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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fuel feud leaves tourists stranded at Angkor Wat

Travelers headed for Angkor Wat in Cambodia wait in the departure hall of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday after their Tonlesap Airlines flight was canceled because the airline owes what Far EasternAir Transport says is more than NT$3 million in fuel costs.Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

LEASE:Far Eastern Air Transport accused Tonlesap of failing to pay US$100,000 in fuel charges and suspended flights. The Cambodian airline denies the allegations

By Shelley Shan / Staff Reporter

More than 200 Taiwanese tourists traveling to and from Angkor Wat in Cambodia were delayed yesterday after Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) unexpectedly suspended its flights to the world heritage site.

The Taiwanese airline, which resumed services in April last year, leased one of its aircraft and cabin crew to Tonlesap Airlines in Cambodia, which offers charter flights to Angkor Wat.

However, the Cambodian carrier has failed to pay FAT accumulated fuel charges of NT$3 million (US$100,000), FAT said.

FAT’s decision to suspend the flights delayed trips for 255 Taiwanese tourists, Tonlesap Airlines said.

FAT spokesperson Kevin Yang (楊天佑) said the company had been trying to collect the charges from Tonlesap, but the Cambodian carrier had ignored the requests.

“The payment was due on Monday and Tonlesap has not paid the money owed. We decided to stop the service,” Yang said, adding that the company was a victim as well.

Tonlesap denies the allegations. The Cambodian airline said in a statement that it had paid FAT about NT$4.43 million as a guarantee, adding that a dispute remained over about NT$1 million.

Tonlesap said it had tried to negotiate with FAT, but it had yet to receive any goodwill response from the Taiwanese company.

“We sent a legal attestation letter to FAT on Monday requesting it to resolve the dispute based on the terms of the contract,” Tonlesap said in a statement. “FAT’s unilateral act has damaged the interests of the passengers. We will actively protect the passengers and seek restitution from FAT.”

The unexpected move by FAT angered tourists who had arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport early in the morning to catch the flight.

“If they wanted to cancel the flight, they should have told us at least a day in advance,” an angry female passenger told a reporter. “Now we’re here and have already taken days off from work and they tell us the flight has been canceled. What’s this?”

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said Tonlesap had dispatched a Boeing 737-200 aircraft to carry the Taiwanese passengers back to Taiwan, which was scheduled to arrive at Taoyuan at 7:15pm yesterday, adding that the Cambodian airline must bring back all the stranded Taiwanese tourists at Angkor Wat who were scheduled to board its flight.

The CAA has also asked Tonlesap to provide a copy of its flight schedule from now until the end of this month so that it could monitor its service.

The CAA added that while it would not intervene in the dispute, it would accept passenger complaints and help them seek compensation from Tonlesap.

The agency said that while it had heard rumors of the dispute between the two airlines, it did not expect FAT to suspend the flight service this way.

FAT said that Tonlesap is run by Alex Lou (樓文豪), who is accused of involvement in siphoning funds belonging to FAT three years ago.

After being detained for two months, Lou was released on NT$4 million bail and barred from leaving the country.

FAT said that it then sought compensation of NT$790 million from Lou after the airline resumed operations last year. Lou then convinced FAT he could help the carrier expand its operations by negotiating aviation agreements with Cambodia, Palau and other countries, and was able to go to these countries because of the petition from FAT, it said.

Aside from the unpaid bills, FAT also accused Lou of insider trading of FAT shares and transferring those gains to Tonlesap and other airlines he owns, adding that it had requested prosecutors to investigate Lou.

The CAA said FAT’s finances were not sound, adding that it had failed to keep a cash flow of NT$150 million, one of the main requirements the CAA had insisted on for FAT to continue operations.
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Cambodian media publish K. Rouge jailer's apology

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court said Tuesday that media in the kingdom were publishing an apology by a Khmer Rouge jailer imprisoned for life in a bid to provide "reparation" to genocide victims.

Kaing Guek Eav, who oversaw the deaths of some 15,000 people at S-21 prison in the late 1970s, earlier this month had his punishment for war crimes and crimes against humanity increased on appeal.

The court said that statements of apology and acknowledgements of responsibility made by the defendant -- better known as Duch -- during his trial were being published in newspapers, websites as well as radio and television stations starting on Tuesday.

"The publishing of these statements is one form of reparation for the victims," tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

Chum Mey, 81, one of the few survivors to leave S-21 alive, welcomed the initiative.

"It's right to publish the statements through newspapers, radio, and television stations because more people would see and hear the words," he said.

During his nine-month trial Duch repeatedly apologised for his role at S-21, but later surprised the court by asking to be acquitted.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for one of the worst horrors of the 20th century, wiping out up to two million people through starvation, overwork and execution.

A second trial involving the regime's three most senior surviving leaders opened late last year.

Unlike the UN tribunals set up overseas to deal with war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Cambodian tribunal was created in the country where the Khmer Rouge massacres were committed.

It aims to communicate its methods and results with the Cambodian people, in order to foster greater public understanding of a chapter of history still largely overlooked by local school textbooks.
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Gunfire hits at least 3 striking Cambodian workers

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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Chinese envoy unveils Chinese Corner at University of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue on Tuesday attended the launching ceremony of Chinese Corner at the University of Cambodia and donated books and digital documents to the leading university in Cambodia.

Pan said that he hopes the Chinese Corner will help the Cambodian university students get more understanding of Chinese language and culture.

Pan also donated 189 kinds of Chinese books, 55 types of visual audio documents in addition to five computers to the university, covering many areas related to China, like language, culture, geography, society and modern technologies.

Besides, the electronic library system also donated by the Chinese ambassador is particularly eye-catching.

According to Pan, the e-library system includes 21,000 kinds of Chinese books and a large quantity of various visual audio documents, which would definitely satisfy the Cambodian students' eagerness to learn Chinese language and culture.

Kao Kim Hourn, secretary of state at Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and President of University of Cambodia, expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Pan, saying the Chinese Corner and book donation will certainly help the Cambodian students, as well as public, acquire the knowledge of China in all fields.

The president said, besides the university students, the books and e-documents donated by Pan will be allowed public access.

A library staff who earned his master degree from a Chinese leading university, told Xinhua that more and more Cambodian students and citizens share the desire to study Chinese language and culture since China is growing fast both economically and politically. However, their resources are limited in terms of both publications and teaching staff.

He affirms that the Chinese Corner and books donated by Ambassador Pan will not only meet the students' studying desire, but also trigger their interest in going to China for further education.

He also says that there is a Chinese Department in the university with a very small enrollment.
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Vietnam, Cambodia promote legislative cooperation

HANOI, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly (NA) External Relations Committee Tran Van Hang held talks here on Tuesday with Chairman of the Cambodian NA Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information Chheang Vun, to promote legislative ties.

Hang welcomed the visit to Vietnam by the Cambodian parliament delegates, saying the long-standing friendship and all-sided cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia, including legislative agencies, have continually developed over the years.

In the current regional and global changing situation, the two countries' legislative bodies should further expand exchange of information and closely coordinate at international forums, especially in the ASEAN cooperative framework and other sub- regional mechanism, to contribute to promoting the process for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world as a whole, Hang said.

He affirmed that Vietnam has attached importance to consolidating and developing relationship and cooperation with Cambodia, considering it a valuable asset of both countries that should be well preserved for each country's development and prosperity, and for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress worldwide.

The two sides shared a view that currently the Vietnamese and Cambodian NAs are implementing the agreement on cooperation signed on April 26, 2007. After reviewing results of their cooperation obtained in the past years, they discussed about content of the memorandum of understanding on the new agreement with adjustments and supplements, which will be submitted to the two NAs for approval.

Regarding activities of the two NAs' external relations commissions, the two chairmen agreed to increase more visits and well coordinate in holding a conference of the NA External Relations Commissions of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in July in Vietnam.
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