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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cambodian official: ASEAN Charter opens new era

PHNOM PENH, Ahead of the upcoming ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in late February, a Cambodian senior official has highlighted the importance of the ASEAN Charter, saying it opens a new era for ASEAN itself.

The Charter is important because it is designed for the first time to set common goal of ASEAN on how to play its profile, how to tackle problems in the framework as a legal binding, Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"It is also a good timing to do emphasis on the start of implementation despite the fact that the Charter was already adopted and ratified by all member states," he said.

Meanwhile, he said that ASEAN leaders will discuss how to tackle the global financial crisis during the summit.

"ASEAN needs to go forwards, and it needs good cooperation and unity of all member states while facing the global financial crisis," he said.

"Each ASEAN member state has its own policy on how to respond or curb with the current financial crisis, but since the crisis may impact one after another, it is a good forum that the ASEAN leaders get together plus its dialogue partners to discuss on the matter," he added.

Thailand is scheduled to host the 14th ASEAN summit from Feb. 27 to March 1.
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ADB to open workshop on managing involuntary resettlement in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will convene a regional workshop on managing involuntary resettlement in East Asia and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries, said an ADB press release on Wednesday.

"The workshop will focus on sharing examples of good practice in resettlement management in the region, and also field visits to project sites," it said.

Arjun Goswami, Country Director of ADB's Cambodia Resident Mission, and Chhorn Sopheap, Director of the Resettlement Department of the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) will attend the opening session.

ADB consultants Mohammad Zaman and Aqueel Khan will conduct the workshop, which will be held from Feb. 23 to 27.

Participants include project staff, consultants, non-governmental organizations, and affected communities.

"Development projects are a critical component of any effort to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth, but they also tend to affect and displace people, especially the poor," said the release.

"Good resettlement planning and management is therefore vital in addressing the adverse effects of involuntary resettlement, and can, if done properly, open up new opportunities to improve incomes and living conditions of those affected," it added.
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U.S., EU, Canada major importers of Cambodian garments

PHNOM PENH, U.S., EU and Canada were the top three importers of Cambodian garments in 2008, national media on Wednesday.

U.S. remained as the largest market of Cambodian garment products, worth 1.95 billion U.S. dollars in 2008, rising 1.999 billion U.S. dollars in 2007, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post quoted the 2008 annual report of the Cambodian Commerce Ministry as saying.

EU stayed at the second place, worth 631 million U.S. dollars in 2008 over 599 million U.S. dollars in 2007, and Canada the third, worth 202 million U.S. dollars in 2008 over 154.5 million U.S. dollars in 2007, according to the report.

The total garment exports in 2008 stood at 3.15 billion U.S. dollars, a 7 percent rise over that of 2007, 2.937 billion U.S. dollars, it said.

Garments were still the kingdom's largest export item in 2008, accounting for around three-quarters of the export earnings, according to the ministry report.
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Drought might have collapsed Cambodian Angkor city

BANGKOK: Cambodia's great ancient city of Angkor Wat may have been brought to an end some 600 years ago by sudden weather changes that caused massive drought — not just by rival Siamese forces and widespread deforestation as previously suspected, a researcher said Tuesday.

Brendan M. Buckley said bands from tree rings that he and his colleagues examined show that Southeast Asia was hit by a severe and prolonged drought from 1415 until 1439, coinciding with the period during which many archeologists believe Angkor collapsed.

From the city of famed temples, Angkorian kings ruled over most of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries. They oversaw construction of architectural stone marvels, including Angkor Wat, regarded as a wonder of religious architecture and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

While the 1431 invasion from Siam — what is now Thailand — has long been regarded as a main cause of Angkor's fall, archaeologists working at the sprawling temple site have suspected that ecological factors played a major part in its collapse.

"Given all the stress the Khmer civilization was under due to political reasons and so forth, a drought of the magnitude we see in our records should have played a significant role in causing its demise," said Buckley, a research scientist at Columbia University's Tree-Ring Laboratory in New York.

The thickness of a tree's rings provides scientists with a historical record of a region's climate. Wet periods encourage tree growth, making rings thicker, while dry periods create thinner rings.
Buckley, one of the world's top tree ring experts, has spent the past 16 years taking core samples from trees across Southeast Asia to build a record of the region's climate dating back hundreds of years.

Buckley — who spoke on the sidelines of a three-day climate conference in Vietnam_ said his data helped identify at least four mega-droughts in Southeast Asia dating back 722 years.

The Greater Angkor Project — run by the University of Sydney in collaboration with the French archaeological group Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient and APSARA, the body responsible for management of the Angkor World Heritage Park — concluded in 2007 that ancient Angkor had become unwieldy. Efforts to expand rice production to support a population of 1 million led to vast deforestation, top soil degradation and erosion.

Dan Penny, a University of Sydney researcher who is a director at the Greater Angkor Project, said the new findings on drought will help researchers gain a greater understanding of why the kingdom collapsed.

"Angkor was a civilization obsessed with managing water. It was an agrarian society," said Penny, who also spoke at the conference. "It's hard to imagine that a society like that could have shrugged off 20 or 30 years of drought."

Penny said the drought was likely the final blow to a kingdom already suffering the effects of deforestation and attacks from the Siamese and the Cham of southern Vietnam. Sediment samples show no evidence that Angkor was overwhelmed by a "dust bowl" like drought, he said.

"We have these droughts occurring on top of preexisting pressures," Penny said. "Climate change was an accelerant. It's like pouring petrol on a fire. It makes a social and economic pressures that may have been endurable disastrous."
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