Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Viettel Cambodia installs 1,100 BTS to boost coverage, aims 3,000 more by 2009-end

Wireless Federation

April 15th, 2009 Viettel Cambodia has reportedly completed the installation of 1,100 base transmission stations which would help boost its mobile coverage. The company also said it would increase the number of BTS to more than 3,000 by the end of 2009 in a bid to cover the entire country. Metfone which recently became operational has started offering a number of value added services for Metfone, such as IMuzik, GPRS/EDGE and iShare. During its three month trial period, operator gained 500,000 subscribers.

Local man builds wells abroad

Media Credit: Courtesy of Scott Dukes
Fresh Water wells: Scott Dukes has helped establish 48 wells in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the help of native Ly Heang.

The Orion

By: Calleene Egan
Issue date: 4/15/09

Water buffalo can be dangerous - especially when they jump in front of a moving motorcycle.

For Chico local Scott Dukes, this accident only led to a broken shoulder and wounded foot, but his mission, Water Aid for Cambodia, was worth the injury.

Surprises such as water buffalo accidents, were just a few of the things Dukes encountered in his philanthropic Cambodian travels.

Dukes began donating his time and money to establishing fresh water aid in Cambodia after traveling their with his family in July 2008.

His inspiration was ignited as he talked to his Cambodian guide and translator Ly Heang, while they traveled through the countryside in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Dukes said.

While talking to Heang, Dukes learned that the guide had grown up on a rice farm and had experienced water shortages all of his life, he said.

"Ly is an amazing man," Dukes said.

Heang was raised in the countryside of Siem Reap, Dukes said. When he was a child, the water in his family's well was so low that he fell in when trying to find the waterline.

That experience made Heang's life mission clear - to help his family and others sustain the water supply, Dukes said.

Dukes was so touched by Heang's story, he wanted to see where Heang lived, he said. Heang took him on an adventure into the little village where he grew up.

On the way to Heang's home, Duke met an elderly woman who had lived with malnutrition and bad water all her life.

"(She) asked me to take her picture so that her children could have it when she died to remember her," Dukes said. "That touched me."

Dukes took the photo, developed it, framed it and took it back to the woman, he said. She was grateful for his generosity.

But he still wanted to do more, Dukes said. As a result, he and Heang put their heads together and came up with Water Aid for Cambodia - a project to establish water pumps and clean water for Cambodian villagers.

Since last July, 48 wells have been established and it has worked like a snowball effect, he said.

"After my trip in July, I went back in November," Dukes said. "I found aqueducts were made for the vegetation of gardens. They not only have fresh water now, but also fruits and vegetables. It was awesome."

Students have also become aware of water scarcity in other countries.

"Water is a necessity for life and growth without it is impossible for a society to thrive," said Mary Butler, senior and agriculture business major. "Dukes is an exceptional person for providing water for these people."

Butler grew up on rice farm and has attended city water board meetings with her father Steve Butler, she said.

At the meetings, she gained a better understanding of the constraints that water limitations impose on irrigation and the flow of society, Butler said.

Water shouldn't be taken for granted in America either.

"There was almost a water shortage this year," said Steve Butler, president of the board of directors of the water board. "But thankfully there isn't one."

When water shortages occur, rice farms rely on wells, he said.

"Wells are the first source that we turn to," Steve Butler said. "They are a very important resource."

Portrait of KRouge prison chief emerges at trial

AsiaOne News

Wed, Apr 15, 2009

by Patrick Falby

PHNOM PENH - As his trial began at a UN-backed war crimes court, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief apologised for the atrocities he committed - but few Cambodians are likely to grant him forgiveness.

Duch, 66, told the court trying him for crimes against humanity that he felt "regret and heartfelt sorrow" for the murders of around 15,000 people between 1975 and 1979 at Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21.

"I would like to emphasise that I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there," said Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav.

Duch, who became a born-again Christian before his arrest in 1999, went on to add that he would like to leave "an open window to seek forgiveness".

Few Cambodians have said they will grant that wish, and even though Duch accepts the allegations against him, lawyers spent the first two weeks of his trial sparring over how much responsibility he bears for atrocities.

The tribunal, established in 2006, resumed last last month in the Cambodia capital, and is seen as a last chance to bring the Khmer Rouge's leaders to justice.

The joint trial of four other Khmer Rouge leaders being held with Duch is set to start later this year after his case is complete.

The former maths teacher's apology came after prosecutors described him as central to the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule, which disastrously enslaved the country in collective farms as it attempted to enforce a communist 'Year Zero'.

"The policy was that no one could leave S-21 alive," co-prosecutor Robert Petit told the court as he laid out his case that prisoners were tortured "under the accused's direct orders and sometimes by his own hand".

Inmates had toenails and fingernails pulled out, had plastic bags tied over their heads, were stripped naked and had electric shocks administered to their genitals, Petit said.

Most prisoners were killed by a blow to the base of the neck with a steel club, then had their bellies sliced open, he added.

A former Tuol Sleng guard is expected to later testify that many prisoners were drained of their blood.

"Victims would be strapped to a bed, hooked up to an IV and literally have their life drained out of them," Petit said.

Duch is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, premeditated murder and torture. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in jail.

But he has denied personally executing anyone, and has only admitted to torturing two prisoners.

Duch told the court he feared for his life and his family, and acted under orders from superiors in the Khmer Rouge - a regime which killed up to two million people through starvation, overwork, torture and execution.

His defence team has indicated it thinks judges could go easier on him after his demonstration of contrition and cooperation. Yet it will be hard pressed to counter the emerging image of him as an exacting executioner.

To better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure the court last week heard about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971-1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government.

Francois Bizot, a French anthropologist who was nabbed by Khmer Rouge fighters in 1971 and accused of spying for the CIA, told the court Duch was terrified of his superiors but admitted to torture.

Bizot, who wrote the best-selling book 'The Gate' about his experiences at M-13, said: "Until then I thought I was in the right part of humanity, that there were monsters (like Duch) whom I would never resemble."

The next witness, 72-year-old Ouch Sorn, said he was arrested in 1974 on suspicion of espionage and held shackled in a pit at M-13 for two months before being released to work there sweeping and digging graves.

"I dared not to have any contact with (Duch). I was so afraid of him I dared not to look into his face," the former rice farmer said, adding that at least three prisoners died every day in the year he was at the jungle prison.

He described dogs carrying away prisoners' remains as well as multiple beatings and executions, including one in which a woman was buried alive. Duch, however, disputed the testimony.

"When I interrogated women, I never let a detainee see it. Number two, I never beat any female detainees and third, when detainees were beaten, no one else was helping me to beat that person," Duch said.

The trial is due to continue on April 20, and is expected to last several months.


Thailand seeks Thaksin’s arrest

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BANGKOK: Thailand issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra for inciting street battles between anti-government protesters and troops that left two dead and 123 hurt.

The move came just hours after thousands of pro-Thaksin demonstrators abandoned their three-week rally at Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s office, fearing a potentially bloody crackdown by government troops.

A court issued warrants for Thaksin and 12 supporters, three of whom were detained by police and charged with crimes relating to the unrest, which saw soldiers and protesters fight running battles in Bangkok on Monday.

“Thaksin and his allies were charged by the court for illegal assembly of more than 10 people, threatening acts of violence and breach of the peace, punishable with five years in jail,” the warrant said. It said he was also accused of inciting people to break the law and cause unrest, a charge punishable by seven years in prison.

Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006 and is living in an unknown country to avoid a jail term for corruption, but he gave a string of video and telephone speeches to the rally calling for “revolution” over the past three weeks.

The peaceful end to the protests appeared to have strengthened Abhisit, whose four-month-old government had appeared on the verge of collapse after the protesters also managed to derail a weekend Asian summit.

“I don’t consider this a victory or defeat but it’s a victory for peace in society,” Abhisit said in a televised national address that showed him flanked by government ministers and top brass including the chief of the army. “We now consider that the unrest has ended. I thank all parties concerned for helping.”

The premier said a state of emergency imposed on Sunday in Bangkok and surrounding areas would remain in place while isolated “incidents” of protest were dealt with and promised to prosecute all protest leaders. But analysts warned that the violence had merely widened the rift between largely poor supporters of Thaksin and the government backed by the army and the Bangkok elite.

“We have stopped the protest but we haven’t stopped the fight for democracy. We will continue the movement,” said Nattawut Saikuar, one of the leaders who was charged.

Thailand has been through weeks of chaos as Thaksin supporters, in their trademark red shirts, took to the streets to demand the resignation of Abhisit, whom they say is in office because Thaksin allies were illegally pushed out.

The government declared two extra public holidays on Thursday and Friday to extend the three-day Thai New Year festival this week “in order to ensure public security and clean up places affected by the protests.” But the Thai stock market and banks announced they would open on Thursday and Friday.

Shopping malls closed down by the violence quickly reopened, a boost for the struggling economy and the vital tourism industry after television images of the chaos in Bangkok flashed around the world.

In Monday’s violence troops used tear gas and fired automatic weapons to clear demonstrators who sent buses hurtling towards lines of soldiers and torched a government ministry with petrol bombs.

As night fell the army corralled about 2,500 remaining protesters behind barricades in an area around Abhisit’s offices at Government House.

Troops then moved towards the site as dawn broke on Tuesday, while armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles blocked off all access points and the military used loudspeakers to warn protesters to go home.

Army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said troops had also suppressed protests in three provinces on Monday, during which demonstrators took control of a television station and a railway terminal.

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Cheap jeans fitting well in recession

Legs to stand on: Jeans priced at 990 yen are displayed at the Nishikasai g.u. shop in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, on April 8. MINORU MATSUTANI PHOTO
Uniqlo spinoff g.u. makes a statement with ¥990 dungarees, but profit proving elusive

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Staff writer

Nobody can ever have too many pairs of jeans, and thus the philosophy of GOV Retailing is to make them available on the cheap — a notion that is paying off for the new g.u. chain.

GOV Retailing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., began selling ¥990 jeans at its 69 g.u. outlets on March 10. That's a quarter of what denim pants sell for at Fast Retailing's Uniqlo stores, which have set the new standard for low-priced clothing and are thriving on the recession.

"We are offering the lowest possible prices for a pair of jeans, in the process changing the widely held view that jeans have to cost more," GOV President Shuichi Nakajima said in an interview with The Japan Times.

G.U. is off to a hot start. In the first month, sales of the ¥990 jeans were double what the company had expected, leading the firm to raise its annual target to more than 1 million pairs from its initial goal of 500,000.

If the forecast is met, the jeans sales will probably account for about a quarter of the ¥4 billion in combined sales the 69 g.u. outlets across Japan logged in the business year to last August.

Ultracheap jeans made headlines when Fast Retailing President Tadashi Yanai announced a new product lineup at a news conference last month. His Uniqlo chain had already achieved supremacy in the cheap clothing arena, and it appeared he was on a quest to expand further.

"We first thought of selling jeans for ¥1,490, less than a half of ¥3,990 at Uniqlo. But Yanai told us at a weekly meeting in October that ¥990 would have a bigger impact," Nakajima said. "Everybody in the meeting agreed, and then we began working on it."

Before then, GOV employees had been negotiating with factories in Cambodia with the aim of setting the retail price at ¥1,490, but after this decision, Nakajima and his colleagues paid visits to the factories to negotiate further cost cuts. The company uses fabric from China and manufacturers in Cambodia to make the ¥990 jeans.

GOV Retailing also pursued various cost-cutting measures, including reducing the number of material suppliers and factories producing its clothing.

It also uses the same fabric for as many outfits as possible and shares resources with Fast Retailing, he said, declining comment on further cost-cutting details.

The ¥990 jeans have been a success. "We wouldn't do it if it was losing money," Nakajima said.

Although the profit margin from the jeans may be small, it gives GOV Retailing name recognition and customers who frequent g.u. shops buy other products, Japaninvest Group PLC analyst Mikihiko Yamato said, adding that the Uniqlo connection adds to the ¥990 jeans' reputation.

"Just because they're cheap, it doesn't mean they will sell. But because Uniqlo does it, (the jeans) sell," Yamato said. "Everybody knows Uniqlo for its low prices and decent quality."

The ¥990 jeans are a perfect fit for the recession, when consumers crave cheap goods, he said, noting that the apparel industry has watched sales plunge dramatically since November.

Same-store clothing sales at large department stores fell a record 14 percent in December from a year ago, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The ministry began releasing the monthly data in 1988.

But same-store sales at Uniqlo in Japan, have shown year-on-year rises in every month except October, according to Fast Retailing, whose business year starts in September. GOV does not disclose statistics for g.u.

Fast Retailing started the g.u. brand in October 2006 and has yet to achieve a profit. It posted a group net profit of ¥35.6 billion in the six months to February, up 26 percent from a year earlier, even after consolidating GOV's loss.

GOV Retailing hopes g.u. can turn a profit by attracting customers with its low prices. Other products include T-shirts and polo shirts selling for half or a third the price of their Uniqlo counterparts.

Analyst Yamato believes the g.u.-Uniqlo price differential means the two chains aren't in competition with each other.

"Those buying g.u.'s ¥990 jeans buy them because they put affordability before quality. But those buying Uniqlo's ¥3,990 jeans buy them because they want to buy from Uniqlo," he said, noting, however, that g.u. jeans' quality is "good enough."

Nakajima hopes the ¥990 jeans enhance g.u.'s name recognition. The brand is derived from the term "jiyuu" (freedom).

"Everybody knows Uniqlo, but nobody knows g.u.," he said.

"We created the brand to make consumers ask, 'Why don't we wear clothes more freely?' Because our products are cheap, people can buy them without hesitation. We created the brand to bring joy to our consumers," he said.

"It's just a coincidence that the economy is in recession. But we will continue to provide low-priced clothes even when the economy is good."

University student Saki Obi, 18, hanging out at a g.u. shop in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, after school recently, said, "Jeans are a type of clothing we cannot have too many of, so it helps a great deal that they are so cheap."

She said it was just a matter of time before she bought a pair, but added, "My mother bought them."

Cambodians seek closure from trial

Many Cambodians hope the tribunals will deliver justice to those killed by the Khmer Rouge [AFP]

Al Jazeera English
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By Tom Fawthrop in Phnom Penh

Three decades after the fall of the Khmer Rouge from power, a joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal has finally begun the first trial of former regime officials.

Based in the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh, the court was established in 2006 to indict senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and bring some accountability for the 1.7 million Cambodians who died under the regime.

Many pundits had forecast that the tribunal would never happen, following years of delays and wrangling.

In the years following the Vietnamese invasion in 1979 that forced the Khmer Rouge from power, Western governments blocked attempts to organise an international effort to prosecute the perpetrators.

Many, including the US and Britain, even supported a Khmer Rouge-led coalition and backed the group's guerrilla war against Vietnamese troops defending the new Phnom Penh government.

The first to go before the joint panel of Cambodian and international judges was Kaing Guek Eav - also known as Duch - the former director of the S21 interrogation centre where more than 14,000 prisoners were detained, tortured and executed.

Four other former senior regime officials are expected to go before the court in 2010.

The tribunal has been closely followed by survivors of the Khmer Rouge [AFP]

When Duch's trial began in late March, live coverage of the proceedings was followed closely by hundreds of thousands of Cambodians on television and radio.

"We have been waiting for a long time. Now our hopes have become a reality," Thun Saray, chairman of Cambodian human rights group ADHOC and a veteran activist, told Al Jazeera.

The failure to punish or account for the biggest crimes in the country's history means that many Cambodians today have little respect for the law, he says.

Like many Cambodians over the age of 40, painter Hen Sophal vividly remembers the horrors of forced labour, pitiful rations and the constant fear of death under the Khmer Rouge regime.

He had all but given up hope of ever seeing any justice.

"I didn't expect that it would happen. But even after 30 years it is not too late," he says.

Culture of violence

The three decades without any closure on the national trauma has left Cambodia's deep scars open and unhealed, undermining the ethical foundations of normal society and spawning a culture of violence, lawlessness and impunity.

An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge's rule over Cambodia [AFP]

"The Khmer Rouge shadow looms over Cambodia to this day," says Hen Sophal. "There is still a Khmer Rouge influence in Cambodian society, still lots of violence and lack of human respect."

He is also worried about the slow pace of progress.

"I am concerned about many delays because the Khmer Rouge leaders are getting older and could die before their trial starts."

The start of the trial, he hopes, "can lessen the suffering of the victims and provide lessons for the young generation".

Sin Putheary is a recent graduate from Phnom Penh University who now works for Youth for Peace, an NGO attempting to bring information about the tribunal to people in the countryside.

Even today, she says, many accused murderers brought before Cambodian courts see no reason why they should be punished.

Citing police reports, she quotes one suspect telling investigators recently: "I only killed one person, but Khmer Rouge leaders killed so many and they were never punished."

Mouen Chean Nariddh, a local writer and journalist, has been making the same link for years.

"The tribunal is an important step to ending the culture of impunity," he told Al Jazeera, adding that he hopes the trials will act as a model and help establish the foundations of a proper justice system for Cambodia.

Local courts are known to be mired in corruption but, with the eyes of so many Cambodians and the international media on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, he notes that the Cambodian lawyers "show much more integrity working in the tribunal".

"Cambodian judges and lawyers will use the tribunal model, and transfer from the KRT the example to a fair trial and rights of the accused to the local courts."

Collective grief

Another common theme is that by bringing a sense of closure to the darkest chapter of Cambodian history, the tribunal will help to address the collective grief of a nation.

On the opening day of Duch's trial, all 500 seats in the public gallery were taken and 80 per cent were Cambodians.

But far from everyone is gripped by the most important trial of all time for Cambodians.

More than two thirds of the population is under the age of 30 and have no recollection of life under the Khmer Rouge.

Duch, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief, is the first to face the tribunal [AFP]

With little or no teaching of recent history in Cambodia's schools, most Cambodian youth have little knowledge of Pol Pot's regime or its alleged crimes.

The single nationwide survey about the tribunal, published by the University of California, showed that more than a third of respondents had no knowledge of the trials.

That is not the case with Nong Visoth, who works as a travel consultant in Phnom Penh. He lost 15 relatives on his mother's side of the family to the Khmer Rouge.

Closely following the tribunal every day, he says the tribunal is important to his family "because it can reduce our pain and suffering".

But for him and many other survivors of the Khmer Rouge, the most pressing concern is that real justice may still be thwarted - not by political meddling, but by the simple passage of time.

Pol Pot, the former supreme leader of the regime, died more than 10 years ago.

His deputy, Nuon Chea, and the regime's foreign minister, Ieng Sary, are now both in their 80s and in poor health.

"I worry they will die before the verdict, before they are sentenced," says Nong Visoth.

"If the leaders die before justice, before their trial is completed, Cambodian people will still suffer for the rest of their lives."

Scathing media cartoon burns sensitive nerve of Cambodia about ties with Thailand

By Xia Lin

PHNOM PENH, April 15 (Xinhua) -- A scathing political cartoon has angered the Cambodian government at this sensitive time of the Cambodian-Thai ties, and pushed the publisher into an awkward situation.

The government is demanding a written explanation for the recently-printed newspaper cartoon depicting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra playing golf together, claiming that it could seriously affect the Cambodian-Thai relations.

"I need (a) written explanation. It's all. But if I don't have any response, then I will decide another step," English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily on Wednesday quoted Information Minister Khieu Kanharith as saying.

In the hand-drawn picture published by another English-languagedaily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on April 10, Thaksin shot a mine instead of a ball with his golf pole into the territory of Thailand, saying that "YES, IT'S MINE!!! THEREFORE I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANTN WITH IT..."

Hun Sen, beside Thaksin right outside the borderline of Thailand, said that "BUT... WHAT ARE YOU DOING? IT IS YOUR COUNTRY..."

Khieu Kanharith said that "it is not a problem of offending, but this cartoon came at the time Thailand accused Cambodia of harboring Thaksin."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information issued a press release last week, saying that this cartoon was politically-oriented and would make readers misunderstand the political stance of Cambodia.

Cambodia already spiked the rumor that Thaksin was hidden here, but the cartoon obviously told readers that he was temporarily living in Cambodia, Khieu Kanharith said in the release.

"This came at the most sensitive time, and it is not a joke at all," he said, adding that the Phnom Penh Post should submit its evidence for Thaksin's stay in Cambodia.

By publishing the cartoon, the newspaper had violated an article of the press law prohibiting publication of information inciting discrimination, according to the press release.

Any media should be objective and neutral in its reporting, it added.

In the mean time, Michel Dauguet, CEO of the Post Media Co. which started to publish the Phnom Penh Post as daily paper last year, issued a statement to clarify that "our editorial cartoon does not imply that Mr. Thaksin is living or has taken residence in Cambodia."

Thaksin was represented in unspecified space outside Thailand, symbolizing his exile, and exacerbating tensions at home, he said.

"The fact that some people may have interpreted that this editorial cartoon gives credit to the absurd theory of Thaksin's presence in Cambodia is an unfortunate misunderstanding," he added.

In early April, spokesman of the Cambodian Council of Ministers Phay Siphan told reporters that "Thaksin actually didn't have any presence in our country."

For anything that he did, Thaksin could observe his own country's law and the international law, he added.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya once told reporters that the bilateral ties between Thailand and Cambodia could be affected adversely, if the ousted former premier were allowed to launch political attacks from Cambodia.

Days of demonstrations by the opposition force have led to serious instability in Thailand. The Thai criminal court on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for 14 protest leaders including ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Besides, Cambodia and Thailand still have decades-old border disputes to settle. However, two heavy armed clashes between both troops in early April just have aggravated the tension at the border area.

Editor: Yao

Under pressure

Apr 14th 2009

East Asia has been hard-hit by the global economic slowdown

EAST ASIA was once one of the world economy's brightest regions. Some even reckoned that “decoupling” might allow the region to ride out the storm that began in rich-country financial markets. But the global economic crisis is hitting the East Asia hard. The World Bank's forecasts for economic growth have been downgraded steeply. Excluding China, which will announce first quarter GDP figures later this week, the bank now expects developing countries in the region to grow by 1.2% in 2009, down from an estimate of 4.8% in 2008. Some economies will even contract this year. The bank predicts that the GDP of Malaysia and Cambodia will shrink by 1% and Thailand’s economy will shrivel by 2.7%.

This is a return to earth with an alarming bump. In 2007 Cambodia’s economy expanded by 10.2% and Malaysia’s by 6.3%. Other economies will grow, but at nothing like the pace of recent years. China's economy is likely to expand by 6.5% in 2009 compared with 13% in 2007. The Philippines will see growth of 1.9% this year, compared with 7.2% in 2007.

The World Bank points out that most countries in East Asia were relatively well placed to withstand the financial turmoil that has swept through developed countries. This is partly a result of learning the lessons of a financial crisis of 1997-98, which originated in the region. They have used the decade since then to build up reserves of foreign currency and strengthen external balances (which, in part, helped to finance the West’s spendthrift ways and hasten the crisis). They have also reduced government debt and strengthened bank regulation.

However, some of these changes were aided by a boost in exports, both within the region and to the rest of the world. But heightened integration with global markets through trade has exposed the region to the effects of the recession in rich countries. This has led to a dramatic fall in exports that has battered regional economies. In fact, the World Bank reckons that the effects of the crisis have been more severe in countries most open to trade and whose exports are concentrated in particular industries such as electronics, garments and textiles.

The drop-off in trade has been dramatic the world over, but parts of East Asia have felt the pain more than most. In January, Taiwan and the Philippines saw the value of exports plummet by over 40% compared with a year earlier. Electronics, which account for a quarter to two-thirds of exports from most of the larger economies in the region, have been hard hit.

Poorer countries in the region, whose export sectors are dominated by garments and commodities, have been hurt badly too. Cambodia, the country most dependent on garments, endured a 31% fall in exports in January compared with a year ago. As the World Bank puts it, the region, which prospered through exporting, is now suffering for the same reason.

The collapse in exports is leading to a jobs crisis, though this is not necessarily reflected in official figures. Less-developed countries in the region have a greater share of employment in the informal export sector. This makes it harder to obtain reliable data. But reports suggest huge job losses. In Cambodia 50,000 garment workers, 17% of the workforce in the industry, have been laid off since September. In Vietnam, 100,000 garment workers lost their jobs in January and February. And in China some 2.7m garment industry job may have gone.

Years of rapid growth have allowed the richer countries in the region the room to use monetary and fiscal policy to contain the crisis. Some countries, notably China, Malaysia and South Korea, have announced substantial stimulus packages, including big spending on infrastructure. However, Indonesia and the Philippines have to rely more on tax cuts than on public spending, partly because “shovel-ready” projects are lacking. Monetary policy has been eased in all the countries of the region.

Some good news exists. The bank's assessment is that China’s fiscal stimulus (amounting to spending worth around 12% of GDP spread over two years) is beginning to take effect. The bank predicts that the Chinese economy will bottom out by the middle of the year. The fortunes of other economies in the region are tied up with those of China. Many export parts and components that are then assembled in China for re-export. But the Chinese stimulus package cannot hope to fix the problem of contracting demand for the region's output in the rest of the world. The bank points out that a more complete bounce back from the economic crisis still depends on a broader worldwide recovery.

Thai Clashes End, Protesters Disperse


Leaders of demonstrations that plunged the Thailand's capital Bangkok into chaos called off their protests following rioting and clashes that left two dead and more than 120 injured across the city. (April 14)


Rat has become the food of choice amongst poor Cambodians

UK Daily Express

Tuesday April 14,2009
By Greg Newcombe

THE price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia as the credit crunch continues to take a stranglehold on the country’s economy.

Thousands of poor families are being forced to tuck into rat after inflation put other meats out of their price range.

Officials said demand for the rodents has caused the price to soar to around 86 pence (5,000 riel) per kilogram, from just 1,200 riel last year.

Locals are enjoying a spicy field rat dish with garlic as beef would now set them back 20,000 riel a kilogram.

Officials said that rats had become easier for villagers to catch as they flee to higher ground from flooded areas of the lower Mekong Delta.

"Many children are happy making some money from selling the animals to the markets, but they keep some for their family," said Ly Marong an agriculture official from the Koh Thom district of Cambodia.

Cambodian New Year adds religious diversity to Easter weekend

Cambodian buddhist monk Savann Mey meditates during Cambodian New Year ceremonies at the monastic temple off Highway 63 in northern Boone County. Cambodian Buddhists from all over Missouri and beyond gathered for three days of festivities. Savann Mey has been living in Boone County for four years and is the only Cambodian Buddhist monk in the state. ¦ ZACHARY SIEBERT

Colorful felt decorations on sticks adorn one of the sand mound fashioned on the temple grounds.

Attendees of the festival playfully pose for a group picture. Not only a time for pious observance, the Cambodian New Year festival is the perfect time of year for family and friends to spend time together and reunite.

Columbia Missourian
Monday, April 13, 2009

BY Zachary Siebert

COLUMBIA — Easter weekend has always had a singular feel around Boone County.

Church parking lots and sanctuaries are conspicuously fuller than usual. Families and loved ones gather together dressed in their best, and children can be found running wildly, basket in hand, in search of pastel eggs. Traditions such as these help make this a joyful time of the year, but the hallowed Christian holiday wasn’t the only sacred event celebrated in Boone County this weekend.

The Wat Angkor Cambodian Buddhist Temple near Hallsville on Old Highway 63 played host to an entirely different tradition from halfway around the globe: the Cambodian New Year festival or Chol Chnam Thmey in the Khmer language.

While the temple is always an interesting place to visit in Boone County, it was an authentic and colorfully enchanting slice of Cambodia as Cambodian Buddhists from all over gathered together to commemorate the holiday.

The Cambodian New Year celebration lasts for three days beginning on New Year’s Day, usually April 13, based on the Buddhist calendar.

In Cambodia, the holiday is all-encompassing. Celebrations can be found everywhere in all aspects of daily life, but the most important rituals must take place at a holy temple. Fortunately for Cambodian Buddhists in Missouri, there is the Wat Angkor Temple in Boone County.

Occupied for the last four years by Savann Mey, the only Cambodian Buddhist monk who lives and practices in Missouri, the temple transforms into a remarkably beautiful hosting ground to Chol Chnam Thmey each year.

There are several customs that make the holiday unique, most notably the erection of sand mounds on the temple grounds representing holy burial grounds.

Participants plant incense in the mounds and leave offerings for loved ones and family who they believe have passed on to the next life while praying for their happiness and comfort.

As with all culturally significant traditions, an outsider has much to be curious about, but despite such distant origins, the Cambodian festivities share much in common with Easter celebrations elsewhere in the county.

The temple was fuller than usual. Families and loved ones were gathered together dressed in their best, and children were found running wildly around pastel-colored decorations

Aggressive Start to Expose Gold and Copper Ore Body on Elray's Porphyry Creek Project

Apr 14, 2009

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA--(Marketwire - April 14, 2009) - Elray Resources, Inc. (OTCBB:ELRA), a technically-driven mining and exploration company is pleased to announce that it has commenced an aggressive program to expose a major ore body to a length totaling 60 meters at a depth of 10 meters on its 100% owned 9,000 hectare Porphyry Creek Project in Cambodia.

"Our independent geologists have high expectations that this activity will confirm the presence of a viable copper porphyry system with solid copper and gold mineralization based upon previous geological mapping and sampling," commented Mr. Barry J. Lucas, Executive Chairman of Elray. "This will be immediately followed by further trenching to expose more of the ore body in lines of 100 meters apart as recommended by the Company's supervising site Geologist."

Samples will be immediately dispatched to Mineral Assay and Services Co Ltd, an internationally accredited lab located in Bangkok, Thailand, to enable a geological assessment of future work to be done on the property.

About Elray Resources, Inc.

Elray Resources, Inc. is a junior exploration and development Corporation which has successfully accumulated a portfolio of highly prospective, heavily mineralized mining tenements in South East Asia. Elray Resources, Inc.'s, primary objective is to source projects, conduct geological assessments and seek Joint Venture partners to develop the properties.

This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ from management's expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks associated with gold & precious mineral exploration risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, government regulation and taxation. More information about factors that potentially could affect the Company's financial results is included in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This Year, a Blood Goddess To Protect Cambodia

Cambodians clean a statue Buddha during a merit making ceremony Tuesday, April 14, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 April 2009

Cambodians joyously celebrated the first day of the New Year early Tuesday, in celebrations that began at 1:36 am with fireworks exploding over Phnom Penh.

The nation’s 14 million revelers brought in the Year of the Ox, the 2553rd year of the Buddhist calendar, preparing for three days of celebrations and ritual.

“Not specifically for this year, but every New Year, Cambodian citizens must prepare flowers, fruits, Baysei [religious decorations], water and drink offerings to the goddesses, who come down [from the sky] annually to protect human beings,” said Miech Ponn, adviser to the board of Khmer customs at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh.

“The preparations for the goddess must also respect the preferences of the goddess, what kind of fruit she eats this year,” he said. “For example, if the goddess eats bananas, it is mandatory that believers must have bananas.”

Seven goddesses of the Kabel Morha Prumh rotate from the sky to watch over the country, he said. This year is for the third goddess, Reak Ksaksar Devy, who has a predilection for blood—denoting a year of possible bloodshed, such as in war and accidents, he said.

While appeasing the goddess, Cambodians will also undertake Buddhist rituals, meditating for their ancestors and washing statues of Buddha, while also engaging in tradition folk games that include hiding a scarf for the Leak Kanseng and others.

At Roots, New Year Is Buddhist: Monk

Venerable Hok Sovann

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
14 April 2009

Revelers should recall that the New Year is a Buddhist holiday, a reminder for Cambodians to live following a Buddhist path, a senior monk said Monday.

The New Year, celebrated in the middle of April each year, follows the rice harvest, a break for people in the countryside, whom comprise 85 percent of the population, the venerable Hok Sovann said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The New Year heralds the start of a Buddhist year, in this case 2553, and is celebrated in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, and in some parts of India.

The New Year is also a reminder that Buddhism should be separated from politics, Hok Sovann said.

“The killing of one another has nothing to do with Buddhism, it is merely politics. Buddhist followers sometimes fall victim to politicians,” he said.

20 Arrested Following New Year Violence

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 April 2009

Battambang provincial authorities detained around 20 people who threw stones at a border casino Tuesday morning, following a confrontation at a New Year concert in Thailand.

Two Cambodians were injured in fighting between Cambodian and Thai revelers, who began scuffling while dancing to ring in the New Year.

Angered by the fighting, some 60 people then entered the compound of a casino owned by a Thai, on the Cambodian side of the border, and began throwing dozens of stones at the main building’s windows, Kamreang district’s police chief, Chhim Kim Hong, told VOA Khmer.

“We arrested around 20 people and confiscated a truck full of stones,” he said. “During the intervention, two police were wounded and a military police truck was damaged.”

Cambodia and Thailand are engaged in an ongoing border dispute at Preah Vihear province, far to the east, but tensions have remained high across the frontier.

In 2003, Cambodian mobs burned and looted the Thai Embassy and other Thai businesses, following rumors that a Thai actress made remarks about Angkor Wat.

Battambang Police Chief Sar Theth said the police were called in to prevent disorder.

“We cannot tolerate their illegal activity,” he said, adding that the suspects were being held at the district police station as a report was compiled for the courts.

Thailand issues Thaksin warrant

Activists abandoned their positions after protests were called off to avoid further unrest [AFP]

Al Jazeera English
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Bangkok court has issued arrest warrants for Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister, and 13 of his supporters after violent demonstrations that left two people dead and scores injured.

The anti-government "Red Shirts" called off their protests earlier on Tuesday as the military tightened its grip on the city.

"Thaksin and his allies were charged by the court for illegal assembly of more than 10 people, threatening acts of violence and breach of the peace, punishable with five years in jail," the warrant said.

Thaksin has addressed the crowd of protesters via video nearly every evening since the latest round of protests began on March 26, but denied in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera that he encouraged violence.

"I'm not instigating it I keep telling them we should do it peacefully, each day I tell them peaceful, peaceful peaceful," he said.

Thaksin was ousted as prime minister during a bloodless coup in 2006 and was convicted in absentia of violating a conflict of interest law.

He is also accused of inciting people to break the law and cause unrest, a charge punishable by seven years in prison.

Thaksin said he would only return to Thailand to face trial if a "neutral body' had carried out the investigation and he could be guaranteed a fair trial.

Positions abandoned

Early on Tuesday around 2,000 protesters who have camped out around Government House for more than two weeks had been encircled by soldiers, raising fears of a repeat of Monday's bloody clashes.

But after a meeting of representatives of both sides, protest leaders called on the demonstrators to abandon their positions and they began to move away with their arms raised.

As the protesters began to file away, a protest organiser told Al Jazeera they were not giving up their fight to force the Abhisit Vehjjajiva, the Thai prime minister, from power.

"There is no loss we're taking a step back in order to go forward," Suporn Atthawong said.

"We’ll be back at a later date.

"We have decided to call off the rally today because many brothers and sisters have been hurt and killed. We don't want everybody to suffer the same. And we will not allow more deaths."

At least two people were reported killed overnight, apparently in clashes with pro-government supporters.

More than 120 people are reported to have been injured.

Abhisit said the military had used "soft means" in handling the protests and welcomed the decision to halt the demonstrations.

"I don't consider this a victory or defeat but it's a victory for peace in society," he said in a televised speech.

"The operation under the state of emergency is not over. There are still things to do. I insist the government will not be negligent because we have to remain vigilant."


Political tensions have simmered since 2006 when Thaksin was ousted by a military coup amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power, a year after he won re-election in a landslide.

He remains popular among Thailand's rural poor for the populist policies he introduced.

Despite being in self-imposed exile, Thaksin remains an influential force and has sent almost daily video and audio messages to Red Shirt rallies, supporting their call for the current prime minister to resign and hold fresh elections.

However, Thaksin told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that he did not aiming to become prime minister again.

"I'm not really wanting to be prime minister but if the country need me if the people need me I will. Because I’m 60 in July I want to spend my life peacefully," he said.

The Red Shirts took their cue from protests last year by rival "Yellow Shirts" who took to the streets in huge demonstrations against successive pro-Thaksin governments.

Those protests culminated in the shutdown of Bangkok's two airports and court rulings ordering the dissolution of the government, paving the way for Abhisit to take power in December.

The Red Shirts took to the streets last month, accusing Abhisit of taking power illegally.

They say the Thai elite – the military, judiciary and other unelected officials – are interfering in politics, and are seeking Thaksin's rehabilitation.

Khmer Rouge tribunal may collapse

Bones from Cambodia's 'Killing Fields'

Radio Netherlands Worldwide
By Johan van Slooten

Before its first verdict has even been reached some observers fear the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia may collapse because of interference by the Cambodian government.
Dutch lawyer Victor Koppe is defending Nuon Chea, one of the highest ranking officials of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime which ruled - and ravaged - the country and its people with a hard hand in the 1970s.

Mr Koppe has just returned from Cambodia after witnessing the first two weeks of the trial against former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.
Confessions and corruption
Although the confessions which Duch has made might be seen as a promising sign for the remainder of the trials, Mr Koppe is not so optimistic. He is worried that the tribunal may collapse, especially after last week's statement by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in which he said he hopes "the funds for the tribunal will dry up fast". Victor Koppe on the background to this remark:

"The official reason is that the prosecution of former Khmer Rouge figures may lead to increased unrest in some regions. Mr Hu Sen wants to prevent that. There are also accusations that the tribunal is corrupt, which in my opinion is true."

But there may be other reasons for Mr Hun Sen's objections to the tribunal, Mr Koppe suspects. Some former Khmer Rouge officers now occupy high positions in Cambodia's political establishment, including Mr Hun Sen's own party. The government has allegedly tried to influence the tribunal's judges and prosecutors about who should be prosecuted and who should go untried. "Perhaps he doesn't want to upset the applecart too much", Mr Koppe says, adding that even the judges are losing their faith in the tribunal.

Yet the long anticipated Khmer Rouge tribunal was supposed to provide a way for Cambodia to come to terms with its past. Justice and reconciliation are key factors here. Ending the trials prematurely would dent Cambodia's international reputation, Mr Koppe says:

"Bizarrely, it's Cambodia itself who asked the UN to set up the tribunal. It would be very upsetting if after one trial, the whole tribunal would be done with. It would also be very hard for the international community to swallow."

Some observers now say it would have been better for the tribunal to take place outside Cambodia. But Mr Koppe disagrees:

"I was there during the first hearing at the Duch trial and the public area was fully booked and overcrowded. You wouldn't have that if it was here in The Hague, for instance. So if the structure is solid and everyone is able and allowed to do their work properly, then Cambodia is the best place for this tribunal."

No advantage
If the tribunal were to collapse, those who are to stand trial before it - such as Victor Koppe's client Nuon Chea - would probably be worse off as a result. The Dutch lawyer explains what his client would likely face in that case:
"He would be tried by Cambodian judges rather than international ones, and we think the Cambodians are more biased ... It would lead to some kind of show trial".

Therefore, as Mr Koppe views the situation it's of key importance to both Cambodia and people such as his client that the tribunal continues its work. But it seems that this will require not only its surviving the opposition it is meeting within Cambodia but also, as the Dutch lawyer explains, its continued funding from international donors.