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Monday, March 01, 2010

Cambodia gets tough on acid attackers

Cambodia's government is drafting new laws to punish those who carry out devastating acid attacks.

According to official figures from the Cambodian police, 40 acid attacks were reported in 2008 and that number is rising. There have been six cases already this year.

Many of the attacks are carried out as punishment or revenge for acts of adultery.

Police are drawing inspiration from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where acid attackers can face life in prison or even the death penalty.

Officials believe many criminals are using acid nowadays because tighter gun and knife laws in Cambodia have made it the easiest weapon to get hold of. They are also planing to impose stricter regulations on acid sellers.

Some of the victims are now being cared for at the Cambodian Acid Survivor's Charity where they receive medical care, physiotherapy and counseling to help heal both the physical and psychological wounds.
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‘Appu Pappu’ back from Cambodia

Director Anantha Raju and his entire ‘Appu Pappu’ gang are back in Bangalore after a tight 35-days schedule in Cambodia and Bangkok.

To brief the press about Appu Pappu, the crew had gathered on Saturday at the Bell Hotel. Director Anantha Raju, Music director Hamsalekha, Actors Abbas, Komal, Madhuri, co-producer Prathap, writer Ram Narayan were there.

The film's producer Soundarya Jagadish, the producer of the hit ‘Mast Majaa Maadi’ and the distributor of Kannada said the major attraction in the film will be an orangutan. The crew picturised many important scenes with artistes like Master Snehith , Abbas, Komal Kumar, Rangayana Raghu, Rekha, Madhuri, Gymnassium Ravi and others in the foreign locales. She also said Master Snehith has a lot of scenes with the orangutan in the film.

Soundarya Jagadish also narrated the hard work put by the crew in filming with the orangutan in Cambodia. 'Orangutan has his own moods and five trainers were hired to keep the character in good spirits”, she said.

The film has another 20-days shooting left and the film will be ready in March. Soundarya Jagadish is planning to release the film in May to catch up with the summer holidays.

Music director Hamsalekha said all the songs have come out good and are full of youth. He also said that they are trying Amithabh Bachchan to sing one song about human kindness and the producer has sent the portions of the film done so far and the music track to Amitabh to let him decide on it.

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SKorea To Fund New Road At Angkor Temple Complex

(AP) PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - South Korea has provided $9.2 million to Cambodia to build a new road that will circle the famed Angkor temple complex and reduce traffic in the area, officials said Monday.

The 13-mile road will be closed to trucks to reduce pollution, noise and vibrations that could damage the ancient ruins, said Soeung Kong, vice secretary-general of the Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the temples.

Construction will start this year and take three years to complete, he said.

It will be the second road in the Angkor area funded by South Korea, connecting with existing roads to the north and northwest of the temples, said South Korean Embassy official Son Sungil. The first road extended south from the temple complex.

Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia, which hosts nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists each year, mostly from South Korea, Japan and the United States. More than half of the tourists visit Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Siem Reap province.

The temples were built when Angkorian kings ruled over much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries.

Conservationists have long expressed concerns about tourism's impact. They say uncontrolled pumping of underground water to meet the rising demand of hotels and residents in the nearby town of Siem Reap may be destabilizing the earth beneath the temples.
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Bangkok Under Fire on Immigration Policy

New Rules, Which Demand Compliance by March 2, Could Cause Massive Deportation of Migrant Workers


Pressure is mounting on Thai authorities to rescind or delay new immigration rules that could cause hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to face deportation and drive up business costs in one of Southeast Asia's most important economies, human-rights workers say.

The rules, which demand compliance by Tuesday and which require some 1.5 million migrants to register with Thai authorities and prove their nationalities, or be kicked out, are adding to recent concerns about overreliance on imported labor in Asia's wealthier countries.

Other countries in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore and Korea, have increasingly drawn on low-cost foreign workers to help them stay competitive with China and India. Malaysian palm-oil plantation owners count heavily on labor from Bangladesh or Nepal to keep wages low.

In Thailand, textile manufacturers and fishing fleets—two industries that heavily rely on foreign labor—use workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere.

Although precise data on such undocumented workers are unavailable, human-rights groups say they now account for roughly 5% to 10% of Thailand's work force.

As the number of migrants has grown, though, host countries have become more worried about backlash from local residents, who fear foreign labor is keeping local wages down. Officials say they also are concerned foreigners could pose security threats or health risks, since some come from countries with high rates of HIV or other diseases.

Thailand is emerging as the latest battleground. The country has long required migrant workers to register with the government. But now, authorities are asking them to undergo a considerably more onerous and time-consuming registration that involves verifying the migrants' identities with their home governments—something many workers are afraid to do because they fear it could subject them to punishments or penalties back home.

The goal of Thai authorities is to get a more reliable record of who is in the country at any given time, expand worker protections and tighten supervision, including ensuring workers have vaccinations.

The deadline for compliance, initially Feb. 28, was extended to March 2 after several hundred thousand migrants failed to appear. Workers who don't comply are subject to arrest and deportation, though it remains unclear when that process will start. In one concession, officials have said that workers who start the process now can finish the paperwork later, though they have also insisted they will take a hard line against anyone found to be intentionally avoiding the process.

Human-rights groups say as many as 700,000 of the 1.5 million or so migrants covered by the rule will refuse to comply, based on conversations they've had with Thai officials about current participation rates. A Thai government spokesman says he doubts the number is that high, but acknowledges at least several hundred thousand likely still haven't taken part.

Even a small reduction in the number of migrant workers could affect Thailand's competitiveness, analysts say, at a time when it is just beginning to recover from the world-wide economic crisis. Employers say they already are experiencing labor shortages, and will need more migrants to keep textile mills and other low-wage businesses, such as farm work or seafood processing, humming.

"Thai people don't want these jobs," says Amnart Nantaharn, deputy secretary general of the Federation of Thai Industries. Every sector of the Thai economy needs more migrant workers, he says.

Human-rights groups, meanwhile, say migrants have plenty of reasons to fear declaring themselves, including a history of past mistreatment by Thai authorities. Cases of arbitrary arrest and rape are detailed in a report released last week by New York-based Human Rights Watch. In some cases, activists allege, Thai authorities force migrants to pay bribes to avoid deportation.

On Thursday, police said Thai troops fire on a pickup truck carrying Myanmar migrants, killing three passengers, Reuters reported. The police said the driver was heading toward authorities near a border with Myanmar and refused to halt.

Other migrant workers worry that information about their activities will be shared with their governments in Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia, subjecting them to possible problems if they return home or their families to harassment.

"We recognize the right of the government to monitor immigration," says Phil Robertson, a deputy director of Human Rights Watch. "We just want them to do it in a way that prevents human-rights abuses against migrants."

Thai authorities say they are investigating the reports of abuse. They say the new registration process will ultimately help reduce such problems by formalizing workers' status and rights under Thai law.

"That is exactly why we need them to come forward and be protected, so they're not underground," says Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Thai government spokesman. He says he doesn't think higher costs for businesses "is much of an issue" but added the government will consider possible economic downsides as it considers how aggressively to enforce the rule.

Thailand isn't the only country in the region grappling with how to tighten rules on foreign workers without driving too many of them away. Last month, after complaints from local residents, Singapore said it would raise fees on employers who use overseas labor. Malaysia has cracked down on the movement of some migrants after a U.S. State Department report last year accused the country of allowing human trafficking, often for the purpose of bringing overseas workers in for forced labor. Malaysian authorities have said they don't condone trafficking and are dealing with the problem.Tighter controls could help Thailand and the foreign workers in the long run, says Christopher Bruton, an analyst at Dataconsult Ltd., a Bangkok advisory firm. Wages will likely have to rise and some businesses will "probably close or go over the border" to remain competitive if many migrant workers return home, he says. But relying on cheap labor tends to promote inefficiencies in businesses, he says, and forcing companies to accept somewhat higher wages could ultimately make them run better and be more competitive.

—Wilawan Watcharasakwet
and Celine Fernandez
contributed to this article.

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