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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Three men jailed for border espionage

Cambodian, Vietnamese authorities set to appeal

A Thai provincial court has sentenced a Thai, a Cambodian and a Vietnamese to two years in jail for espionage along the Thai-Cambodian border in June.

Nguyen Teng Dang, a 37-year-old Vietnameseman,is taken to a prison in Si Sa Ket yesterday after being sentenced to two years’imprisonment together with a Thai andaCambodianfor espionage along the Thai-Cambodian border in June. SERMPONG THONGSAMRIT

The court in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province yesterday announced the sentences of Suchart Muhammad, a 32-year-old Thai, Cambodian citizen Ung Kimtai, 43, and Nguyen Teng Dang, 37, a Vietnamese national.

Suchart, who drove a pickup for the alleged spies, and Ung also received additional jail terms of four months and three months respectively because they had drugs in their possession.

The jail sentences were halved from eight months and six months, respectively, due to their confessions.

The three men were arrested in the border district of Kantharalak, Si Sa Ket, on the evening of June 7. Their alleged Cambodian spymaster, identified as Wichai or Ya Pao, 48, managed to flee.

Man Wanna, Cambodian consul in Thailand, and Pham Minh Tuan, secretary to the Vietnamese ambassador to Thailand, were present at the ruling along with Thai soldiers and police.

Relatives of the three men also were also present. Some of them burst into tears after the ruling. They saw off the three men from the court as they were escorted to a prison in Kantharalak district.

The Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities will appeal against the verdict.

Meanwhile, Thai Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said he planned to visit Cambodia on Sept 23 and 24 and has asked if his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh would be available for a meeting.

The minister said he had to inform his Cambodian counterpart that the Thai cabinet and parliament had to approve in advance the framework for negotiations for the next meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee.
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Cambodia Becoming Asia’s Newest Casino Gambling Destination

Cambodia is currently one of the hottest markets for casino developers in Asia, as mega-casino development projects are on the rise.

Cambodia is a budding democracy with a population of fifteen million and has one of the fastest growing casino tourism industries in the world.

According to casino gambling news, last year, Cambodia begun regulating its casino industry, closing down thousands of questionable operations and licensing only those who’ve passed the government benchmark.

Cambodian Primer Minister Samdech Hun Sen, has so far done an admirable job of balancing the needs for infrastructure development required by all modern nations while at the same time ensuring that revenues are directed towards health and education projects benefitting local villages and towns.

Cambodia shares borders with Vietnam on the east and Thailand on the west. Thailand prohibits all forms of gambling within their borders for its 68 million citizens and frequently sentences arrested home game players to lengthy prison terms.

Such draconian laws force the Thai people to either play online blackjack, or go to local illegal casinos owned by Thai police. However most choose to travel the four hours and play at a licensed and regulated Cambodian casino without worrying about breaking Thai gambling laws.

Thailand has a large and wealthy upper class of ethnic Chinese for whom gambling is an ingrained part of their cultural traditions, and even a religious requirement during funeral wakes to ensure the soul of their loved one is successfully reincarnated.

Funeral wakes for Thais of Chinese ancestry are now frequently held in Cambodia to ensure that this religious requirement is not interrupted by a police raid.

Developers have been strategically building enormous casinos to service Thais and Vietnamese gamblers. Special short term entry pass aimed at Vietnamese and Thai gamblers have even been created which do not require a passport.

In fact, the first thing a visitor would notice upon crossing main land borders with Cambodia would be Las Vegas style casinos just passed the immigration control building.

Asian gamblers are extremely superstitious and great care was taken about the smallest details to ensure maximum luck and profitability including the use of colors, shapes, styles, the positioning of the doors, and even the number of steps.

Casino developers have to ensure that every aspect of the architectural and design plans for a casino is first examined by Feng Shui consultants to ensure that the ‘universal forces’ and ‘auras’ are in balance.
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Long Beach Expo Seeks Ways to Boost Cambodian Trade

Long Beach, Calif., saw its second annual business expo last weekend, where US and Cambodian partners looked for new ways to increase the flow of trade between the two countries.

Danny Vong, an adviser to the Cambodian-American Business Association, which hosted the expo, said trade was moving forward.

“Last year we did not have permission to import rice from Cambodia,” he said. “This year, two companies are selling Cambodian rice in Long Beach.”

The Imperial Rina Group is one of two companies in Long Beach currently importing rice from Cambodia.

“This is a huge success for IRG, to bring rice produced by Loran, Inc.,” said Burnen Ben, a sales representative for the company. “This is the first time we’ve imported rice from Cambodia to the US.”

“Our first shipment arrived in Long Beach in May,” said Phannarith An, president of Angkor International, the other rice importer. “We’ve had three shipments since then. Many people have supported us, because they want to support Cambodian rice farmers.”

Pan Sorasak, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said Cambodia was hoping to export more products to the US.

“First we pushed for rice,” he said. “When we have more experience, we will bring other products, especially agricultural products.”

Aside from promoting trade, the business association also seeks to promote culture, bringing to this year’s expo a fashion show, classical dance and Cambodian martial arts.

Khim Sarith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, praised the efforts of the Long Beach community.

“Our brothers and sisters in the United States have Khmer heart and Khmer blood,” he said. “It is reflected in the expo today. Everyone who’s come to this expo today can get to know some of Cambodia’s characteristics.”

Madeline Chea, 14, was among those who came out for the expo. Born in the US to Cambodian parents, she said she is proud to be Cambodian-American.

“When people ask me what nationality I am, I’m proud to say I’m Cambodian,” she said.
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Clothing brands 'to probe Cambodia faintings'

PHNOM PENH — More than two dozen global clothing brands on Tuesday pledged to investigate a spate of mass faintings among Cambodian garment workers, the UN's labour agency said.

The retailers said they would provide resources and international expertise to find out why hundreds of their suppliers' employees have collapsed recently, the International Labour Organisation said after a meeting in Phnom Penh.

Among the retailers who supported the initiative were Gap, H&M, Walmart and Target, a source who attended the gathering but wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

"More research is urgently needed to identify possible new causes that will explain the fainting phenomenon, as well as eliminate ones we know about, in areas such as occupational safety, health and nutrition," said Tuomo Poutiainen of the ILO's Better Factories Cambodia Programme.

He welcomed the call to action from the brands and noted that the Cambodian government had also set up an inter-ministerial task force to address the issue.

The mass fainting episodes, which appear to be unique to the Cambodian garment industry, are often blamed on workers' poor health, bad ventilation in the workplace or exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The ILO estimates there have been around 10 mass fainting incidents so far this year in the country, which has nearly 300 factories making clothing for export.

Last month, nearly 300 workers had to be hospitalised after falling ill in a factory that supplies knitwear for H&M, which is still investigating the incident with Better Factories Cambodia.

Earlier this year, German sportswear giant Puma said long working hours and numerous health and safety breaches at a footwear supplier were to blame for more than 100 employees collapsing.

The garment industry is a key source of foreign income for Cambodia and employs more than 300,000 workers, mostly women.
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Australia asked to defend Cambodian Non-Government Organisations

The Australian Greens want the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to publicly defend the rights of Cambodian Non-Government Organisations facing a crackdown by Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government warned NGOs after they wrote to the Australian government's aid agency, Ausaid, about the impact of a railway project on local families being resettled.

The resettlement is being managed by Cambodia but Australia has contributed about 20 million US dollars towards the 140 million dollar refurbishment project.

The letter advised Ausaid and its aid partner, the Asian Development Bank, that two children had drowned fetching water at a relocation site due to a lack of proper facilities.

The Greens say these NGOs have been pivotal in highlighting other problems with the resettlement program, including claims of intimidation and forced removal of families.

The warning comes as Phnom Penh tries to pass a new law regulating NGOs, which observers fear is an attempt to silence those critical of the government.

i>Presenter:Joanna McCarthy
Speakers: Lee Rhiannon, Greens Senator
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PM heads to Brunei on her first trip

Yingluck begins Asean tour at the weekend to cement relations; Indonesia and Cambodia also on travel itinerary

Prime Minister Yingluck Shina-watra will make her first trip overseas, beginning with Brunei, this weekend aimed at cementing ties with Asean countries, a government source said yesterday.

Yingluck will make a one-day visit to Brunei on September 10, to Indonesia on September 12 and to Cambodia on September 15.

Foreign Ministry officials had recommended that Prime Minister Yingluck and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul visit Asean members in alphabet order but the schedules of counterparts in foreign countries did not make this possible.

The Asean members in alphabetical order are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan-mar (Burma), the Philippines, Singa-pore, Thailand and Vietnam. Although visiting the countries in alphabetical order was not possible, Yingluck has made Brunei her first foreign destination as PM.

Brunei is the country which her brother and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra often visited while in exile. Thaksin openly met former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, who is de-facto leader of the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party, in Brunei recently to discuss a portfolio quota in the Yingluck cabinet.

Yingluck's next stop will be Indonesia, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of Asean. Jakarta is also playing a crucial role in facilitating peace efforts between Thailand and Cambodia following a border dispute at the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Indonesia planned to dispatch an observer team to assess the situation and observe troop withdrawal from the disputed area adjacent to the temple in accordance with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The court ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw their troops from the court-determined demilitarised zone near the temple pending interpretation of the 1962 judgement on the Preah Vihear case. The court wanted the two countries to welcome an Indonesian observer team for the troop-withdrawal process. Cambodia decided to fully comply with the ICJ injunction. The previous Thai government under Abhisit Vejjajiva did not take any clear position on the order and Yingluck also has not yet announced her stand.

She will visit Cambodia on September 15, to introduce herself to the government in Phnom Penh while also attempting to improve bilateral relations after the boundary conflict.

Foreign Minister Surapong said he would be accompanying the prime minister to Phnom Penh and seek the opportunity to meet his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong to discuss various issues that have been at the core of the conflict between the two countries. The minister said he would seek ways to secure the release of the two Thai nationalist activists - Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon - who are serving jail sentences in Phnom Penh on espionage charges.

Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha plans to visit Cambodia on September 23-24 to discuss troop arrangement along the border and the possibility of activating a meeting of the General Border Committee.

Meanwhile, in a separate event, the Kanthalalak court yesterday sentenced to two years' imprisonment a Thai national Suchart Muhammad, a Cambodian Ung Kimtai and a Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Don.

They were arrested on June 7 in Si Sa Ket's Kanthalalak district while driving a pickup truck to see the military outpost in the area. The court convicted them of spying on the locations of the military bases and bunkers of civilians along the border.
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