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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Idaho Troops Poised For Peaceful Trip To Cambodia

By Associated Press

TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- More than 80 Idaho Army National Guard troops are getting ready to go back overseas - this time for a peaceful mission in Cambodia.

The troops from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team will be working providing a variety of training services, including to Cambodian Royal Army engineering and medical personnel.

The Times-News reports the peacekeeping and humanitarian mission will take place from March 13-23.

Col. Tim Marsano says the mission helps Idaho troops better prepare for overseas deployments and operations.

The project gives troops a chance to provide medical attention to underserved populations in the area, including dental and eye care and regular medical procedures.

Last year, troops provided medical treatment to more than 5,000 Cambodians and helped build a small school and drinking water system.
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Puma officials go to Cambodia after factory shooting

FRANKFURT, Feb 23 (Reuters) - German sportwear maker Puma (Xetra: 696960 - news) sent officials to investigate working conditions in Cambodia after a local woman working for one of its suppliers was shot during a labour protest on Monday.

The woman, who was employed by Kaoway Sports, was shot during a protest by employees of several factories calling for better working conditions and increased pay.

Puma said it is paying for the medical costs of the woman, who is receiving treatment at a hospital in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Puma said its safety directors in Asia were working with non-governmental organisations, other brands and trade unions to come up with ways to improve the safety and well-being of employees in its supplier factories.

"We are very aware that the working situation in Cambodia is problematic so that's why we're in the process of talking at an industry-wide level," a Puma spokeswoman told Reuters.

Garment exports were Cambodia's biggest currency earner last year. The sector employs more than 300,000 helping to feed thousands of families in a country where a third of the population live on $1 a day.

The industry generated $4.2 billion in exports last year but has been plagued by pay disputes, mass faintings and illness among workers, believed to be brought on by sweat-shop working conditions.

Puma said Kaoway had on Friday agreed to improve pay for its workers, offering them a $10 monthly transport subsidy and a daily subsidy of $0.50.

Two other young women working for Kaoway Sports were also injured on Monday, human rights organisations LICADHO and CLERC said.

A different Puma supplier in Cambodia was placed under investigation last year after a mass fainting. Other big brands that use Cambodian suppliers include H&M (Stockholm: HMB.ST - news) , Nike, Marks & Spencer (Dusseldorf: MA6.DU - news) , New Balance and Gap .

A panel of international and local judges earlier this month called on garment factories in Cambodia to urgently increase employees' salaries and pressed big international clothing brands to do more to improve working conditions. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan Editing by Maria Golovnina)
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Stronger economic growth for Cambodia in 2012

SINGAPORE: Cambodia's central bank expects economic growth in 2012 to accelerate to its fastest pace in four years.

The director general of the policy-setting institution told Channel NewsAsia that new investments in agriculture and banking will lead the way.

Garment-making has been a mainstay of Cambodia's fledgling economy. It has ticked over at between six and seven percent annually for the past four years.

But, the government is now turning its focus back to the land in the hope that rice growing and other farming produce will lift growth closer to eight per cent, making it among the world's fastest growing economies.

According to a source from the International Monetary Fund, Cambodia's yearly average GDP growth rate over the last ten years is 7.7 per cent.

The Asian Development Bank's growth projection for Cambodia in 2012 is 6.5 per cent.

National Bank of Cambodia's Director General, Nguon Sokha, said: "One of the priorities of the government is to develop the agriculture sector. At the moment, growth is driven by garment sector, tourism sector and construction. Cambodia is an agriculture land so we need to develop based on our natural resource."

ASEAN economies are expected to grow some 5.5 per cent this year. And with more foreign direct investment (FDI) coming into the region, the Asian Development Bank said emerging markets like Cambodia should leverage off China's increasing presence in the region and make better use of the regional connectivity in order to fully realise its growth potential."

More than 50 per cent of Cambodia's FDI comes from China but there are impediments that must be addressed.

Asian Development Bank's Assistant Chief Economist, Cyn-Young Park, said: "Cambodia faces significant infrastructure deficiency in both physical and soft infrastructure. Cambodia has already expressed that there are some skills mismatched in various areas. They are trying to invest a lot in vocational training that really matches the jobs that are being created for the future."

More of such jobs may soon be found in banking, which has relatively liberal foreign ownership rules compared to its neighbours.

Mr Sokha said: "There are a lot more interest from foreign investors to enter the banking industry in Cambodia given the good economic potential, macroeconomic stability and political stability. We need to balance between the need to establish a fair competition in the banking sector in order to reduce the cost in using the financial services for our consumer. But at the same time, we also need to look into the components, like risk management."

But with other frontier markets like Myanmar opening up, Cambodia may have new competitors for that foreign money.

- CNA/fa .
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