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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Troops Begin Partial Border Withdrawal

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer

Cambodian soldiers and armored personnel carriers began a step-by-step withdrawal from border positions near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday, as part of a drawdown deal with Thailand.

The partial withdrawal follows an announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday and a meeting between top military commanders on Monday.

Lt. Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, told VOA Khmer “a number of soldiers” had withdrawn from the front line near Preah Vihear temple, which has been at the center of a military standoff since July 2008.

At least seven soldiers from both sides have been killed in skirmishes following the build-up, which began after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a World Heritage Site, prompting protests in Thailand and Thai occupation of land claimed by both sides near the temple.

“We began to pull our soldiers back to their previous bases, following the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Chea Dara said.

The withdrawal included soldiers from Intervention Brigade 11, soldiers from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces and Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, he said.

The withdrawal was to reduce tensions from the standoff, said Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

“It is a sign of stability in the border area,” he said. “It demonstrates a better situation and cooperation between the soldiers of the two countries along the border.

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Dams menace Mekong River life

PLANS to build a series of dams on the largest river in South-East Asia are threatening to destroy the livelihoods of millions of people in Cambodia and surrounding nations.

The Mekong River flows through the developing country, providing much of the food and nutritional needs of a population estimated at more than 14 million.

Most live a traditional lifestyle, relying on the river to grow their rice crops, and taking fish from the river - one of the world’s largest inland fisheries - for food.

But if plans by the Cambodian, Thai and Laotian governments to dam the river go ahead, these rural communities could find it difficult to survive.

Footscray resident and Leader photographer Glenn Daniels recently made a journey up the Mekong with international aid organisations Oxfam and Manna Gum as part of a campaign to save the river for the millions of people who rely on it.

“The aim of our journey was to document the livelihoods of people who live on the islands along the Mekong and how they’ll be affected if a dam is built,” Mr Daniels said.

Through his skills with a camera, Mr Daniels is hoping to alert Australians to the plight of these people.

His photos will be shown next year in Melbourne.

It was a highly unjust situation that the people found themselves in, Mr Daniels said.

“The first notification that these people had of the dam proposal was some Chinese officials surveying the land,” he said.

“There have been no talks of compensation ... for the relocation of families.”

Spending time with the villagers, sharing meals with them, observing their daily work patterns and watching children play gave Mr Daniels some insight into a lifestyle far removed from suburban life in Melbourne’s West.

“Most of the people we saw or interviewed technically live on less than $1 a day,” Mr Daniels said.

“In monetary terms they are extremely poor, but they grow their own rice, raise pigs, and they work together, along with taking all the fish that they need from the Mekong, and the family buffalo is like their bank account.

“The value of all that is far more than $1 a day.

“If they are forced to move they most likely won’t be able to farm the land any more. They will have to move to the cities, where, if they’re very lucky, they might earn more than $1 a day, but their expenses will also greatly increase so they would probably find it much harder to survive.”

Mr Daniels learnt a lot about a rich and diverse culture from “friendly and gentle people”, along with seeing the impact organisations such as Oxfam have had, including establishing schools, providing clean water and immunisations for animals.

“If these dams go ahead, they will make all the work that Oxfam has put in for these people a waste of time, it will threaten the diversity and health of one of the planet’s most important river systems, and most importantly it will destroy the lifestyles of millions of people,” Mr Daniels said.
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US sex offender given 10 years in jail in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) --

A Cambodian court sentenced an American man on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chan Madina found Michael James Dodd of Washington, D.C. guilty of soliciting sex from a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested in October 2008 at his rented house in the capital, Phnom Penh, in the girl's company.

Dodd was also ordered to pay 20 million riel ($4,878) in compensation to the girl's family.

Florida's Department of Law Enforcement lists the 60-year-old Dodd as a sex offender and details his last registered address as Syracuse, New York. The department's Web site says he was convicted in July 2002 of sexual abuse of a child.

Cambodia has long been a magnet for foreign pedophiles because of poverty and corruption in law enforcement. But the country's police and courts have stepped up action against sex offenders in recent years.

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S.Africa aims to produce own H1N1 flu vaccine

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa has no choice but to develop its own H1N1 flu vaccine, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday, citing concerns treatment will not be available to poorer nations.

"South Africa has arrived at a situation where we have no option but to start developing our own vaccine capacity, not only for H1N1, but generally," Motsoaledi told parliament.

"The disturbing feature about today's world... has been expressed by the minister of health for Cambodia... who noted that the developed world, after producing the vaccine, may want to cover their own population first before thinking about the developing world," Motsoaledi said.

South Africa does have a growing vaccine industry, but is considered by experts to be unlikely to be able to produce a swine flu vaccine any time soon.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared swine flu a pandemic in June. It has killed some 1,800 people after spreading to nearly 180 countries, 25 of them in Africa.

Latest figures from South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases show 15 people have died from the virus and over 5,000 cases have been reported.

Swine flu, which mostly hits pregnant women and young children, has infected about 182,000 people worldwide, according to official figures, although health experts and scientists say the real tally is probably in the millions.

It is largely treatable using oseltamivir but vaccines are recommended as a population-wide method of prevention.

Motsoaledi, citing WHO statistics, said potential H1N1 vaccines were unlikely to be developed before November at the earliest or by April next year.

"Unfortunately ... there is no capacity in developing countries to produce their own vaccines and at the moment all the vaccine production is being processed in Europe and America, with China also in the process of doing so," he said.

Companies making vaccines include AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, CSL, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA.

Roche AG and Gilead Sciences Inc's Tamiflu and Glaxo's Relenza can treat influenza, and were recommended for people with a risk of complications or death.
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New bird count finds more rare ibises in Cambodia

In this Nov. 2, 2006 photo released by wildlife conservation groups of BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), White-shouldered Ibis perch on branches of a tree in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Conservation organizations announced Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, that a new bird census has found that there are more of the endangered White-shouldered Ibis living in Cambodia than had previously been thought to be surviving worldwide. (AP Photo/BirdLife International, WCS, WWF)

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — A new bird census has found that Cambodia is home to more endangered white-shouldered ibises than had been thought were in existence worldwide, three conservation organizations said Wednesday.

A joint statement from BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature said 310 of the wading birds were found in the country's north and northeast during research carried out in July.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, had estimated this year that from 50 to 249 mature white-shouldered ibises were in existence worldwide, making the species critically endangered.

Hugh Wright, a PhD student at Britain's University of East Anglia who has been leading the research for 18 months, said there was a good chance that the actual population exceeded 310.

"Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the population has increased or is recovering, instead we are just starting to make more effort to count them and searching in more places," he said.

The statement did not mention any plans to expand their research.

The birds, considered endangered by the World Conservation Union, have a dark plumage with a pale blue collar and an off-white patch on the forewings, according to the Web site of the IUCN. They are found mainly in Cambodia although they were once common in other Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia, it said.

The statement said that it was not yet clear why the bird's numbers have been in decline in the last few decades, "although hunting and habitat destruction are likely to have played a part." It said they will conduct a new count in Cambodia in September.
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Key memo from JBC

By The Nation

Parliament will tomorrow consider an important memo from a ThaiCambodian Joint Border Commission meeting.

"I think it must be something about territory or budget," Kriangkrai Sampatchalit, directorgeneral of the Fine Arts Department, said yesterday.

The commission did not need to submit its minutes of the meeting to Parliament if it just agreed on a cooperation framework, he said.

"So far, I don't know the details of the memo that Parliament will look at on August 28," he said.

The department had been in charge of the preservation of historical sites and academic aspects only, he said.

Thailand and Cambodia have worked together well on the academic front even though both have claimed ownership to a 4.5squarekilometre area around Preah Vihear Temple on their common border, he added.

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