prices are stated in U.S. dollars and ATMs dispense cash in U.S. dollars. Locals prefer hard currency, though they will accept riels.

- Like Cambodian cuisine? Learn to cook it at local restaurant-led cooking schools. Le Tigre de Papier offers a morning or afternoon two-hour, two dish course for about $12. You can eat your mistakes and they'll offer dessert. The Angkor Palm restaurant also offers lessons.

- Luxury hotels have moved into Siem Reap with a vengeance. Tourists can stay at five-star resorts for three-star prices. Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor, Hotel de la Paix, and the Amansara are popular choices. There are plenty of reasonable guest-house options for the budget traveller that still offer air-conditioned rooms. Shadow of Angkor, Popular Guesthouse and Sala Bai Hotel are reliable options.

If you do splash out, make sure your hotel has a pool -- it can help ease the effects of the 44-degree summer heat.

- Learn more at Tourism Cambodia: http://www.tourismcambodia.com/.
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Cambodian dengue fever patients rise sharply

PHNOM PENH, The number of dengue fever patients of Cambodia rose to about 1,500 until May, 960 more than the same period of last year, or an increase of about 50 percent, national media said on Monday.

The 1,500 victims were mainly spotted in Phnom Penh with 343 cases, Kampong Cham province 259 cases and Kandal province 161 cases, Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News quoted officials of the Ministry of Health (MoH) as saying.

Moreover, three people died of the disease all over the kingdom, two of them died in the early of the year and the third in May, according to MoH.

The MoH has already received the assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB), and plans to buy some mosquitocide and propaganda material to enhance the public understanding, according to MoH.

The rainy season from May to November is the period of the outbreak of the dengue fever nationwide. Usually, children under the 15 years old were the most fragile group to be attacked by the illness, and some 71 percent of the contaminated cases used to be children.

The government has called on the people to clean their water-saving tanks frequently, kill mosquito eggs in their tanks with pesticide, and sleep in anti-mosquito nets.

According to official figures, in 2007, a rampant year for the disease in the kingdom, 407 children died of it, out of a total of 39,851 infected cases of minors. And in last year there were 9542 people infected with the disease in the kingdom, out of them 65 were killed.

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A Helping Chinese Hand: Trade and Aid with Southeast Asia

Brian McCartan

Introduction

Long applying a carrot and stick approach to winning diplomatic allies in a sometimes ludicrous contest with Taiwan over diplomatic recognition, today China strives to establish itself as a “status quo” player in the international arena. “Softpower” replaces ideological approaches to the world, as in the sponsorship of scores of Confucius Institutes throughout the world, in hosting the Olympic Games, and even through the advent of mass Chinese tourism. “Resource diplomacy,” that is the quest to secure natural resources, is emblematic of the scale of China's economic reach. At the same time, China is increasing participation in international peacekeeping missions, notably the dispatch of civilian police to such locations as East Timor, Haiti, and Lebanon. In 2000, China established a peacekeeping training center in Hebei province. China can also be proactive on international issues, as with its leading role in the 6-Party Talks on North Korea nuclear weapons, and its 3 May 2009 call for the establishment of a peacekeeping role in Somalia. While China's “string of pearls” approach to the construction of ports and naval bases across the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean may alarm, the projection of its naval assets to the coast of Africa should not surprise given the international character of the “war” against piracy. In short, with China's accession to WTO and other international fora, alongside its sustained economic growth and its position as the largest owner of foreign reserves in the world, including U.S. debt in the form of treasuries, the nation of over a billion people is carving out a central position in world affairs.

But, by taking on the world, and most notably Southeast Asia as an aid donor, as Brian McCartan outlines, China has ratcheted up. Applying a global view, we observe that, through the China Development Bank, Beijing has extended loans worth over $50 billion to the national oil companies of Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil, alongside cooperation with Venezuela and Cuba. As a “resource investor,” China is careful to lock in long-term supply contracts. Australia also looms large in recent Chinese resource acquisitions. Such an approach differs from China's more controversial policy of investing in oil projects in unstable African states. While Nigeria, Angola, and the Middle East (Iran and Saudi Arabia) supply most of China's oil needs, China's national oil companies have also acquired interests in exploration and production.

So it should not surprise that Chinese economic integration with ASEAN is already a reality. Just as China's aid to the region now surpasses that of the U.S., we are reminded that, even prior to the current recession, Japan has slipped back in the ranks of aid donors. [Though refuted by Tokyo, Japan ranks last among developing countries according to the Washington-based Center for Global Development]. With Japan hobbled by domestic politics in its ability to sign meaningful free trade agreements with the ASEAN countries, trade pacts with China appear more attractive to many nations.

Although China cannot match Japanese investment levels in Southeast Asia reaching back to the 1960s, Japan will nevertheless be obliged to work harder to maintain its niche as the economic shadow of China looms larger. Japan is also feeling pressure from China's push to use its own currency for trade settlements in Asia and beyond. In response, on 3 May 2009, at a forum in Indonesia, Japan offered to provide 6 trillion yen in loans to financially stricken Asian countries. According to Yuzuru Takano, writing in the Asahi Shimbun (5 May 2009), the measure is “essentially a bid to entrench the yen as the region's benchmark currency at the expense of the Chinese yuan.” However, there is reason to be skeptical concerning the political reception of such a move on the part of the ASEAN countries, not to mention the U.S. Geoffrey Gunn

CHIANG MAI - A new investment fund and loan package to help alleviate the impact of the global financial crisis for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) represents the latest overture of China's "soft power" campaign towards the region. Many believe the aid package unveiled in Beijing this month was strategically announced to steal a commercial and diplomatic march over the economically ailing United States.

The aid package includes a US$10 billion investment fund, geared for cooperation in infrastructure construction, energy and natural resources development, and improvements in information and communications. China also announced it would extend a $15 billion line of credit over the next three to five years to needy ASEAN countries. Although the terms were not made public, the loans include preferential terms for $1.7 billion in cooperation projects.

An additional $39.7 million was earmarked for "special aid" to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the 10-member groupings poorest members and closest China allies, to meet "urgent needs". China also announced it would donate $5 million to the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund and an additional $900,000 to the ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea cooperation fund.

Beijing also announced increases in other forms of cooperative aid, including an offer of 2,000 government scholarships and 200 Master's scholarships for public administration students over the next five years from developing ASEAN countries. One thousand agricultural technicians will also have the chance to receive training in China over the next three years. Beijing also donated 300,000 tons of rice to an emergency East Asia reserve intended to boost food security and proposed a China-ASEAN scheme to create high-quality, high-yield crop demonstration farms in ASEAN countries.

The aid package underscores accelerating economic integration. China's trade with 10-member ASEAN has nearly doubled from $105.9 billion in 2004 to $202.5 billion in 2007. Even with the mounting global economic crisis, trade rose 14% last year to US$231.12 billion, making ASEAN China's fourth-largest trading partner. Gao Husheng, China's vice commerce minister, said at a preparatory meeting for the 6th China-ASEAN Expo on April 9 that ASEAN would likely replace Japan as China's third largest trade partner in the near future.

A proposed China-ASEAN free-trade zone would pave the way for faster trade flows. The last step in those negotiations, the signing of an investment agreement, was expected to be completed on the sidelines of the botched ASEAN summit at Pattaya, Thailand, earlier this month. Once the agreement is signed and implemented as early as 2010, annual bilateral trade volumes are expected to reach $1.2 trillion, according to figures projected in China's state-controlled media.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi unveiled the economic aid package for the region on April 12 during a meeting with ASEAN envoys. On announcing the package, Yang said, "As always, China firmly backs ASEAN integration and community building, and firmly supports ASEAN to play a leading role in regional cooperation."

The proposal was supposed to have been announced by Premier Wen Jiabao at the postponed ASEAN summit, which was disrupted by anti-government protesters who stormed the meeting's venue. Yang went on to call for joint efforts to reach an investment agreement conducive to the establishment of the China-ASEAN free-trade zone.

Friend in need

Economists say China's proposal would potentially give ASEAN nations hard hit by the global economic and financial crisis other emergency funding options beyond the International Monetary Fund or Asian Development Bank. The IMF's rescue packages in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis were strongly criticized for measures perceived to favor foreign over local interests. Beijing's recent aid offers are similar and notably more generous than the $4 billion it offered to financially distressed ASEAN states, including Thailand and Indonesia, in the wake of that crisis.

Many remember how China held its fixed rate currency steady while ASEAN countries depreciated their units, allowing several countries to export themselves back to financial health. That marked a difference from Western approaches at the time, which demanded economic and financial reforms that would pave the way for greater foreign participation and ownership in distressed Southeast Asian economies.

Those economic and financial gestures underscored an important policy shift from Beijing's past destabilizing approach towards the region, marked in particular by its past support for communist insurgencies, including the radical Maoist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and communist guerillas in Thailand. That often confrontational policy was also seen in the 1979 invasion of Vietnam and the conflict with ASEAN states over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea.

While the new measures will go some way towards facilitating a quicker regional recovery from the global economic and financial crisis, some analysts see a more opportunistic side to China's aid announcement. China's soft power campaign has taken the form of increased foreign aid, economic networking, including the establishment of free-trade areas, and cultural transmission to encourage pro-China sentiment in the region.

China's aid to the region, by some reports including a November 2008 estimate from Taiwan's Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, has now surpassed that of the US. For China the benefits of greater integration are as much political as economic. For instance, a rising tide of pro-Chinese sentiment in the region has made it easier for Chinese companies to secure deals for natural gas exploration in Myanmar, land large scale agriculture projects in the Philippines, and build transportation infrastructure in Thailand and Laos.

It all meshes with China's so-called "going out" policy, which aims to secure natural resources and economic opportunities that serve local development goals. That said, China's foreign aid activities often lack transparency; despite the rising outflows, Beijing still lacks a centralized foreign aid body or a regularized funding schedule. Nor does China publicly disclose data related to foreign aid expenditures. Some aid disbursements more closely resemble foreign direct investment (FDI), while other projects undertaken by companies with strong government ties more closely resemble aid.

Surging assistance

What is clear, however, is that China's foreign aid and government-supported economic projects have grown dramatically in recent years. Research done by the New York University Robert F Wagner Graduate School of Public Service indicates that Chinese assistance to Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia grew from less than $1 billion in 2002 to $27.5 billion in 2006. The same research shows that sum fell modestly to $25 billion in 2007.

Although the researchers caution that some figures may be inflated, certain pledges and loans may not have been fulfilled and some multi-year projects could have been double-counted, the dramatic increase in aid flows is unmistakable. According to a February 25 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, many of China's aid operations don't correspond to the usual definition of development assistance and that many of China's economic activities in developing countries are supported by the government.

Many economic investments could be considered aid since "they are secured through bilateral agreements, do not impose real financial risks upon PRC [People's Republic of China] companies involved, or do not result in Chinese ownership of foreign assets", the research said. In Southeast Asia, some analysts suggest that China has become one of the largest sources of economic assistance, even though it is not considered a major regional provider of traditional overseas direct assistance.

Wagner School researchers compiled a list of Chinese aid and related investment projects or offers to ASEAN from 2002-2007 and arrived at a combined total value of $14 billion. They estimated that 43% of that figure went to infrastructure and public works projects, 32% for natural resource extraction or development, 3% to military, humanitarian and technical assistance and the remaining 22% to unspecified activities.

China's assistance and economic interaction with ASEAN has come largely without the political, legal and environmental strings attached to Western country aid. It is also provided comparably faster and without the bureaucratic procedures that major aid donors, multilateral financial institutions and multinational corporations usually require.

The lack of interference in domestic affairs is especially appreciated by ASEAN's more authoritarian regimes, including Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, and has earned a measure of public appreciation since it appears to be more respectful of national sovereignty than Western donors. China has enhanced its local reputations through various goodwill investments, including outlays for national stadiums, cultural centers and friendship roads and bridges.

These projects are often very publicly announced at regional summit meetings - such as the package planned for the Pattaya summit - and used to project an image of Chinese fraternity with its developing world brethren.

Some analysts perceive China's soft power foray with ASEAN as a struggle for dominance with the US, which for many years has been strategically linked to ASEAN. They suggest that the balance of power is starting to tilt in China's favor, as it increasingly leverages soft power initiatives into hard power gains. Certain ASEAN nations are known to view China as a useful hedge against US and Japanese influences.

China's improved relations with ASEAN are broadly geared towards providing a security hedge in the event of a conflict with the US. The majority of China's oil and gas imports still pass through the narrow Malacca Straits, a potential strategic chokepoint. With China's ascension in 2003 to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2003, and the US still not a signatory, its not clear what stance ASEAN would take should the US and China ever become engaged in a regional conflict.

To be sure, Southeast Asian opinion is still very much divided over China and its rising influence. The maritime nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam are known to be uneasy over Chinese intentions, particularly with the recent advances in its naval capabilities and the unresolved claims to the disputed and potentially fuel-rich Spratly Islands.

China has made firmer inroads with the mainland countries of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, although even these countries try to balance Chinese influence with other big countries, including the US and India. At the same time, there is deep suspicion and angst over China's opaque plans for building a series of hydroelectric dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River, which flows through and sustains the livelihoods of large populations in many mainland ASEAN states.

While some ASEAN countries may still be wary of China's rising regional clout, its recent aid proposal will no doubt be warmly welcomed across the region. And as the gathering economic and financial crisis hits the US's and Europe's ability to provide aid and assistance, ASEAN nations will have little choice but to rely more on its increasingly magnanimous northern neighbor.



Brian McCartan is a Chiang Mai-based freelance journalist. He may be reached at brianpm@comcast.net.
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Cambodian dengue fever patients rise sharply

PHNOM PENH, The number of dengue fever patients of Cambodia rose to about 1,500 until May, 960 more than the same period of last year, or an increase of about 50 percent, national media said on Monday.

The 1,500 victims were mainly spotted in Phnom Penh with 343 cases, Kampong Cham province 259 cases and Kandal province 161 cases, Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News quoted officials of the Ministry of Health (MoH) as saying.

Moreover, three people died of the disease all over the kingdom, two of them died in the early of the year and the third in May, according to MoH.

The MoH has already received the assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB), and plans to buy some mosquitocide and propaganda material to enhance the public understanding, according to MoH.

The rainy season from May to November is the period of the outbreak of the dengue fever nationwide. Usually, children under the 15 years old were the most fragile group to be attacked by the illness, and some 71 percent of the contaminated cases used to be children.

The government has called on the people to clean their water-saving tanks frequently, kill mosquito eggs in their tanks with pesticide, and sleep in anti-mosquito nets.

According to official figures, in 2007, a rampant year for the disease in the kingdom, 407 children died of it, out of a total of 39,851 infected cases of minors. And in last year there were 9542 people infected with the disease in the kingdom, out of them 65 were killed.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

UN study advises caution over dams

MICHAEL CASEY

AP Environmental Writer= BANGKOK (AP) — A dam-building spree in China poses the greatest threat to the future of the already beleaguered Mekong, one of the world's major rivers and a key source of water for the region, a U.N. report said Thursday.

China is constructing a series of eight dams on the upper half of the Mekong as it passes through high gorges of Yunnan Province, including the recently completed Xiowan Dam, which — at 958 feet (292 meters) high — is the world's tallest. Its storage capacity is equal to all the Southeast Asia reservoirs combined, the U.N. report said.

Laos, meanwhile, has started construction on 23 dams expected to be finished by 2010 on the Mekong and its tributaries, the U.N. said, as a means to spur development and lift the country from poverty. Cambodia and Vietnam also have ambitious dam-building plans.

"China's extremely ambitious plan to build a massive cascade of eight dams on the upper half of the Mekong River, as it tumbles through the high gorges of Yunnan Province, may pose the single greatest threat to the river," the report said.

The report went onto to say that the impacts of the proposed dam development include "changes in river flow volume and timing, water quality deterioration and loss of biodiversity."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a regular briefing the government pays equal attention to the development of the Mekong and its protection. The Mekong is known as the Lancang river in China.

"I would like to point out that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the exploration and the protection of cross-border rivers and conducts the policy of equal attention to development and protection," Ma said.

The proposed dams would add further pressure to the Mekong, which runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The 307,000-square-mile (795,000-square-kilometer) river network is home to dozens of rare bird and marine species, including the Mekong giant catfish, and is a source of food and jobs for the 65 million people who live in the river basin.

The river and its vast tributary network already face threats from pollution, climate change and the effects of earlier dams that were built in China and have caused water levels to drop sharply on the upper Mekong.

Still, the U.N. report said for the time being, the Mekong's pollution levels were not at "alarming levels" while water shortages and conflicts over water on the Mekong have so far not emerged.

"The Mekong is in good condition at this time and can take more pressure such as irrigation development or industrial development," said Mukand S. Babel, one of the reports' authors.

The report, however, found several river basins in the Mekong that are under threat, including the Tonle Sap in Cambodia, Nam Khan in Laos and Sekong-Sesan Srepok in Vietnam and Cambodia due to increasing development and demand for water.

It called for countries bordering the Mekong to work more closely together to ensure that the region's growing population and expected economic development doesn't further strain the capacity of the delta.

"The time to tackle these challenges is now, otherwise the projected growth and development may impact on the basin's ability to meet future water needs," said Young-Woo Park, a U.N. regional director.
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California sex offender faces new charges in Cambodia

Formerly a patient at atascadero state hsopital, he is suspecting molesting four young boys

Jack Louis Sporich was living an idyllic retirement, splitting his time between a luxury condo in Sedona, Ariz., and a sprawling home he was having built in a tourist mecca in Cambodia.

The 74-year-old retired engineer appeared to have escaped his past, which included his classification as one of California’s most dangerous sex offenders, one who authorities suspect may have molested more than 500 young boys over the years.

Now, officials say Sporich, who won his release from Atascadero State Hospital in May 2004 without spending a single day in treatment, may have reoffended.

He has been charged in Cambodia with indecent acts against minors in a case involving four young Cambodian boys, according to an official in Phnom Penh whose organization helped investigate Sporich.

Cambodian news accounts of his arrest indicate Sporich denied the allegations, which included the claim he lured the children — ages 9 to 13 — to his home with toys and candies. The Cambodia Daily reported he also attracted youngsters by dropping dollar bills in the street.

He was arrested Feb. 2 and remains in custody in the tourist town of Siem Reap, according to Seila Samleang, executive director of Action Pour Les Enfants-Cambodia.

APLE-Cambodia is a nongovernmental organization that works closely with Cambodian police to target foreign pedophiles who exploit youngsters in that country, and Sporich had been under investigation by the group.

Samleang said in an e-mail to The Sacramento Bee the charges are misdemeanors punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.

Sexual exploitation of children has been a problem in Cambodia for years, where the age of consent is 15.

Todd Melnik, the defense attorney who won Sporich’s release from Atascadero, said he knew nothing of the Cambodia charges. An e-mail to Sporich this week seeking comment did not receive a response.

Troubling history

Sporich is no stranger to charges of sex with kids.

He spent nine years in prison after his conviction in Ventura County on seven counts of lewd acts upon children under 14. Then, he was committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a “sexually violent predator” deemed too dangerous to be released upon completion of his sentence.

David Lehr, a Ventura County defense attorney who originally prosecuted Sporich, said he may have had as many as 500 victims, and he typically befriended boys through their parents and offered to take them on camping trips.

The parents frequently would pay Sporich for gas and the time he spent on the trips, Lehr said last week.

“If I had to pick from a list of former and current SVPs, he would be, by far, the first one I would be most concerned about,” Lehr said in an interview for a 2006 series of stories in The Sacramento Bee about sexually violent predators.

Sporich was released from Atascadero in May 2004, after two juries were unable to agree on whether he would reoffend, and he immediately moved to Arizona, where the only requirement he faced was that he register as a sex offender once a year.

He is not listed on the current sex offender registry maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Sporich’s case was highlighted in The Sacramento Bee’s series, which revealed it was far easier for offenders to win release from Atascadero by refusing treatment than by undergoing the lengthy treatment program designed to prevent them from reoffending.

After The Sacramento Bee’s series, lawmakers introduced a number of proposed improvements to the system and voters later that year overwhelmingly approved Proposition 83.

That measure increased prison sentences for habitual and violent offenders and did away with the requirement that sexually violent predators be allowed a trial every two years. Instead, they now can petition annually for a hearing, but the burden of proof is on them to convince a court they no longer pose a threat.

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Cambodia finds three passengers traveling with A/H1N1 virus patient

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian health authorities have found the three passengers who arrived here on the same flight with a woman who was later confirmed to have A/H1N1 virus, a health official here said on Saturday.

The three, all Cambodian-Americans, were found Friday, and one of the old man now stays in Battambang province while the two others, a father and his daughter, in Kampot province, according to Sok Touch, director of the epidemic disease department at the Ministry of Health.

"We have got their samples and sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh for testing A/H1N1 virus. The results would be available later today," he told reporters, adding that "the three's health are normal with no influenza symptoms now."

Sok Touch said that the Health Ministry has not took isolation measure to them, but asked them to have a self-isolation, and not to visit relatives as well as go to the public places in the next seven days.

The three arrived in Phnom Penh from the United States via South Korean on May 17. A Vietnamese woman traveled with them on the same flight feel unwell and hospitalized at Incheon, South Korea, and later she was confirmed of the disease.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Cambodia, WHO declear no confirmed A/H1N1 virus in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) here on Friday issued a joint statement claiming there is no confirmed cases of Influenza A/H1N1in Cambodia.

"The ministry of Health would like to advise that as of May 22 2009, no cases of Influenza A/H1N1 virus have been confirmed in the country," the statement said.

Cambodian Health Ministry received an urgent letter Wednesday from South Korean Embassy warning that three Cambodian- Americans were on the same flight from the United States to South Korea with a passenger who was later confirmed to have Influenza A/H1N1. The three individuals subsequently flew on a separate flight to Phnom Penh on Sunday.

At the time of their arrival to Cambodia, the three passengers did not display influenza symptoms, according to the statement. The ministry officials are now seeking to locate these passengers to assess their well-being and to offer them testing.

"The Ministry of Health is working closely with all relevant authorities to continue to monitor the situation closely," it added.

The ministry also strongly advised people who has traveled from an affected area in the past seven days and has developed fever ...to contact with the ministry.  
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Thai Deputy PM: Cambodia not issue passport to Thaksin

BANGKOK, Cambodia did not issue passport to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, according to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban told reporters Friday.

"I was told by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen himself that there was no issuing a passport for Thaksin," the website by The Nation newspaper quoted Suthep as saying.

Suthep was reacting to remarks by opposition Pheu Thai Party MPChalerm Yoobamrung, who earlier said Thaksin showed him the Cambodian passport among six or seven passports during their meeting last week in Dubai.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006 in accusation of corruption, keeping him in exile since then. Thaksin returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia. Read more!

CPC in Talks to Buy Cambodia Oil Stake From China as Ties Warm

By Yu-huay Sun

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- CPC Corp., Taiwan’s state-owned refiner, is in talks to buy a stake in a Cambodian oil area from China and plans to “aggressively” bid for energy assets with mainland partners, company President Chu Shao-hua said.

The purchase is being negotiated with China National Offshore Oil Corp., the country’s third-biggest oil producer, from whom CPC bought a 30 percent share in a Kenyan block in December, spokeswoman Jessica Tang said. The company also plans to process more crude for China National Petroleum Corp., the parent of PetroChina Co., Chu said in an interview in Taipei.

CPC will ramp up exploration spending by 77 percent this year as part of efforts to secure supplies and meet a tenth of its petroleum needs by 2014. Warming political ties are encouraging companies in China and Taiwan to cooperate. China Mobile Ltd. agreed to buy a stake in Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. in April, the first planned investment by a state-owned mainland company in Taiwan in six decades.

China National Offshore “has a very good track record in exploration and production,” said Charles Chen, who helps manage the equivalent of $3.7 billion at JF Asset Management Co. in Taipei. “Its cooperation with CPC may help Taiwan gain oil resources in the future.”

Unlisted CPC competes with Formosa Petrochemical Corp., the island’s only publicly traded oil refiner, to sell fuels in Taiwan and in Asian markets, including China. The island imports about 99 percent of its energy needs.

‘Aggressively Pursuing’

The company may spend NT$4.6 billion ($141 million) on exploration and production this year, Chu, 61, said at CPC’s headquarters yesterday. It spent NT$2.6 billion in 2008. Current production meets 7 percent of its gas requirement and about 2.5 percent of its crude-oil needs, Chu said.

“Possible stake purchases in existing fields is an approach we’re aggressively pursuing,” Chu said. “Chinese companies are easier to communicate with than foreign ones.”

CPC and China National Offshore started a joint study in 1998 on possible cooperation in search for oil and gas in a block in the Taiwan Strait. The purchase of the block in Kenya paved the way for joint overseas exploration and the two companies renewed a 2002 agreement last year to jointly drill wells in the southern part of the Strait.

CPC may invite Chinese companies to jointly search for oil and gas in waters near the island to share costs, John Hsu, chief executive of the company’s exploration and production division, said in March.

‘Limited’ Gains

How much CPC could gain from cooperation in the near term is difficult to assess as very little information is available on the likely reserves and because exploration “requires large investments,” said Chen at JF Asset Management.

“Benefits for CPC may be limited for now, but you got to work together first and see what chances there may be in the future,” Chen said. Still, China National Offshore, “is a worthy partner.”

Relations between China and Taiwan have improved since the Kuomintang party’s Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year as the island’s president and dropped the pro-independence stance of his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian. Ma said this week he will prioritize economic ties with China.

While China says Taiwan is part of its territory, the two have been administered separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled the mainland in 1949 after losing to Mao Zedong’s Communists in a civil war.

Refining for China
Formerly known as Chinese Petroleum Corp., CPC was formed by the Nationalists government in Shanghai in 1946 and relocated to Taiwan after Kuomintang’s defeat.


The refiner may process as many as 3 million barrels of Sudanese oil for China National Petroleum in exchange for fees and parts of the refined products, President Chu said. This would help CPC better utilize its spare capacity as Taiwan’s fuel demand falls amid the recession, he said.

CPC first refined crude for the Chinese company in 2002 and processed another cargo last year, he said.

CPC operates three refineries with a total daily capacity of 720,000 barrels of crude and has investments in Africa, Southeast Asia, the U.S., Australia and Latin America.

To contact the reporter on the story: Yu-huay Sun in Taipei ysun7@bloomberg.net .

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Study shows hidden birdflu cases in Cambodia

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The H5N1 bird flu virus can infect people without causing noticeable symptoms, but only rarely, according to a report published on Thursday.

A survey of more than 600 people in Cambodian villages where two children died from the virus shows seven more were apparently infected, but without having known about it.

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, also suggests that people may become infected by swimming in ponds where infected birds have dabbled.

"Although these results cannot be considered to be representative without broader confirmation, they show that, in some settings, surveillance may substantially miss H5N1 virus infections," Dr. Sylvie Briand and and Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization wrote in a commentary.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has been regularly causing outbreaks of disease in birds -- 250 outbreaks in February alone in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

It only rarely infects people but is often deadly when it does. WHO says it has killed 261 people out of 424 infected since 2003.

The big fear is that is could change into a form that people can pass easily to one another, sparking a pandemic. These fears have been overshadowed at least a little by the near-pandemic of much milder H1N1 swine flu that started in March.

One big question has been whether some people have been infected without knowing it. If this is the case, the fatality rate would go down. With current numbers, the fatality rate appears to be around 60 percent but if there are more than 424 infections it would make for a lower rate.

Sirenda Vong of the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia and colleagues followed up on two deaths of children from H5N1 in 2006. They interviewed villagers and took blood samples.

ANTIBODIES IN BLOOD

"Seven (1 percent) of 674 villagers tested seropositive for influenza H5N1 antibodies and did not report severe illness," they wrote. This means their bodies had at some point fought off an H5N1 infection.

Most were male, 18 or younger, and were more likely than other villagers to have reported bathing or swimming in household ponds. They all lived in wooden houses on stilts with well or pond water as the only water source for the family and none had known contact with the two children who died.

Scientists know that birds can pass influenza viruses in their droppings and ducks, especially, can foul ponds with virus-infected droppings. The virus can live in droppings or water for up to six days.

"During the study period, most participants reported repeated direct and close poultry contact, including feeding or touching poultry (73.3 percent), collecting poultry feces for manure (50.9 percent), plucking feathers of sick poultry (31.1 percent), or collecting sick and/or dead poultry with bare hands (36.8 percent)," the researchers wrote.

But, they added, the findings suggest that transmission from sick bird to human in Cambodia was rare in 2006.

The found genetic material from the H5N1 virus in specimens taken from ponds and pond plants.

"Our results also indicate that swimming or bathing in household ponds could be a risk factor for influenza H5N1 virus infection. These small ponds are common and usually serve as a water source for backyard animals and gardening,' the wrote.

"Ducks usually have access to these ponds and may deposit large amounts of feces in ponds in which children commonly bathe and play."
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Cambodia to send fresh soldiers for de-mining operation

(PHNOM PENH) – Cambodia, one of the world’s most heavily mined countries, is sending 52 soldiers to replace some members of its group who take part in landmines clearence in southern Sudan, defence officials said on Thursday.

The group of 52 de-miners is expected to arrive in war-recovering Sudan in early June, reported the government news agency Agence Kampuchea Press (AKP). An outgoing company of Cambodian de-miners is based in Malakal, Upper Nile.

They will join the international peacekeeping mission known as UNMIS, while the outgoing solders will return home in mid-June, Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Gen. Sem Sovanny was quoted as saying.

He said that the United States had trained most of the Cambodian soldiers who will be sent to Sudan, as well as others who are preparing to be sent to Chad and Central African Republic.

Gen. Sovanny is also a director general of the National Management Centre for Peacekeeping Forces and Explosive Remnants of War. His country witnessed three decades of civil war ended in 1998, becoming one of the world’s most heavily mined countries. Its military thus has extensive experience in removing land mines.

In the past 10 years, Phnom Penh has destroyed an estimated 1.6 million landmines. Cambodia’s first demining team had arrived in Sudan in February 2006.

The Sudanese government and the former rebel SPLM signed in January 2005 a peace deal ending two decades of war in southern Sudan. In March 2005, The U.N. Security Council voted to send 10,700 peacekeepers to Sudan to monitor the peace deal, which is known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

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