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Friday, March 18, 2011

Vietnamese opposition could sway Lao Hydropower Plans

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

Vietnamese officials are publicly opposing a plan by neighboring Laos to build a hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.


But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

"The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam," Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy "behind closed doors." But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been "very public."

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.


But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

"The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction."

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

"Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power."

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause "serious and irreversible" environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

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Hun Sen Orders Investigation of Labor Recruiters

Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment, following death of Seung Sina earlier this month at the T&P company’s center in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered a government investigation into the business practices of labor recruiters, after a worker died in the facility en route to work in Malaysia, a government spokesman said.

Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment, following death of Seung Sina earlier this month at the T&P company’s center in Phnom Penh.

T&P officials have denied wrongdoing in the past, but the death followed reports of another woman’s reported escape from the center, during which she said she jumped a fence and broke bones in her legs.

Those two incidents and another death at a separate company earlier this year have underscored the weak system of regulation surrounding the aggressive recruitment of exported labor, especially as more young Cambodian women have sought work as maids in Malaysia.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith posted on his Facebook page on Friday a note saying Hun Sen had ordered the ACU, headed by Om Yentieng, to investigate the social labor offices of companies in Phnom Penh and the provinces “following different articles in the press and radio reporting.”

ACU officials could not be reached for comment on Friday. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that police have investigated the death at T&P and have filed with the court already.

Meanwhile, at six rights groups and development organizations met in Phnom Penh this week to consider the practice of aggressive recruitment and plan report to the ministries of Labor and Interior.

Recruitment firms have sprung up across the country in the past year, convincing young women to take jobs as domestic help in Malaysia and often offering families money and goods up front.

This has made some companies loathe to release their new recruits, even if the women have changed their minds.

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US Maintains Ban on Cambodian Adoptions

A young orphaned Cambodian infant girl infected with the HIV virus sits on a mat in the Phnom Penh Nutrition Center.

A US envoy for children’s issues declined to lift a ban on US adoptions from Cambodia Friday, despite the 2009 passage of an adoption law, officials said.

The US banned adoptions from Cambodia in 2001, after allegations that mothers were being paid to give up their children to adoption agencies.

Susan Jacobs, the US Ambassador for Children’s Issues, told Cambodian officials the country had made improvements in children’s protection.

But after her two-day fact-finding mission, the US Embassy said in a statement, “The United States has not set a date for resumption of inter-country adoption with Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials say they expect to begin initiating a 2009 law in April this year to bring the country in line with international standards.

The law includes age requirement for prospective parents, between 30 to 45, and an age limit on a child of 18 years. It also includes requirements the adoptive parent is not a criminal and can care for the adopted.

“We aim to prevent human trafficking and child smuggling,” said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The law would ensure a child lives with its adopted family, he said, “with proper living, dignity and happiness.”

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Research and Markets: Cambodians and their Doctors: A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial Cambodia

DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Research and Markets ( ) has announced the addition of the "Cambodians and their Doctors: A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial Cambodia" report to their offering.

This is an anthropological study of doctors and patients in Cambodia. These two categories include the actors within the separate but coexisting medical traditions in Cambodia - the biomedical and the indigenous. Doctors in the biomedical tradition generally seek to cure the physical body, while indigenous medical practitioners seek to heal the social person. Ideally, both strategies for regaining health should be complementary, but medical doctors and indigenous healers have rarely collaborated. This book traces the social, historical, and political circumstances under which these two medical traditions have evolved and the opportunities and constraints which Cambodians have faced and still face when seeking healthcare.

Our study spans the colonial introduction of biomedicine into Cambodia in the late nineteenth century to the present. By anthropological standards this is a rather longue durée, also given that our own observations of Cambodian society go back a mere 13 years, and that most of our informants' recollections hardly extend further than the 1960s. Our aim, however, is to trace the articulation of the two medical traditions from the beginning of their coexistence and thereby offer a colonial and postcolonial anthropology as well as a political economy of medicality.

Among the Asian medical systems, Ayurvedic, Unani, and Chinese medicine would represent the great medical traditions (Leslie 1976), comparable in many respects to the great, though much less ancient, European tradition of biomedicine. The notion of a medical system includes both theory and practice: theory as a more or less consistent body of medical cosmological ideas - a world view - and practice as an associated set of therapeutic techniques and technologies. Medical systems are by no means static, and changes within them occur to varying degrees and at a varying pace as a matter of course, precipitated, for instance, by globalization and indigenization. In biomedicine changes in technique and technology are virtually built into the system through the notion of continual scientific and technological progress, whereas changes in world view are considerably less perceptible and rather longue dure.

Key Points:

•Offers a unique blend of historical anthropology and contemporary ethnography.
•A key text for scholars and students of Cambodia and Southeast Asia in general.
•An important resource for development planners and aid workers in medical and related ?elds.

Key Topics Covered:

•Preface vii
•Glossary xi
•1. Introduction
•2. Colonialism and Medicine in Indochina
•3. French Medicine in Cambodia
•4. The Khmer Rouge Medical Regime and Socialist Health
•5. Indigenous Practitioners: Healers, Spirit Mediums and Magic Monks
•6. Midwives and the Medicalization of Motherhood
•7. Leprosy: Symbol and Social Suffering
•8. Contemporary Healthcare Resources
•9. Conclusion

For more information visit


Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager,
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