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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cambodian economy to grow 4.5 pct in 2010 -ADB

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, April 20 (Reuters) - Cambodia's economy, one of the fastest growing in Southeast Asia for a decade, may grow 4.5 percent this year after contracting 2 percent in 2009 due to the global economic crisis, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

A pick-up in garment exports and tourism backed that forecast, Eric Sidgwick, the ADB's senior country economist, told a news conference on Tuesday, adding that the economy could grow around 6 percent in 2011.

However, he said Cambodia needed to diversify its economy to achieve sustainable growth in future.

"If you look at garments, the corner has now been turned," he said, noting that retail sales in the United States, a big market for clothes made in Cambodia, had risen 5.5 percent in the first quarter compared with a year before.

Tourism was also recovering and the sector had grown about 10 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared with last year.

"And the good news there is that the Koreans and Chinese are coming back. They are both up around 30 percent in the first quarter," Sidgwick said.

A drop in visitors from those countries last year was offset to some extent by more arrivals from Laos and Vietnam. "But by and large, visitors from Laos and Vietnam spent less and stayed fewer days than counterparts from Korea and China," he added.

Construction was also recovering, although he did not forecast by how much.

Garment exports, tourism and the construction sector, which together account for over a third of GDP, all shrank last year.

In contrast, agriculture, Cambodia's fourth big growth driver accounting for some 30 percent of GDP, grew by about 4 percent because of favourable rain, and that served as a social safety net for many workers laid off in other sectors.

Diversification should involve both new products and new markets, Sidgwick said.
"If the Asian region is going to pick up, Cambodia needs to be able to take part in that to benefit from that," he said.

"You need to diversify the economic base to new areas so this means new products for export and new markets for exports -- not just the U.S. and EU, but hopefully more in the Asian region, where activities seem to be picking up much more."

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Youths Seek Jobs, Development in New Year

Cambodian students from the Royal Cambodian Administration school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia has fully entered the Year of the Tiger, and the country’s youths are now looking for the upcoming year to bring more opportunities in education and employment and allow them more chances to participate in social development.

“Today our young people sometimes do not have good jobs, or are jobless, and this causes problems in society on their graduation from university,” said Samreth Phoumy, a 20-year-old psychology student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, as she prepared for her holiday last week. “So, I want to see more job opportunities and the increased attention on them in the New Year.”

Cambodia has a burgeoning population of youth, and while many remain mired in poverty, a growing number have found routes to education, social development or politics.

Take Khe Longmeng, 23, a volunteer for the Youth Resource Development Program, who sat with friends last week discussing the New Year.

“I would like the government to strengthen the education quality and technical skills, especially computer-related, because if we look at our country, people in rural areas are hardly educated,” he said. “Even in 2010 already, some do not yet know how to use a computer. It’s the 21st century now and there has not already been a lot of development in the field.”

Khe Longmeng said he wanted to see fair and just application of the law, regardless of the societal rank or status of an individual, and more youth participation in local commune development.

“It is an important factor because only active participations of all relevant stakeholders can boost a country’s development,” he said.

Cheang Sokha, executive director of the Youth Resource Development Program, which works with nearly 300 university students on community projects, said last week that young people need a specific structure to ensure their increased participation in national development.

“It is a challenge that there has not been much youth involvement in social development today,” Cheang Sokha said. “Has our education system encouraged youths or instilled in them the social will to build peace or reduce corruption?”

Sun Chansen, president of the Khmer Youth Association, said she expected the New Year to bring the drafting of a national youth policy, a government plan that “is crucial for both the youths and the government.”

The plan will be a “compass,” she said, “directing both to ensure the country’s prosperity.”

The first draft of the National Policy on Youths was first made in 2004 by the Ministry of Education’s youth and sport department, and it is now under discussion there. An official on the draft committee said the plan will be put forward for discussion later this month, a 10-point plan that includes the promotion of quality education and youth participation in social development.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said officials are paying attention to the needs of youth and creating jobs for them by brining in foreign investment, or sending workers overseas.

“This is also a part of job creation, because some skills that students have learned here do not fit with jobs in Cambodia, but outside the country,” he said.
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Clients at New Albany nail salon recruited for phony marriages

Five from New Albany, one from Sellesburg arrested


>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — A New Albany business is one of a handful of nail salons in the area where American citizens were allegedly enticed to take part in a scheme seeking to bypass immigration laws with phony marriages.

A female client of Pretty Nails Salon, on the 4200 block of Charlestown Road, was reportedly recruited by a worker there named Monirath Em, or Angel, in exchange for free nail services, cash and a trip to Cambodia, according to a federal indictment unsealed last week.

The client, whose name is not listed in court records, reportedly visited the nail salon about every two weeks from 2003 through 2006. Angel asked the client to sponsor her brother and sister, Borin Chum and Yota Em, to come to the United States.

The same person was later asked to marry Angel’s cousin for $5,000, but the offer was declined. Angel then asked the woman to go to Cambodia and pose as the cousin’s girlfriend.

She expressed concern about the legality of what she was being asked to do, but Angel reassured her, “I have an attorney. Trust me.”

Angel, 32, and her boyfriend, 39-year-old Michael Chanthou Chin, allegedly gave the client money for a U.S. passport and drove her to Louisville International Airport in February 2006. She flew to Cambodia and was photographed at an engagement ceremony before returning to the United States on March 4. The woman withdrew from the scheme, but a marriage between her and the unidentified man was registered in Cambodia in August 2006.

In April 2007, Angel flew to Cambodia and engaged the same person that her customer had previously “married,” while Chin also became engaged to another person. Chin and Angel returned to the United States without going through with the marriages.

Chin was reportedly a foreign-born Cambodian national who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2005. Angel also was foreign-born and became naturalized in 2006. They both lived in New Albany.

Borin Chum and Yota Em later married other American citizens in Kentucky and moved to New Albany.

Chin, Angel and 22-year-old Phearoun Peter Em, also known as Sophea Lim, of Sellersburg, were identified as three of the scheme’s six organizers.

According to court records, 23 people from three states have been indicted and arrested.

According to the allegations, U.S. citizens were paid between $1,000 and $5,000 to become engaged to foreign-born Cambodian nationals and file paperwork for them to obtain a visa. They were promised another $1,000 to $5,000 after the marriage and the arrival of the Cambodian-born national in the United States.

The American citizens were offered all-expense-paid vacations to Cambodia. They would stage photographs with their Cambodian fiancees at hotel rooms, beaches and tourist attractions. They were instructed to change their attire to make it appear as though the photographs were taken on different days.

The Americans were treated to restaurants, beaches, nightclubs and brothels. Sophea Lim even accompanied some of the Americans to Cambodia and offered to let young girls perform sexual favors for $7.

In one case in Louisville, an American woman charged in the indictment claimed she was threatened with murder after she attempted to back out of a fraudulent marriage. She went forward by completing immigration paperwork to obtain a fiancee visa and then participating in a marriage ceremony in Louisville.

Sangha Srey, 49, of New Albany, also entered the United States after participating in a fraudulent marriage, according to the indictment.

Some of the allegations date back to January 2000 and go until earlier this month. The conspiracy included more than 12 marriages and attempted marriages.

“[Immigration and Customers Enforcement] will not tolerate those who facilitate, arrange or profit from sham marriages to criminally exploit our nation’s generous immigration system,” said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE in a statement last week. “Marriage fraud results in an illegal shortcut to U.S. citizenship and poses a concern to our national security. All of those involved in these false marriages will be held accountable.”

The maximum penalties the suspects face are 75 years in prison, a $2.75 million fine and supervised release for 33 years.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Claire Phillips.

Most of the defendants appeared in federal court on Friday or Monday. Some have already been released on bond.

The Tribune contacted Pretty Nails Salon multiple days, but no manager was present and employees said they could not comment. Different Louisville attorneys have entered appearances for the defendants. Several attorneys contacted declined to comment.
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