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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Migrants face peril from Thai registration deadline: HRW

BANGKOK - More than one million migrants in Thailand face possible deportation and further abuse if they fail to meet a deadline this week to register with authorities, a rights watchdog said Tuesday.

Thailand has ordered all citizens from neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to register and verify their nationality by Sunday or risk deportation, as part of an ongoing clampdown on immigration.

But Human Rights Watch said the ultimatum will force an already vulnerable community to endure further abuse at the hands of Thai authorities and employers who they say regularly exploit migrant workers with impunity.

"Millions of migrants living in Thailand have been subjected to various forms of abuse ranging from extrajudicial killings to torture, arbitrary arrest, extortion...," Sunai Phasuk, the New York-based group's Thailand expert, said at a press conference to launch a report on the deadline.

"Migrant workers need to be seen as human beings, not simply as assets."

Some 200,000 of an estimated 1.3 million migrants in Thailand have begun the registration process, and so far 45,000 have completed it, said HRW, quoting official figures.

The watchdog said registration in theory gives migrants a temporary passport and legal footing in Thailand, but unscrupulous employers routinely confiscate such documents.

Officials also extort money from migrants by threatening deportation and arrest unless bribes are paid, with killings and beatings often going unreported, the 124-page report said.

HRW urged the Thai government to postpone the registration process and enforce labor protections for workers.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has so far bowed to domestic opinion by maintaining a tough stance on immigration, but he has insisted the government will use a rights-led approach.

Abhisit has failed to publicly revoke a series of provincial laws which restrict movement by migrants, banning them from travelling by motorcycle or using mobile phones and laying down curfews.

Thailand, which is seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, has been heavily criticized in recent months for its crackdowns on migrants from neighboring Laos and Myanmar.

In December Bangkok sparked outrage when it defied global criticism and used troops to repatriate about 4,500 ethnic Hmong from camps on the border with communist Laos, including 158 recognized as refugees by the United Nations.

Earlier last year hundreds of ethnic Rohingya migrants from Myanmar were rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters after being pushed out to sea in rickety boats by the Thai military.

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Cambodia Warns Its Citizens Not To Travel To Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- Cambodian government has warned its citizens not to travel to Thailand amid fears of mass protests from the anti-government group, ahead of a court verdict on whether or not to seize ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen asset Friday, reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Citing a spokesman of Foreign Ministry Koy Kuong, Xinhua said that the protests by Red-shirtts or better known as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, is expected to be held from Wednesday, two days ahead of the Supreme Court to rule on Thaksin's assets.

Therefore, Kuong said the Cambodian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement alerting Cambodian people not to travel to Thailand within these few days if they are not necessarily to do so.

"For those who are already in Thailand, are advised to stay far from rally venues to avoid any unexpected risk," he said.

The protest planned by red shirts or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister--is expected to take place on Wednesday.

The United States, Australia and United Kingdom also issued similar warning to their citizens who wish to travel to Thailand during this period.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will deliver the verdict for the 76 billion baht (US$2.29 billion) asset seizure case of Thaksin on Feb 26.

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Cambodian garment exports drops to 2.6 bln USD in 2009

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 23, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- The total value of garment, textiles and shoes exported last year dropped to 2.6 billion U.S. dollars compared with 3.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2008 as a result of global financial downturn, according to the figures of Commerce Ministry on Tuesday.

It said the total exports to the United States, which is Cambodia's biggest garment market, reached 1.5 billion U.S. dollars last year, down from 1.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2008.
The country's Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia ( GMAC) officials would not see the industry to pick up this year.

Kaing Monika, GMAC's spokesman, said "the international financial crisis has greatly impacted us, especially for our garment exports to the U.S. market."

"It is too early to say if exports of the products will increase for this year given the purchasing orders from overseas reserve for exports till June, not through out this year," he said.

The products exported to the EU also dropped to 718 million U.S. dollars last year from 786 million U.S. dollars in 2008, said the report.

The total value of exports to Canada also lowered to 190 million U.S. dollars in 2009 from 202 million U.S. dollars in 2008.

Exporting of the products to Japan and other Asian countries increased to 233 million U.S. dollars last year from 178 million U. S. dollars in 2008, it said.

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FBI: Alleged Sex Tourist Returned to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES -- A man who taught English in Cambodia and who is accused of traveling outside the United States to have sex with children arrived back in the United States Monday in FBI custody.

Michael James Dodd, 59, was brought back to the United States by members of the FBI's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (S.A.F.E.) Team, a multi-agency task-force dedicated to crimes against children.

The FBI first began investigating Dodd when members of the S.A.F.E. Team traveled to Cambodia in 2008 to meet with law enforcement officials there.

According to a criminal complaint filed against Dodd in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in January, Dodd taught English in Cambodia for students between the ages of 13 and 45 years old.
Dodd was arrested by the Cambodian National Police in October 2008 for an illegal sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl.

According to the complaint, Dodd admitted to an FBI agent during an interview that he traveled to Cambodia because he wasn't allowed to teach school in most places due to a previous sex offense.

Dodd also admitted, the claim states, to having sexual relations with a female minor and to paying the victim's family $50 every two weeks so he could visit with, and eventually marry, the girl.

He also admitted he paid other children to have sex with him in the area where he lived in Cambodia.

Dodd was convicted in a Cambodian court of sexually abusing the girl, and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Previously, Dodd was arrested in 2001 in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) for inappropriately touching thirteen underage female students at an elementary school where he worked.

He served time in prison, and was then put on probation for 15 years and ordered to pay fines and register as a sex offender.

Dodd will have an initial court appearance in Los Angeles on February 23rd.

If convicted of foreign travel to have sex with a child, he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
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US$100 million five star hotel is being built by the Sokimex conglomerate in Cambodia's capital

Feb 22, 2010 – The 799-room hotel which is expected to be completed by 2011 will be situated on the east side of the riverfront on Chhroy Changva peninsula in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

"The 16-storey Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will be built on six hectares of land which is under a 99-year land lease from city hall from 2007," Sokimex president Sok Kong told the Phnom Penh Post.

Sok Kong said the location of the hotel was atmospheric with beautiful river views but admitted, "There is a problem with traffic because there is only one bridge for access".

He said that although the city had recently experienced a hotel boom no new conference facilities have been built to entice business travellers to the city.

The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will feature two conference rooms with seating capacity for 1,500 persons and parking spaces for 1,000 cars.

"The hotel's conference centre will seat up to 1,500 people, and will be the [country's] biggest conference hall. It will raise Cambodia's reputation internationally," he said.

"The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will be the hotel with the largest conference hall in the city, and it will be suitable for international conferences," said So Mara, undersecretary of state in the tourism ministry.

Cambodia Hotel Association president Loo Meng welcomed the new hotel which will create 1,200 jobs for Cambodians.

“It is a good sign for the tourism sector. It shows that the tourism industry is getting better and better,” he said.

"The hotel will be good for high-class guests, and it will be as high quality as those in neighbouring countries."

Sok Kong said that the Sokha Phnom Penh would be the third five-star hotel operated by Sokimex in Cambodia, joining existing Sokha hotels in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Two more were on the drawing boards, he added.

Sokimex is also building two golf courses in a protected area on Bokor Mountain, Sok Kong said, adding that the company was also planning a resort at the site of old Bokor casino. More about the Cambodia Five Star-Hotel:$1%20...

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