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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cambodia eyes UAE to broker its milled rice: Commerce Minister

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said on Sunday the country has been seeking Dubai investors to broker Cambodian milled rice for countries surrounding the Persian Gulf.

"Although our rice is not the types of rice consumed in the United Arab Emirates as they mostly eat India's long grain Basmati rice, we want Dubai's rice brokers to buy our milled rice and wholesale to countries in-and-surrounding the Persian Gulf," he said at the Phnom Penh International Airport when returning from participating in the International Rice Exhibition 2011 in Dubai.

Cham said his visit to Dubai was the start of the bilateral trade relationship between Cambodia and Dubai and he had extended an invitation letter to Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, the UAE Minister for Foreign Trade who will visit Cambodia early next year, in order to look into the cooperation on rice and other agricultural produce between the two countries.

"We believe that from next year, the trade and investment relationship between Cambodia and Dubai, especially rice cooperation, will be started," he said.

The UAE is the world's biggest re-exporter of rice. Annually, the Dubai brokers milled rice from around the globe in equivalent to 1.4 billion U.S. dollars, he said.

Cambodia produced some eight million tons of rice paddies last year. Of the figures, the country leaves 3.9 million tons of rice paddies, in equivalent to 2.5 million tons of milled rice, left over for exports this year, according to the government report.

However, this country can export only the small amount of its milled rice due to the lack of sophisticated post-harvesting technology.

The country needs roughly 350 million U.S. dollars to invest in hi-tech post harvest technology and to purchase rice paddies from farmers for processing in order to achieve its self-imposed target of one-million-ton rice exports by 2015.
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Attacks on Khmer Rouge were backpacker's death warrant, say former diplomat

Hostage … David Wilson pleaded for a ransom to be paid.

A former diplomat says the failure of the Australian government to halt Cambodian military attacks on a Khmer Rouge base effectively ''issued death warrants'' for kidnapped Australian backpacker David Wilson and his two travelling companions in 1994.

Alastair Gaisford, a diplomat at the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh at the time, says Australia, Britain and France ''clearly abrogated their consular duties to their own hostage citizens'' by ''failing to act immediately and directly against, if only to postpone'' the attacks until the hostages could be released after the paying of a ransom.

Australia was gripped by the plight of Mr Wilson when he and his two companions were kidnapped from a train in southern Cambodia only three months after Khmer Rouge guerillas had murdered Australian cafe owner Kellie-Anne Wilkinson and her two British travelling companions.

From his mountain prison, Mr Wilson sent out videos and letters pleading for a ransom to be paid as the Australian government's handling of the case came under severe criticism in Australia.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry, Mr Gaisford, a controversial former whistleblower in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said a Cambodian army general told him in early August 1994: ''We're here to take the mountain. The big noses [foreign hostages] are of no consequence [to us].''

Mr Wilson, Englishman Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet were murdered in early September 1994 after negotiations between the Cambodian government and their Khmer Rouge captors broke down.

In his submission to the Senate inquiry into the government's response to the kidnapping of Australians overseas, Mr Gaisford, who retired in 2001, said the government secretly agreed to the Cambodian government paying a $US150,000 ransom for Mr Wilson and his companions while publicly reiterating its ''no negotiation, no ransom'' hostage policy.

Mr Gaisford said the Cambodian co-prime minister at the time, Hun Sen, intervened militarily to attack the Khmer Rouge, breaking an agreement with Australia, France and Britain ''not to act adversely without consultation or prior consent''.

Mr Gaisford said Australian diplomats and consular officials were told to treat the families of hostages overseas as a ''problem'' who should be managed by fear and not be kept informed.

One of his former bosses at the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh told him to treat Mr Wilson's family ''as mushrooms'' to be ''kept in the dark'' as much as possible, Mr Gaisford said.

''We were also [told] to keep them 'too frightened' to travel to Cambodia or if they did come, then keep them too scared to travel outside the capital, where we could manage them,'' he said.

Mr Gaisford is expected to testify into an inquest in Melbourne into Mr Wilson's death, which has resumed after a 13-year adjournment.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the policy not to pay ransoms underpinned its response to the few kidnappings of Australians that have occurred in the past decade.
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