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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kent man charged for reportedly having sex with child prostitutes in Cambodia


A 59-year-old Kent man is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Monday in Seattle to face charges he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with underage girls in Cambodia.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Craig Thomas Carr, of Kent, was accompanied by ICE agents May 7 as he boarded a plane in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the return flight to the United States, according to an ICE media release. The charges against Carr are detailed in a five-count criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

According to affidavit in the case, the investigation into Carr's activities began in December 2009 when the Cambodian National Police, acting on information from the French National Police, learned that a taxi driver in Phnom Penh, identified by the initials S.M., had advertised on the Internet that he could procure minors for the purpose of child prostitution.

Carr responded to one of S.M.'s advertisements in November 2009 and they subsequently exchanged approximately 20 e-mail messages.

In the e-mails, Carr and S.M. discussed Carr's desire to have sex with girls around 12 years of age. S.M. told Carr that he could arrange for the age and appearance of girls Carr described.

Court documents describe how Carr traveled Jan. 13 to Cambodia via San Francisco International Airport and Taipei, Taiwan. The next day, S.M. met Carr at his hotel and transported him to a local guest house where he met a woman who appeared to be managing the brothel.

ICE's investigation revealed that, for the next seven days, Carr had sex multiple times with three girls. All fees were pre-negotiated prior to his departure from the U.S.

According to the affidavit, Carr told ICE agents that he paid S.M. $3,000 when he arrived in Cambodia and had made two additional payments of $3,000 and $1,800 to the woman who operated the brothel. Carr also admitted to paying each young girl $20 for allowing him to take sexually explicit photographs of them.

The Cambodian National Police arrested Carr on Jan. 22. He remained in the custody of Cambodian authorities until he was removed from that country and escorted back to the U.S. by ICE. S.M. was also arrested by the Cambodian police in January and he remains in Cambodia.

"Pedophiles who believe they can escape the detection of law enforcement and travel overseas to commit heinous crimes against children should take note," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations. "ICE and its law enforcement partners around the globe will pursue those who subject children to this type of crime and bring them to justice."

The probe into Carr's activities was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle, ICE's Office of International Affairs that oversees the agency's Attaché Office in Bangkok, the Cambodian Police Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection offices and the French National Police.

Carr is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington under the Protect Act. The Protect Act, which went into effect seven years ago, substantially strengthened federal laws against predatory crimes involving children outside the U.S. by adding new crimes and increasing the penalties for these charges.

The investigation is part of Operation Predator, an ongoing ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. The hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

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Leading Indicators: Off-the-Radar News Roundup

Judah Grunstein

- China's central bank promised to maintain a "basically stable" exchange rate and a "moderately easy" monetary policy, in its first-quarter report released yesterday. The language has some analysts expecting an imminent shift toward a stronger yuan. Meanwhile, China posted double-digit trade growth in April, and first-quarter economic growth of 11.9 percent, but weak global demand has analysts skeptical that Beijing will move quickly to let the yuan rise. Got that? It would seem the only safe bet is that China will do something about the yuan, as long as you accept that "doing nothing" also qualifies as "doing something."

- China and Cambodia agreed to strengthen bilateral military ties following a meeting in Beijing between China's defense minister and Cambodia's chief of staff. Nothing new here, Cambodia has been steadily slipping into China's orbit for a while now.

- Just when you thought that Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's handling of the Futenma base relocation couldn't get any worse, government sources said that he has now given up on his self-imposed deadline to resolve the issue by May 31. No Coke!! Pepsi!!

- South Korea confirmed that a Pakistani man arrested for illegally entering the country is a member of the Taliban, raising security concerns for the G-20 summit scheduled in Seoul for November. The more globalization diffuses power -- and the symbols of power -- the more it diffuses the threat of anti-globalization backlashes, like Islamic terrorism.

- Meanwhile, and perhaps not unrelatedly, South Korea formally launched the 320-troop unit that will be deployed to Afghanistan in July and outlined its equipment: four helicopters, armored vehicles and a mini-UAV.

- India's army said that there had been no "intrusions" by China along the Line of Actual Control that defines their border, instead calling various incidents reported last year "transgressions" that resulted from "a matter of perception of the borderline."

- India's home minister ruled out military operations against Maoist Naxalite insurgents due to "ethical considerations," saying, "Sri Lanka might have used the military to tackle the LTTE, but we in India can't do that." Interesting that he referred to Sri Lanka, instead of to the Pakistani army's campaign in North Waziristan. Perhaps it has to do with not stepping on Islamabad's toes in advance of the July 15 meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers, announced today.

- Following a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Spain's foreign minister promised that the EU would open an unspecified number of new chapters in Turkey's EU accession negotiations before the end of the Spanish EU presidency in July. I'm not quite sure what the Spanish foreign minister is doing speaking on behalf of the EU on common foreign policy, given that there's now an EU foreign minister -- a role that was created for that express purpose.

- Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during his visit to Syria. The two were joined by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This will probably raise hackles in all the usual places, but I think it's worthwhile having someone of Medvedev's stature able to sit down and cut to the chase with Hamas leaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been trying to do just that for a while, but faces constraints based on both the U.S. and EU listings of Hamas as a terrorist organization.

- Israel was invited to join the OECD after a 16-year effort. The bid was supported by Turkey over strenuous Palestinian opposition, signaling a potential thaw in recently testy relations between the two allies.

- Egypt's prime minister asked parliament to extend the Emergency Law, in force since 1981, for another two years,a lthough promising to limit certain aspects of it. The lifting of the state of emergency has been a prominent demand of the Egyptian opposition. The extension, which parliament is expected to approve, is meant to be the last before an anti-terror law replaces it in 2012.

- Uruguay's local elections, which saw the opposition take most of the regional governments amid a record proportion of "blank ballot" abstensions, served as a "wake-up call" for the country's ruling coalition.

Research by Kari Lipschutz.
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Cambodia's Preap Sovath


Cambodia’s best-known celebrity is actor and singer Preap Sovath. Immensely popular in his home country, Sovath has a talent for keeping his audience interested. Above all, he's a singer, but few will doubt his talent on the big screen.

Appearing in everything from music videos, to film, Sorvath's exploits in 2007 earned him the top honour at the Cambodian Film Festival. For Sovath, the biggest challenge was not simply becoming a celebrity, but remaining one - he confided to RFI.

In Cambodia, new stars appear every day: They are born at nightfall and then disappear as soon as the sun rises, making way for those to come the night after. It’s rare for an actor to survive longer than three years. As a result, they tend to adopt a similar, rigid, style and find it difficult to adapt to the tastes of the public.

Sovath, to the contrary, knew how to conserve his popularity. He’s been the country’s highest-billed star for almost 20 years. It all started when he began singing in 1990, at a time when Cambodian cinema was not yet developed.

Apart from foreign films, karaoke music clips were all the graced screens in Cambodia. Sovath, a singer but also a talented actor, quickly joined Hang Meas, the biggest producer of music video clips in Cambodia.

Year after year, Sovath knew how to evolve along with the changing tastes of his fans. He did not hesitate to reinvent the style of his songs, nor the way he sang them. Moreover, he sang everything (from rock and pop to Khmer folk) and ensured everyone could see themselves in these clips – the young, the less young, the townsmen and the countrymen.

It was in 2005 when Sovath decided to dedicate himself to the big screen. He rediscovered himself in the film The Crocodile Hunter, playing nothing less that the hero. It was his film debut – but it was also his greatest cinematic success.

Today in Cambodia, the film market is in decline, largely because intellectual property rights are not respected: from the date of their release, and sometimes even before, films are copied and sold at an unbeatable price. As a result, cinemas are closing one after another and the producers are profiting less and less.

At 35 years of age, a married father of three, Sovath is continuing on his journey, all the while enchanting his public.

His success is not just thanks to his voice and acting prowess, but also to the manner in which he manages his private life. A stable and solid married life is paramount in a traditionally conservative society such as Cambodia's.

While most Cambodian celebrities are often tainted by sex scandals, Sovath is known to be a family man.

For his part, Sorvath hopes to continue his career along the same trajectory – at least for now. “I love art - and I love my career my as an artist, as it has allowed me step out of the void and become a celebrity.”

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Businesswomen Find a Friend in Facebook

Around six month ago, Lim Viriya had abandoned her products distribution business—twice. The 29-year-old businesswoman from Siem Reap province nearly closed down her tour company, as she faced tight competition and thin profit margins.

Facebook saved her businesses.

“In the past, I was defeated many times,” she told VOA Khmer recently. “But afterward, I read information posted on Facebook, talking about the commitment and persistence of a restaurant owner to pursue her business, despite being defeated many times. She advised that with any kind of business, no matter how little we earn, as long as we persist, we will not fail.”

The site’s Cambodia Women in Business page encouraged her to carry on with her ventures, she said, and, since December 2009, things have been looking up.

The Facebook page was the initiative of the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, which thought social networking could help Cambodian women looking to start their own businesses.

Cambodian women face a number of challenges starting or expanding their businesses. With often lower educations, they must make sense of regulatory information, and they have an uphill struggle against family values that disapprove of women in business.

Now the page has more than 300 members, many of them owners of small- or medium-sized businesses. There are female students, employers and researchers. Men are not excluded.

The page includes photographs of various businesses run by women and discussions about the challenges they face, such as difficulties with registration. It has suggestions on ways women can gain the support of their husbands. It includes market research, product prices and business management strategies. Members post articles on national and international businesswomen.

The page does have limitations. It is run in English, on the Internet, excluding many Cambodian women who can’t read English or don’t have access to the Web.

Still, IFC project manager Lil Sisambat says she’s confident it is helping.

“Facebook creates energy and a lot of ideas about how to do more business, to do better business and to have a way to solve the problems women are facing,” she said. “If one woman who starts a business faces difficulties, other women can help her online. So I think it is a very good source of support to make the environment easy to do business.”

Seng Stephene, an employee of a private business in Phnom Penh who wants to open a communication company, only joined Facebook a month ago. With it, she said, she learned how to start her own business and how to study the market.

Women who already have successful businesses, meanwhile, share their experiences.

“The moment that women face harder problem in their businesses, it will make them become stronger and be successful,” said Heng Chenda, manager of KNN Handicraft. “So, please, all women, behave with a strong commitment.”

Women play an important role in economic growth, and private enterprise is the main driver of economic development in Cambodia. It accounts for 92 percent of total jobs in the country, according to a 2008 study by the IFC. In those, women accounted for 55 percent of all business owners, mainly with micro- or small-sized ventures.

With Cambodian men the primary owners of medium and large businesses, women do not fulfill their potential as job creators, nor as developers of human resources—nor as taxpayers.

A network site like Facebook can help them put their voices together, said Veronique Salze-Lozac’h, the regional director of economic programs for the Asia Foundation.

“If they can actually find enough women to say, ‘Yes, this is really a problem,’ then they can come together and try to contact to the government to improve their situation,” she said. “So Facebook can be a very useful tool for businesswomen to push for some reforms.”

However, because of its unofficial nature, Ty Makara Ravy, an active member of the sight, thinks the government may not take it seriously.

That may not be so. Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavy, after all, reads the page. She told VOA Khmer the concerns and challenges she finds there could help steer government policy.
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