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Saturday, October 17, 2009

China to continue its assistance to Cambodian infrastructure: FM

PHNOM PENH, China said it will continue to provide financial assistance to Cambodia to develop projects of infrastructure in the country, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on Saturday.

"Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for bilateral talks and China will continue to support Cambodia to push economic, social and infrastructure development,"Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after the delegation led by Prime Minister Hun Sen returned home from China.

"The fund will be used to build roads, bridges, irrigation systems and hydro powers, expand electricity on outskirts of Phnom Penh and also in rural areas to help poor and improve people's living conditions," Hor said.

Moreover, Hor added that the Chinese Premier said during the meeting that Chinese government will provide 100 million RMB yuan (about 14.65 million U.S. dollars) to Cambodia for its government to help develop and restore infrastructure in the typhoon Ketsana-hit regions.

The visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to China this time is fruitful and brings benefits for the country and people, Hor added.

Hor told reporters that Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the opening ceremony of the 10th Western China International Economy and Trade Fair (WCIETF) in Chengdu, capital of China's Sichuan Province and also met with Liu Qibao, secretary of the Communist Party of China Sichuan Provincial Committee.

"Sichuan authorities also provided 50 water pumps, 30 tractors,10 trucks for serving agricultural fields. They also provided scholarship for training our officials and students in their province," Hor added.

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Gates Foundation pours $115 million into new malaria drugs

By Sandi Doughton

Health experts around the globe were chilled earlier this year by the discovery that malaria in Cambodia has evolved resistance to the most promising drug in medicine's arsenal.

With the effectiveness of artemisinin under threat, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is stepping up its investment in new malaria drugs with a $115 million grant to the Geneva-based Medicines for Malaria Venture. The grant brings the foundation's total funding for the group to $317 million.

Malaria has long been a top priority for the Gateses, who in 2007 took the controversial step of calling for eradication of the disease. Many experts question whether that will ever be possible, but foundation CEO Jeff Raikes recently said the world's biggest philanthropy is refocusing its malaria programs with the goal of eradication in mind.

The "E-word," which some malaria scientists utter with trepidation based on past failures, is repeated three times in MMV's four-paragraph press release on the new grant.

In February, MMV and drugmaker Novartis introduced a sweet-tasting version of the combination malaria drug Coartem for African children. The group is funding work on more than 50 drug candidates, ten of which are in clinical development.
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Speed bumps on the Asean highway


Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has garnered praise from other national leaders at previous Asean meetings, but the full-scale summit he's hosting next week in Cha-am/Hua Hin will test him.

Abhisit's cool and steady hand on the reins at the 14th summit in the same locale early this year impressed Malaysia's then-premier, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who raved to reporters afterwards.

The academically inclined Abhisit has little problem conducting meetings of any kind thanks to his knack for staying on top of issues and responding appropriately.

Foreign Ministry officials were ready with back-up details for the Prime Minister at the earlier Asean gathering and found he didn't need them. No one needed to whisper in his ear.

The 15th summit next weekend - October 23 to 25 - is a full-scale meeting with Asean's East Asian and Pacific Rim partners attending, meaning there will be 16 state leaders in all.

Though just nine months in office, Abhisit has met most of them several times.

And he's also on steady ground with the central issue on the agenda: formally inaugurating the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights.

He's quite familiar with the other topics, too - food and energy security, establishing rules to settle internal disputes, and dealing with natural disasters, climate change and the economic crisis.

But Abhisit faces two critical challenges at the summit: domestic security and the border conflict with Cambodia, which is a fellow Asean member as well as a next-door neighbour.

Abhisit appears to have made summit security a priority, warning that the draconian Internal Security Law would be enforced in Cha-am/Hua Hin and Bangkok through most of October.

The move is not groundless, with anti-government red-shirt protesters having shut down the April Asean meeting in Pattaya. Thailand, which yields the Asean chairmanship at the end of this year, cannot afford another such disruption.

The red shirts of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship have threatened to derail next week's summit if the government blocks their concurrent rally in Bangkok.

And facing Abhisit across the table at the coming summit will be Cambodian Premier Hun Sen, who will raise the long-standing and newly revived dispute over Preah Vihear.

The issue became heated again last year when Thailand objected to Cambodia's bid to have the centuries-old temple listed as a World Heritage site.

Although a UN agency ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear is Cambodian property, the Abhisit government is insisting that the adjacent 4.6 square kilometres were never properly demarcated and in fact belong to Thailand.

A joint boundary commission has undertaken the slow process of demarcation, but Hun Sen wants to talk about the temple at the Asean summit, his foreign minister Hor Namhong has indicated.

In its several attempts since last year to have an international forum decide the temple's fate, including last year's Asean ministerial meeting in Singapore, Cambodia has tended to be bombastic in its claim to ownership.

Thailand's representatives have been repeatedly forced to explain their position.

How will Abhisit handle the situation if Hun Sen mentions Preah Vihear in every session next weekend? As the summit's chairman, he'll be hard-pressed to respond fairly, if not prevented from doing so by Asean's rules of conduct.

Unless Abhisit manages to sideline the Preah Vihear conflict ahead of the summit, Hun Sen could well be the one this time to cast a gloomy shadow over the gathering.

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Final Death Toll of Ketsana Raised to 35

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer

Cambodian officials now estimate that Typhoon Ketsana claimed 35 lives and cost the country $41 million, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Hardest hit was Kampong Thom province, but 11 provinces in all suffered from the storm, which raged across the east and north of the country on Sept. 28.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and many people are now facing food shortages, the National Committee for Disaster Management said Friday.

The agency “will submit a compiled report of damage to the government to request assistance from the international community,” Nhem Vanda, first deputy president of the disaster committee, said.

The World Bank and the Japanese government have signaled a willingness to provide aid for victims of the storm, but they need a clear damage report from the government to proceed.

In Kampong Thom, the storm destroyed nearly 20,000 hectares of rice crop, as well as infrastructure, for a total of $17 million in damages, according to a preliminary estimate.

“I have worries for the destruction and damage of more infrastructure,” Som Sophath, deputy governor of the province, said. There, the storm killed 20 people, injured 14, and destroyed 109 houses, he said.

The German government will provide $280,000 in emergency assistance, Josef Fullen Bach, a government representative for Southeast Asian policy, told Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Friday.

The aid agency Oxfam last week estimated 20,000 people were in need of immediate emergency assistance.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam On, in a weekly government meeting Friday, encouraged government officials to travel to affected areas and help victims.

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Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia Typhoon Ketsana

Typhoon Ketsana left thousands homeless when it struck the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia in October 2009.

Habitat's response in the Philippines

Habitat for Humanity is supplying house repair kits for up to 10,000 families in Metro Manila to help them cope with the terrible flooding caused by Typhoon Ketsana.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines will work with local government agencies and the ABS-CBN Foundation to build new homes and relocate families from flood-affected areas of Pasig, Taguig, Quezon City and Laguna.

At least 120 toilets will be built in ten evacuation centers under a co-funding partnership between Philippines National Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers from "Friends of Habitat for Humanity Philippines" continue to distribute relief packs to families in these evacuation centers.

Habitat's response in Vietnam

Habitat will repair homes and replace roofs for families affected by the typhoon. Moving forward, Habitat hopes to provide permanent houses in phases for affected families along the central coastline and to provide disaster preparedness and mitigation programs.

Habitat's response in Cambodia

Habitat Cambodia will offer technical assistance and construction help to families who are rebuilding their houses after the typhoon.
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EU Grabs Korea Trade Pact That Was Ours

Free Trade: Europe just walked off with the second-biggest trade deal in history with South Korea, bringing a fresh $26 billion to both economies and extending their clout globally. It's a prize that could have been ours.

Welcome to the new America, the land of the left behind. As the Obama administration dithers for the eighth straight month about three pending free-trade treaties, those dust clouds you see are Europe taking off and running with the big one — South Korea.

Late Thursday, Europe completed a free-trade pact with Korea in which 99% of all tariffs will be scrapped within five years. The two blocs already do business totaling $98 billion, and this deal is expected to tack on another $26 billion.

Products affected include machine tool parts, pharmaceuticals and agricultural produce. All are goods that American companies also make, but they still shell out 56% in tariffs.

For Europe, the deal with Korea was easy. The U.S. had already negotiated a trade pact of its own that was ready to go in 2006. Details of the EU-Korea treaty are nearly identical, so it's obvious the Europeans just Xeroxed the U.S.-Korea pact and will now walk off with the spoils.

The EU-Korea treaty is the biggest since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. South Korea is the world's 15th-largest economy, and the 27-nation European Union is the biggest bloc.

A U.S. in the throes of recession could use that kind of market opening. And with the dollar tumbling, it would be in the middle of an export boom if the treaty went through.

The EU-Korea pact is expected to take effect next June. Media reports say Congress won't take up U.S. free-trade agreements with Korea (or Colombia and Panama, for that matter) until 2011 at the earliest. That's time enough for Europe to snap up our market share. No wonder the Europeans are smiling.

This isn't the only thing they're cooking up. EU trade pacts are also in the works with India and the Asian Tiger states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. And talks with Pakistan (with a GDP ranked 48th) start Oct. 19.

Other nations are doing the same. China, Japan and South Korea are creating their own economic zone, South Korea and Colombia have begun talks for a free-trade pact, Korea is holding talks with Peru, and Australia is pushing for free trade with India.

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Cambodian political leader to receive honorary degree

Written by Dave Mabell

A political leader who’s also an educator and humanitarian will be an honoured guest today in Lethbridge.

Son Soubert, first elected to Cambodia’s parliament in 1993, will be awarded an honourary Doctor of Laws degree during fall convocation ceremonies at the University of Lethbridge.

He’ll join Juno Award-winning Calgary musician Paul Brandt — a Doctor of Fine Arts, as of today — and hundreds from a fall graduating class of nearly 350 during public events starting at 10 a.m.

Soubert, educated in archeology and classics in France, met students in the university’s Rotaract group Friday and described his nation’s colourful history and future opportunities.
Now leader of the new Human Rights Party — one of several contenders in the Kingdom of Cambodia, which combines a constitutional monarchy with a multi-party parliament — Soubert traced his nation’s influences back to the time of the Roman Empire. It’s been profoundly influenced by trade with China to the north and the power of India to the west.

Canada’s influence is more recent, he said, dating back to the 1950s. During the 40 years that followed, however, Cambodia survived many political changes — including more than a decade of occupation by Vietnamese troops.

Since democratic government returned in 1993, he pointed out, many Canadian doctors, dentists and many other volunteers have responded to the nation’s many health issues. Malnutrition remains a major concern, and HIV poses another ongoing threat.

Canada’s federal government seems less interested, Soubert suggested.
“Canada closed its embassy in Phnom-Penh this year,” making things more difficult for Canadians who wish to visit or volunteer.

Soubert also works with his nation’s orphans — their parents are still alive, but too poor to feed them — and he described their improved living conditions and educational opportunities. Today, he said, some of those children have done well enough to attend university classes.

On the political front, Soubert and his father helped found the Khmer Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party. Later he was elected president of the Son Sann Party before moving on to help found the Human Rights Party.

Just what those rights are, he said, depends on many cultural, religious and political factors. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and — in some parts of the country — Roman Catholic teachings are involved.

Competing values and beliefs are at play in many of Cambodia’s neighbouring nations as well, he pointed out. Still, some political leaders hope to expand economic ties between the ASEAN countries.

Soubert admitted he’s doubtful about how that could occur.
“How are the ASEAN nations, with so many differences, going to build something like the European Union?”
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