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Thursday, March 31, 2011

HELP International Corp sees potential in Sri Lanka and Cambodia

It also intends to franchise education programmes in Mideast and Africa KUALA LUMPUR: HELP International Corp Bhd (HIC) is looking to expand into Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the Middle East and Africa to franchise its education programmes as well as offer professional niche courses for business continuity to rev up its revenue stream. Group chief executive Datin Chan-Low Kam Yoke said the company would be expanding into Sri Lanka and Cambodia by the third quarter and the Middle East and Africa probably by the first quarter of next year. “Sri Lanka and Cambodia are potential markets for the group. The former, for example, has a growing demand for good education coupled with rapid development taking shape in the country. In addition, the culture and history is almost similar to that of Malaysia and this bodes well for HIC to venture there,'' she said in an interview. Although the population of Cambodia was relatively small, Low said the economy was picking up, further strengthened by the discovery of oil reserves there.

Datuk Dr Paul Chan Tuck Hoong and Datin Chan- Low Kam Yoke looking at a model of its Subang 2 campus.

Since Cambodia was progressing and forthcoming in education, she added, the company felt it was a good market for the group to expand into.

Low said its colleges in the country were receiving good response from Middle East students and expected 100 plus students, which she described as a conservative figure, to enrol at its campuses by the third quarter.

Currently, 80% of HIC's revenue is derived from its local student population.

The group also has presence in Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

To date, it has more than 10,000 students in total at its campuses in Pusat BandarDamansara and Sungei Besi. It planned to set up two more in Subang 2 (near Sungei Buloh) slated in 2013 and Seri Alam in Johor in 2016.

HELP University College, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary today, is among the few listed education groups in the country which are constantly on the radar of investors.

The co-founders are Low and her husband, who is HELP University College president Datuk Dr Paul Chan Tuck Hoong.

For its first quarter ended Jan 31, HIC posted a higher net profit of RM2.73mil against RM2.42mil in the previous corresponding period. Revenue stood at RM24.3mil against RM23.5mil previously.

The group's net profit for the financial year ended Oct 31 (FY10) was RM19.1mil as opposed to RM15.5mil FY09, while revenue stood at RM105.2mil compared with RM96.6mil previously.

Chan, who is also the group president of HIC, said in collaboration with foreign universities, HELP University College planned to offer professional niche courses designed for CEOs and policy makers to prepare them to handle crises effectively, for example the nuclear crisis in Japan, among others.

He said the professional development courses would probably take off by year-end, adding that this was to ensure continuity of a business in the event of a catastrophe or crisis that would hinder growth and sustainability.

Chan said, for a start, it would get international experts in relevant expertise to conduct training at HELP colleges.

Online learning was another important source of revenue for the group as offering such courses would help to cut costs substantially and facilitate global reach of students, he said, adding that online learning was part of the group's Internationalisation, Diversification and Expansion strategy.

In this regard, it recently entered into a collaboration with Pearson e-College, a leading platform provider for top online universities in the US, and was also finalising investment in a Swiss online learning company that focused on the corporate sector.

HIC, in collaboration with the Naza Group, would also be setting up the country's first comprehensive automotive college.

The college of automotive and transportation management would offer programmes ranging from certificate to master's degrees and vocational training relevant to the industry to address the shortage of skilled workers faced by the sector.

The college would be run by a 50:50 joint venture company set up by Naza and HIC.

Read more!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Observers See Role for Former King on Border Issue

Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk are greeted by students along a Phnom Penh road during during the marking of the country's 50th Independence Day in 2003.

Former king Norodom Sihanouk could be a valuable asset in the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, a Cambodian historian says.

As monarch, Norodom Sihanouk led Cambodia’s bid to regain Preah Vihear temple from Thai occupation in 1962 through the International Court of Justice.

The court determined the temple belonged to Cambodia, but Thailand continues to dispute the ownership of land nearby, an issue that has led to a prolonged, deadly military standoff.
Michel Trane, a history professor in Cambodia, told VOA Khmer in an interview that Norodom Sihanouk is a living witness to those events and could shed light on the court’s decision and the border standoff.

“Before he is gone, we should make a request to him asking his opinion,” Trane said.

Both sides remain at odds over the disputed area, with the most violent clashes, in February, followed by a peace effort led by Asean and its president, Indonesia.

Officials are scheduled to meet in Indonesia next week to hammer out the details of a potential Indonesian monitoring mission to the border to help ensure a ceasefire.

Trane said it was regretful the former king’s knowledge has not yet been tapped in dealing with the standoff, even as Cambodia prepares a legal request from the international court on the 1962 decision.

“The most regretful thing is that his great merit was not thought of,” Trane said of th former monarch, who relinquished the throne in 2004. “I remember that His Majesty fairly said that even a hand-span of land we would not lose. And he achieved this effective goal.”

Son Soubert, an advisor to the former king whose father helped prepare the legal case for Preah Vihear in the 1960s, said Norodom Sihanouk, now 88, could advise on the current dispute.

“He has a lot of experience in diplomatic affairs, legal affairs, and all of this,” Son Soubert said. “Because indeed it’s a national issue. It is not the issue of any political party or individual. There must be unity, all together, to solve our land problem.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the former king does at times advise the government, including letters of support in the Preah Vihear issue. However, he said, the current dispute is not the same as the historical case.
Read more!

Friends Without A Border's Gala Features Pulitzer Prize-winner Nicholas D. Kristof

NEW YORK, March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Friends Without A Border (Friends) announces that its 9th Annual Gala will take place on Thursday, April 14, 2011 (6 to 9:30 p.m.) at Espace, 635 West 42nd St., New York City. Celebrated writer Nicholas Kristof will present the inaugural Healing Cambodia Award to humanitarian Bernard Krisher. Based in New York, with chapters in Canada, Japan, and France, Friends is a 501(c)(3) organization which raises awareness and funds to support Angkor Hospital for Children, a leading pediatric hospital in post-genocide Cambodia. Founded in 1996 by photographer Kenro Izu, Friends raised the funds to construct AHC in February 1999 and continues to raise millions each year for pediatric healthcare in Cambodia. AHC is internationally respected for quality, compassionate care provided to more than 125,000 sick, malnourished, and impoverished children annually. Since 1999, AHC has treated more than 870,000 children. Bernard Krisher's contribution to the restoration and enhancement of civil society in Cambodia is unparalleled. He drew forth the assistance of many influential persons he met during his long career as a journalist and later as Tokyo Bureau Chief of Newsweek. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, best-selling author, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will present the award on behalf of Friends. Mr. Kristof has earned accolades for his incisive chronicling of social injustice. Cambodia has loomed large in Mr. Kristof's examination of global poverty and the effort to defeat it. "It is a true pleasure for Abbott and Abbott Fund to join Friends Without A Border, Nicholas Kristof, and many others in honoring Bernard Krisher for his incomparable contribution to Cambodia's welfare," said Katherine Pickus, Divisional Vice President, Global Citizenship and Policy, Abbott. "We're also proud to share a broader commitment to advancing the health of children in Cambodia and countries around the world." As one of only five teaching hospitals in Cambodia, AHC has trained thousands of Khmer nurses and doctors as part of its mission to help rebuild the nation's healthcare infrastructure. Outreach programs instill preventive health, nutrition, and hygiene practices among rural residents and upgrade local health centers. Its Homecare program is the largest hospital-based pediatric HIV antiretroviral therapy program outside the nation's capital, Phnom Penh. Contact: Mayanna Prak Friends Without A Border, 1123 Broadway, Suite 1210, New York, NY 10010 917-817-3224 SOURCE Friends Without A Border Read more!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cambodia fully supports Timor-Leste to enter ASEAN: PM

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Cambodia will fully support the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to become the 11th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year or next year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday. Hun Sen made the remarks during a 30-minute meeting with the visiting President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta at the Peace Palace. "Cambodia fully supported Timor-Leste to become the 11th member of ASEAN," said Hun Sen during the meeting. "Cambodia's support is regardless Timor-Leste is a small or big, poor or rich country, but to reflect the equal rights of the countries in the region." Hun Sen expressed his hope that Timor-Leste will be able to join the association this year or next year. Meanwhile Jose Ramos-Horta said that today Timor-Leste is full of peace and stability, and its economy has a growth of over ten percent since 2007. He added that the country now has no external debt, instead, it has money surplus deposited in the bank. "Therefore, the Timor-Leste's request to enter the ASEAN will not be a burden for any country in the bloc," said Jose Ramos- Horta. "Timor-Leste's intention to join ASEAN is to integrate into the ASEAN region and to strengthen and expand regional cooperation." Timor-Leste submitted a formal application on March 4 to join the ASEAN to the current chair of Indonesia. Koy Kuong, the spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said after the meeting that Cambodia and Timor-Leste also pledged to cooperate on oil and gas sector and Cambodia will send a delegation to study about the management of oil and gas in Timor- Leste. Jose Ramos-Horta, accompanied by Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Industry Gil Da Costa Alves, arrived here on Tuesday morning for a three-day state visit. Earlier in the day, he was granted a royal audience to King Norodom Sihamoni, and he will pay courtesy calls on Cambodia's Senate President Chea Sim, the National Assembly President Heng Samrin on Wednesday. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Read more!

India fourth most corrupt nations in Asia: Survey news

India is the fourth most corrupt country after the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, according to a ranking of 16 Asia-Pacific countries. India was found to be the fourth most corrupt nation among the 16 countries of the Asia Pacific region surveyed by leading Hong Kong-based business consultancy firm PERC. The Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC) has rated India at 8.67 on a scale of zero to 10, with the high end being the worst case of corruption scenario, just below the Philippines (8.9 points), Indonesia (9.25 points) and Cambodia (9.27 points). Thailand was rated at 11 with a scale of 7.55, followed by China (7.93) and Vietnam (8.3). Singapore, on the other hand, was given a clean sheet with a score of 0.37, followed by Hong Kong (1.10), Australia (1.39), Japan (1.90) and the US (2.39), putting them in the top five. According to the report, civil and other local-level political leaders in India were found more corrupt than the national-level political leaders, with the former getting a score of 9.25 and the latter a slightly better 8.97. Civil servants at the city level too were rated at 8.18, worst than the civil servants at the national level. "The issue of corruption has grown and overshadowed the second term in office of the Congress-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," PERC said in its Asian Intelligence report on Asian business and politics. The report has also considered the serious allegations against the government like the 2G Spectrum allocation, scandals involving the sale of telecom licences, mismanagement of the Commonwealth Games, land scam involving high level military officers, and improper property loans made by state-owned financial institutions, among others. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has put himself in a defensive position through his inaction in almost all cases of corruption, although he himself is considered above board. Meanwhile, the recent WikiLeaks report that the ruling Congress Party paid off parliamentarians back in 2008 to pass the US-India civil nuclear deal, has also helped dent the image of the UP government led by Manmohan Singh. Read more!

Risks, Rewards as Economic Corridor Develops

Cambodia is building up its rural infrastructure in an effort to link itself to its neighbors, under an “economic corridor” project aided by the Asian Development Bank. Proponents of the southern economic corridor, part of the Greater Mekong Subregion project, say it will bring benefits to villagers like those in Kampong Thom district’s Sambo Prey Kuk temple, in Prasat Sambo district. Here, a bumpy dirty road connecting the temple to the main provincial town was recently improved. “When the road was rough, not many people came,” said Kong Sophy, who owns a restaurant near the ancient temple, where buses of tourists now visit. “But now that the road is good, more visitors are coming. So I do well in sales.” Tem Bunteng, a local tour guide, agrees that better infrastructure has improved tourism numbers to the temple, which is one of the most-visited temples in the country outside those of Angkor Wat. “The people here want a good road because it can bring in more tourists,” Tem Bunteng said. “It’s very important because this is one of the most attractive spots in the country,” Ingrid Overstegen, a Dutch tourist said one afternoon at the temple. “Tourists want to come here, and they bring money to your country, so it's good for your economy.” Economists say the connection between rural and urban areas across borders in the Mekong countries can help boost economies across the region. “There's a huge potential in tourism and agriculture,” Arjun Goswami, the ADB’s director for regional cooperation, said in an interview during a regional forum on the economic corridor last month. “Now, both of these sectors, in terms of cross-border movement of people or cross-border movement of agricultural goods and produce, depend on the husbanding of natural resources.” However, that potential can also bring some strife to communities who say they are not benefiting. That has been the case for 500 villagers from the Prey Lang forest, which spans four eastern provinces and is the site of at least two large rubber plantation concessions to Vietnamese companies. Villagers say the cross-border concessions are threatening their livelihoods from the large expanse of natural forest. While tourists were admiring Sambo Prey Kuk temple earlier this month, these villagers were holding a forum in Kampong Thom to express their grievances. “The other 20 provinces know clearly that in history, there are no other forests left in Cambodia,” Ros Soeunn, a 77-year-old villager told the forum, which had gathered under a tent in Kampong Thom town. “Only this Prey Lang still exists,” he shouted into a microphone at a gathering of lawmakers and local authorities. “Do you want to destroy it all? And where can the people live?” “You give companies millions of hectares, but your own people, nothing,” he said. “You just allow others from outside to develop, but what is development for, if the people weep bitterly?” Goswami said the risks that may come from increased development will have to be addressed. “Of course countries that have natural resources will want to use that natural resource base for growth, and other countries will want to get access to it,” he said, referring to agricultural development in general. “The issue is not trying to stop it; the issue is trying to make sure that the risks are best mitigated.” Read more!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cambodia, DPRK defense officials meet to share experience

PHNOM PENH, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) defense officials met here on Monday aiming to strengthen cooperation and share experience on national defense, said a Cambodian spokesman. A nine defense officials delegation from the DPRK, headed by Pak Jae-gyong, vice minister of the People's Armed Forces of the DPRK, held a meeting with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh on Monday afternoon, Chhum Socheat, the spokesman for the Cambodian Defense Ministry, said after the meeting. "The delegation's visit in Cambodia is to re-strengthen cooperation between Cambodia and the DPRK in all sectors," he said. "Also, both sides have shared experience on national defense." Later in the day, the delegation met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Pak Jae-gyong conveyed greetings from President Kim Jong-il to Hun Sen and thanked Cambodia for the warm welcome to his delegation during the visit, the premier's spokesman Eng Sophalleth told reporters after a 30-minute meeting. Pak said the relation between the DPRK and Cambodia has been built by Marshall Kim Il Sung and former King Norodom Sihanouk and it has lasted for more than 40 years since. Pak Jae-gyong also invited Hun Sen to visit the DPRK. In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia is pleased to expand cooperation with the DPRK in all sectors, especially in trades and commerce, according to Eang Sophalleth. Hun Sen accepted the invitation to visit the DPRK at a proper time in the future. The delegation arrived in Cambodia on Sunday for a three day visit. They will also visit engineering schools for Cambodian armed forces. Read more!

Prawit: Border talks must remain bilateral

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon agrees that Thailand and Cambodia can discuss their border disputes in Indonesia, but insists that any such talks must be bilateral and Indonesian authorities must not be involved. Gen Prawit was responding on Monday to a report that his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh proposed that the next meetings of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) and of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) be held together in Indonesia. Gen Prawit said Gen Tea Banh had not informed him of his proposal yet. He said the next meeting of the GBC and JBC should not be held at the same time. The JBC meeting should come first because the GBC meeting's agenda is security along the Thai-Cambodian border and was ‘’discussable’’. There should not be a problem, the defence minister said. At the next GBC meeting the two sides will discuss problems in implementing agreements over the disputed border area, security along the border, illegal labour, drug smuggling and other crime. When Gen Prawit was asked by the reporters what he would say if Cambodia insisted the meeting take place in Indonesia, he said Thai authorities would have no problem with that, but both sides would need to talk first. However he insisted the GBC meeting must be bilateral. ‘’ Asean (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has agreed that Indonesia will take part only in the news conference and will not attend the meeting. We have no problem if things remain this way,’’ Gen Prawit said. The general reiterated his previous position that the Thai-Cambodian border dispute does not affect the travel or trade of people in either country and the two sides can still sit around a table and negotiate,. There, there should be no need to hold the JBC and GBC meetings in a third country. Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) spokesman Panthep Puapongpan has filed a petition with the House of Representatives, again demanding that parliament refuse to endorse the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues. The PAD claims that parliamentary endorsement of the three memos, which were signed in 2009 and in 2008 by the Joint Boundary Commission, would result in a significant loss of territory. The government will table the three memos in parliament tomorrow. Read more!

Police beat Cambodian garment workers

At least eight female garment workers were injured on Monday in clashes with Cambodian riot police, who used shields and electric shock batons to end a protest over a factory closure, witnesses and a union said. At least eight female garment workers were injured on Monday in clashes with Cambodian riot police, who used shields and electric shock batons to end a protest over a factory closure, witnesses and a union said. Some demonstrators were pushed to the ground and shocked with batons when police with guns and riot gear were deployed to forcibly end a road blockade by an estimated 1,000 female workers who were demanding unpaid wages and compensation after a local factory went bankrupt. The clashes were the latest setback for an industry that forms a vital part of Cambodia's fledgling $10 billion economy. The garment sector was badly hit during the global economic slump from 2008 and more recently has been plagued by strikes over low pay and working conditions. "Police were ordered to beat up workers, some were hit in the heads and shoulders and others were pushed to the ground," said Chhoeun Chanthy, a 30-year-old garment worker . "We were not afraid, we were peaceful." Chea Mony, president of the Cambodia's Free Trade Union (FTU), told Reuters the total number of injured was unknown and some workers were being held in police custody. "This is very serious. These workers were only in dispute with employers," Chea Mony said. "This violence is not justified," he said, adding that a government committee tasked with dealing with such disputes was "useless". Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth declined to comment and a legal representative for the factory was unavailable. Garment manufacturing is Cambodia's third-biggest currency earner after agriculture and tourism. About 30,000 jobs were lost in 2009 after a drop in sales to the United States and Europe. The downturn led to a strike by more than 210,000 garment factory workers last year and more mass strikes have been threatened over a controversial move by the government to regulate trade unions. Cambodia exported garments, textiles and shoes to the value of $2.3 billion in 2009, down from $2.9 billion in 2008. According to the World Bank, the sector is in recovery and exports grew 24 percent in 2010 after a 20 percent contraction. An estimated 300,000 of Cambodia's 13.4 million people work in the sector and send vital cash to impoverished rural villages where many people live on less than $1 a day. Reuters Read more!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trimming the cost of an Asia trip

By Michelle Higgins

New York Times

Planning a trip to Asia this year? Better get booking.

International tourist arrivals to the region increased 11 percent in 2010, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association. And tour operators that cater to U.S. travelers say bookings this year are already well ahead of last year.

"Our most popular 14-day tour of China already has more passengers booked to travel in 2011 than the entire 2010 season," Marty Seslow, vice president for sales and marketing at Gate 1 Travel, based in Pennsylvania, said a few weeks ago.

That means bargains will be harder to come by for travelers only now planning vacations. Rising jet fuel costs aren't helping matters. And stronger Asian currencies, from the Taiwan dollar (up about 8 percent against the dollar compared with a year ago, according to Travelex, a currency exchange company) to the Malaysian ringgit (up roughly 11 percent), means Americans have less buying power. (One exception is Vietnam -- where U.S. travelers are getting about 12 percent more for the dollar than a year ago.) But it's still possible to save on your Asian vacation if you plan carefully.
One of the biggest expenses of any trip to Asia, whether a whirlwind tour of China or a beach holiday in Bali, is simply getting there. Discounts, offered sporadically, aren't as deep as they were a few years ago.

Want to take advantage of the few discounts out there? George Hobica, founder of, advises: "Sign up for frequent-flier programs, and airline emails, even if you won't really be doing it for the miles." Asian airlines often reserve their best fares for their own websites, he said, noting that Singapore Airlines recently slashed fares by $300 to $400 on more than two dozen routes -- a sale it disclosed via email to its frequent-flier members.

If you have a stockpile of frequent-flier miles on an airline that doesn't fly to your Asian destination, you still may be able to use those miles, thanks to airline alliances. For example, American Airlines does not fly to Hong Kong, but Cathay Pacific, a OneWorld alliance member, which has a code-share agreement with American Airlines, does and accepts American miles.

Jetting around Asia

Once in Asia, use budget airlines such as AirAsia or Tiger Airways. "They have ridiculously low fares," said Stephanie Trzaska, a U.S. expatriate who has been living in Asia for the past four years, including in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

She recently paid $226 total for round-trip flights on Tiger Airways from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for herself, her husband and their daughter. The same flight on a mainstream airline, she said, would have been at least double that amount.

She added that, Travelocity's Singapore-based affiliate, can be helpful when searching for budget carriers. But be sure to check the airline site directly before you book in case the fare is lower on the carrier's site.

Many Asia-bound travelers have several destinations on their itineraries. If you fall into this category, consider an air pass. Cathay Pacific, OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance are among the airlines and alliances that offer passes, which allow travelers to fly to multiple cities within a country or region, often for hundreds of dollars less than if you bought individual tickets. But read the fine print; the tickets often come with booking restrictions and hefty change fees.

One with fewer restrictions, said Simone Farbus, air travel manager at Asia Transpacific Journeys, is the Discover Asia Airpass, operated by SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, which offers flights between 22 Asian destinations, ranging from $145 to $345 per segment.

"There are no minimum or maximum restrictions on the amount of coupons or segments, and there's also no minimum stay requirement," she said. "We also like the fact that if circumstances change and the client has to cancel or change their ticket, it will only cost $25."

One drawback: Because the air pass uses Singapore as a hub, travelers who want to fly to, say, Siem Reap in Cambodia from Yangon, in Myanmar, must first fly to Singapore. But that additional flight can shave a lot off your costs. A trip in late April along that route starts at $980 when using the air pass, versus $2,885 if booked as individual tickets, Farbus said.

One air pass that doesn't require backtracking is the Discovery Airpass, operated in a joint venture by Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines and Berjaya Air, with flights between Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and many small island resorts in the region. Flights between countries are typically $120 per segment, according to Farbus, and domestic flights range from $65 to $113.

Hotel savings, purchased by Priceline in 2007, is a good place to begin your search. It offers deals at more than 10,000 hotels in the Asia-Pacific sphere, including specially negotiated last-minute rates that can offer savings. For example, a "family" room, which comes with a double and a single bed, at the Yeng Keng Hotel, a 20-room boutique hotel in the City of George Town in Penang, Malaysia, was offered for $118 in mid-March on Agoda versus the promotional rate of 380 ringgit, or about $125, listed on the hotel's own site.

You can also bid for hotels in major Asian cities on, choosing trip dates, hotel star rating and the general neighborhood you wish to stay in, and then naming your own price -- just as you do on the U.S. site but this time in Hong Kong dollars. As on Priceline's U.S. hotel site, you learn the name of the hotel after you pay.

Package, seasonal deals

Packages that combine air and hotel are another way to save. For example, Singapore Airlines Vacations' Amazing 5 Nights Bali Package offers five nights at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, round-trip flights from Los Angeles for two, airport transfers and daily breakfast for $3,028, including taxes, in early May. If booked separately, five nights at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel ($640) and the airfare for two ($3,068) came to $3,708 for the same trip.

You'll get the best rates in the offseason, of course, but there are trade-offs. You can have the Forbidden City practically to yourself in Beijing in December, but you'll have to bundle up, with daytime temperatures hovering around freezing.

The so-called shoulder season offers something of a sweet spot for travelers looking for deals. For example, the 10-day Taste of China Tour offered by Friendly Planet Travel costs a few hundred dollars less in April, when the weather is milder, than during peak summer season.

"All the components for the various prices are the same," said Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet Travel. "The only thing that changes is the departure date."
Read more!

Police to question Orphanage paedophile over rape claim

By Darren Devine A LIFELONG friend of paedophile Nick Griffin has told Wales on Sunday she became suspicious after he took a teenage boy who has since accused him of rape on a camping trip alone. Janet De Selincourt allowed Griffin to live on the trout farm she one ran in North Wales and spoke out after we revealed the teenager’s allegations last week. Following our exclusive story, North Wales Police have also promised to quiz Griffin, 53, about the alleged two-year campaign of abuse against a teenager in the Llangollen area when he is released from jail in Cambodia. The orphanage-founder is serving a year behind bars for abusing boys younger than 15 at his charity institution in South East Asia. Mrs De Selincourt, 69, admitted that despite her suspicions about Griffin she has written to him in Cambodia and will stand by him because “a friend is a friend”. She said: “I know he’s been convicted, but I find it very difficult to believe what I’ve heard. “I did write to him. I sent a letter to the British Embassy in Cambodia and enclosed a birthday card for him. “In the birthday card I said: ‘We’re with you all the way whatever.’ A friend is a friend regardless.” Mrs De Selincourt has known Griffin since the mid 1980s when he became her lodger in Addlestone, Surrey. In the early 1990s Griffin went to live in Shepherd’s Bush, London, where he set up his own business and employed Mrs De Selincourt’s daughter. In 1996 Mrs De Selincourt came to Glyn Ceiriog, near Llangollen, to run the Upper Mill’s trout farm. About two years later Griffin joined her in North Wales, from where he ran the Ives Management Services property firm, met his alleged Welsh victim and became a scout leader. The alleged victim last week told Wales on Sunday Griffin wormed his way into his confidence for two years before abusing him for two years between the ages of 13 and 15. The man, who is now 23, has since been convicted of possessing child porn and is on the sex offenders’ register. But Mrs De Selincourt said despite her unease over the camping trip she is certain the alleged victim was never abused at the trout farm. She said: “There was nothing going on at the house – I can guarantee that. “There was one occasion when I sort of didn’t like the idea that Nick had gone camping (with the boy). But I wasn’t (the boy’s) mother. His mother and father were the people who had the say.” When the police began looking into the allegation in 2009 she told them the alleged victim slept on the floor in Griffin’s room only once at the trout farm. The alleged victim told WoS last week he originally complained to police about the abuse in 2004, but his allegation was not properly investigated. A spokesperson for the force confirmed they had been investigating since 2009, but said there was no record of a complaint going back to 2004. Detective Inspector Arwyn Jones said they hoped to arrest and interview Griffin once he is released from his Cambodian jail. The pervert will be thrown out of the country he left for in 2006 once he is released in about 12 months’ time. Cops here will immediately arrest him if he returns to the UK or goes to a country with which there is an extradition treaty in place. Mr Arwyn Jones said the force had been in regular contact with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOPS) throughout the investigation. North Wales Police put Griffin on the police national computer as a wanted man before being told by CEOPS he was under investigation in South East Asia. Mr Arwyn Jones added: “The enquiry will be pursued and brought to a conclusion once Griffin is released from custody.” Read more!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cambodia to see more participation in Earth Hour event

PHNOM PENH, Mar 26, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Some eighty businesses, and groups of individuals in Cambodia switched off their lights and electrical devices for an hour, starting at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday to celebrate "Earth Hour".

About 80 hotels, restaurants and shopping malls in the capital, including Hotel Cambodiana, Hotel Le Royal and Hotel Inter- Continental, as well as many individuals from across Cambodia have turned off their lights or partly turned off their lights for one hour to celebrate their action in protecting the environment.

"We have turned off the lights and lit candles instead during the Earth Hour, let the guests enjoy the unique atmosphere of romance, they feel very happy," a manager of Hotel Le Royal said.

Earth Hour is the world's largest environmental movement which encourages individuals, businesses and communities around the world to turn off their lights for one hour on March 26 at 8.30 p. m. local time in a bid to raise awareness about climate change.

Seng Teak, WWF-Cambodia's director, said Saturday that this is the second year that WWF has encouraged people in Cambodia to participate in this international event.

"It's still few participants, but it has doubled the number in 2010's event and I believe that year by year, more people will be aware of it and there will be more participation," he said.

WWF-Cambodia has assumed two Cambodian famous actors Yuthara Chhany and Tep Rindaro as the Earth Hour Ambassadors.

"Action for earth of these legendary actors will be a great example and will influence fans, families and friends to join forces with the rest of the world in the celebration of one thing that unites all of us -- the planet," he said.

Yuthara Chhany said, "The planet is ours and we can do our part to protect it, make your action for our only planet with the rest of the world."

"As individuals, we can do our own part to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere and take action on climate change for 365 days," he added.

The event was launched in 2007 in Sydney, Australia.

In 2010, hundreds of millions of people, in 128 countries and territories across the world, took part in the event.

Read more!

WT students return from Cambodia

By Matt Hamilton

Two weeks ago we brought you the story about the West Texas A&M University Readership Program and their trip of a life time.

Well, those 14 students have returned from their trip to Cambodia and they say the experiences they gained on the trip are irreplacable.

"It was a life changing trip. We went to different NGO's and basically learned to research where your money goes, because what some organizations seem as, they sometimes aren't," said Tyler Sweeney, a Senior Peer Leader and documentary filmmaker who went on the trip.

The trip also made the students realize how lucky they are.

"I also saw all of Cambodia and it made us thankful for all we have."

12 freshman along with two Peer Leaders were chosen out of hundreds who wrote essays to win the trip. This year marks the fourth international trip WTAMU has taken in conjunction with its Freshman Readership Program. The WT students traveled with student essay winners from Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

Cambodia was chosen as the destination because this year's common reader for Freshman Readership Program was The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam. In the book, Somaly talks about her experience of being sold into sex slavery and how she helps others.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Labor Leaders Threaten Protest Over Draft Law

A Cambodian garment worker speaks on a loud speaker as she leads a strike in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010.

Labor leaders say they want the Ministry of Labor to accept their recommendations to a law now being drafted to regulate union activity, threatening they will hold mass demonstrations otherwise.

“If they do not take the recommendations of the unions, there will be a big, peaceful demonstration until they change it,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Union officials say they are opposed to the current version of the Ministry of Labor’s draft law, which they say will make it harder for unions to function and easier for factories to sue labor leaders. Proponents of the law say it will help regulate a sometimes unruly sector and important economic engine.

A second “Hello VOA” guest, Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said too that his and other unions will protest if their recommendations are not adopted.

“In the first stage, we have had discussions with all union leaders in Cambodia, from every political spectrum, and we are all agreed and share the same concerns,” he said.

Ath Thun said the current draft does not allow freedom for unions to execute their duties and makes it more difficult for them to recruit members, by requiring regular reporting to ministries and increasing fines and punishment for union leaders.

The draft will also require unions to run their membership dues through the employer, he said. “That we can’t do, as the employers do not want unions,” he said.

The draft also makes it easy for authorities to suspend or cancel a union’s license or to “punish” unions, he said, a contravention of international conventions.

“If this law is passed without incorporating the opinions of the unions and workers, that means there are no unions’ rights, and violations of the law will increase, because no one will take the risk to be a union leader anymore,” he said.

Rong Chhun said the unions will resubmit their recommendations to the Ministry of Labor on Friday.

The ministry said this week that the draft is meant to benefit workers, not restrict unions. Cambodia has at least 62 unions that represent many of the nation’s 300,000 factory laborers.

Both labor leaders said Cambodians are traveling to outside countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam or Thailand in search of work, because the government has not created jobs for them at home.

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Women in Garment Factories Help Cambodia Out of Poverty

PHNOM PENH, Mar 25, 2011 (IPS) - Cambodia’s rise out of poverty continues to depend on the nimble fingers of young women like Khiev Chren. She has spent the last three years in a garment factory on the outskirts of this capital city, churning out clothing for international name brands such as Levis, Dockers and GAP. "This is my first job and I need the money to help my family in the province," the 23-year-old said, barely pausing as her fingers guided the left leg of a white trouser under the needle of her electric sewing machine.

Around her rose a hum from nearly 2,000 sewing machines, behind which sat women stitching garments from jeans to shirts, in a well-lit cavernous hall. "This is a more secure job than working in the rice fields back home," Chren admitted, alluding to the hardship of life in her rural-rice-growing province of Takeo, south of Phnom Penh.

The increasing dependence on women like Chren for this Southeast Asian country’s journey out of poverty was brought home Monday by the World Bank’s ‘East Asia and Pacific Economic Update’. "Garment exports registered a 24 percent growth in 2010 after shrinking 20 percent during the 2009 [global financial] crisis," the international financial institute revealed of the main driver of Cambodia’s fledgling export economy.

"Two of Cambodia’s growth drivers rebounded faster than expected," the Bank added in its assessment of the country’s economy, referring to the garment and footwear sectors. "As a result, some 55,300 new jobs have been created by both industries in 2010, recovering most of the jobs lost during the 2009 economic downturn."

Women in this country of 14 million have benefited from this windfall in new jobs, amplifying the trend in the garment sector from the time it set its roots in the mid-1990s helping Cambodia recover from decades of conflict, genocide and occupation - which ended with the 1991 Paris peace accords - and extreme poverty. Today, the face of the 320,000 workers in the country’s 270 garment factories remains a feminine one.

The garment factories, which serve as a base for this country’s limited industrial sector, are also pivotal as an employment magnet for the bulging youth population. Nearly 35 percent of the population is between 10 and 24 years old, earning this country the distinction of having the biggest youth population in Southeast Asia, according to U.N. estimates.

It is the labour of the female workforce, in fact, that has contributed to over 70 percent of export earnings from garment sales to markets in the United States and Europe. In 2008, before the global financial crisis, exports earned 4.07 billion U.S. dollars, dropping to 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2009 following the crisis - which saw U.S. markets shrink. But by last year, the export market, led by garments, had rebounded, with earning inching close to 4.6 billion U.S. dollars.

And the monthly income of the female labour-force - above 90 U.S. dollars - has been a significant element in helping alleviate poverty in a country still ranked among the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that Cambodia, which has a third of its population living below the poverty line, will fall short of meeting a 2015 global millennium development goal (MDG) of slashing by half the number people who had been living on less than one dollar a day in 1990.

In rural Cambodia, where close to 85 percent of the population live, the number of people living below the poverty line was as high as 43 percent of the population in 1994, but had dropped to 34.79 percent prior to the 2009 financial crisis. It is a drop for which the garment sector earns kudos.

"The garment factories have been an equaliser in alleviating poverty in rural Cambodia," says Tumo Poutiainen, chief technical advisor of Better Factories Cambodia, a special initiative to ensure high labour standards involving the International Labour Organisation (ILO). "Women come to work in the garment factories not just for themselves, but to send money home."

The remittances that the 350,000 garments factory workers sent home prior to the crisis helped two million people in rural areas, ILO estimates reveal, not counting the additional 150,000 jobs the factories spawned on the fringes of Phnom Penh creating a "secondary economy".

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No Life Sentence Possible in Duch Verdict: Officials

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng, a top secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, appears on a television screen of the press center of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, 2010

The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal will hold the final hearing in the case of torture chief Duch next week, but officials said Friday no one should expect to see a life sentence for the defendant.

Many victims of the regime and participants in the case were disappointed when Duch was handed a commuted sentence of 19 years last year. But tribunal officials told reporters Friday that even if the Supreme Court Chamber finds in favor of an appeal from the prosecution, the maximum sentence Duch will receive is 45 years.

The three-day hearing is scheduled to begin Monday and last for three days. “It will be the last sentencing for Duch,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Friday. “He cannot appeal any more.”

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, was found guilty by the Trial Chamber of atrocity crimes that included crimes against humanity, in the first-ever trial for the UN-backed court.

The Supreme Court Chamber will have to decide if the commuted sentence handed down from the Trial Chamber is acceptable, or whether he should be let out sooner or serve a sentence up to 45 years.

The chamber will also have to decide on an appeal from the defense that questions the legality of Duch’s trial under the court, which is tasked with trying the senior-most leaders of the regime.

“This is not a hearing about how people were tortured, how many people were killed and so on,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday. “It’s a hearing about legal arguments, such as, was Duch a senior leader or most responsible within the mandate of the court.

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A crooked cop, drug money and diamonds: Action-packed allegations at Montreal trial

There are the Cambodian bankers and their monk. The Quebec mobster and his psychic. The crooked cop and a bunch of Colombian cocaine traffickers.

Not to mention the axe murder, the Israeli diamonds and the Latvian bank accounts.

From Miami to Phnom Penh, this tale involves as much as $100-million in drug money, in one of the largest alleged schemes to hide proceeds of crime ever brought before the courts in Canada.

More related to this story
•Canada says it is plugging money-laundering loopholes
•Banks told to scrutinize Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan transactions
•Canadian firms on hunting mission for Libyan assets

Sy Veng Chun, 63, and his wife Leng Ky Lech, 48, are charged with running what prosecutors call “a sophisticated money-laundering system” with a drug trafficker named Daniel Muir as one of their principal clients.

The Cambodian-born couple ran a tiny currency-exchange boutique in Montreal’s Chinatown, not two blocks from the courthouse where they now stand accused.

From evidence at the Montreal trial, which began a year ago, and in other court cases in Florida, a fuller picture is emerging for the first time of an alleged intricate criminal web spanning three continents.

It started with Mr. Muir, a Quebecker whose rap sheet reads like a CV for a fast-rising drug importer, graduating from busts for a few grams of coke in 1988 to hundreds of kilos by the turn of the century. A thriving independent operator, he had a cordial relationship with Mafia bosses such as Frank Cotroni and was sanctioned by the organized crime groups in Montreal.

But with success came the problem of what to do with all those profits. According to Suzanne Pépin, a clairvoyant who became Mr. Muir’s confidante, “Daniel was fed up with hiding his money,” the Montreal trial was told.

Mr. Muir heard about the services offered by Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech, who ran two companies from the same Chinatown address called Peng Heng Or Gold Inc. and A&A Services Monétaires Inc., court heard.

The pair had been in the news before, when they were executives of Credit Bank of Cambodia of Phnom Penh. In 1995, they lost $2-million trading commodities futures and were unable to meet their margin call. Their bank defaulted, setting off a scandal in Cambodia.

In early 2000, at an Old Montreal restaurant, Mr. Muir and the two accused struck a deal, according to Ms. Pépin, who attended the supper. She said Mr. Chun was described as “the courier of money to Cambodia,” and Ms. Lech told Mr. Muir she had “other clients like him.”

(If Mr. Muir had his clairvoyant, Ms. Lech had her own spiritual adviser, a Buddhist monk, to see whether it was “a good thing” to take the trafficker’s money, the trial heard.)

By 2001, Mr. Muir and an underling, Bernard Mondou, started to negotiate with the Colombian drug baron Elias Cobos-Munoz to import a tonne of cocaine to Canada, via the Bahamas and Florida, according to U.S. court filings.

To pay for the drugs, Mr. Mondou turned to a childhood friend, Montreal police officer Pierre Goulet, to transport $3.5-million to Miami, according to a Quebec court ruling. Hiding packs of cash in the seats and doors of a car, Constable Goulet would flash his badge to avoid scrutiny at the Quebec-New York State border.

The initial plan was to bring the cocaine by plane. However, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the air route had to be dropped and they used instead a speedboat, court documents in Quebec and Florida say.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had gotten wind of the plot and intercepted the shipment in the Bahamas in January, 2002. The DEA then took the cocaine to Miami for a sting operation, according to DEA affidavits.

Days later, in the parking lot of a Taco Bell restaurant, Colombian traffickers brought a U-Haul truck to pick up the cocaine they would deliver to Mr. Muir’s men, unaware they were dealing with undercover DEA agents. Mr. Muir had to fly to Cuba to talk with his Colombian contacts about the lost cargo, not knowing that a police operation was being mounted against them, DEA affidavits said.

Back in Montreal, Mr. Muir kept on rolling.

His ex-wife testified that he told her he had “solved his money problems” when he entrusted about $100-million to Ms. Lech, “his partner for money.”

Ms. Lech came to Mr. Muir’s home to pick up boxes full of $20 bills, court heard. Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech moved the money overseas, prosecutors said, by wiring bank drafts to Cambodia and purchasing more than $10-million in diamonds in Israel, Belgium and Switzerland that were then sent to Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia.

“The purchase of this quantity is consistent with the use of diamonds to store wealth via proceeds of crime,” Corporal Kelly Ross, an RCMP expert, said in a statement filed before the court.

The cash was also funnelled through Canadian financial institutions such as the Desjardins credit unions, the Bank of Montreal and the Bank of Nova Scotia, the trial heard.

In addition, prosecutors said, Ms. Lech used money “borrowed from her friend Daniel The Frenchman” to open a small bank in Phnom Penh, Peng Heng SME, which specialized in credit for small businesses.

In October, 2002, Mr. Chun and the Buddhist monk were at Montreal’s airport, about to fly to Cambodia, when agents doing a routine security check found $600,000 U.S. – in $100 bills – in Mr. Chun’s carry-on bag, court heard.

Even though no charges were filed, the RCMP seized the cash.

Mr. Muir, meanwhile, was having trouble with the Colombians.

In 2003, he sent them $3-million through Panama. The Colombian shipped him 800 kilos of cocaine via Venezuela, but half was ruined in transit. Mr. Muir had to send emissaries to Miami to negotiate with the Colombians, who said he still owed them $1.7-million for the Venezuelan delivery, Florida court documents said.

In the fall, Mr. Muir sent $1-million to the Colombians, using a circuitous route that went from accounts in Latvia and Russia, through banks in New York and San Francisco to Costa Rica, according to a U.S. Justice Department indictment.

One evening in February, 2004, Mr. Muir was leaving the Club Wanda’s strip club in downtown Montreal when two men armed with an axe and knife ran after him. Witnesses heard him scream, “They’re going to kill me!” before he was hacked and stabbed. The murder has never been solved.

At the time, “investors” had paid Mr. Muir $35-million for more drugs, but the money was now missing, according to a U.S. Justice Department case summary.

Four months later, the DEA, the RCMP and police in the Bahamas and Colombia announced a series of charges against the Colombian and Canadian organizations. Mr. Mondou, Mr. Cobos-Munoz and Constable Goulet and dozens of others were all eventually convicted.

As police began digging into Mr. Muir’s background, the money trail led them to the Chun-Lech enterprise.

“We started making the links between the two organizations,” Sergeant Benoît Roy, the RCMP’s lead investigator on the case, said in an interview.

Police say they discovered that Mr. Muir’s $1.2-million mansion at the foot of Mont St. Hilaire, south of Montreal, was in Ms. Lech’s name. The hunt was on.

Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech were arrested in January, 2005, after returning from another trip to Cambodia. It took another five years of legal wrangling before their trial finally got under way.

The defence has yet to present its side of the story, and a key witness to much of the alleged laundering, Mr. Muir, is dead.

If found guilty, they could each face a maximum of 10 years in prison. The Crown will also seek confiscation of two homes valued at more than $2-million, the $600,000 seized at the airport and 3,800 diamonds and gems.

During a break, the couple sat serenely in the court corridor.

“I’m not worried,” Mr. Chun said.

Ms. Lech nodded and smiled. “I’m not afraid of anything,” she said.

With reports from Les Perreaux and Ingrid Peritz in Montreal
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vietnam cop 'beat cabbie for not running light'

Taxis wait for customers in downtown Hanoi. A Vietnamese deputy police chief attacked and threatened to shoot a taxi driver for refusing to run a red light, a report in state-controlled media said Thursday

.A Vietnamese deputy police chief attacked and threatened to shoot a taxi driver for refusing to run a red light, a report in state-controlled media said Thursday.

Cabbie Do Quoc Thai said his passenger twice asked him not to stop at traffic signals and, when he insisted on obeying the lights, seized the steering wheel and threatened to shoot him, Tuoi Tre newspaper's website reported.

He said the man then used a belt to attack him during the alleged altercation on Sunday night in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Running red lights is a routine practice among Vietnamese motorists.

The incident happened outside a local police station whose officers invited the pair in for questioning, Tuoi Tre reported. It identified the passenger as Major Bui Minh Thang, second-in-command of Hau Giang province's traffic police.

"Thang threatened the police and asked one official in the room to kneel and apologise to him," the report said.

Tuoi Tre reported that it interviewed Thang who said he had been drinking wine and beer before calling the cab.

Both the traffic police in Can Tho and neighbouring Hau Giang provincial police -- which are reportedly led by Thang's father -- declined comment to AFP.

Vietnam's traffic police are regarded by citizens as notoriously corrupt.

In a report last year the US-based Human Rights Watch urged Vietnam to investigate "widespread police brutality". The group said it had documented 19 incidents of reported brutality by law enforcers over the previous year, resulting in 15 deaths.
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Military opposes Cambodia border talks in Indonesia

Published on March 25, 2011

Prayuth asks Phnom Penh to host GBC meeting, opposes Indonesian observers in disputed territory

One of the two scheduled meetings between Thailand and Cambodia's two border committees will not take place in Indonesia next month as the Thai military opposes holding talks in a third country, senior government officials said yesterday.

Indonesia, as Asean chair, had called parallel meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on April 7-8 in Bogor, to find ways to settle the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Doubts arose about the meetings after Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Army chief Prayut Chan-ocha said they did not want the military-run GBC to meet in a third country. The meeting should be held either in Cambodia or Thailand, Defence Ministry spokesman Thanathip Sawangsaeng said.

"The GBC is a bilateral mechanism on border affairs between Thailand and Cambodia. We have never had a meeting in a third country," he said.

Prawit said he had sent a letter to his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh to ask whether Phnom Penh was ready to host the next GBC meeting. "I believe Cambodia would call a GBC meeting soon," he said.

Following a recommendation from the United Nations Security Council, Asean had planned to facilitate the peace arrangement between Thailand and Cambodia after a major border skirmish in February. It proposed sending Indonesian observers to the disputed areas adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Jakarta said yesterday that as Asean chair it was waiting for approval of observers from both host countries. Phnom Penh has already replied it was ready to accept the observers, but Thailand was reluctant as the military said the plan should be discussed in the GBC meeting first.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva tried to gloss over the disagreement, saying the military would participate in the GBC meeting eventually, but it would not hold it parallel with the Foreign Ministry-run JBC.

The JBC is a bilateral mechanism for land boundary demarcation. Its progress was stalled when the Thai Parliament delayed approving the minutes of previous meetings. Parliament will discuss the documents today.

"At this stage, the JBC would be an important forum to talk over the boundary matters, including the Indonesian observers," Abhisit said.

Both countries should examine the way the Indonesians plan to carry out their observation, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban echoed the military opinion, saying Thailand would not allow any foreign officials to be stationed in the disputed area. "We have to discuss details of the observation first," he said.

Abhisit also said he did not want to see Indonesian observers in the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area claimed by Thailand and Cambodia.

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Cambodia hosts international seminar on maritime security operations

PHNOM PENH, Military officials from 23 countries in Asia-Pacific region and the United States met here on Thursday for a 10-day seminar on maritime security operations.

The so-called MPAT TE-19 (Multinational Planning Augmentation Team Tempest Express-19), focused on maritime security operations, was sponsored by the U.S Pacific Command.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the United States Ambassador to Cambodia Carol A. Rodley said that the seminar focuses on how all nations deal with transnational threats in maritime domain.

"Transnational threats in maritime security have caused harms to our whole economies and have been threatening the effectiveness and efficiency of the work performance and the well-being of our people," she said.

"To deal with this issue, it does not just start with the military alone, but it requires coordination and cooperation between government agencies and there must involvement from all those who live and work at near the water including the fishermen, shipping companies, local police to partner nations."

"With all parties' cooperation, it will help ensure the efforts with maximum results in ending conflicts, stopping piracy, or halting terrorism, criminal activities in maritime domain," she added.

Lieutenant General Nim Sovath, chief of Cambodia Defense Ministry's Department of Politics and Foreign Affairs, said that the MPAT TE-19 is in line with the policy of the royal government of Cambodia to ensure maritime security, sovereignty, territory and economic development.

"Through this maritime security operations exercise, I believe that participants will receive good experiences and ideas in defending maritime borders against criminal activities such as terrorism and trans-border crimes, illegal fishing and so on," he said.

The Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) Program is a cooperative multinational effort to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or augmentation of a multinational task force headquarters.

The MPAT provides responsive coalition/combined expertise in crisis action planning. (PNA/Xinhua)

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Indonesia awaits approval on Thai-Cambodia mission

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia said Thursday that an ASEAN plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border had stalled as it awaited approvals from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

At a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept Indonesian observers to a flashpoint section of the border where heavy fighting erupted in February.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan hailed the agreement as a "historic day" for the 10-nation block, but more than a month later the observer teams remain in Jakarta and Thailand's military now says they are not needed.

"We're still waiting for further approvals from both countries before we can proceed to go to the area," Indonesian foreign ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir told AFP.

The observers had not received their operating orders and did not even know where they would be posted or for how long, she added.

"We hope that we will receive their approvals as soon as possible," Habir said.

Thailand's army chief, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said Wednesday the observers were not wanted in the disputed area near an 11th-century temple because it was too dangerous and they would only complicate matters.

Prayut said the Thai defence ministry, armed forces and military commanders rejected the idea of outside monitors, but conceded it was up to the government to decide.

A Thai government spokesman denied however that there had been any change in Bangkok's position, and said a joint border committee would be convened to iron out the details of the observers' mission.

Cambodia insisted on Thursday the delay was being caused solely by Thailand.

Foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Cambodian government had already sent all the necessary paperwork to Indonesia.

"For Cambodia, there is no problem. We have immediately responded to all Indonesian letters involving the TOR (Terms of Reference)," he told AFP.

"Cambodia has already agreed to the locations and timing (for the observers). If Thailand does not want the observers, Cambodia accepts them unilaterally," he said.

Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the border clashes, which erupted around the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

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Estaban Lazor meets with top Cambodian government official

Havana, Cuba, Mar 24.- Esteban Lazo, Vice-president of the Cuban Council of State, met on Wednesday with Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, now on an official visit to Cuba.

According to a report by the National Television Newscast, the two leaders tackled several issues on the international agenda and the current situation of bilateral relations.

Likewise, Lazo -also a Politburo member- and the distinguished visitor reiterated their willingness to continue strengthening the bonds existing between Cambodia and Cuba.

Also participating in the meeting were Long Visalo, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Hay Sonnarin, Cambodian ambassador to Havana, among others, while the Cuban party was also represented by First Deputy Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina, as well as by other officials of the island’s Foreign Ministry. (acn).
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UNICEF Concern Prompts Cambodian Investigation of Orphanages

Cambodian orphans play together as they wait for adoption at Kien Klaing orphanage center in Phnom Penh, (File)

The Cambodian government has begun investigating the country’s orphanages; just days after the United Nations Children's Fund expressed its concerns that nearly three out of four children in the country's orphanages have at least one living parent.

Earlier this week, UNICEF said most of the 12,000 children in Cambodia’s orphanages are, in fact, not orphans. Nearly three-quarters of them have one living parent, yet the number of children in care has more than doubled in five years.

UNICEF said the number of orphanage centers has nearly doubled, to 269 facilities in the same period.

Just 21 of those are run by the government. The rest are funded and run by foreign donors and faith-based organizations.


UNICEF country head, Richard Bridle, told VOA he is concerned many centers have turned to tourism to attract funding and that, by doing so, they put children at risk.

Bridle says even the best-intentioned tourists and volunteers are funding a system that is helping to separate children from their families.

International studies have shown that children are better off in a family or community setting.
That also happens to be a much cheaper way of caring for them, says Sebastien Marot, the founder of Phnom Penh’s respected street kids organization called Friends International, which was established 17 years ago.

Money-making venture

Marot says the figures from UNICEF indicate a serious problem: Either there is a misconception about stability in Cambodia in the 21st century, or "unscrupulous people" are engaging in a charity business and using children to make money.

"We have been working 17 years and we haven’t placed kids in an orphanage. And, we are working with the most marginalized kids that have the most difficult families. We haven’t placed any in an orphanage in eight years, except for heavily disabled or very, very sick, because the families are really in no capacity for taking care of them. And, that is the real situation," Marot said.

Marot acknowledges that most tourists going to orphanages are acting out of pure motives when they visit the children and give money.

But he says there is little doubt that some Cambodian orphanages have been set up to make money from foreign tourists.

Visitors to Cambodia’s tourist centers of Phnom Penh, the temple city, Siem Reap and the beach resort, Sihanoukville, are regularly bombarded with pleas to visit orphanages.

Marot’s advice is that tourists should behave as they would at home.

"The real question is: Would you do this in your own country? No. Have you ever visited an orphanage in your own country? No. Why? Because an orphanage is a safe place for kids and has to have a child protection system - it is to protect those children," Marot noted. “They are already totally vulnerable. Having people coming from outside is just not acceptable."

A spokesman for the Social Affairs Ministry, which is carrying out the inspections, admitted this week that the government does not know whether the thousands of children in care are being treated well or badly.

The spokesman says it is unclear how long it will take to inspect all 269 orphanages, but promises that those found to be sub-standard or in contravention of the law will be closed.

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Indonesia not wanted, Prayuth insists

Observers from Indonesia are not needed to solve the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha insists.

Thai military leaders have also proposed that Thailand and Cambodia set up joint checkpoints to secure the disputed area.

"A third country or any other country must not get involved. Thailand and Cambodia can talk.

He repeated the stance taken by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and armed forces chiefs. They want the Foreign Ministry to tell Cambodia they do not want any observers from Indonesia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to get involved in bilateral border issues.

"I do not reject observers but I do not think they are necessary because we can solve the problem ourselves.

"If observers finally come, I will keep them on the outside.

"Why should they enter the strategic area? That is dangerous. If observers are there, can they prevent Cambodia from violating the 2000 MoU?

This is the point," Gen Prayuth said, referring to the Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on bilateral demarcation.

Indonesia proposed a compromise solution on Feb 22 to try to solve the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia by sending 15 of its observers to each side of the border near the Preah Vihear temple.

The army chief also insisted that the next meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) would happen in a bilateral manner. He said it was the turn of Cambodia to organise the GBC but if Cambodia was not ready to host it, Thailand could do so.

Meanwhile, the world heritage body Unesco is sending an urgent mission to examine Preah Vihear temple after it was damaged in border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia.

"I intend to send a mission to the area as soon as possible," Unesco's head Irina Bokova said on Tuesday.

Ms Bokova called for "calm and restraint" around the Preah Vihear temple, which suffered damage during recent fighting.

"World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them," she said.

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Fuel Smuggling Grips Region

A gasoline and diesel black market thrives in Burma, while an illicit border fuel trade haunts Vietnam and Cambodia.

People in Burma are grappling with a serious fuel shortage on the back of surging gasoline and diesel prices, but the commodity is being smuggled into China for higher prices there.

Compounding the problem is a black market for fuel in Burma itself, with residents having to wait for hours and dig deeper into their pockets to pay for daily supplies.

The higher fuel prices have sent food costs soaring, hurting average consumers in this impoverished military-ruled nation.

"Diesel is being smuggled out to China from Burma, because the oil price in China is going up. Three months ago, gasoline was smuggled to China, but it is diesel now," said a resident from Muse, a Burmese town along the porous border with China.

He said that only people "who have connections to the authorities" can transport the fuel across the border, suggesting corruption is driving the illicit trade.

Fuel is a sensitive issue in Burma. In 2007, when gas prices soared, monks took to the streets of Rangoon to protest in what became known as the "Saffron" revolution, drawing thousands of people. The revolt was put down by security forces who killed at least 31 people and beat and detained hundreds.

Burma's neighbors are also reeling from higher fuel prices that have led to smuggling amid concerns that sweeping unrest in the Middle East and Africa will limit oil production and send oil prices even higher. Some countries provide subsidies to cushion costs.

Queue up

A truck filled with gas tanks passes a roadside gasoline stand in Rangoon, Feb. 22, 2011.

In the former capital Rangoon, the country's key commercial center, motor vehicles often have to queue up for miles overnight to get gasoline.

"You have to be in line for at least three hours to get gasoline from the gas station. Because of the gas price hike, all commodities prices are skyrocketing," a Rangoon resident said.

A street vendor selling fried rice said, "I sell fried rice for 300 kyat (about 30 cents) per plate. Trishaw [motorized three-wheeled cab] drivers told me they can't buy my food anymore, as they can't afford it."

A resident in Mandalay, Burma's second-largest city, said gasoline prices shot up from 4,000 kyat to 4,800 kyat (U.S. $4.00 to U.S. $5.00) within a week. Street vendors who buy and sell gasoline are being pursued by police."

A resident from Maubin in the rice-growing Irrawaddy division said that gas stations open at around 8 a.m.

Half an hour later, he said, prices rise far above official levels.

"We have to pay street price after 8:30 a.m. All gas stations in Maubin are owned by Ayeyar Shwewah company, a company run by two sons of Shwe Mann, who is a current Parliamentary chairman, so nobody dares to complain."

Vietnam, Cambodia

In Vietnam, fuel is siphoned off and smuggled across the border to Cambodia to cash in on the higher prices, while gasoline smuggling from Thailand to Cambodia is also common.

A Vietnamese man calling himself Chi, who has long done business in Cambodia, said gas smuggling is a "daily business" in Cambodia.

"They smuggle gas to Cambodia via sea, then on land. That is for big business. But for small shipments, people smuggle over the land border, so much that we don’t know how much gas is smuggled to Cambodia every day."

Xaymun, a Cambodian woman, said gas prices jumped recently.

“I have heard that gas is brought here from Vietnam. I heard that the authorities could catch the smugglers, but then they get bribed and they let the smugglers go.”

Operating hours

Vietnamese authorities plan to limit the operating hours of filling stations along the border to only 12 hours beginning from 6 a.m. to combat smuggling.

Vehicles traveling from Vietnam to Cambodia will be allowed to buy enough fuel to travel only 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles) under the plan, according to the VietNamNet Newspaper report.

Reported by the RFA Burmese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese services. Translation by Khin May Zaw, Viet Ha, and Sum Sok Ry. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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Cambodia Appreciates Cuban Support, Says Foreign Minister

HAVANA, Cuba, Mar 23 (acn) The Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, expressed the gratitude of his country for the Cuban support during several decades.

Hor Namhong, who was received by the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, affirmed that the bilateral relations between these two countries are in excellent conditions; whereas, his Cuban counterpart agreed by saying that such links are “historical and deep-rooted”.

The Cambodian diplomat noted that Cuba has supported this Asian nation in different fields, and mentioned that this cooperation dates back to the most tragic period in the history of Cambodia, referring to the US aggression against Viet Nam (1959-1975), which involved Laos and Cambodia.

Rodriguez appreciated the solidarity of Cambodia with Cuba, essentially in the struggle, within the United Nations, against the US economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed against Cuba for more than five decades.

Namhong, who was the Cambodian ambassador to Cuba from 1973 to 1975, is in official visit to Cuba for the second time. The first one was in 2006, when he headed the Cambodian delegation to the 14 th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Cuba has cooperated with Cambodia, with more than 14 million inhabitants, in the field of education for several years.

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Cambodia concerned about labour trafficking

The Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a crackdown on labour trafficking and urged Cambodians to seek employment opportunities at home.

The call comes as the government itself faces scrutiny over its regulation of so-called training centres for Cambodians seeking work abroad.

Human rights groups say the centres hold poor Cambodian women against their will, while they wait to be sent overseas for domestic work.

Reporter: Alma Mistry
Speakers: Mathieu Pellerin, consultant with Cambodian human rights group Licadho; Nilim Baruah, chief technical advisor, International Labour Organisation, Bangkok.

MISTRY: The United Nations says Cambodia is a source and a destination for sex work and forced labour. It's also a pool of cheap labour for its larger neighbours Thailand and Malaysia. In 2004, there were over 180,000 Cambodian workers registered in Thailand, according to the International Labour Organisation. In addition, the ILO estimates there were over 80,000 unregistered or illegal workers. Mathieu Pellerin from the Cambodian human rights group Licadho says the rural poor have limited options to find work in the countryside.

PELLERIN: The number of opportunities to find work in Cambodia is very low. So I don't think we could call these people opportunists- the risks of migration to find employment to in a foreign country is very high.

MISTRY: Matthieu Pellerin says workers are often sought out by recruiters who make offers that may be attractive to poor families in the villages.

PELLERIN: Basically misrepresenting what the job will be, luring the families to accepting to give one or some of their daughters to go and work in foreign countries through these recruitment agencies. And there's also a loan that is offered to family by company, roughly 100 dollars, so its a very simple form of debt bondage.

MISTRY: It's these recruiters that have come under scrutiny, after accidents and deaths involving women at a so called pre-departure centre in Phnom Penh this month. Matthieu Pellerin says it's not uncommon for women to be confined to the centres for months, with their requests to see their families ignored.

PELLERIN: There was one woman who after spending more than five months in the pre-departure centre of a recruitment agency called T and P and has requested many times to visit her children and after five months, she decided to try leaving the compound from the third floor window and fell on the ground. Four days later in that same company, a woman died. 35 year old woman died and the official cause of death the police declared, was heart attack, which could be questioned.

MISTRY: After the death Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment. On Monday he also called on relevant local authorities to crack down on illegal labour brokers. But critics say the incidents highlight a weak system of regulation for the recruitment of exported labour from Cambodia. It's a criticism that the International Labour Organisation, which has been working with the Cambodian government, can't ignore. Nilim Baruah is the Chief Technical Advisor with the ILO in Bangkok.

BARUAH: There's enough experience to say what kind of laws should be put in place, what kind of regulations regarding cost of recruitment and transperancy regarding cost and also what kind of complaint mechanisms there should be. There can be a much better regulatory system in place but I mean in the case of Cambodia they dont really have it now. They are starting to put it in place.

MISTRY: Nilim Baruah says the Cambodian Government is working to legislate better protections for migrant workers. But he says job creation, must be the overall priority.

BARUAH: In the ILO while we promote protection of migrant workers and safe migration we emphasise first of all job creation where people so jobs should be created where people are and people, the migration choice should not be a compelling one, it should be an option.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prawit rejects GBC meeting in Indonesia

Defence minister wants bilateral talks

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha will not attend the 8th General Border Committee meeting with Cambodia.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha greets a boy as he presides over the opening ceremony of two 20-floor condominiums in the background built for families of soldiers. The 2.1-billionbaht residence is located in the compound of an old military prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok’s Kiakkai area. WASSANANANUAM

Referring to the meeting, scheduled for Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8, Gen Prawit said: "No, I'm not going. Why should I go for the meeting in a third-party country? [Thailand and Cambodia] know each other well enough and don't want any other party to get involved."

A military source said Gen Prawit had also decided not to attend an earlier GBC meeting in Indonesia proposed by Cambodia and the Asean chair.

Gen Prawit cited the same reason then, saying relations between the Cambodian and Thai armies were good enough for the border dispute to be resolved through bilateral mechanisms, said the source.

According to the source, Gen Prawit said he would seek to have talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh, but was concerned the latter would not agree, since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had made it clear he would not allow any new bilateral discussions with Thailand.

Gen Prayuth also said Cambodia's proposal to set up 15 joint border checkpoints in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple was unnecessary, as he believed the dispute could be solved through military talks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that Unesco would push for Thailand and Cambodia to attend a meeting on border issues in May.

He was speaking after a meeting with Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The May talks are aimed at improving the understanding between the two countries before Unesco holds its World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris a month later.

There, the WHC will discuss Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear.

The meeting was scheduled for Bahrain but switched to Paris when political unrest erupted there.

Mr Abhisit also said bilateral talks through the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) remained crucial to deter attempts to turn the border issue into a multilateral matter.

To allow the JBC mechanism to move forward, the parliament's endorsement on the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues was needed, he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said it would petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Mr Abhisit and the other concerned people over allegations they had violated Sections 157, 119 and 120 of the Constitution by not revoking the MoU.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said the alliance would also petition the Constitution Court to interpret if the MoU was in breach of the charter.

The health of Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid, jailed for eight years in Cambodia after being found guilty of espionage and illegal entry to the country on Dec 29, is said to have vastly improved.

His younger brother, Preecha Somkhwamkid, visited Veera at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Monday and reported that his condition was much better after a recent bout of ill health.

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Retired CF teacher raises money to build Cambodian school

Donna Martin interacted with students while visiting a school in Cambodia that she raised money to build. Martin, a retired Chippewa Falls High School teacher, raised the $13,000 needed to build the school by substitute teaching and seeking donations.

By Jon Swedien Leader-Telegram staff

Retirement was frustrating Donna Martin.

"I didn't feel like I was doing anything important," said the former Chippewa Falls High School teacher, who retired in 2003.

But about a year ago, Martin found a new purpose while reading a magazine article about a charity program that works to open new schools in poverty-stricken rural Cambodia. If she could raise $13,000, it would finance a new school.

"I thought, ‘Well there's no reason I can't do that,' " she said.

And so Martin went to work. She set aside money she earned substitute teaching, saving up about half the money needed. To raise the other half, she sought donations from friends and colleagues and church groups in Chippewa Falls.

Martin thought it would take three years to meet her goal, but within a year she had raised $13,000. The money was used to build a new middle school in the Cambodian village of Khan Sar, which serves 84 students who previously had to walk or bike several miles to attend school.

When Martin was asked to name the school, she christened it Chippewa School after the community that helped her meet her goal.

"You get a lot for your money in Cambodia," Martin said with a laugh on Friday, a day after she returned from a trip to Southeast Asia.

On March 1, Martin visited Chippewa School, along with friends Virginia Metzdorf and Sue and Gene Decker.

Students lined up to welcome Martin, and local and regional dignitaries came to the school to thank her and speak about the importance of education, said Sue Decker, a former colleague of Martin's at Chi-Hi.

"It was a pretty moving experience," she said. "I was very proud of my friend."

Decker said rural Cambodia lacks the basic infrastructure - electricity, running water and paved roads - that is taken for granted in the U.S. One of the major features of Chippewa School, in addition to its four classrooms, is its well that provides the school with running water.

She said it was evident many of the students came from humble means.

"The kids don't really have much. Most were barefoot," Decker said.

Martin made a similar observation when she and her friends handed out packets of school supplies.

"One boy said he'd never seen a globe before," Martin said. "You wonder what their view of the world is when they've never seen a globe."

And while Chippewa School may be built, Martin said she's not done raising money.

"When I saw the school, I thought, ‘I don't think this project is finished,' " Martin said. "Their needs are so incredible.'"

Martin next hopes to raise money to bring an English teacher to the school or to buy computers. Decker said Martin's continued philanthropy is good for her friend's morale.

"She's a very goal-orientated person," Decker said. "She wants to give of herself."

Meanwhile, Martin said she hopes her efforts motivate others to take up altruistic causes.

Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214 or .

School Program

The program that Donna Martin participated in is the American Assistance for Cambodians' rural schools project. The program has built more than 300 schools, according to the association's website. The organization was founded by former Newsweek Cambodian Bureau Chief Bernie Krisher.

To learn more go to

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Cambodia permits 33 companies to send workers abroad

PHNOM PENH, March 22 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has permitted 33 private companies to send laborers to work in foreign countries, according to a government report.

The report released Tuesday by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training said that in 2010 the ministry permitted 33 companies who arranged Cambodian laborers to work in several Asian countries.

It said 20 private companies were permitted to send workers to Malaysia with a total of 16,394, among them 13,872 are females.

Thailand is the second country where 11,224 Cambodian workers were sent by 10 permitted companies to work there in 2010, among them 4,920 are females.

South Korea was the third country for Cambodian laborers to work there with 2,116 workers.

Other sources, however, said the number of Cambodian workers in those countries is higher than the official record, especially, if accounted with those working illegally in Thailand.

According to the government's report, Cambodian laborers working in Thailand and Malaysia earn about 200 U.S. dollars per month, whereas in South Korea and Japan is between 800 and 1,000 U. S. dollars per month.

As of date, Cambodian workers are only sent to these four countries, but more targeted nations such as Kuwait, Qatar, Canada and Singapore are being negotiated.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a crackdown on labor trafficking to Thailand, saying salary for workers status is no different for those being employed locally.

"We've had been a shortage of laborers recently, therefore, I would like to appeal to our people that there are many job opportunities in Cambodia," he said.

Hun Sen said people who chose to work in Cambodia could avoid abuse and mistreatment from employers in Thailand or would not risk arrest when crossing the border for working illegally.

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Local Cambodian Freedom Fighter gets jail for tax evasion

Cambodian Freedom Fighter Sentenced to Additional 37 Months for Tax Evasion

A self-appointed commander of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a Long Beach-based group formed to seize political control in the southeast Asian country, was sentenced Monday to a concurrent term of 37 months in prison for tax evasion.

Yasith Chhun, a 54-year-old United States citizen, was previously sentenced last June to a life term for conspiring to kill in a foreign country and other federal counts stemming from his 2008 conviction.

The same year, Chhun pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false tax returns and aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns. Chhun admitted operating an accounting service that filed false tax returns for numerous taxpayers, resulting in a loss of more than $400,000, according to court papers.

Before he was sentenced to the life term last summer, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson expressed some sympathy for the defendant, who told the judge he formed the 200-strong Cambodian Freedom Fighters partly to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

"I don't think Mr. Chhun is an evil human being," the judge said. "I think he's had a tragic life -- and had the misfortune of being born in a place where terrible things were happening."

Chhun, a former Long Beach accountant who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1982, was found guilty in 2010 after a two-week trial of the four charges against him -- conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States and engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.

Jurors were told Chhun planned "Operation Volcano" to overthrow the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The failed attempt resulted in the deaths of at least six people, including a 15-year-old boy killed in a grenade attack and a young man who was shot by a stray bullet, Pregerson said.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Chhun as a callous, cowardly, incompetent leader of the CFF, who held group meetings at his Long Beach business, CCC Professional Accounting Services, located in the 2700 block of East 10th Street.

Chhun also met with former members of the Khmer Rouge military at the Cambodia-Thailand border in October 1998 to plan Sen's overthrow, prosecutors said.

The Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The Communist organization was blamed for the deaths of more than 1 million people through execution, forced labor and starvation in what became known as the country's "killing fields."

After raising money in the United States -- including staging a May 2000 fundraiser at the Queen Mary -- the CFF launched "popcorns," or small-scale guerrilla attacks in Cambodia against gas stations, coffee shops and other targets, according to the U.S. government.

The judge also noted that the CFF "was probably infiltrated, so had no realistic chance of succeeding."
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