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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 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 .

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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.


"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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