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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thais protest outside Cambodia embassy over invite

By AMBIKA AHUJA,Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK – Dozens of demonstrators gathered Tuesday outside Cambodia's embassy in Bangkok to protest an offer of refuge from that country's leader to Thailand's ousted and fugitive prime minister.

About 80 people gathered a week after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a "political victim."

Relations between the countries are already strained by a dispute over border territory near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which has led to small but deadly military skirmishes over the past year and a half.

Thaksin was ousted by a 2006 military coup on accusations of corruption and later sentenced to two years in prison for violating a conflict of interest law.

Hun Sen said he was welcome anytime in Cambodia and could become his economic adviser.

Thaksin left Thailand before his conviction last year. Though he is probably the country's most popular politician, the Thai government has said it would request his extradition if he went to Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Hun Sen was "seriously misinformed" in saying Thaksin was being politically persecuted.

Abhisit played down speculation that the issue will further hurt ties between the two countries.

"Right now, Cambodia understands our feelings," Abhisit told reporters Tuesday.

A statement by Tuesday's protesters said, "We would like to condemn Hun Sen for his atrocious action which is in contempt of Thailand, the Thai government, the Thai army and the Thai people."

The group, the "People's Assembly of Thailand," appears to be affiliated with the People's Alliance for Democracy, which in 2006 campaigned for Thaksin's ouster. The alliance denies any connection, though the People's Assembly is led by one of its top leaders.

Thailand has revoked Thaksin's passport, and much of his fortune remains frozen in Thai banks. He has been barred from several countries following diplomatic pressure.

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Tigers Said to be on “Verge of Extinction”

by The Associated Press

(AP) - The world's tiger population is declining fast despite efforts to save them, and new strategies are urgently needed to keep the species from dying out, international wildlife experts said Tuesday.

"We are assembled here to save tigers that are at the verge of extinction," Nepal's secretary of forest and soil conservation, Yuvaraj Bhusal, told a conference of tiger experts from 20 countries, including the 13 where wild tigers are still found.

An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 tigers now roam the world's forests, down from the more than 100,000 estimated at the beginning of the 20th century. All the remaining tigers are in Asia.

Participants at the conference, which also includes the World Bank, the World Wildlife Fund and other groups, plan to discuss strategies for tiger conservation, as well as challenges such as poaching, the trade of tiger parts and conflicts between tigers and local populations.

In a recent case, a Sumatran tiger died after being caught in a pig snare last week in Indonesia, the country's news agency, Antara, reported Monday. The report said the tiger died as it was being prepared for surgery Monday. Only about 250 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild.

"Despite our efforts in the last three decades, tigers still face threats of survival. The primary threat is from poaching and habitat loss," Nepal's prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told the conference.

He said extreme poverty has also challenged efforts.

"Global and regional solidarity and corrective measures are more necessary now than ever to face these challenges," the prime minister said.

Bhusal, the forest secretary, said participants hope to make high-level policy makers in their countries more aware of the animal's possible extinction.

The 13 countries where wild tigers are still found include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The conference continues through Friday.
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Women's Conference opens on notes of sadness and hope

Somaly Mam, a native of Cambodia was forced into sex slavery as a youth. After escaping she vowed to fight the practice and started Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances, in 1996 with her French husband, Pierre. Mam spoke during the morning session of the California Conference on Women held inside the Long Beach Sports Arena on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. ( Diandra Jay/Press-Telegram)

By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Somaly Mam, a native of Cambodia who was sold into sex slavery as a child, fought back tears as she told her story in front of thousands of women.

"I have to show people we have hope in life," she said. "I'm not alone anymore. I know that all of you are here."

Mam was able to escape the brothel that was her prison and now dedicates her life to helping other victims of sex slavery. Through her organization, "Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances," Mam has saved more than 5,000 girls, but with 1 in 40 Cambodian girls still being sold into sex slavery, the need is urgent.

"How many of them are still in a brothel now?" she asks.

More than 10,000 people packed the Long Beach Convention Center and Arena today for the annual Women's Conference. The first session, which kicked off at 8 a.m., focused on themes of self-worth, empowerment and leadership with speakers including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, actress Geena Davis, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and playwright Eve Ensler.

In a roundtable discussion on leadership in hard economic times,Schwarzenegger said not everyone may like his decisions, but it's his job as a leader to take risks and make tough choices.

"It's always more fun to lead in good times," the governor said. "But you also have to lead in tough times and leadership (now) is more important than ever."

Branson, who took a somewhat unconventional rout on his rise to become the Virgin Goup mega mogul, spoke of the importance of taking risks and not being afraid to fail.

"If you're bold and you're brave and not afraid of falling on your face and trying things, ultimately you will succeed," he said.

Aside from harsh economic times, Ensler said the world is also facing dangerous times as women around the world are victims of horrific violence. Now is the time, she said, for women to fight back.

"Dangerous times require great, bold passionate responses," Ensler said. "Be braver, be bolder, stand up, resist and find your voice."

Author Cheryl Saban spoke candidly of her own experience being raped at age 18 and her struggle to regain her self-confidence. Years after the incident, the author said a moment of fear during a public speech made her realize that she still harbored feelings of inadequacy and


"I had subconsciously let an incident in my life stunt my self-worth," she said "I discovered my voice had been muzzled."

Saban urged the women in the crowd, many of them tearful, to find their voices.

"You are an amazing force," she said. "Embrace it."
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