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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More rare animals seized

CAMBODIAN authorities made five major seizures of protected wildlife in the third quarter of this year, according to newly released data from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network.

ASEAN recorded just two major arrests by Cambodian law enforcement for the first six months of 2009, but three large-scale seizures came in August, followed by two more in September.

Following the August 18 seizure in Battambang province of two Asiatic black bears, which are recuperating under the care of the local branch of Wildlife Alliance, Cambodian authorities confiscated 163 kilograms of live Bengal monitors in a bust in Kampong Cham province on August 26.

Just two days later, a veritable menagerie of rare creatures was seized in Phnom Penh, including 15 monocled cobras, 67 elongated tortoises and 15 giant Asian pond turtles. September saw busts in Kandal and Svay Rieng provinces that included 15 live Sunda pangolins, three live water monitors and 25 dead purple swamphens.

Chheang Dany, deputy director of the wildlife protection office at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said it was difficult to quantify the value of the confiscated wildlife, as demand for particular species is hard to measure. Difficult economic circumstances and a lack of knowledge about endangered species push many Cambodians into the illegal wildlife trade, he added.

“It’s difficult now because Cambodia wants to stabilise the population of wildlife before we allow some limited or legal, restricted harvesting,” he said.
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Metfone provides 2,000 free connections to Cambodia

The Vietnamese Metfone Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Phnom Penh on December 29 to provide 2,000 free connections to Cambodian schools.

Metfone will offer free Internet connections and related equipment worth US$5 million to all State-owned schools, educational centres, universities, colleges and the ministry’s offices. In addition, it will present scholarships to hundreds of outstanding Cambodian students and pupils.

The project will be divided into three phases: in the first phase, Metfone will provide Internet connections to 300 schools and the ministry’s offices in 24 provinces and cities, and 334 computers and 10 virtual private networks to the ministry’s offices in Phnom Penh.

In the second phase from 2010-2012, Metfone will present Internet connections and computers to 500 more schools and 193 more district’s educational departments. In the third phase from 2013 to 2015, Metfone will complete the project.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Im Sethy reaffirmed that the project will accelerate the application of information technology to his country’s educational system and the development of human resources.

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Cambodian parliament passes controversial land law

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's parliament passed a controversial law on Tuesday allowing the government to expropriate land for development, raising concerns about a surge in forced evictions in the Southeast Asian country.

The National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, voted to allow the authorities to seize land to develop infrastructure and pursue other projects deemed to be in the public interest.

Critics and opposition lawmakers said the legislation was vaguely worded and were concerned it would be abused to evict people from prime real estate.

"It will leave even more room and a legal framework to take away land," said opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua.

Land ownership is a controversial issue in Cambodia, where legal documents were destroyed and state institutions collapsed under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and the civil war that followed.

A period of unprecedented growth since 2004 has boosted land prices, particularly in the capital, Phnom Penh, leading to a jump in the number of evictions and triggering fierce criticism of the government from aid donors.

In September, Cambodia said it was pulling out of a project sponsored by the World Bank aimed at settling land disputes, adding to international concern about the livelihoods of tens of thousands of impoverished city dwellers.

Eang Vuthi of land rights group Bridges Across Borders said civil society organisations had been hoping for a law that would help to prevent forced evictions by clearly stating when land expropriation was justified, but they failed to get changes made to the draft legislation.

"We wanted them to clarify the language," he said. "This law won't benefit the people. It will benefit only powerful people."

Government spokesman Phay Siphan described the law as a major step in the country's development.

"Nothing is perfect in this world," he said. "The law is a milestone for the country, a turning point. We have never had such a law before."
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Scottdale chiropractor volunteers in Cambodia

By Rachel R. Basinger, FOR THE DAILY COURIER


Michael (Pallygus) Pagliacci is no stranger to giving back.

For the second year, the Scottdale chiropractor joined the Flying Doctors of America to bring medical attention to those in need.

Last year, Pagliacci traveled to Peru. This year, he traveled with 20 other doctors, including Flying Doctors of America founder Allan Gathercoal, to Cambodia — a first for the organization.

"We're not there to change them in any way or have a hidden agenda," Pagliacci said. "We're just there to treat them and to provide our services."

The trip lasted 12 days. Doctors from several disciplines, including an ear, nose and throat specialist for the first time, traveled for 24 hours to get to their destination.

"When we drove past the villages, we would wave to them and you could just see their eyes light up because you were acknowledging them," Pagliacci said. "It was a precious human interaction and one of the reasons it's priceless to do these trips."

When they got to their destination, it was time to begin talking with the villagers through an interpreter to begin diagnosing problems.

"We had a general surgeon who did appendectomies, and he also removed goiters from some of the villagers that were the size of tennis balls," Pagliacci said. "There seems to be a lot of thyroid problems there. It's like an epidemic, and they say it could be linked to their diet and the lack of iodine."

He added that they saw a lot more abnormalities on this trip than last year's trip to Peru.

"There were various types of tumors, including one guy with a tumor on his shoulder that probably weighed around 15 pounds," Pagliacci said. "There was one guy who had a tumor on the outskirts of his brain that was coming out his ear and eye."

His former mission trips and experiences helped prepare him for this trip.

"About 43 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, but the amazing thing is they're smiling and they're happy despite their circumstances," Pagliacci said.

While all the doctors saw as many people as possible, they could not get to all of those waiting to be treated.

"But there was never any pushing or shoving or bad behavior," Pagliacci said. "They were willing to wait until next year for treatment because the average pay in Cambodia each year is just $600, and the cost of some of the surgeries they were waiting for is about $200."

Pagliacci hopes to go on another trip with the Flying Doctors of America next year if his finances allow it.

"Once you do a trip like this, it's emotional and it gets you," he said. "It's like you can't wait to do the next one."

For now, he is hoping to get people to visit the organization's Web site at www.fdoamerica.org.

When people ask Pagliacci why he gets involved, his answer is simple.

"It just seems like it's the right thing to do," he said..
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China Shows No Tolerance For Dissidence

BEIJING, CHINA



China may have deservedly earned all the international accolades for its dazzling economic achievements, but two recent developments show its Communist regime is nowhere near winning similar praise for tolerating political dissidence or challenge to its authority in any form.

In the first instance, China, going against pleas and urgings from around the world, handed an 11-year prison sentence to Liu Xiaobo, the country's widely respected ardent supporter of democracy and freedom of speech.

In an equally disturbing move, China convinced Cambodia to deport 20 Uighurs who had fled to that country for political asylum to escape the crackdown on their fellow Turkic-speaking minority members by Chinese authorities for the ethnic riots last July in the far northwest Xinjiang-Uighur region.

The 53-year-old Liu's trial in a Beijing people's court last week on subversion charges lasted only about three hours. His wife and foreign diplomats were not allowed to attend the proceedings, which preceded his Friday sentencing on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."

The charges against Liu, who has been politically active since the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest in Beijing, resulted from articles posted on the Internet and jointly authoring the "Charter 08" petition against one-party rule and urging human rights and free speech.

The Washington Post, quoting a relative, reported that at the trial, Liu's lawyers were allowed only 14 minutes of speaking time.

"Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumors and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years," according to a police statement reported by China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Human Rights Watch in New York said Liu, a prolific writer, has been detained, arrested and sentenced repeatedly for peaceful political activities since the late 1980s.

HRW's Sophie Richardson, calling the trial a "travesty of justice," said its only purpose was "to dress up naked political repression in the trappings of legal proceedings" against non-existent crimes.

China's response was that the international calls for Liu's release were "gross interference" in its internal affairs. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said those expressing such concerns should respect the country's judicial sovereignty.

Commenting on the former university lecturer's prison sentence, Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and co-founder of GlobalVoicesOnline.org, told the Post: "It certainly seems to reflect a high level of sensitivity and very low level of tolerance."

There had been expectations among other Chinese dissidents that some of the reforms in recent years would lead to political modernization in step with the country's economic modernization, the Post report said.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was quoted as saying: "As far as we can tell, this man's crime was simply signing a piece of paper that aspires to a more open and participatory form of government. That is not a crime."

In the incident relating to the Uighurs' deportation from Cambodia, China also said it was an internal matter as the 20 Uighurs were suspected of committing criminal offences, and urged the outside world not to make irresponsible remarks, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the "Chinese citizens" had broken the laws of both China and Cambodia by illegally crossing the border and that Cambodia had acted according to its immigration law.

"China is a country under the rule of law. Judicial authorities will deal with these people's illegal criminal activities in accordance with the law and safeguard their legitimate rights," Jiang said.

It is not clear what fate awaits the deported Uighurs, but last Friday a Chinese court sentenced five more people to death, bringing to 22 the total condemned to die for the July ethnic riots. The five were part of a new group of 22 suspects tried by a court in Urumqi, capital of the region where the July riots killed about 200 people. The others were sentenced from 10 years to life in prison.

The July riots involved the minority Muslims Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese. Chinese officials have said most of the victims were Han Chinese. Tensions between the two groups have been simmering for a long time as the Uighurs resent being ruled by the Hans.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang, commenting on whether the deportation of Uighurs was linked to China's assistance to Cambodia, said both countries have maintained a comprehensive and cooperative partnership. "We provide assistance to Cambodia in line with our own capacity and without any strings attached," Xinhua quoted her as saying.

However, two days after the 20 Uighurs were deported, China signed 14 business deals with the Cambodian government worth about $1 billion, The New York Times reported.
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Aussie 'clubbed to death' in Cambodia

An Australian man has been murdered in a popular Cambodian seaside resort, police say.

Officers identified the victim as John Edward Thompson, 47, who was killed early on Monday morning in the southern town of Sihanoukville, according to the local deputy police chief Kao Ratana.

"It is a case of murder. We are investigating the killing and we have not yet concluded what the motive was," he said on Tuesday.

Kao Ratana declined to say how the man was killed, but local reports said he was clubbed to death with wooden sticks in a robbery.

A spokesman for the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh said they had been informed of the death by police.

AFP

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