Friday, 29 May 2009

Malaria disaster looming as drug resistance develops in northwest

Photo by: Sovann Pilong
A young girl is taught how to apply mosquito repellent. In the high risk northwest, mosquito nets are the repellant of choice.

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 29 May 2009

As a breeding ground for malaria strains immune to the latest drugs, Cambodia is hosting an ‘unprecedented’ containment strategy designed to completely eradicate the killer bug

FAKE drugs, improper treatments and mobile populations along the Thai-Cambodian border threaten to unleash a rogue strain of malaria that can resist even the most powerful medicines.

"When the parasite is fully resistant, it will be a disaster," said Dr Duong Socheat, the director of the National Centre for Malaria (NCM).

But with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Cambodia and its partners are racing to contain the increasingly drug resistant parasite with an "unprecedented" containment strategy.

"We're doing things as fast as possible," said Dr Najibullah Habib, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Malaria Containment Project Manager. "This is a unique and unprecedented project, because we're going for 100 percent elimination."

Artemisinin, a drug first isolated from Chinese wormwood in 1965 but only recently adopted internationally, is the front line defence against malaria. In Cambodia, it is the only viable drug against the most lethal malaria strain, Plasmodium falciparum.

But in recent years along the Thai-Cambodian border, artemisinin is taking longer to clear the parasite, signaling an increased resistance.

According to an article published in the Malaria Journal in February by a team of international scientists, the only way to contain the artemisinin-resistant malaria is to eliminate it completely from western Cambodia.

If there is no intervention, the researchers say, "by 2030, ... the prevalence of malaria will have doubled compared to 2008 and resistance to the artemisinins will be approaching 100 percent".

But the resistant strain does not just threaten people along the Thai-Cambodian border. In the past, drug resistant strains have spread across the world.

Everyone agrees that if it were to spread to Africa it would be a disaster.

"Migrants go from here to Burma, from there to India, and then on to Africa," Dr Habib said, saying that this is what happened to chloroquine, an anti-malarial that is largely ineffective in Cambodia.

Dr Ros Seyha from the WHO added: "Everyone agrees that if it were to spread to Africa it would be a disaster."

In 2006, the year with the latest available data, Africa accounted for more than 90 percent of the world's malaria cases with about 801,000 deaths, according to the WHO. Malaria killed 207 people last year in Cambodia.

Philanthropic funds
The WHO received a two-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for more than $22 million to fight malaria, with Cambodia's NCM receiving a substantial chunk of that money.

In order to prevent an international disaster where malaria spreads unchecked, the WHO and the NCM have developed an expensive, multi-pronged attack to all but eliminate the disease by 2015.

The main aspect of Cambodia's prevention strategy is the distribution of hundreds of thousands of long-lasting, treated bed nets, according to Duong Socheat.

The NCM has divided the area into two zones - one zone that includes much of Pailin province and has been designated a high-risk area, and a second zone at moderate risk.

Zone one has a population of just under 500,000, and zone two has a population of nearly 2 million, according to Duong Socheat.

Despite receiving the Gates Foundation funds in February, the NCM has only been able to distribute about 200,000 treated bed nets. It is hoping to hand out between 100,000 and 200,000 more.

"That is not enough," Duong Socheat said. "We have more than two million in the population; 200,000 is still very few."

In order to reach the remote areas of the region, the NCM and WHO have developed a network of about 2,000 village health volunteers who distribute both information about malaria and treated bed nets.

Cambodia has also set up a network of about 600 village malaria workers who are trained to diagnose and treat the disease. They are primarily located in high risk areas, far from public health clinics.

Shortcuts on care
But many Cambodians still seek treatment from private providers who may not prescribe a full treatment or supply counterfeit drugs.

"Among the poor, the majority buy their drugs from private health providers," Habib said.

The NCM, with the help of the WHO, has been educating private pharmacists about the importance of a full course of treatment, Duong Socheat said, but it was an uphill battles without affordable medicine. "People buy according to their pocketbook, not according to the dose," he said.

The danger is that suboptimal doses will not clear out the parasite completely, leaving only the most resistant parasites. Fortunately, Cambodia is eligible for Global Fund support to make a full course of medicines more affordable, Ros Seyha said.

Along with its prevention and education strategies, the WHO and NCM have started a pilot mass screening effort in the high risk zone one.

Duong Socheat said the program aims to screen up to 200,000 people in zone one, testing blood samples of every person in selected villages.

If a person tests positive in one of these screenings, the person will not receive the normal artemisinin combination therapy but will instead receive Malarone, a treatment that is normally prohibitively expensive for poor countries.

"We don't want to put more pressure on the parasite to become drug resistant," Najib said.

Duong Socheat explained that avoiding artemisinin as part of a combination therapy was only temporary. "It's a special case and will only be for two years. Because one component of Malarone is that the parasite develops resistance to it very quickly."

He added that every malaria case would be followed and that other therapies would be prescribed if the Malarone treatment was ineffective.

Moving fast
In addition to the mass screenings, when a case of particularly resistant malaria is found, the WHO will target the entire village where the person is from, in hopes of nipping the spread of the malaria strain early, Duong Socheat said.

Eliminating malaria will not be easy, but Dong Socheat was optimistic that Cambodia could all but rid itself of the disease by 2015 with adequate funding. "If we have enough money and motivation, we can contain the parasite by 2015," he said.

According to February's Malaria Journal article, the last remaining parasites will be the most resistant, meaning if the WHO and NCM fail to contain the parasite, there would be a far more resistant population than before.

"We cannot stop midway," Duong Socheat said.

Staying under cover while living in a tropical paradise

International SOS's healthy living tips

- Have insurance but be prepared to pay and claim back, which can take up to six months. Set some money aside for health needs, keep receipts, etc.
- Have evacuation insurance that works in Cambodia and carry your card with emergency numbers at all times.
- Know how to activate your insurance in case of emergency.
- Choose a doctor and clinic before you need it! Go and visit, check out the facilities, meet the staff and check credentials, check operation times.
- Have both your clinic phone number and numbers you can call to get transport 24 hours a day at short notice in your phone.
- If you take regular medicines bring enough for 6 months to one year until you can establish a local source.
- If you have a chronic condition, go to see a doctor soon after you arrive with your medical records and medications and let them become familiar with you.
- Take measures to prevent accidents and illness.
- Seek medical help early if you are sick because organising an evacuation takes time (six to 24 hours).

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by David Carter
Friday, 29 May 2009

Cambodia may be a stress-free place to live for many, but it remains essential to take proper care of your health – and your insurance policies – for peace of mind for you and your loved ones

By David Carter

PEOPLE are attracted to Cambodia by the warm weather, friendly atmosphere and the chance to make a good living. Many end up in Phnom Penh, where there are many opportunities but with them many risks.

It's easy as a new resident to be complacent about things that were a "must do" back home, such as proper management of your health. Contrary to some beliefs, Phnom Penh has excellent health and dental care available; however, these services do come at a cost.

The level of services are also
limited if someone requires specialist or critical care. So when emergencies arise a typical response is to leave the country and go somwhere with more options, such as Bangkok or Singapore.

The question all foreign residents must ask themselves is: Do you have a health care plan? If so,
will it respond adequately in an emergency?

Pick and choose
In many cases a sponsoring employer will provide Medical and Evacuation Insurance to employees as part of their expatriate package. Where this is not the case, the employee must take out cover; and where the person is self employed, the decision is 100 percent up to the individual.

The options for expatriate medical insurance are many, ranging from the cheapest policy that provides basic inpatient medical cover and evacuation to the nearest countries, to the broadest in- and outpatient cover and evacuation to the place of your choice.

The premium charged ranges according to the level of cover and the amount you choose to pay as a policy excess. The variations of cover are many so it is also very easy to get confused.The best way to arrive at the right cover for your circumstances is to ask yourself some basic questions such as:

Am I healthy and not prone to sickness?

What lifestyle stage am I at, for example single, married with children, or retired with no dependents .

How financially secure am I and what can I afford to pay for the insurance each year .

In an emergency, what do I want to happen and what are my plans?

Answer these questions and contrast these against your current policy or, if uninsured, against the options available. This way you stand to get the best fit for your needs.

Ultimately the choice is yours, but everyone living away from home needs to remember that accidents and illness do happen and, when they do, you will have to deal with them straight away.

It is an unfortunate but true fact that most medical service providers require surety of payment before treating patients. Buying the right cover from a reputable insurer means a major part of the "what if"question disappears.

Ultimately the premium outlay when measured against an uninsured medical expense for an emergency can be a tiny percentage, especially when it involves your most important assets - you and your loved ones.

David Carter is the CEO of Infinity Insurance, 33a member of the Royal Group. He can be contacted at

Teething problems still afflict dental care development

Brush your teeth. BLOOMBERG

Written by Lim Seang Heng and Vandeth Dararoath
Friday, 29 May 2009

High costs relative to income put many off treatment for toothache, while poor dental education makes decay a serious problem.

NEARLY everyone experiences toothache at one time or another. But dental problems occur more frequently in Cambodia, where many people live below the poverty line and education about oral hygiene is rare.

Meas Raksmey, a 23-year-old student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, suffers from toothache but says he tries to ignore the pain, hoping it will soon pass. But often it drags on. "If a toothache hurts like hell, I can't sleep or eat," he said.

"And a week when my teeth are hurting seems to last a month. My face swells up like a balloon. I've had to skip classes because it grew too painful."

According to dentist Chum Mony, most patients only visit his clinic when the pain becomes agonising. "Cambodian patients procrastinate until they cannot deal with their work.

They will only visit a doctor when they get seriously ill," he said, adding that financial constraints and people's ignorance of dental problems create the misconception that having dental examinations every six months is a waste of time.

However, these kinds of problems would not be so serious, if only we started practicing preventative measures from a young age, Chum Mony said.

Sor Chandara, an English teacher who complains about the high price of dental services, still does not have his teeth checked - even though he knows that doing so regularly would keep his teeth healthy.

"I have to spend money on food every day, so how can I afford $15 to $20 per check up?" he asked.

Education needed
Meanwhile, 21-year-old medical student Hor Lat Soriya always takes proper care of her teeth. She thinks that most Cambodians lack knowledge and understanding of dental problems, and that this is a big social concern.

"Oral hygiene is crucial since we must communicate every day," she said. "We don't know exactly how many people suffer from dental problems, but I believe many Cambodians have this problem."

Brushing your teeth is not enough. Using a mouthwash and floss helps clean them sufficiently, as well as reduces bacteria in the mouth. If left, this bacteria turns into acid and speeds tooth decay.

Chum Mony, dentist at Pachem Dental Clinic, suggests that people eat more fruit and vegetables, while those with sensitive teeth should avoid drinking freezing cold or boiling hot liquids.

Amateur massage no quick fix

Photo by: Sovann Philong
There is no established tradition behind “traditional” Khmer massage, a physiotherapist says.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Friday, 29 May 2009

Phnom Penh’s massage parlours seldom employ professionally qualified staff, but they can nevertheless provide some much-needed relaxation for the capital city’s urbanites

GOING for a massage is an affordable and common pastime in Phnom Penh, particularly for expats.

A general complaint, however, is that most masseurs simply go through the same set of moves every time, instead of focusing on those areas that need extra attention. Given the unregulated market and a general lack of professional training, can unprofessional massages do more harm than good?

"Can it damage you? Yes and no," said Jean-Claude Dhuez, a French-trained physiotherapist who runs his own private clinic in Phnom Penh. "If you don't have any problems then, most of the time, no."

According to Dhuez, most body and foot massages are safe and beneficial provided the client doesn't have any significant problems or injuries from before. He cites positive effects on the skin, the muscles, blood circulation and the mind, as well as general relaxation as benefits from almost any massage.

The contention is echoed by Andrew Marriott, an Australian-certified massage therapist also practising in the capital. "If one is looking for relaxation, then any massage which comes in contact with the skin is very helpful for the skin, because the skin is the largest organ," he said.

It can be quite relaxing ... but they don’t know what they are doing or why.

However, Marriott also noted that for purposes of actual treatment of muscular pain, going to a professional is highly advisable. He said that though an amateur massage may provide some relief in the short run, it is always prudent to visit a specialist to prevent initial problems developing into bigger ones.

Though not advocating against high street massages, Dhuez is wary of the so-called traditional Khmer massage. He explained that most traditional massage styles, from Chinese, through Japanese to ayurvedic, are based on a set of protocols, and practitioners usually go through rigorous training before starting work at a practice. "They know what they're doing and they're treating people," he said.

In contrast, according to Dhuez, there is currently no established discipline behind "traditional" Khmer massages. Instead, the techniques are handed down through generations by being taught from one person to another. "They have learned a recipe and they are applying it," he said.

"It can be quite relaxing because they are pressing the muscles, but they don't know what they are doing or why," he continued. This is precisely what many massage aficionados, who are constantly on the lookout for that seemingly elusive perfect massage, say.

Dhuez laments many spa owners' unwillingness to invest in staff training. Many prospective spa owners come to him for advice, he said, but back down when they learn the cost of professional training.

Yet unprofessional massages, especially traditional Khmer ones, can potentially be harmful.

"Sure, it can do damage. Because in addition to pressing the muscles, you also twist the body and that can be dangerous if the masseur doesn't know how to do it," Dhuez said.

He cites problems such as misaligned vertebra, twisted pelvises and pulled muscles as possible complications. "It can create a problem where there wasn't a problem before. It doesn't happen that often, but it's something you should take into account," he said.

Not all bad
So why do so many of us keep going back to the same average service? Evidently, price is a factor; massages are more than affordable for most of us. Both Dhuez and Marriott also agree that they are likely to be relaxing; indeed, many heavy users keenly look forward to that hour or two of peace and quiet.

The bottom line, thus, seems to be that if you suffer from a recurrent, chronic problem, or experience severe or acute pain, consult either a physician, physiotherapist or qualified massage therapist.

Even then, however, as both Marriott and Dhuez pointed out, there are generally no quick fixes. Twenty years of back pain won't go away in a session, but the sooner you go, the better.

On the other hand, if you're generally healthy and simply looking for an hour away from your blackberry, that five-dollar-massage-parlour around the corner might just do the trick.

Pharmalink eyes swelling Cambodian health outlay

Photo by: Sovann Philong
DeVenco Vice President Christophe Forsinetti.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Bennett Murray
Friday, 29 May 2009

Pharmacy is concentrating on quality of care to capture a slice of the rapidly expanding health care sector in Cambodia

Pharmalink, one of Cambodia's newest chains of pharmacies, has opened three locations in Phnom Penh since its inception last year and plans to open 10 by the end of 2010.

The chain was started by Phnom Penh-based investment consultants DeVenco.

"Asian people are really concerned about their image, their health, the small products that you can use, especially women," explained DeVenco Vice President Christophe Forsinetti.

"And that attitude is emerging in Cambodia, with the middle class that can now afford to buy more products."

Forsinetti defines families who earn between $300 and $1,000 a month as middle class.

"You have more and more of those people in Phnom Penh," he said.

"They are the people starting to consume. They are the ones buying cars, motorcycles, or all the news services that you see in Phnom Penh."

Lead on quality
In targeting that middle class, Pharmalink has decided to ensure it provides quality service by demanding that customers present prescriptions before buying certain drugs, Forsinetti said.

"Health care is very specific. You need to deliver quality and you have responsibilities," he said.

"If you sell something to a person and you're not supposed to, and that person has a problem or dies because of that prescription, then you're in trouble - and we cannot bear that responsibility."

He acknowledged that many people would rather save themselves the effort of obtaining a prescription by buying pharmaceuticals from any of the thousands of other pharmacies in Phnom Penh.

This may be true, but it doesn't make the practice any less dangerous.

And, as Forsinetti states, health care ought to be much more regulated.

"It's our role to take the lead and try to put some industry standards in place," he said.

Asian people are really concerned about their image, their health, the small products that you can use.

Keeping it real
Another pertinent issue that Pharmalink must deal with is the counterfeiting of drugs. Pharmaceuticals may have misappropriated brand labels, or may not even have the chemicals they purport to contain.

"I would say this is much more common with very small pharmacies," explained Forsinetti.

"They will try to pull the prices as low as possible, so they are likely to buy from people importing drugs illegally from Vietnam and Thailand."

He explained that Pharmalink aims to buy their products exclusively from reputed laboratories and distributors.

However, counterfeit drugs remain a reality for all Cambodian pharmaceutical businesses. "It's never 100 percent bullet-proof," Forsinetti admits.

PM urges ASEAN, EU to fight crisis together

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that ASEAN and the EU could learn from G20 in bid to fight the global economic crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 29 May 2009

Hun Sen calls for further economic integration between the two regional blocs, including an FTA, in Phnom Penh meeting.

CAMBODIAN Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday urged the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh to adopt G20 measures to manage the global financial crisis and to learn from developed nations' commitment to achieving recovery.

He said that ASEAN and the European Union have been cooperating closely to promote multilateral trade and investment, and deepen economic relations.

"I am of the view that it is in the best interests of both ASEAN and the EU to move forward with Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations on a region-to-region basis," Hun Sen said.

"Given the size of the markets involved, the enormous economic potential and the volume of trade between regions, it is essential that we continue negotiating, because it will bring enormous benefits to both ASEAN and the EU."

Mutual benefits
"I feel we should not lose sight of the broader and longer-term interests of both regional bodies. We need to maximise the strategic window of opportunity that we now have," Hun Sen said.

He also said that ASEAN and the EU need to cooperate in taking on global challenges, which present both hazards and opportunities - particularly to countries in the developing world - created by the current crisis.

The danger is that some countries may resort to protectionism and other nationalistic measures, Hun Sen said, as a way of coping with the fallout of the global financial crisis.

ASEAN and the EU can exchange their experiences of policy responses.

"ASEAN and the EU can exchange their experiences of policy responses and share best practices on how to manage the ramifications of the crisis, to learn from the G20 on how they are committed to achieving recovery," he said.

Hun Sen also confirmed that the issue of food and energy security would continue to be a challenge for some time, despite coordinated efforts to deal with the problem.

He suggested ASEAN and the EU prioritise cooperation in this area, especially devising clean and renewable energy sources, such as hydropower and solar power.

"To ensure food security, I think we should avoid encouraging others to develop bio-energy, which could have real impact on food security if more arable farmland is used for bio-energy production while the global population is increasing," Hun Sen said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said, however, that Cambodia's government must not depend on either ASEAN or the EU, but must instead improve the country's economic policies, including fighting corruption and promoting good governance.

"How can ASEAN and the EU help you, if you do not help yourself first?" he asked.

Joint fundraising
Yim Sovann added that the G20 has shown great progress by raising a large budget for its member nations and that "my party has raised [the possibility of] a US$500 million package to help market farmers' products".

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, said the government should persuade other ASEAN countries and the EU to allow Cambodian goods to enter their counties.

"I understand that some ASEAN and EU countries are richer than Cambodia. We should elevate our marketing of agricultural products," he said.

Kem Sokha added that the most important thing that the EU and ASEAN could cooperate on would be to devise a mechanism to fight corruption, as the financial crisis was created from widespread graft.

ASEAN can make rapid recovery, says WTO

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Friday, 29 May 2009


THE head of the World Trade Organisation said Thursday that ASEAN nations would be among the first to recover from the economic crisis so long as they avoided protectionism.

Speaking at the launch of a regional trade conference in Siem Reap, Pascal Lamy said the open nature of ASEAN economies had made them more vulnerable to global economic volatility, but he argued that those same policies had allowed many of them to grow "more rapidly and with better development results" than closed economies. "This region will exit this crisis more rapidly" in part because of the export-led growth model, he said.

The two-day Aid for Trade conference in Siem Reap was designed to bring together government, private sector and donor representatives to formulate trade policy recommendations that will be presented at a global review of the Aid for Trade initiative, to be held July 6-7 in Geneva.

Launched in 2005, the initiative aims to help developing countries implement WTO agreements and expand trade.

Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda echoed Lamy's description of ASEAN's recovery prospects while warning against protectionist impulses. "To counter this protectionism, it would be good for ASEAN to reaffirm its commitment to free trade and regional cooperation," he said.

Beforehand, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh described Aid for Trade as "one of few remedies available for least-developed countries".

Garments got $400m subsidies, says govt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Friday, 29 May 2009

THE government on Thursday said that it had spent around US$400 million last year on helping Cambodia's struggling garment and apparel industries survive the global financial crisis.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon told the National Assembly that the government provided $490 million in tax and VAT subsidies to all sectors in 2008. Around $400 million in subsidies went to the garment sector.

He also said that the government has not imposed customs duty or VAT on imports and exports of garments since 2005, so buyers should not claim that Cambodia's clothes are overtaxed.

"We spend large amounts of money on supporting the garment industry, so the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) should inform the public of this," said Keat Chhon, who added that the government currently waives tax on clothing imports and exports to encourage factories to compete overseas.

The government will also waive its 1 percent per month advanced profit tax during 2010 and 2011 and help pay 0.3 percent of occupational-risk funds for garment workers in 2009 and 2010, said Keat Chhon.

According to a GMAC report, the garment industry imported $1 billion in raw materials, and exported about $2.9 billion in 2008.

Kaing Monika, external affairs manager at GMAC, said Thursday that it is difficult to assess the exact amount of financial assistance provided to the industry because import tax is calculated by the government.

He also said that GMAC acknowledges that the government has made efforts to help the sector, including providing tax breaks for three to four years to new businesses.

"I think it is the government's calculation," said Kaing Monika. "GMAC is not sure about this issue."

Informal sector suffering

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Informal businesses such as street vendors and tuk-tuk drivers have suffered from the crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab and May Kunmakara
Friday, 29 May 2009

Cambodia's largest sector by employment says it's feeling the downturn.

THE main source of Cambodian employment and economic output - its informal economy - is struggling to sustain growth during the global financial crisis, the industry told the Post this week.

Cambodia's informal economy is defined as businesses that do not register with the government, do not pay taxes and hire few employees.

These accounted for 80 percent of GDP and close to 90 percent of employment in the latest International Labour Organisation (ILO) report in 2006, when a mere 7,000 businesses were registered.

By 2008 this number had swelled to 63,500 registered enterprises, according to a report released Monday by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.

Of those, 67 percent employ only the owner, 22 have between one and four employees, and 1.5 percent have more than 20 employees, the Second Investment Climate Assessment said.

Luos Seyha, president of the Cambodia Association for Informal Economic Development (CAID), said the economic downturn is strongly affecting the informal sector.

"The average income of tuk-tuk drivers has declined to around US$4 a day in the first quarter of 2009 from about $10 a day during the same period last year," he said.

Similarly, the incomes of those working in anything from farming to tourism declined by half in 2008 from about $10 a day in 2007, said Luos Seyha.

"I think the government should have reserved a special fund to help people working in the informal economy keep their businesses alive during this slowdown," he added.

Tun Sophorn, national project coordinator for the ILO in Cambodia, said that "The situation is improving, as people understand more about the informal economy and form associations to share experiences and expand business, because they have more support".

Luos Seyha agrees that "in the next five years, people will better understand its importance, as awareness is ... growing".

Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, however, wants the informal sector to formalise.

"We have a strategy to finance micro, small and medium enterprises," he said, "but they have to register their business".

Last month, the government pledged to spend over 31 billion riels [about $7.6 million] on training the jobless, hoping to improve workers' productivity and resilience to the crisis.

But, despite this, the director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), Yang Saing Koma, maintains: "The government does not focus much on the sector, or offer more credit for them to expand their businesses and improve their capacities."

Tun Sophorn said the downturn affects both the formal and informal sectors, which are somewhat codependent. So far, about 70,000 formal workers have been rendered unemployed during the crisis, he said.

Price freeze on Vietnam's electricity exports: govt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ros Dina
Friday, 29 May 2009

Government says it negotiated price freeze in this week's Hanoi meetings.

CAMBODIAN energy officials said Thursday that Vietnam has agreed not to raise prices on electricity exports following discussions in Hanoi this week.

In negotiations held Tuesday that included Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sen, the two sides also discussed an increase in the supply of electricity exported from Vietnam to Cambodia that would see the current 90 megawatts raised to 200MW in the next few months. The original contract - which fixed the sale price - was signed in 2000.

"[Vietnam] planned to increase the price of electricity as part of the contract we already signed that is valid until 2011," said Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, adding that Vietnam wished to raise the price following the enactment of a law that had seen domestic electricity prices increase.

"The price of electricity from Vietnam won't be increased until the end of the contract in 2011," he said.

Hanoi sent a letter to the government a year ago, but the ministry rejected a request to raise the price, said Ith Praing.

Payment for the electricity supply is being covered by a US$50 million loan by the Asian Development Bank.

Takeo province has absorbed around 70 megawatts of the electricity supplied by Vietnam as part of the deal, with the remainder used in the capital.

Both the ministry and state electricity company Electricite du Cambodge refused to disclose the price paid to Vietnam as part of the deal and the new price requested by Hanoi.

Much of the additional supply provided by Vietnam will go to Phnom Penh, an unnamed EDC official said Thursday.

Govt seeking talks with Thais on offshore issue

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 29 May 2009

MINISTER of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said Thursday that Prime Minister Hun Sen would seek to hold talks on offshore areas under dispute in the Gulf of Thailand when counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva visits Phnom Penh on June 12.

Demarcation of the overlapping area, which covers 27,000 square metres, would help Chevron speed up exploration, he added. The US oil company this month called for resolution of the issue, with Cambodia blaming Thai political turmoil.

"We hope that during the future visit of the Thai prime minister to Cambodia ... there will be talks on this issue," Keat Chhon told reporters at the National Assembly on Thursday. "I don't know the detailed agenda of the visit yet, but it's a must to talk on this issue because we want to push to have oil exploration soon."

The government has routinely called on Chevron to speed up operations, he added.

"So far, Chevron has not set a time to extract oil," he said, adding that he could not predict when revenue would be made from energy reserves.

Previously, the government has projected a timeframe of between 2011 and 2013.

"The government expects to get estimated revenues of US$200 million per year from oil and gas," he said.

Cambodia to have first airplane taxiway next month


PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia will have its first taxiway next month in Phnom Penh International Airport, a path that connects the runway to where airplanes park to increase the flight capacity of the airport, local media reported on Friday.

The US$9 million taxiway, which is 1,250 meters long by 44 meters wide, roughly the same size as the existing runway, will allow for more takeoffs and landings each day, Khek Norinda, communications and marketing manager for Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA), was quoted by English newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

SCA, which is financing construction, is a French-owned company and manages Phnon Penh International Airport, as well as the airport in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, under a contract with the government that runs until 2040.

The construction began in May of last year and will be finished in June of this year.

Currently, only 10 passenger planes can land or take off in an hour from the airfield at Phnom Penh's airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun, director of the airport's engineering department. That will jump to at least 16 planes with the planned taxiway.

"It is the first parallel taxiway for Phnom Penh International Airport," he added. The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation also has a master plan to build a parallel taxiway at Siem Reap International Airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun.

CAMBODIA Young Catholics learn of Khmer Rouge horror

Pol Pot led a reign of terror
May 28, 2009

PHNOM PENH (UCAN) -- "Year Zero" is a blank for most Cambodians. For those born after the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, there are few visible signs of the period when communist leader Pol Pot tried to forcibly return the country to a pre-industrial age.

It was with this in mind that the Catholic Social Communications office in Phnom Penh decided to hold a workshop on May 23 for young Catholics to learn more about their country's painful past.

The office is also planning to take small groups of youths to the ongoing trial of Khmer Rouge cadre charged with involvement in what many have called genocide, including the trial of Tuol Sleng prison guard Kang Kek Iew, also known as Duch.

"It was a shocking period in Cambodia's history that I still find hard to come to terms with," said Oem Sokhorn, 23, during a discussion session.

"My parents said they did not have enough food then but were forced to do hard labor," said the undergraduate. "I was even more shocked when they said my grandfather was killed in front of them. I have tried to imagine what it was like to suffer during that period."

Sokhorn also said her parents told her of boys who were taught by Khmer Rouge soldiers to kill others, even their own parents.

Yim Sotheary, 26, a senior staff worker at the Center for Social Development, an NGO, said some social issues, such as domestic violence and drunkenness, could be a result of the mental suffering experienced by people under the Khmer Rouge.

An elderly woman sheds a tear while recounting herexperiences under the Pol Pot regime during the workshop

"Based on my own experience, I think that the Khmer Rouge's atrocious behavior could have contributed at least in part to these social problems," she said.

Some children thought that their parents were uneducated or bad people because they were violent at home, or they drank, but sometimes this is not true, Sotheary said. Sometimes the root cause of such behavior lies in the dark days of the past, she said.

Children should learn about what their parents had gone through, she added.

During the workshop, people in their 50s and 60s also shared what life was like under the rule of Angkor, as the regime referred to itself.

Mary, a 23-year-old undergraduate, said the workshop gave her a better understanding about
what life was like then.

Skulls and bones of people killed by the KhmerRouge are kept in this stupa of Wat Tmey templein Siem Reap, Cambodia

"My parents talk so little about what happened then," she shared. "I rarely ask them about their life at that time, because they would cry. But this workshop provided me with more answers."

Ly Sovanna, director of the Catholic Social Communications office, said the main aim of the workshop was to help the younger generation have a better idea of the brutality that people endured under Pol Pot.

While young people can learn a certain amount from books, this workshop is a good opportunity for them to learn about the period from others, he said.

During its brutal reign, the Khmer Rouge outlawed all religions. Religious believers, including Catholics, were either executed or deported. Many churches were destroyed.

In 1977, Khmer Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas, former apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, died in a labor camp in Kampong Thom, a northwestern province.

Fears for new malaria drug resistance

The drug resistance was first detected in Pailin province in western Cambodia

By Jill McGivering
BBC News, Cambodia

In a small community in Western Cambodia, scientists are puzzling over why malaria parasites seem to be developing a resistance to drugs - and fearing the consequences.

Ten days ago, Chhem Bunchhin, a teacher in Battambang Province, became ill with chills, fever, headache and vomiting.

At a nearby health centre he was treated with drugs considered a "silver bullet" in the battle against falciparum malaria.

This treatment with artesunate drugs was part of a clinical study being carried out by the US Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Science (AFRIMS).

In the past, artesunates have always cleared malaria parasites from the blood in two or three days. But after four days of monitored treatment, Chhem Bunchhin was still testing positive for parasites.

The anti-malarial drugs worked more slowly in Chhem Bunchhin

Dr Delia Bethell, an investigator working on the clinical trials, said he wasn't alone. Out of about 90 patients included in the study so far, roughly a third to half were still positive for malaria parasites after three days, some even after four or five days.

"It appears that the artesunate is working more slowly than previously," she said.

"It appears that the parasite probably is developing some kind of tolerance or is somehow less sensitive to the effects of the drug. But nobody knows why that might be."

These early results need to be more thoroughly investigated, she said.

The concern is that this could be the start of emerging resistance to the artemesinin family of drugs. If full-blown resistance did develop, it would be extremely dire.

"This is by far the most effective drug we have," explained Dr Bethell.

"And there are no new drugs coming through the system in the next few years."

Scientists are particularly concerned because the last two generations of anti-malarial drugs were undermined by resistance.

And in those earlier cases, resistance also started in Western Cambodia, and in a similar way.

No-one is sure why this area seems to have become a nursery for anti-malaria drug resistance.

One factor could be the inappropriate use of drugs, related to a lack of medical supervision.

The public health system is weak. Government clinics often run out of drugs or may be closed when patients want access to them.

Instead, many patients visit private pharmacies to buy anti-malarial drugs there.
Coloured tablets

I visited one small drugs stall in Pailin's general market, sandwiched between a clothes outlet and a general grocery store.

All pharmacies are supposed to be licensed. But the stallholder told me he didn't have a licence. He'd applied for one, he said, but the paperwork had never been processed.

Many others running pharmacies, he said, were in the same position.

I watched him and his wife make up their own packets of drugs on the glass-topped counter, shaking a variety of coloured tablets into unlabelled plastic bags.

In many such private pharmacies, the customers choose what they want, deciding partly by price.

The quality of the advice they get varies enormously. If, as a result, they end up taking the wrong drugs in the wrong combinations, this too can fuel drug resistance.

The availability of many counterfeit drugs on the market only compounds the problem.

Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, is also running clinical trials in the region.

He and his team have also found that artesunate-type drugs are starting to become less effective.

This resistance must be contained urgently, because its spread would be a global health disaster, he said.

Resistance to previous malaria drugs caused major loss of life in Africa, he said.

"If the same thing happens again, the spread of a resistant parasite from Asia to Africa, then that will have devastating consequences for malaria control."

In a clearing in the jungle, about one and a half hours drive from Pailin along rough dirt roads, I watched health workers distribute mosquito nets to about 200 villagers.

It's one of a series of measures being rushed through to stop the spread of resistant parasites.

If they're not contained, history may repeat itself - and the fear is that many millions of people worldwide will lose their protection against this deadly disease.

Malaria parasites 'resist drugs'

Half the world's population is exposed to malaria

BBC News

29 May 2009

International scientists say they have found the first evidence of resistance to the world's most effective drug for treating malaria.

They say the trend in western Cambodia has to be urgently contained because full-blown resistance would be a global health catastrophe.

Drugs are taking longer to clear blood of malaria parasites than before.

This is an early warning sign of emerging resistance to a disease which kills a million people every year.

Until now the most effective drug cleared all malaria parasites from the blood within two or three days but in recent trials this took up to four or five days.

The BBC's Jill McGivering, reporting from Cambodia, says it is unclear why the region has become a nursery for the resistance - but the local public health system is weak, and the use of anti-malaria drugs is not properly controlled.

Drug defence

The artemesinin family of drugs is the world's front-line defence against the most prevalent and deadly form of malaria.

The anti-malarial drugs worked more slowly in Chhem Bunchhin

Two teams of scientists, working on separate clinical trials, have reported seeing the disturbing evidence that the drugs are becoming much less effective.

There is particular concern because previous generations of malaria drugs have been undermined by resistance which started in this way, in this part of the world, our correspondent reports.

The World Health Organization warned in 2006 there was a possibility the malaria parasite could develop a resistance to artemesinin drugs, and that there was particular concern about a decreased sensitivity to the drug being seen in South East Asia.

It urged drug firms to stop selling artemesinin on its own to in order to prevent resistance building up.

Early results from two studies by US and UK teams have both revealed the early stages of resistance.

Between a third and a half of patients in the US study saw delayed clearance of the malaria parasite.

In the UK study, patients in the Cambodia arm of the trial took almost twice as long to clear the parasite as a comparison group in Thailand.

Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit which is carrying out the UK study, said: "Twice in the past, South East Asia has made a gift, unwittingly, of drug resistant parasites to the rest of the world, in particular to Africa," he said.

"That's the problem. We've had chloroquine and SP (sulfadoxine pyrimethamine) resistance, both of which have caused major loss of life in Africa," he said in reference to earlier generation anti-malarial drugs.

"If the same thing happens again, the spread of a resistant parasite from Asia to Africa, that will have devastating consequences for malaria control," he said.

Health systems

Cambodia has long been a laboratory for malaria investigators and a nursery of anti-malaria drug resistance.

Alongside a weak public health system and poorly-controlled drug use, there are many fake drugs, produced by international criminals.

These fakes often contain a small amount of the real drug to fool tests, which can also help to fuel resistance.

Those working to control malaria are calling for urgent action to contain this emerging resistance.

If it strengthens and spreads, they warn, many millions of lives will be at risk. About half the world's population faces exposure to the disease.

The opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting at Chak Tomuk hall in Phnom Penh

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speak sduring the opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting at Chak Tomuk hall in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Czech Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout (L) speaks as Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong gestures during a news conference at the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009 .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Rama Yade (R) French secretary of state in charge of human rights shakes hand with Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting before the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting at Chak Tomuk hall in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009 .REUTERS/Tang Chhin Sothy/Pool (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

External Relations Directorate General of the European Commission Stefano Sannino (L), Czech Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout (2rd L) ,Cambodia deputy prime minister Hor Namhong (2rd R) and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (R) listen to a question during a news conference at the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009 .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout (front C) shakes hands with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (front R) after signing an agreement during the 17th meeting of ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009 .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Asian and European foreign ministers line up for a family photo at the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting at Chak Tomuk hall in Phnom Penh May 28, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan talks to the media after the Asian foreign ministers meeting at the Asean-EU ministerial meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan talks to the media after the Asian foreign ministers meeting at the Asean-EU ministerial meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Myanmar activist holds a portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh

Myanmar activist holds a portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009. Some 60 activists demonstrated outside the embassy to urge the Myanmar government to release the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Myanmar nationals hold portraits of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009. Some 60 activists demonstrated outside the embassy to urge the Myanmar government to release the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Myanmar nationals protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009. Some 60 activists demonstrated outside the embassy to urge the Myanmar government to release the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Activist from Myanmar holds a portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009. Some 60 activists demonstrated outside the embassy to urge the Myanmar government release the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

Myanmar national holds a portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009. Some 60 activists demonstrated outside the embassy to urge the Myanmar government to release the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT)

WTO, ADB urge more Aid-for-Trade efforts to counter the economic crisis

Ministers, trade officials and senior government officials from around Asia today gathered in Siem Reap, Cambodia to discuss the impact of the global crisis on trade, how Aid for Trade can support private sector growth, and how to include trade into national development strategies.

At the conference, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda and World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy urged ongoing efforts to support trading activities in the face of the prolonged global financial crisis and the risk of protectionism.

“Developing countries, particularly least-developed countries and small states, need Aid for Trade not simply to weather the crisis, but more importantly, to prepare for longer-term development and structural adjustment,” Mr. Kuroda said in a keynote speech on the opening day of the two-day meeting.

Mr. Lamy stated that: “Trade is an essential ingredient to exit the crisis. But to keep the wheels of trade turning we need trade finance to flow. And to make trade work for the people we need renewed efforts on Aid for Trade. This is the time for global solidarity.”

As part of those efforts, Mr. Kuroda and Mr. Lamy announced that Cambodia and Japan will lead an Asia-Pacific regional technical group on Aid for Trade. The regional technical group is tasked with preparing plans for stepping up Aid for Trade in Asia and the Pacific and will report at the Second Global Review on Aid for Trade to take place in Geneva, Switzerland on 6-7 July 2009.

Aid for Trade was conceived in December 2005 to help developing nations, in particular least-developed countries, around the world to bolster their capacity to trade. Asia has long suffered an uneven trade status. The newly industrialized economies like Hong Kong, China and the Republic of Korea, as well as the Republic of China and India, are integrated into world markets but the region's 22 least developed and smaller economies still account for just 0.3% of world exports. This level has barely increased over the last 25 years.

In tandem with national efforts to mainstream trade into national development strategies, Aid for Trade aims to help countries overcome the supply side and economic infrastructure constraints that undermine their ability to engage in regional and global trade.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members — 48 from the region. In 2008, it approved .5 billion of loans, 1.4 million of grant projects, and technical assistance amounting to 4.5 million.

The World Trade Organization, based in Geneva, is the international organization whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all. WTO provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development.

Vietnam renews Cambodian deal to sell power

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vietnam has signed a new contract to continue selling electricity to Cambodia, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said Wednesday.

The electricity will be transmitted from southern Vietnam to the border province of Takeo and then to Phnom Penh via a 220-kilovolt line erected by the state-owned Electricity of Vietnam and its Cambodian counterpart, Electricite du Cambodge.

Vietnam started transmitting 400,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a day via this line on May 8. The country expects to increase its annual power sales to Cambodia to up to one billion kilowatt hours, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said.

By March this year, Cambodia had purchased nearly 309 million kilowatt hours of power from Electricity of Vietnam.

The ministry said Electricity of Vietnam also plans to build hydropower plants in Cambodia.

Source: Thanh Nien

N. Korea Condemned By Foreign Ministers

Shu-Ching Jean Chen

Gathering in Vietnam, Asian and European diplomats unite to condemn North Korea.

Have Kim Jong Il and his despotic North Korean regime lost touch with the outside world? Ask the 43 foreign ministers from Asia and Europe who gathered for an annual confab in Hanoi this week, only to find North Korea unexpectedly at the top of the agenda.

Officials converged in Vietnam for the Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, to discuss a range of issues -- from counter-terrorism, energy security, transport and religion, to subjects as arcane as "space-based solutions to sustainable communities."

Diplomats were alarmed by North Korea's bellicose nuclear adventurism and the grave implications for the wider world after North Korea tested a nuclear device as well as short-range missiles earlier this week.

Cambodia's foreign minister, Hor Namhong, said the nuclear test would "further undermine the non-proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction."

One diplomat said worries over North Korea's action had hijacked the Hanoi conference's agenda right from the beginning, so much that it became an unwelcome distraction when they should have devoted more time exchanging views on topics of immediate concern: the need to promote cross-border trade and investment liberalization in spite of the financial crisis and the temptation to pursue protectionist policies, and the rising threat of global warming faced by member countries.

In the end, foreign ministers from the 43 countries decided to issue an unequivocal joint statement to "condemn the underground nuclear test... which constitutes a clear violation of the Six-Party agreements and the relevant United National Security Council resolutions and decisions."

They also "strongly urge" North Korea not to conduct any further nuclear tests, and call on North Korea to immediately return to the Six-Party Talks.

The ministers represented 15 European Union countries, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus the three largest economies in North Asia -- China, Japan and South Korea -- as well as India, Mongolia, Pakistan and smaller Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Together they represent 58% of the world's population, 50% of the global GDP and 60% of global trade.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with some of the Asian foreign ministers in Singapore to discuss what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called North Korea's "provocative and belligerent" behavior.

North Korea threatened to attack South Korea if it interfered with its northern neighbor's shipping. The new threats came after South Korea announced that it had joined the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led group of nations that pledge to stop ships carrying nuclear bomb material.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Myanmar hits back at critics of Suu Kyi trial

Myanmar nationals hold portraits of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh May 27, 2009.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thu May 28, 2009

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Army-ruled Myanmar lashed out at foreign critics of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial on Thursday, accusing them of meddling in its affairs and denying the prosecution of the opposition leader was a political or human rights issue.

Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint rebuked his counterparts from Southeast Asia and Europe at a meeting in Cambodia, saying the trial that could jail Suu Kyi, 63, for up to five years was an "internal legal" issue.

"It's not political. It's not a human rights issue, so we don't accept the pressure and interference from abroad," Maung Myint told the ministers at the Phnom Penh meeting.

It was the military regime's strongest reaction yet to international outrage at Suu Kyi's trial on charges that she violated her house arrest by harbouring an uninvited American intruder in early May.

The Nobel laureate denies the charges, which critics say are aimed at keeping her in detention during an election next year that they say will entrench the generals' power after nearly a half century of military rule.

The trial was adjourned to Monday after the court heard from lawyer Kyi Win, Suu Kyi's only defence witness after three others were rejected by the judge without a reason being given.

Activists said it was the latest attempt by the regime to sabotage Suu Kyi's defence since the trial began nine days ago.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, said the court agreed to allow them to meet her privately on Saturday to discuss her defence. Final arguments are due on Monday.

"If everything goes according to the law, we must win," he said after Thursday's closed session inside Insein prison.

No date for a verdict was set, but a conviction is widely expected in the former Burma, where the courts routinely bend the law to the suit the generals.


Suu Kyi's supporters have quietly gathered each day near the prison ringed by armed police and barbed wire barricades.

There have been no major protests so far, but police arrested a lone protester at a market near the prison on Thursday.

Zaw Nyunt, a 56-year-old retired air force officer, held up a poster with the words "Saving Suu is Saving Burma" in English and Burmese. He was quickly packed off by pro-junta thugs and plainclothes police, witnesses said.

Suu Kyi has spent much of the last two decades in some form of detention, mostly at her lakeside home under police guard, her phone line cut and visitors restricted.

Myanmar's generals, the latest in an unbroken line of military rulers since 1962, have ignored the international outcry over her trial.

In Phnom Penh, European and Southeast Asian ministers issued a final communique calling for the release of all political prisoners and said all political parties should be allowed to join next year's elections "in a free and fair manner."

The American intruder, John Yettaw, whose swim to Suu Kyi's home on May 4 triggered the trial, told the court on Wednesday he had a "vision" that Suu Kyi was assassinated by "terrorists" and had wanted to warn her.

"God sent me to warn her," Nyan Win quoted him as saying.

Suu Kyi has denied any prior knowledge of his plans and said she did not alert authorities for fear he would be arrested. She has also blamed the incident on a security breach, for which no officials have been punished.

"The fact that I am the only party being prosecuted shows the partiality of the prosecution," she said in a written statement to the court this week.

(Additional reporting by Martin Petty in Phnom Penh; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Raid nets 4,700 counterfeit Columbia products

Portland Business Journal

Thursday, May 28

Columbia Sportswear Co. on Thursday said Thailand authorities confiscated more than 4,700 counterfeit Columbia products during raids on four retail outlets and two warehouses.

It’s the largest counterfeit bust to date for the Washington County sports apparel company (NASDAQ: COLM).

The company’s efforts to stamp out counterfeiters has recently been expanded to also target groups that produce, transport and sell counterfeit goods bearing Columbia’s trademarks.

Sparked by a tip from a Thai distributor for Columbia, the raids preceded several weeks of surveillance by private investigators hired by Columbia with cooperation from local Thai law enforcement agencies.

The efforts yielded the arrest of one of the alleged leaders of the counterfeiting and smuggling operation, who was caught near the Cambodian border. An arrest warrant has also been issued for the owner of a chain of retail stores and warehouses that were used to distribute and market the fake goods.

Out of a temple in remote Cambodia, a world-class ballet dancer is discovered

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Sokvannara Sar leaps during his dance routine as shown in Anne Bass’ documentary, “Dancing Across Borders.” Photo provided by Pacific Northwest Ballet.

May 28th, 2009
by admin

By Ninette Cheng

Northwest Asian Weekly

While visiting Cambodia in 2000, American arts patron Anne H. Bass witnessed a rising star. Then 15 years old, Sokvannara “Sy” Sar performed a dance at Cambodia’s famous Preah Kahn temple and caught Bass’ eye.

Nine years later, Sar is a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, and Bass has documented his journey every step of the way. On May 25, Sar’s story, in a film titled “Dancing Across Borders,” produced and directed by Bass, was showcased at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Sar’s journey began on the streets of Cambodia.

“I pretty much just followed my friends,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was really. I just wanted to try [dancing] out.”At the age of 9, Sar began his dance education at the Wat Bo School and eventually found himself performing as a lead at the Preah Kahn temple. Bass happened to catch one of his performances.

After Bass returned home to the United States, she continued to think about Sar’s performance of the fisherman’s dance.

“I just kept thinking about … the fact that Cambodian dancers, especially male dancers, don’t have much of a future,” Bass said. “He was just so unbelievably and naturally gifted. He was a totally charismatic performer. The next thing I know, I was writing a letter to him and inviting him to dance ballet.”

Bass served as Sar’s sponsor on his trip to the United States.

Sar arrived a few weeks before turning the age of 17, an unusually late starting age for a ballet dancer.

He did not speak any English and was initially rejected from the School of American Ballet (SAB). Peter Boal, then a principal dancer and faculty at SAB, felt that he was not ready and said there was a language barrier.

“Already the cards were stacked against him,” Boal said in the film.

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Sokvannara Sar leaps during his dance routine as shown in Anne Bass’ documentary, “Dancing Across Borders.” Photo provided by Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Sar also had to deal with the culture shock of moving to a different country. He enrolled in a high school and received his diploma in three years.

“It was tough,” Sar said. “I had never left home. There was nobody around who I could talk to. I was a little bit of an outsider.”

“He didn’t like anything from the standpoint of food,” Bass said.
“We tried everything. He just really missed his mother’s cooking.”

One summer of intense training later, Sar was accepted into SAB and began classes with children ages 6 to 9.

To make up for lost time, he spent hours studying privately with ballet teacher Olga Kostritzky.
“It wasn’t easy,” Kostrizky said in the film. “Every day he would go through an enormous amount of material.”

“It’s a one in 1,000 chance that this could work, and I think we found that one,” Boal said.
In January 2006, the U.S. State Department in Cambodia organized an evening of cultural performances to celebrate the new embassy building. Sar was among the list of those invited to perform.

“[The Cambodians] are so proud of him,” said Roland Eng, a former Cambodian ambassador to the United States.

When Boal left SAB in 2006 to become the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, he invited Sar to attend the company’s school. Sar enrolled one year later.

That was the same year Bass developed the idea for the documentary.

“When he first came here, I got a video camera so I could film his classes to send a record of his progress to his mother,” Bass said.

“That clip just kept running until we had a movie,” Sar said.

“I hope that some people who come to this film with no feeling for ballet might develop an interest in dance,” Bass said.

“Maybe [this film will] inspire some kids in this country or in my country,” Sar said.

Bass hopes that the film will also prompt viewers to offer their support when they recognize unusual talent, like in her case with Sar.

“[The film] is good because it’s not just about me.” Sar said. “It’s just a story. … There are not many Cambodians who do ballet. It’s more about that than me.”

Bass plans to continue attending film festivals to distribute the documentary. In January, she previewed the film in Cambodia to great success. Bass and Sar plan to return to show the film to children in various schools.

As for Sar, now 24, his future plans involve dance, academics, and some self-discovery.

“I think I’m going to stick around in PNB for a while,” he said. “I’m going to go back to school, college, just part-time, but I’m not quitting dance. … I’m just trying to figure out what exactly I want to do as an individual,” he said. “I’m not sure specifically who I want to be yet.” ♦

Ninette Cheng can be reached at

Cambodian PM calls for more ASEAN-EU partnership, cooperation

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Senon Thursday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) to continue strengthening partnership and cooperation in response to the global challenges.

"I strongly believe that ASEAN and the EU can play a more active and more forceful role in the world," the premier said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

"There is no room for a passive role for us, and we - ASEAN and the EU collectively - need to take on the global challenges with head on," he added.

The 17th AEMM which opened here Thursday will focus on ASEAN-EU's enhanced partnership and cooperation, as well as the world economic and financial crisis and other regional and international issues.

The meeting under the theme of "ASEAN-EU Partnership for Peace, Economic Growth and Development" is also scheduled to address issues of ASEAN integration, food and energy security, and the environment.

Hun Sen, in his speech, reviewed and spoke highly of the ASEAN-EU cooperation, saying "our close relations at present are becoming ever stronger and covering a wide range of areas."

The premier also underlined six areas for further enhancing the cooperation and partnership between the ASEAN and EU, such as continuing implementing the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, moving quickly to realize the EU/EC's accession to the TAC (the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia), supporting each other in the areas of integration and the community building process, and strengthening ASEAN-EU cooperation in the regional and international forum.

On the issue of the global economic and financial crisis, Hun Sen said "the current crisis presents both the danger and the opportunity for some countries, particularly those in the developing world."

But he warned that "the danger is that some countries may resort to protectionism." He asked to "reform the international financial institutions" to serve the interests of all.

This biennial ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting were attended by representatives from all the 10 ASEAN countries and the 27 EU member states, as well as the delegates from ASEAN Secretariat and EU Commission.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong and Jan Kohout, Czech deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs whose country is current EU president, are co-presidents of the meeting.

The 16th Ministerial Meeting between ASEAN and EU was held in Germany in 2007.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Chris

UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Calls for Moratorium on Evictions – Thursday, 28.5.2009

Posted on 28 May 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 614

nda"In its first review of the compliance by Cambodia with a principal human rights treaty, an independent UN panel calls for a moratorium on evictions in Cambodia. UN human rights officials ask the Cambodian government to make more efforts to stop the abuses and evictions of sick, poor, and powerless people.

“Many recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights call on Cambodia to ensure that its courts really protect human rights, end the culture of violence and impunity in Cambodia, and spend more time on social services for housing, food, and education. According to an advance copy of the recommendations released on Monday 25 May 2009 – the final document had not yet been released – Cambodia fails to observe the most important parts of the International Covenant of 1976 on economic, social, and cultural rights, which are considered to be an important part of the International Bill of Human Rights.


The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the following:

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights
-International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
-International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
-Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
-Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty

“It is assumed that the committee of 18 legal experts expressed their position with strong words on Cambodia because of the general documented criticism by different human rights organizations, and the decision of the Cambodian government not to send expert representatives to attend the review panel of the UN committee on 11 and 12 May 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. Cambodia sent only two people to meet with the UN committee, including the Cambodian ambassador to Switzerland Sun Suon. The difficult man Om Yentieng, the chairperson of the government’s Cambodian Committee on Human Rights, could not yet be reached for comment about the voice of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

“It should be noted that the first report of Cambodia sent to the UN committee was in 1994. Moreover, regular reports of donor countries about the progress of the recommendations of the UN committee said that that Cambodians are insecure in their homes, health, and education. Also thousands of powerless people have been evicted.

“The review report said, ‘The committee is gravely concerned over reports that since the year 2000, over 100,000 people were evicted in Phnom Penh alone; that at least 150,000 Cambodians continue to live under the threat of forced eviction; and that authorities of the state party are actively involved in land-grabbing.’ The committee urges the state party to implement a moratorium on all evictions until the proper legal framework is in place, and the process of land titling is completed, in order to ensure the protection of human rights of all Cambodians, including indigenous people” [quoted from The Cambodia Daily].

“Regarding the above recommendations, the parliamentarian Cheam Yeap from the Cambodian People’s Party from Prey Veng, said that the call for a moratorium is an intervention by foreigners into Cambodian affairs. The much talking man Cheam Yeap explained the eviction measures of the government, ‘They are part of the plan to develop the country and the cities.’ Moreover, he accused some villagers of exaggerating their numbers in order to receive compensation.

“Cambodia has signed the nine so-called core human rights treaties and ratified or acceded to six of them. However, like many other countries, Cambodia has often delayed or disregarded the requirements of reporting on its observance of the treaties. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors observance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reviewed Cambodia in 1999 but has not heard from the government since.


There are eight human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties:

Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
-Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
-Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
-Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
-Committee Against Torture (CAT) & Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) – Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
-Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
-Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)
-Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

There are nine core international human rights treaties , one of which – on enforced disappearance – has not yet entered into force.

“The UN committee’s concluding observations welcomed what it called positive developments, such as the 2007 findings by the Constitutional Council, saying that ratified human rights treaties have to be observed by Cambodian courts, and the adoption in the same year of a new Penal Code, as well as plans to increase the share of women in the civil service. The committee, however, called for the creation of an independent Cambodian human rights body, the adoption of the 14-year-old draft anti-corruption law, and that social impact assessments should be carried out when economic concessions are granted within Cambodia’s protected areas.

“In a global study of the observance of the treaties, law professors Christof Heyns and Frans Vijoen of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, found that because of criticism from treaties bodies, Russia had significantly reduced the number of crimes punishable by death, Egypt had released prisoners held under emergency legislation, and the Colombian government abolished the use of armed civilian militias in its ongoing civil war.

“‘The unfortunate result is that the countries that most often end up being singled out as human rights violators are those where there is also active engagement. Within the system, more criticism seems to be the response for a higher level of engagement,’ according to the study. Jan Klabbers, deputy director of the Erik CastrĂ©n Institute of International Law and Human Rights in Helsinki/Finland, said the public should temper what it expects of the UN human rights treaties [the four paragraphs above are also quoted from The Cambodia Daily]

“Human rights observers in Cambodia said that the call of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights for a moratorium on evictions to the Khmer government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen is in line with the obvious situation, since in recent years, hundreds of Khmer families have been evicted violently and unjustly by the Hun Sen government, colluding with dishonest merchants. Obviously, more than 4,000 families in the Boeng Kak Lake area are facing eviction, because the Hun Sen government already handed over the land in that area to the Shukaku company for construction development, without caring about the impact on the life of the residents. Therefore, the UN committee has to observe the activities of the Hun Sen government carefully in order to prevent high ranking officials of the government from colluding with dishonest merchants to mistreat poor citizens as they like.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3769, 28.5.2009
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Thursday, 28 May 2009