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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!