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Monday, February 20, 2012

Sciaroni to Represent Cambodia at US Business Conference

Former White House counsel promotes economic development in Cambodia


Bretton G. Sciaroni of Sciaroni & Associates will represent the Kingdom of Cambodia at the first-ever Global Business Conference hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, DC Feb. 21 and 22.

Sciaroni, senior partner at the Phnom Penh-based professional services firm, is chairman of the American Cambodian Business Council (AmCham). He has provided advice and counsel to foreign investors seeking to do business in Cambodia since 1993 and also serves as legal advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as chairman of the International Business Chamber.

"It's an honor to represent Cambodia at such a high level meeting, bringing together leading businesses and representatives from around the world to discuss ways we can work together to contribute to economic prosperity," he said.

The two-day conference will feature opening remarks by Gen. Michael Hayden (“An Insider’s View of the World”) and presentations by executives of IBM, General Electric and Microsoft. More than 100 countries will be represented at the forum.

The first day of the event will feature sessions on export promotion, increasing foreign investment in the United States, creating public-private partnerships, facilitating business and leisure travel to the United States, and key policy topics of interest to businesses abroad. The second day will include breakout sessions, hosted by the State Department’s regional Assistant Secretaries, to discuss regional strategies to advance shared economic interests.

Sciaroni, who was nominated to represent Cambodia by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the conference “is an opportunity to promote Cambodia as an investment destination among top US Companies.
“Given the fact that Cambodia is chairing the ASEAN summit this year, it’s perfect timing to present the country to the international business community,” he said. Sciaroni added that the Washington meeting also provides a platform to “promote the idea of a US-ASEAN business summit that is currently under active discussion.”

The conference will cover general international business subjects concerning US trade policy and the potential for international collaboration.

Sciaroni, a former White House counsel, has provided investment and legal advice to multinational companies, development agencies and the diplomatic community in Cambodia for nearly 20 years. His firm of Cambodian and expatriate staff provides counsel to many of the world’s leading companies who have investment interests in the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia.

In addition to serving as heads of the local business councils, Sciaroni, along with the Minister of Finance, co-chairs the Working Group on Law, Tax and Good Governance for the Royal Government of Cambodia.

While in Washington, Sciaroni will also attend a meeting sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce to discuss Sec. Clinton’s planned trip to Cambodia in July as well as the October ASEAN Economic Minister meetings.

About Sciaroni & Associates
Sciaroni & Associates is a leading legal and professional services firm based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since 1993, the firm has provided advice and business insight to many of the world’s leading companies as well as the Royal Government of Cambodia. Senior Partner Bretton G. Sciaroni has nearly 20 years of experience advising clients in Cambodia and is a leading contributor to the development of the Cambodian economy. Managing Partner Matthew Rendall has worked in Cambodia since 1994 and has extensive property and labor law expertise as well as considerable experience in general investment structuring. Managing Partner John Pike has more than 25 years of investment banking and legal experience in the United Kingdom and throughout Asia. The firm provides guidance and expertise in all facets of law and investment, from company creation to licensing, labor, property and government relations. Additional details may be obtained via the firm's website at .

Sciaroni & Associates
Office Manager
Greg Regan, (855) 23 210 225
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Cambodia's fainting workers

Cambodia’s garment industry represents 90 percent of the country’s exports and employs more than 300,000 workers by some estimates. It survived the 2008 global financial crisis, although job losses were registered across all special economic zones. But despite its vital contribution to the local economy, the garment sector has been facing criticism that it has been able to maintain global competitiveness only at the expense of providing its labor force with better working conditions and benefits. Indeed, the statutory minimum wage of Cambodia’s garment workers is currently the lowest in the Mekong region.

Last year, more than 200,000 workers in the garment sector went on strike in protest over their pauperized working conditions. The government responded by reminding employers to strictly enforce the occupational safety and health standards required by law.

To further highlight the demands of garment workers, the Asia Floor Wage network organized Cambodia’s first ever People’s Tribunal on Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working Conditions early this month. It was also the first tribunal in the Asia-Pacific aimed at establishing a standard on the issue of fair pricing for garment manufacturers and, in particular, strengthening the bargaining power of female workers within the global supply chain.

Aside from the wage issue, the tribunal also discussed the alarming rise of mass fainting incidents in many garment factories. In 2011 alone, the Free Trade Union reported that 2,300 workers fainted in five factories. Initial investigations revealed that many workers suffered from low blood sugar, malnutrition, dehydration, food poisoning and over-exertion. The government later confirmed that the fainting cases were related to poor working conditions in many factories.

During the tribunal, workers in the “fainting factories” recalled how they regularly work for 12 to 14 hours a day while being exposed to strong chemicals in hot and poorly ventilated environments. Most of the female workers said they also have to travel long hours, standing in overcrowded trucks, to get to work each day.

To stop the fainting, factory owners merely need to ensure that occupational safety and health policies are implemented. Specifically, workers should be taught how to properly handle chemicals and electrical equipment. In addition, workers should be given time to rest at the weekend, while any overtime worked during peak factory production periods should be undertaken in compliance with the law.

The tribunal succeeded in articulating the demands of garment workers, but the proposed reforms still need to be aggressively presented to the government and the global clients of Cambodia’s garment factories. Just a week ago, 162 garment workers in a Preah Sihanouk factory were reportedly rushed to various hospitals and clinics after they fainted at work.

A few years ago, there was a global outcry over the recruitment of child workers in Southeast Asia’s infamous sweatshops, an outcry that forced Western companies, employers, buyers, and local governments to sign a pact against this unfair labor practice. Today, consumers should likewise be informed that clothing companies are able to cut the prices of goods at the expense of Cambodia’s fainting workers.
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Cambodia, China willing to further enhance cooperation in all fields: officials

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and China are willing to further promote bilateral cooperation in all fields in the framework of ASEAN-China relations, officials said Monday.

The commitment was made during the official visit of Ma Mingqiang, secretary general of ASEAN-China Center, to Cambodia.

In a meeting with Cambodia's Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Ma Mingqiang said this was his official visit to Cambodia since the ASEAN-China Center was launched on Nov.18,2011.

"The visit aims at promoting ASEAN-China cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, education, and culture," he said.
Meanwhile, Thong Khon said Cambodia saw China as a big source of visitors to Cambodia in the near future.

He added that last year, Cambodia received 247,000 Chinese tourists, up 39.2 percent, making Chinese tourists the third largest arrival groups to Cambodia.

"Based on the trend, the country expects to see about 600,000 Chinese visitors here in 2015 and up to 1 million in 2020," said the minister. "To achieve this goal, we have been strengthening our tourism product quality and services, and encouraging hotels, restaurants and resorts to use Chinese language in order to meet the needs of Chinese tourists."

Cambodia and China signed tourism cooperation on Feb. 9, 1999, he said.

On Monday, Ma had also met with Pich Rithi, director general of the commerce ministry's general directorate of domestic trade, and both sides had affirmed the necessity to boost bilateral trade and investment cooperation for mutual interests.

Pich Rithi said Cambodia saw China as the largest market for Cambodian agricultural products, especially rice and cassava, so that he asked Ma to help attract Chinese businesspeople and investors to do business in the fields in order to increase Cambodia's exports to China.

Ma said that through the ASEAN-China Center, he would try to promote Cambodia's investment potentials to Chinese investors and the world.

Also, on the day, Ma had met with Chea Sienghong, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and Soeung Rathchavy, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Ma and his delegation arrived here on Feb. 19 for a 3-day visit. They will leave Cambodia for Vietnam on Tuesday.
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OZ Minerals to sell off Cambodian gold assets

OZ MINERALS announced plans yesterday to sell off its gold assets in Cambodia, closing a controversial chapter for the company that was forced to deny allegations of impropriety last year in relation to this business.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper last year alleged relatives of government officials had received hundreds of thousands of dollars after the Australian company bought out its local partner in a goldmining venture.

The newspaper said the trio were appointed in 2006, just before Shin Ha concluded a joint-venture agreement with Oxiana, headed by Owen Hegarty. The company was later named OZ Minerals after merging with Zinifex.

OZ Minerals and the Cambodian government denied any impropriety. A company spokeswoman said in July last year that an internal investigation could find no evidence of wrongdoing.

Last week this newspaper reported that documents released by the federal Attorney-General's Department under freedom of information laws showed that officials in the financial crime section were last year taking a keen interest in the allegations.

OZ Minerals has had the Cambodian business under review since April last year when it became clear that the gold exploration program was not going to yield the 2 million ounce resource the company needed to make it a starter project.

The company sold off its rights to Renaissance Minerals yesterday for $17.8 million in cash, shares and options with a further $22.5 million due if project milestones are achieved from the deposits with estimated gold reserves of 729,000 ounces.

''We have concluded that this project does not fit within OZ Minerals' strategy with regard to scale in relation to the commodity and our overall preference for mid-tier copper projects,'' said OZ Minerals chief executive Terry Burgess.

OZ Minerals sold all its operating mines, except Prominent Hill, to China Minmetals in June 2009 for $US1.39 billion after it failed to reach an agreement with its banks to repay debt.

It only survived as a separate company when the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, blocked the sale of Prominent Hill, a copper and gold mine in South Australia.
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Gunfire hits at least 3 striking Cambodian workers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

At least three striking garment workers were wounded by gunshots Monday while protesting outside their factory in southeastern Cambodia.

Keo Kong, police chief of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province, said three women were hurt, one seriously, by an unknown gunman who fired at them when the protest by more than 1,000 workers turned rowdy.

The workers at the Kaoway Sports Ltd. factory have been striking since Friday to demand better working conditions and benefits.

The factory is Taiwanese-owned and makes footwear for Germany's Puma brand, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper. Commerce Ministry statistics show that most of its production is shipped to Europe, especially Germany and Italy.

The Cambodian human rights group Licadho last month lamented the increasing use of armed force against protesters.

It said there had been at least five incidents in two months in which public security forces or private armed guards opened fire on people protesting land grabs, with 19 people hurt, including seven by gunfire.

Striking workers said the gunman Monday was a factory security guard. Police said the man fled the scene, and they were investigating.

Keo Kong said the shooting began after workers started throwing stones at the factory, shattering mirrored glass.

Licadho official Nuth Bopinnaroath said the victims were aged 18, 21 and 23, and the seriously injured one received a chest wound.

The factory is located in an industrial estate, the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, close to the border with Vietnam. Last week, workers at another business in the zone, Taiwanese bicycle maker Bestway Industrial Co. Ltd., ended a two-day strike after most of their demands for better working conditions were met, the Phnom Penh Post said.
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