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Monday, July 19, 2010

Cambodia Needs Business Infrastructure: IMF Chief

The head of the International Monetary Fund has advised Cambodia to strengthen infrastructure that could buffer it from future economic turbulence.

“Cambodia is in a very critical situation,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn told reporters last week, following a two-day Asian economic summit in Daejoen, South Korea.

Strauss-Kahn had warned that many Asian countries need to strengthen their economic policies to protect them from future economic shocks, as economic officials met for the Asia 21 meeting. But Cambodia remains in a difficult situation, he said.

“To make progress, clearly the problem of infrastructure is the highest importance,” he said, “and it has to be stressed because trade and communication are strongly linked with infrastructure.”

Strauss-Kahn also advised increasing trade within Asian countries, so as not to rely on the West for consumers.

Cambodia is one of the smallest countries in Asia and is reliant on exports for economic growth. That made it vulnerable to the 2008 economic crisis, when orders from Western countries, especially the US, fell.

Analysts say Cambodia’s weak infrastructure limits its competitiveness. And the World Economic Forum 2010 report listed Cambodia as one of the worst countries in ease of trade.

“The government has been working on it, since infrastructure is the development priority of Cambodia,” said Sun Sanisith, secretary general of the National Bank of Cambodia, who attended the conference in Daejoen.

Meanwhile, Asian financial experts also warned of financial systems that will require more cooperation among Asian nations. Experts from South Korea, China and Japan all said the banking sectors of Asian countries can be better bolstered through increased capital reserves and better cooperation among local banks.
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After Illness, Hun Sen Issues Warning to Rivals

Prime Minister Hun Sen walks through honorary guards as his arrives for presiding over a U.S.-backed peacekeeping exercise dubbed "Angkor Sentinel 2010" at the Cambodian tank command headquarters in Kampong Speu province, on Saturday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday gave only his third public address since reportedly falling ill with swine flu last month.

Speaking in front of Svay Rieng University and appearing healthy, Hun Sen warned would-be detractors that he would tightly hold onto power, and he promised to be the leader of the country in both 2013 and 2018 general elections.

Hun Sen and five cabinet members were reported to have fallen ill with the the H1N1 virus last month, causing the cancelation of several high-level meetings, including with a delegation of German diplomats.

“The opposition party has been talking about my health since my absence,” Hun Sen said. “They say that I was kept in the house or that I fled Cambodia.”

Hun Sen said this could have inferred a coup d'etat and he warned that if such an event took place, Cambodia would erupt into open violence.

“Whoever dares to commit a coup d'etat, they should have a head of iron,” he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, declined to comment on Hun Sen's statements. “I want Cambodian people to judge his speech,” he said.
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Cambodia To Seek Protection From Chemical Imports

Activists say that Cambodia has become a major dumping ground of pesticides by major companies and smaller operators.

Cambodia is planning to apply to an international convention that could help reduce the number of illegal hazardous chemicals coming into the country, a senior official said last week.

The government is considering application to the UN’s Rotterdam Convention, which outlines responsibilities of states towards each other regarding chemicals.

“The ministry is considering convention membership because we want to prevent other countries from using Cambodia as a trash bin for their hazardous chemicals and pesticides,” Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun told a meeting of government and development officials on July 14.

The meeting was to discuss a draft law to bolster protections against pesticides and other dangerous chemicals.

The Rotterdam Convention requires proper labeling and and instructions from countries of origin for chemicals, as well as disclosures on restrictions or bans of the chemicals. Both Thailand and Vietnam are among the 134 parties to the convention.

Meanwhile, Cambodia struggles with dangerous chemicals, with only about a third of all chemicals in local markets registered with the Ministry of Agriculture. Of them, only 14 percent have instructions and other labels in Khmer.

“Joining the Rotterdam Convention is a necessity, because when there is the import of hazardous chemicals into our country, we will be informed in advance,” said Keam Makara Dy, a health program manager for the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture
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First Epidemiological Study To Enroll Up To 1,000 Infants And Children In Cambodia Announced By Aeras And CHC

The Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation and the Cambodian Health Committee have announced the initiation of a study of tuberculosis prevalence in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia, beginning this month. This is the first study conducted in partnership by the two non-profit research organizations and the first Aeras-sponsored study to be conducted in Cambodia.

"Enhancing the ability to diagnose TB in children is essential. The scientific knowledge to be gained from this trial will assist in global efforts while easing the suffering of children right now in Cambodia from this curable disease," says Anne Goldfeld, co-founder of CHC and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

One out of every three people worldwide is infected with TB. In 2007 more than nine million people became sick with active TB disease and nearly 2 million people died of the disease. Co-infection with HIV and the growth of difficult-to-treat drug-resistant forms of TB have worsened the epidemic and increased calls for new TB vaccines. Cambodia is ranked by the World Health Organization as among the 22 nations with the highest burden of tuberculosis. Nearly one million Cambodians are infected with TB and 12,000 die of TB annually.

Worldwide, infants and young children are at heightened risk for TB mortality because of inadequate prevention options, difficulties in timely diagnosis, and tendency to progress more quickly to severe and disseminated forms of TB disease. Due to resource constraints and technical difficulties in diagnosing childhood TB, the incidence of TB among infants is unknown in Cambodia.

This six month cross-sectional epidemiology study will enroll up to 1,000 infants and children under five years old. The primary objective of the study is to estimate the prevalence of tuberculosis among BCG-vaccinated children over the set period of the study in two operational districts of Svay Rieng Province.

With precise estimates of TB incidence in infants and children, strategic policies and programs for preventing, diagnosing and treating childhood TB can be developed in Cambodia and other resource poor environments. Towards this goal, this study will for the first time compare the efficacy of a state-of-the art liquid culture system donated by BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) with traditional TB culture techniques.

"Accurate diagnosis of TB is critical to getting care to children now and to efforts to develop an effective TB vaccine. The currently available TB vaccine -- Bacille Calmette-Guérin -- provides some protection against severe forms of pediatric TB, but it does not prevent pulmonary TB, the most common form of the disease," said R. Gordon Douglas, Jr., MD, the Executive Chairman of Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation. "The world deserves new, more effective TB diagnostics and TB vaccines and Aeras is pleased to be collaborating with the Cambodian Health Committee in this effort."

Annmarie Leadman
Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation
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