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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cambodia’s ex-king heads to China for medical tests

Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk, center, passes a wreath to his son King Norodom Sihamoni, right, after arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday to go to China.Jan 20, 2012

 Cambodia’s ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk yesterday left his country again for Beijing to undergo medical tests, despite a vow to stay in his homeland forever.

The 89-year-old ex-monarch, who is a revered figure in Cambodia, smiled and waved to well-wishers as he was given a red-carpet sendoff by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials at Phnom Penh airport.

It is unclear how long Sihanouk, who is traveling with his wife and their son, King Norodom Sihamoni, will remain abroad.

The ex-monarch has suffered from a number of ailments in recent years, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension. He has been a frequent visitor to China, where he received the bulk of his treatment.

After returning in October from a previous stay of almost three months in Beijing, Sihanouk told his compatriots that he would never leave Cambodia again, in a speech to mark the 20th anniversary of his return from exile.

However, his medical needs have made it impossible to keep that promise, said Sihanouk’s personal secretary, Prince Sisowath Thomico.

“The Chinese doctors can travel to treat him in Cambodia, but they can’t bring their equipment with them so they asked him to go to China for a check-up,” Thomico said.

“His health is still good,” he added. “He is still strong.”

One of Asia’s longest-serving monarchs, the former king abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favor of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, the ex-monarch sometimes uses his Web site to communicate with the outside world.
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Vietnam, Cambodia report bird flu deaths

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam on Thursday confirmed its first human death from bird flu in nearly two years, a day after neighboring Cambodia also logged its first fatality this year as new cases of the H5N1 virus are reported in Asia and the Middle East.

Both deaths appear to be linked to contact with poultry, and no human-to-human transmission is suspected. Other human bird flu cases have been reported recently in Indonesia, Egypt and China. Outbreaks typically flare among poultry stocks during the winter flu months, often resulting in a spate of human cases.

In Vietnam, test results confirmed that an 18-year-old Vietnamese man died of the disease Monday after being hospitalized a day earlier, said Dang Thi Thanh of southern Kien Giang province's health department.

She said the man was working at a duck farm in neighboring Can Tho City when he fell sick with a high fever and breathing problems. His house has been disinfected and those who were in contact with him remain under surveillance.

No sick or dead poultry have been reported on the two farms where the man worked or among neighboring flocks, but samples have been collected for analysis and the farms have been disinfected, said Huynh Thi Khai Hoan, an animal health officer in Can Tho City. However, many of the ducks on the farms where the man worked had already been sold.

In Cambodia, a 2-year-old boy died Wednesday after developing symptoms Jan. 3. He was reportedly in contact with sick poultry in his village, according to the World Health Organization. The country's last death occurred in August.

The virus rarely infects humans and usually only those who come in direct contact with diseased poultry, but experts fear it will mutate into a new form that passes easily from person to person.

The WHO says that globally there have been 341 human deaths from 578 confirmed bird flu cases since 2003. About 60 of those deaths occurred in Vietnam.

Before Monday, Vietnam had not seen a human bird flu death since April 2010, according to the Ministry of Health's Preventive Medicine Department.

The government has called for stepped-up efforts to fight bird flu as a massive movement of people and poultry begins ahead of the Lunar New Year festivities, which start next week.
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UN names new adviser for Cambodia Khmer Rouge trials

The United Nations has named a new special expert to advise on assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.

A student reads court documents displaying portraits of Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, from right, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea during a UN-backed war crime tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 16 January, 2012
Three Khmer Rouge leaders (photos from left)
Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are on trial
 David Scheffer, the former US ambassador-at-large for war crime issues, is ''very well qualified to provide expert advice'', the UN said in a statement released on Wednesday.

He replaces Clint Williamson, whose term expired on 30 September 2011.

The UN-backed genocide court is seeking justice for almost two million deaths under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Mr Scheffer was involved in the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, said the UN statement.

He was also experienced in setting up the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In November 2011, three top Khmer Rouge leaders - Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary - went on trial for crimes committed during the regime's rule.

Another leader, Ieng Thirith, was found incapable of standing trial because of ill health.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2010 in the tribunal's first case.

Last week, a Swiss judge publicly accused his Cambodian counterpart of stopping him from revealing key information about two other possible prosecutions.

It is the latest row between judicial officials at the UN-backed court.

The Swiss judge replaced a German judge who resigned unexpectedly in October 2011, citing political opposition to further prosecutions.

The trial of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary continued this week.
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Cambodia still in fight to curb pirated goods

Despite continued efforts to curb intellectual-property violations in Cambodia, weak enforcement and government bureaucracy continue to stymie that progress, experts have said.

Cambodia faces many of the same IP problems as neighbouring countries, but regulation of the black market has proved largely unsuccessful, not least because the Kingdom lacks policing capacity.
Regulators have been unable to put to work the international support networks and aid available to them.

“When we get aid from other countries, I worry that Cambodia doesn’t have the human resources to implement the project,” Var Roth San, director of intellectual property at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday. Still, at an ASEAN-wide IP workshop held last week in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian government said it would launch 45 enforcement projects between 2012 and 2014, he said.

On the purchasing side, Cambodians were often unaware of what intellectual property meant, Var Roth San said.

The lack of understanding – which amounted to little more than a price difference to many in the country – was also a challenge to weaning Cambodia off pirated goods, he said.

IP infringement in Cambodia, ranging from software, music and books to cigarettes, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, is pervasive, according to Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh.
Weak enforcement had failed to significantly reduce the trade, which is thought to include 95 per cent of the computer software in the Kingdom, he said.

The Cambodian government spreads management of IP issues across three ministries.

That separation among regulators was inefficient, confusing and a hindrance to enforcement, Peter Fowler, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) intellectual property attaché for Southeast Asia, said.

“The international trend . . . is to consolidate all IP-related administration and policy functions in a single office or agency,” Bangkok-based Fowler said, adding that Cambodia’s regulation scheme was somewhat unique.

Change is coming, but slowly. Cambodia first moved to bring IP regulation under one roof in 2008, and a draft plan for a single office could be approved within a month, the Ministry of Commerce’s Var Roth San said.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation has pledged to provide technical assistance for the transition.

As ASEAN’s 2015 integration draws closer, IP issues in the region would only become more important, Fowler said.

Yet as Cambodia comes to terms with already weak enforcement, new challenges are emerging with the larger global trade in protected goods and the increasing availability of the internet.

The increased involvement of transnational criminal organisations with the movement counterfeit goods also posed a threat, Fowler said.

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