Friday, 15 January 2010

A man of dwindling means
Fri, Jan 15, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network

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One source even speculated that his net worth could already have turned negative if his Bt76 billion now being frozen in Thailand is not taken into account.

In a recent interview with Times Online, Thaksin said he still had US$100 million (Bt3.3 billion) as his total net worth, trying to create an impression that he does not have any financial problems.

But sources say Thaksin is now having a difficult time servicing his debt owed to Gazprombank, a subsidiary of Gazprom of Russia. The Russian state owns more than 50 per cent in Gazprom, the energy firm that has branched out to become a global conglomerate.

Thaksin would like to rely on his connection with Gazprom to launch his investment in the energy sector in other countries, where he hopes to improve his political conditions. His interest in the oil and gas business in Cambodia is already widely known.

The exact amount of the loan he took from Gazprombank is not known, but it could be in the region of $1.5 billion, the sources believe.

Thaksin has used this loan to invest in Dubai in order to establish his status there as an honorary political refugee. Following the meltdown of Dubai, however, Thaksin has suffered heavy losses from his Dubai investment.

He also lost a huge amount of money from his portfolio investment in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Dubai World, a state-owned corporation, is seeking a delay of repayment of its debt amounting to $59 billion.

The sources say Thaksin's debt owed to Gazprombank is already overdue.

Thaksin needs big money to finance his lavish lifestyle and security protection.

One government source said Thaksin is on an aircraft three days a week, constantly changing his location to ensure personal safety.

The ex-premier has faced another big financial blow. The UK authorities have recently seized some $4 billion believed to belong to Thaksin under nominees' names, the sources said.

This amount was frozen in 2008, pending the beneficial owner(s) coming forward to declare ownership. But since nobody had come forward, the UK authorities quietly seized the amount for the state coffers.

If Thaksin were to lose Bt76 billion in his Thai assets-seizure case, his net worth could turn negative.

On February 26, the Supreme Court will rule whether he is guilty of corruption. If the court were to find him guilty, it would order the seizure of the entire Bt76 billion.

Thaksin is now fighting back fiercely. He will try to lobby the Supreme Court, bring down the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and ignite the red-shirt rallies in order to instigate a military intervention.

The Nation/Asia News Network

Dancers step out to support charity

Posted on January 15, 2010
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RESIDENTS of the South East will have a chance to dust off their dancing shoes and help the children of Cambodia by supporting the efforts of a Mount Gambier volunteer.

Rachael Stratford will travel to Cambodia at the end of the month where she will volunteer at the COSO Orphanage and the Volunteer Development Children’s Association — a school founded by Buddhist monks for children who could not afford an education.

A “hootenanny charity dance” will be held on January 23 at the Glenburnie Memorial Hall in a bid to raise much-needed money for the children and organisations that Ms Stratford will visit.

Ms Stratford said her aim was to inspire people to do something similar, even if it is from the comfort of their own homes.

“If I can encourage others to participate in some sort of volunteer work, we may regain that sense of community — caring about others outside our closest circle of family and friends,” Ms Stratford said.

Ms Stratford decided to assist children in Cambodia as it is what people were talking about around her.

After emailing several charities to develop a starting point, Ms Stratford was met with no reply and turned to the internet to research organisations that may need help who were not already supported by larger charitable organisations.

“It didn’t take long to find two that I intend to help.”

Ms Stratford said that although she would be physically volunteering, it would be good to set up ongoing support for the area after she departs.

The dance, organised by Andrea Braun, will begin at 7.30pm and guests will be required to pay $6 for adults, $2 for children or $12 for a family, with all proceeds going to the Cambodian organisations.

Guests are asked to bring a plate of food for supper and to dress casual with comfortable footwear.

“Even if you don’t know who I am, it will be a great night for families to get out and meet some new people — and all proceeds will be going to a great cause so please come along,” Ms Stratford said.

For further enquiries, contact Rachael Stratford on 8725 4007 or Andrea Braun on 0417 509 144.

Vietnam, Cambodia vow to build peaceful border

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Vietnam will join efforts with Cambodia to build the common borderline into one of peace, friendship, stability, cooperation and development.

The Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the statement while receiving the Cambodian Senior Minister Var Kim Hong, who is Chairman of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Commission, in Hanoi on January 14.

PM Dung stressed that the demarcation and planting of border markers on the common borderline should be conducted in line with the principle of equity and rationality, for mutual benefit. He urged the two sides to early finalise on spot demarcation work with a view to promoting cooperation between the two countries.

He also welcomed and highly valued the results of the recent joint border commission meeting at which the two sides agreed to plant a number of markers this year and discussed measures to settle several difficulties.

Minister Var Kim Hong pledged that Cambodia will closely work with Vietnam in demarcating the borderline and planting border markers in line with the spirit of cooperation and friendship, listen to each other’s views and jointly solve any emerging in due time issues.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Minister Var Kim Hong expressed their belief that land demarcation between Vietnam and Cambodia will be completed by 2012 as agreed by leaders of the two countries.


Cambodia reinforces Thailand border amid simmering tensions

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province on October 14, 2008. Cambodia says it plans to reinforce the border. [AFP]

Created: Fri, 15 Jan 2010

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Liam Cochrane, Alex Khun

Cambodia is reinforcing its border with Thailand, establishing new villages full of soldiers, building roads and buying new equipment.

The strengthened military presence is part of an ongoing dispute over land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodia-Thailand border.

The 12th century temple has been the site of numerous violent clashes between the two countries in recent years.

Cambodia's Ministry of Defence made the announcement and said the program was necessary for national protection.

It says the military bulwark is part of a five-year plan, with work already underway on five new villages that will be populated with soldiers.

Preah Vihear program officer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Tan Setha has witnessed the flurry of new construction activity.

"At the moment I can see the government establish some new village for the army family along the border."

It's believed a total of 14 new villages will eventually be established at a cost of hundreds of millions of US dollars.

A multi-ministerial committee, headed by former Phnom Penh governor and long-time Preah Vihear supporter, Chea Sophara, is driving the development.


Cambodia is clearing land along the heavily-mined border so new infrastructures can be built to sustain the permanent relocation of soldiers and their families.

Heng Ratana, from the Cambodian Center for Mine Action says more than 300 de-miners are clearing land for the first five new villages being built for soldiers and their families.

"In Preah Vihear province, we've deploy more than 300 de-miners there to support demining activity which [has] tasks prioritised by local community and provincial community there."

"Our team is clearing a number of areas for supporting their development activity there, such as building new schools, new roads, irrigation system and so on."

The plan comes amid ongoing tension between Cambodia and Thailand over who owns 4.6 square kilometres of land surrounding the ruins of Preah Vihear.

Since July 2008 there have been several deadly clashes on the border and troops from both sides are prepared for a long standoff.

The paved road that leads from the Thai side to the foot of the temple, gives Thailand a distinct military advantage over Cambodia where dirt roads are full of pot holes, making the movement of troops and equipment difficult.

But that looks set to change, with this major investment to boost the number of Cambodian troops in the area and enhance their capacity to respond to any future incidents.

The troubled relationship between the two countries have been recently inflamed by Cambodia appointing former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor.

It's understood Mr Thaksin will make his next visit to Cambodia later this month.

A Government Official Claimed Human Rights Violations Dropped, while Civil Society Found They Increased – Thursday, 14.1.2010
Posted on 15 January 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 647

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“The chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Mr. Om Yentieng, said that in 2009, human rights violations decreased compared with previous years, but civil society officials claimed they increased.

“Mr. Om Yentieng stated that the human rights conditions in Cambodia were better than in previous years. But he did not offer a percentage of the increase and of the decrease. He added that a better human rights situation exists in all sectors, because of a better understanding of the law by citizens. Also, the capacity of the authorities at most ministries and institutions did advance. He continued to say that the promotion of and the caring for human rights issues mentioned in the Rectangular Strategy are now in practice.

“Regarding this case, an investigating official of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Mr. Oum Sam Ath, told Deum Ampil that in 2009, according to the findings of LICADHO, there were as many as 904 cases of human rights violation in 14 provinces and cities. He added that those cases consist of violations against general human rights, against women’s rights, and against children’s rights. Compared to 2008, there was an increase by 54 cases, as in 2008 there were only 846 cases. He went on to say that most violations of general human rights occurred all the time, including evictions, assaults, and murders. As for women and children, the number of rapes increased. He stressed that major problems, which led to the increase is that the court systems was not independent, and the understanding of the field still seems to remains limited. Therefore, the authorities frequently did compromise when there were offenses or crimes. Another point is that often perpetrators were not arrested for prosecution by the courts. There are other related problems that stimulated the increase of rapes against children and women, like foreign pornographic videos or drug abuse.

“He continued to say that there is more increase of violations in Phnom Penh than in other provinces. He said if human rights violations continues, it will contribute negatively to the situation of the whole nation. Moreover, foreign countries will see Cambodia as a country where sufficient actions are not taken against offenders.

“Also, an investigating official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, said that freedom of expression, impunity, land disputes, evictions, and different laws which relate to human rights in Cambodia are of concern. All civil society organizations notice that the freedom of expression is in a worrying situation, because some civil society officials were sued by government officials. The immunity of some parliamentarians was suspended, and they are indicted at the courts. As for impunity, he said that it is rising higher, and there is not yet an independent monitoring of the conditions. Mr. Om Yentieng said that he is pleased and welcomes talks about human rights issues in Cambodia, if anyone does not agree with his aforementioned claims.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #387, 14.1.2010
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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Security Concerns Hampered FBI in 1997 Investigation

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
14 January 2010

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A security threat to an FBI agent in 1997 and concerns over US cooperation with Cambodia put a grenade attack investigation on hold, according to recent media reports.

Police look for survivors of the grenade attack.

The agent, Tom Nicoletti, was sent to Cambodia to look into the attack, on an opposition rally, which killed sixteen people and wounded more than 100 others, including an American citizen.

Nicoletti, who is now retired, told the English-language Cambodia Daily that by the time he left Cambodia, the evidence he had collected was not up to US standards for prosecution. He had planned to return, he said in e-mails to the newspaper, but an unfavorable situation in the country prevented it.

Nicoletti said he had been pulled out of Cambodia for fear he may be the target of attacks for his investigation, which pointed toward possible collusion in the attack on opposition leader Sam Rainsy by members of then-second prime minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit.

Sketches of three suspects identified by FBI.

The FBI produced nine sketches of three suspects, including Kong Samrith, also known as Brazil. In a report released to the Cambodian Daily following a Freedom of Information request, the FBI said its investigation had been hampered and that agents had difficulty discerning which witnesses were telling the truth.

One witness told FBI investigators he saw a line of Hun Sen bodyguards allow two grenade-throwers to pass as they fled the carnage of the scene in front of Wat Botum, near what was then the National Assembly building.

The witness “pursued but was prevented from heading towards the wat and nearby CPP headquarters,” according to the report. “As he turned, he was kicked by the soldiers and knocked to the ground.”

However, in another interview, one of Hun Sen’s bodyguards gave a different account, according to recordings posted on In an interview with another investigator in the case, Peter Hoffman, the bodyguard denied such an incident took place.

“When the grenade throwers were running toward your position, how many people were chasing them?” Hoffman asked the unnamed witness, who answered through a translator.

“I have no intention to count how many people [were] chasing the throwers, and I have no knowledge that those people were the grenade throwers,” the witness replied.

“Do you have good eyesight?” Hoffman asked.

“No, no problem with the eyes. The reason is that there are a lot of demonstrators.”

“So three or four people throw grenades into a crowd,” Hoffman asked, “and you didn’t see anything?”

“I see nothing.”

Ultimately, the FBI investigation became inactive and failed to identify the perpetrators.

Then second prime minister Hun Sen.

“The Cambodian police could finish the investigation any time they want,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “They would have sufficient information in their files. They just choose not to do it. Maybe because they don’t want to do it, and maybe because they are afraid of Hun Sen.”

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, denied police were unwilling to pick up the case.

“We lost track when we lost Brazil,” he said, referring to one of the suspects. “At the time, it was chaotic, and Brazil died for no reason in a camp of a political party that I prefer not to name.”

He was referring to bloody street fighting between the Cambodian People’s Party, led by Hun Sen, and Funcinpec, led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in a coup that took place months after the grenade attack, July 5 and July 6.

Khieu Sopheak also blamed FBI agent Nicoletti for failing in the case.

“What Tom Nicoletti did was not professional,” Khieu Sopheak said. “He was assigned to conduct the investigation, but could not solve it. Once he concluded a case, he just kept it.”

“The FBI agent was very stupid,” said Mok Chito, who is now head of the criminal police division and was head of Phnom Penh penal police when the attack took place. “He does not know how to investigate. He sometimes listened to other people without knowing [who the subject was]. I remember that in one of its reports, the FBI said I was Hun Sen’s nephew and was chief of municipal police.”

Rights group and families of the victims have insisted that the FBI come back and conclude their investigation to bring those responsible to court.

Sam Rainsy, right, opposition party leader, prays in front of some displaying portrait photos of Cambodian victims of a deadly grenade attack of March 30, 1997, at a memorial stupa in the capital Phnom Penh.

“I cannot speculate on what the FBI may or may not do in the future regarding this case,” John Johnson, a spokesman for the US Embassy, said in an e-mail. “I can only say that their original investigation was inconclusive and the US Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue the case.”

He referred further questions to the FBI in Washington, who have not responded to written questions.

The FBI said in its 1997 report a continued investigation could threaten cooperation with Cambodia, but Adams, of Human Rights Watch, said the investigation should be concluded.

“The US doesn’t need Cambodia,” he said. “Cambodia needs the US, and I think the US should remember that. China is an increasing power, but not a superpower, and the US can work with other countries to put pressure on Cambodia to improve its human rights situation, to try to improve governance and dealing with things like corruption and the rule of law.”

Aid workers in Haiti face 'logistical nightmare'

An Italian military C-130J is loaded with first-aid kits and medical supplies for relief in earthquake ravaged Haiti, in Pisa's military airport, central Italy, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010.

(AP Photo/Paolo Lazzeroni)

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer
via CAAI News Media

GENEVA – Roads full of hungry, homeless people. A ruined port and an overwhelmed airport. Hundreds of crumpled buildings and little heavy machinery. Few working phones.

Relief supplies and emergency experts started pouring into Haiti from around the world Thursday but aid groups said the challenge of helping Haiti's desperate quake survivors was enormous.

"It's chaos," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. "It's a logistical nightmare."

Aid deliveries by ship were impossible to Port-au-Prince because the Haitian capital's port was closed due to severe damage from Tuesday magnitude-7 earthquake. The city's airport was open but damaged, laboring mightily to handle a flurry of incoming aid flights.

Fearful of going near quake-damaged buildings, Haitians stood or rested on the roads, slowing the transport of food and other crucial aid.

Severe damage to at least eight Port-au-Prince hospitals made it nearly impossible to treat the thousands of injured or prevent outbreaks of disease, said Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, presents unique logistical challenges for aid workers even in the best of times. It shares an island with the Dominican Republic, meaning that aid must arrive by sea or air. Haitian streets are in poor condition under normal circumstances, and even if aid reaches the Dominican Republic, the road from there to Port-au-Prince is narrow and easily clogged.

Almost everything has to be imported, even wood for building temporary shelters, because Haitians have denuded their hillsides by cutting trees for cooking fuel.

"If you see Dominican Republic and Haiti from the air, it's really striking," said Byrs. "Half of the island is green and the rest is dust."

In addition, Haiti was already heavily damaged by a series of severe hurricanes, the most recent in 2008.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday the U.S. government was making an initial $100 million relief effort and promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort that included military and civilian emergency teams from across the U.S.

"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was deployed to Haiti, and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had been ordered to sail as soon as possible with a 2,000-member Marine unit.

Even as the United Nations stepped up its massive aid operation, the world body was trying to determine how many of its own staff were killed in earthquake.

"It's very difficult to give an exact number," said Byrs. "This is also a tragedy for the United Nations."

She said up to 100 U.N. staff were trapped in the main U.N. peacekeepers' building, which was destroyed.

Byrs said 40 search-and-rescue teams from around the world had started arriving in Haiti to look for survivors trapped inside collapsed buildings. But to find and save people, the rescuers need heavy machinery to lift tons of rubble — equipment that teams from places like Britain and Iceland have, but others don't.

Haiti has virtually none of those machines but aid workers were trying to get some into Haiti from the Dominican Republic, Charles Vincent of the World Food Program said.

"We'll have to see how that works out," said Vincent. "The U.S. military will also be bringing in some equipment."

The desperate situation has aid groups fearing a surge in lawlessness, Vincent said. U.N. peacekeepers are patrolling to try to control looting but they are dealing with many deaths and injuries of their own, he added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its forensic specialists would help ensure that bodies of the quake victims are recovered and identified for the benefit of their families.

The Red Cross set up a special Web site to help Haitians find their missing loved ones, and after just a few hours, over 5,000 people had already registered on it, many from the United States and Canada.

Aid was delivered or promised from many countries, including Brazil, the European Union, Britain, Germany, Israel, France, Switzerland, South Korea and Canada. China dispatched a chartered plane carrying 10 tons of tents, food, medical equipment and sniffer dogs, along with a 60-member earthquake relief team who worked in China's own 2008 earthquake, which killed some 90,000 people.

The Red Cross estimated that some 3 million people in Haiti will require aid, ranging from shelter to food and clean water, and said many Haitians could need relief aid for a full year.

Aid workers base such estimates on previous disasters that appear to be the same size, said Pablo Medina, operations coordinator of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"At this very early hour, with such limited amount of information, what you have to do is base your calls on past experience on previous earthquakes, on media reports and on information on the ground," Medina told the AP.

Initial planning is conservative and is normally revised upward as more information becomes available. This time, the Red Cross decided to send 100 experts to Haiti.

"That's fairly big," Medina said.

Associated Press Writers Frank Jordans in Geneva, Meera Selva in London, Tini Tranh in Beijing, Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Tran Van Minh in Danang, Vietnam, and Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila contributed to this report.

Cambodia's genocide court wraps up Khmer Rouge investigation

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AFP January 14, 2010 10:03PM Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Print Email Share Add to Digg Add to Add to Facebook Add to Kwoff Add to Myspace Add to Newsvine What are these? CAMBODIA'S UN-backed genocide court announced today it had completed investigations against surviving senior leaders of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.

The five leaders of the hardline communist regime charged in case 002 are currently being held at the court while the tribunal prepares to give a verdict in its first trial of one of the detainees, former prison chief Duch.

"The notification of the conclusion of the investigation today is clearly a milestone in the judicial process in case 002," tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said.

Lawyers now have 30 days to request further investigations and judges hope to issue an indictment in the case by September. The earliest a second trial could start is the end of this year, he said.

Former Khmer Rouge follower Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith are all being held for genocide and other charges in the case, alongside Duch.

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, was already tried for his role as head of the regime's Phnom Penh-based torture centre S-21. Final arguments were heard in November.

Investigative judges would decide in their indictment whether all five suspects would be tried, Mr Olsen said.

After several years of haggling between Cambodia and the UN, the tribunal was created in 2006 to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation or overwork during the regime's 1975-1979 rule, which emptied Cambodia's cities and forced the population to work on collective farms in its bid to forge a communist utopia.

Next Khmer Rouge trial possible by end of year

Cambodian villagers, guided by Public Affairs Chief Reach Sambath, walk through a gate outside the courtroom before the UN-backed tribunal of Kaing Guek Eav, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Associated Press
Date: Thursday Jan. 14, 2010

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The second trial to be held by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal may begin by the end of the year, a spokesman said Thursday.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the UN-backed tribunal, said the chamber's investigation into four former top leaders of the communist group has been concluded.

He said the co-investigating judges are seeking to issue their formal indictment by September, and that the earliest possible time for the trial would be the end of the year.

The tribunal last year tried its first defendant, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. Its verdict is expected in the next few months.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, commanded S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and taken away to be killed.

The five suspects being held for the second trial are the Khmer Rouge's top ideologist, Nuon Chea; former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; his wife, former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith; and former head of state Khieu Samphan. They face charges of genocide in addition to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Olsen described the conclusion of the investigation into their cases "a milestone."

A tribunal press release said the investigation collected tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence and took more than 800 statements from witnesses, complainants and the charged persons.

Khmer Rouge tribunal concludes pre-trial probe into 'big fish'

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PHNOM PENH, Jan. 14 (AP) - (Kyodo)—A U.N.-backed tribunal announced Thursday it has concluded its judicial investigation in a case in which charges have been laid against five surviving former Khmer Rouge leaders.

In a statement, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said the judicial investigation into alleged crimes committed by the five between April 1975 and January 1979 took two and a half years to complete.

During the course of the investigation, it said, tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence were compiled and more than 800 statements were taken from witnesses, civil parties and those charged.

The case, which will be the second taken up by the tribunal since it was established in 2006, concerns Ieng Sary, who was the Khmer Rouge's foreign minister, Khieu Samphan, nominal leader, Nuon Chea, chief ideologue, Ieng Thirith, wife of Ieng Sary, and Kaing Guek Ien, known as Duch, chief of the Tuol Sleng torture center.

A hearing of the first case, which concerned only Duch, was concluded in November last year. The verdict is still due.

It remains to be seen if Duch will be tried along with the other four former Khmer Rouge leaders in the second trial, which is expected to start next year at the earliest.

All the five leaders are charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and national crimes of torture, homicide and religious persecution.

The Khmer Rouge is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians and others in the late 1970s.

Thaksin tells followers to stay put

Published on January 15, 2010
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Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will make his third visit to Cambodia later this month, Cambodia's media reported yesterday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Thaksin's visit as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government had nothing to do with political tensions in Thailand, where the Supreme Court will rule on Thaksin's asset case in late-February.

"Thaksin's coming or going out of Cambodia is not strange. It is a normal thing," Hor Namhong was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"We are absolutely not interfering in Thai internal affairs. Whatever colour T-shirts they have is up to them."

Thaksin said on his Twitter site that his supporters should not visit him in Phnom Penh just now as he is still in Dubai.

"Some want to see me in Cambodia - but hang on. I'm now still in Dubai, please do not go [ahead of] me," Thaksin said.

UNPO Condemns Forcible Deportation of Uyghurs and Hmong

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

UNPO and 67 global organisations have issued a joint statement calling for Asian states to reaffirm commitment to safeguarding asylum seekers threatened with a return to torture and persecution.

To read the joint statement either read below or click here.

We, the undersigned, condemn the actions in the last days of 2009 of some Asian governments in requesting, encouraging and performing the forcible deportation (refoulement) of refugees and asylum seekers from Cambodia and Thailand.

We demand that all governments in the Asia-Pacific region reaffirm the importance of the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees.

We further call on these governments and all governments in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve to make 2010 a year in which the basic rights of refugees and asylum seekers are recognised, including the fundamental principle of non-refoulement.

Uighurs from Cambodia

On December 19, 2009, in advance of a visit by Vice President Xi Jinping of China, the government of Cambodia forcibly repatriated 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China, before their claims for asylum had been fully examined. The forced repatriation occurred despite the protests of the international community, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and civil society. Cambodia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have reported that Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority, predominantly Muslim and living mostly in western China, are facing various forms of mistreatment and persecution which has intensified since the crackdown by the Chinese government that follows the July 2009 riots in Urumqi.

China thanked the Cambodian government for the forced repatriation and two days later signed 14 commercial deals with Cambodia worth approximately 1 billion US Dollars.

Amnesty International has documented past cases of Uighur asylum seekers forcibly returned to China who were detained, reportedly tortured and, in some cases, sentenced to death and executed.

Lao Hmong from Thailand
On December 28, 2009, the government of Thailand forcibly repatriated to Laos about 4,000 Lao Hmong from Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun, as well as 158 Lao Hmong detained in the Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre since November 2006. Amongst them were 87 children, some born in detention. The 158 Lao Hmong were recognised by UNHCR as being in need of international protection; they had already been accepted for resettlement by several countries but had been denied departure from Thailand. UNHCR was not permitted access to the larger group in Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun to determine their status.

In a statement dated 31 December 2009 protesting these deportations, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, stated, “the fact that no independent and reliable pre-screening mechanism is in place to assess whether these individuals would be at risk of torture violates international human rights norms.” This statement was jointly released with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, Jorge A. Bustamante,

Until now, no NGO or UN agencies have been granted access to monitor the deportees back in Laos.

In recent years, forcibly repatriated Lao Hmong have been subject to disappearance, imprisonment, forced re-education, and physical and sexual assault. The Hmong population has been subject to persecution by Lao authorities, including arbitrary arrests and detention, and the suppression of religious freedom.

Principle of Non-Refoulement

We remind the governments of China, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and other governments in the Asia-Pacific region that under international law, the forcible deportation (refoulement) of an individual to a place where they will be exposed to a real risk of serious harm is absolutely forbidden under both customary international law and under the treaty provisions of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We also remind these governments that under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations, the Statute of the UNHCR and the terms of the memoranda of agreement that they have signed with the UNHCR that they are bound to cooperate with it and to facilitate its efforts to ensure access and the protection of refugees.

We recall the numerous Conclusions on International Protection of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR, of which the governments of China and Thailand are members, which call on states to “scrupulously respect the principle of non-refoulement”. We further recall that the Executive Committee adopted these conclusions by consent and that the governments of China and Thailand have on multiple occasions agreed to abide by them.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the following governments to take the following specific actions:

• The government of Cambodia:
- To recognize the right to seek asylum of all Uighur asylum seekers;
- To cease their refoulement before a proper determination of their status; and
- To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

• The government of China:

- To provide UNHCR with access to forcibly repatriated Uighur asylum seekers;
- To cease making demands of other Asian states to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers; and
- To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

• The government of Thailand:

- To recognize the right to seek asylum of all Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers;
- To cease the refoulement of the Lao Hmong;
- To issue exit permits to those Lao Hmong who have been accepted for resettlement in third countries; and
- To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

• The government of Laos:

- To provide UNHCR with access to forcibly repatriated Lao Hmong;
- To cease making demands of other Asian states to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers
- To make all necessary arrangements for those individuals who had already been accepted for resettlement in a third country prior to their return to Laos to be expeditiously processed and depart from Laos

• All governments in the Asia-Pacific region:

- To respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement;
- To cease requesting, condoning, cooperating with, carrying out or otherwise allowing the refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees, and
- To respect the principle that the granting of asylum is a peaceful and humanitarian act and should not be regarded as an unfriendly act by any state.

We call on all governments in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve to fully respect the rights of all refugees and asylum seekers under international law as of 2010, including by renouncing the practice of refoulement.

This statement was written by members of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and has been endorsed by the following organisations:


1. Amnesty International Australia
2. Australian National Committee on Refugee Women
3. Centre for Refugee Research
4. Refugee Council of Australia
5. Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service of South Australia


6. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)
7. Odhikar
8. Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP)


9. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
10. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
11. Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association (KKKHRA)
12. The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)


13. Canadian Council for Refugees
14. Fellowship Christian Reformed Church Refugee Committee
15. Quaker Committee for Refugees

16. Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights

Hong Kong

17. Amnesty International Hong Kong
18. Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre


19. Human Rights Working Group - Indonesia
20. Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Jakarta (The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute)


21. Amnesty International Japan


22. Frontiers Ruwad Association


23. Aliran Kesedaran Negara
24. Amnesty International Malaysia
25. Bar Council of Malaysia
26. Health Equity Initiatives
27. Kumpulan ACTS Berhad
28. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
29. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
30. The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)


31. INHURED International

New Zealand

32. Amnesty International New Zealand
33. New Zealand National Refugee Network


34. Pakistan International Human Rights Organization


35. Amnesty International Philippines
36. Centre for Migrant Advocacy

South Africa

37. Lawyers for Human Rights

South Korea

38. Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group (GONGGAM)
39. Korean House for International Solidarity

Sri Lanka

40. South Asian Network for Refugees, IDPs & Migrants, Sri Lanka (SANRIM)


41. Tibetan UN Advocacy (TUNA)


42. Taiwan Association for Human Rights


43. Amnesty International Thailand
44. US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – Thailand


45. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Refugee Advocacy and Support Program

United Kingdom

46. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
47. The Equal Rights Trust

United States of America

48. Citizens Against Trafficking
49. Defense Forum Foundation
50. Jubilee Campaign


51. Advocates International
52. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
53. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
54. Borneo Child Aid Society/ Humana
55. Caram Asia
56. Chin Human Rights Organization
57. Christian Solidarity Worldwide - Southeast Asia
58. Committee for Asian Women
59. ESCR-Asia
60. Fahamu Refugee Programme, Fahamu Trust
61. Forum Asia
62. Human Rights Without Frontiers
63. International Detention Coalition
64. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
65. Pax Romana
66. The Arakan Project
67. UNANIMA International
68. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)

Highdown ride for children in Cambodia

Highdown School headteacher Tim Royle in training for the charity bike ride across Vietnam and Cambodia, which he and other teachers are taking part in for HopeAsia. From left, Harry Santer, Emma Reynolds, Nicci Burns, Noel Denney and Gill Pollock

By Laura Herbert
January 14, 2010

via CAAI News Media
Teachers at an Emmer Green secondary school are swapping the classroom for the open road as they pedal their way to raising cash for charity.

Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre headteacher Tim Royle is one of 18 people connected with the school taking part in the 450km cycle ride from Vietnam to Cambodia next month.

He said: “We are raising money for HopeAsia which supports about 50 to 60 children in an orphanage in Cambodia.”

The charity was set up to fund the orphanage and provide food, water, clothing, medical care, education and a safe home for the children.

Mr Royle said: “So far we have raised £31,655 but I think £150,000 is what we should be aiming for.

“Students and others who are not going on the trip have been raising money with a very successful fashion show that raised £1,000. We are very grateful to parents and businesses that gave clothes to the show.

“We have held car boot sales, non-uniform days and music and drama productions as part of the fundraising.”

The team includes Mr Royle’s assistant Nicci Burns, deputy headteacher Emma Reynolds, learning support assistant Gill Pollock, music teacher Harry Santer and design and technology teacher Noel Denney.

Mr Royle added: “We have all been training hard as for the first three days we have to cycle 60 miles, but the weather hasn’t really helped at the moment.

“It’s going well and some of those involved have said how much fitter they feel.

“We will be cycling from the capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Northern Cambodia to see how the money will help.

“With the funds we hope to build a classroom or provide some accommodation making it safer and more secure for them. It’s about giving the children there a chance they might not have had.”

The team will head off for the trip during the February half-term holiday leaving for Vietnam on Friday, February 12.

To sponsor the group visit

Haiti quake: Survivors struggle while awaiting aid

People rest under blankets outdoors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake January 12, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Marek/American Red Cross/Handout

A young girl lies on a cushion in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Frantic Haitians awaiting a global rescue effort clawed through the ruins of their capital seeking survivors from an earthquake that left streets strewn with corpses and a death toll that may top 100,000. (AFP/Erika Santelices)

Passers-by observe the covered corpses of those killed by a massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince. With thousands of people missing, dazed survivors in torn clothes wandered through the rubble as more than 30 aftershocks rocked the ramshackle and impoverished capital. (AFP/Juan Barreto)

More than 100,000 people were feared dead in Haiti after an earthquake decimated the capital Port-au-Prince. Survivors faced a second night on streets still littered with the dead. (AFPTV)

via CAAI News Media

By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Turning pickup trucks into ambulances and doors into stretchers, Haitians are frantically struggling to save those injured in this week's earthquake while hoping foreign governments will quickly send in aid.

Help began arriving early Thursday when an Air China plane carrying a Chinese search-and-rescue team, medics and aid landed at Port-au-Prince airport, and more than 50 people in orange jumpsuits got out accompanied by trained dogs.

The U.S. and other nations said they were sending food, water, medical supplies to assist the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, where the international Red Cross estimated 3 million people — a third of the population — may need emergency relief.

In the streets of the capital, survivors set up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food being scavenged from the rubble.

"This is much worse than a hurricane," said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctor's assistant working at a makeshift triage center set up in a hotel parking lot. "There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."

If there were any organized efforts to distribute food or water, they were not visible Wednesday.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders treated wounded at two hospitals that withstood the quake and set up tent clinics elsewhere to replace its damaged facilities. Cuba, which already had hundreds of doctors in Haiti, treated injured in field hospitals.

President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort including the military and civilian emergency teams from across the U.S. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was expected to arrive off the coast Thursday and the Navy said the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had been ordered to sail as soon as possible with a 2,000-member Marine unit.

"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.

A U.S. military assessment team was the first to arrive, to determine Haiti's needs.

The global relief effort picked up steam Thursday with a British flight carrying a government assessment team and 71 rescue specialists along with heavy equipment arriving in the neighboring Dominican Republic. The crew prepared to head to Haiti. A Los Angeles County Fire Department 72-member search team left for Haiti late Wednesday.

The United Nations released $10 million from its emergency funds, even as U.N. forces in Haiti struggled with their own losses. The U.N. headquarters building collapsed, and at least 16 personnel are confirmed dead, with up to 150 still missing, including mission head Hedi Annabi of Tunisia and his chief deputy, Luis Carlos da Costa.

"We'll be using whatever roads are passable to get aid to Port-au-Prince, and if possible we'll bring helicopters in," said Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the U.N. food agency in Geneva.

There was no estimate on how many people were killed by Tuesday's magnitude-7 quake. Haitian President Rene Preval said the toll could be in the thousands. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press the number could be 500,000, but conceded that nobody really knew.

"Let's say that it's too early to give a number," Preval said told CNN.

Survivors used sledgehammers and their bare hands to try to find victims in the rubble. In Petionville, next to the capital, people dug through a collapsed shopping center, tossing aside mattresses and office supplies. More than a dozen cars were entombed, including a U.N. truck.

Nearby, about 200 survivors, including many children, huddled in a theater parking lot using sheets to rig makeshift tents and shield themselves from the sun in 90-degree heat.

Police officers carried the injured in their pickup trucks. Wisnel Occilus, a 24-year-old student, was wedged between two other survivors in a truck bed headed to a police station. He was in an English class when the magnitude-7 quake struck at 4:53 p.m. and the building collapsed.

"The professor is dead. Some of the students are dead, too," said Occilus, who suspected he had several broken bones. "Everything hurts."

Other survivors carried injured to hospitals in wheelbarrows and on stretchers fashioned from doors.

Bodies lay everywhere in Port-au-Prince: tiny children next to schools, women in rubble-strewn streets with stunned expressions frozen on their faces, men hidden beneath plastic tarps and cotton sheets.

Balancing suitcases and belongings on their heads, people streamed on foot into the Haitian countryside, where wooden and cinderblock shacks showed little sign of damage. Ambulances and U.N. trucks raced in the opposite direction, toward Port-au-Prince.

Calls from victims seeking help from emergency services weren't getting through because systems that connect different phone networks were not working, said officials from a telecommunications provider in Haiti.

Calls were being placed sometimes 15 to 20 times from the same phone, which was "painful to watch," said Jyoti Mahurkar-Thombre, Alcatel-Lucent's general manager of wireless voice.

About 3,000 police and international peacekeepers cleared debris, directed traffic and maintained security in the capital. But law enforcement was stretched thin even before the quake and would be ill-equipped to deal with major unrest. The U.N.'s 9,000-member peacekeeping force sent patrols across the capital's streets while securing the airport, port and main buildings.

Looting began immediately after the quake, with people seen carrying food from collapsed buildings. Inmates were reported to have escaped from the damaged main prison in Port au Prince, said Elisabeth Byrs, a U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman in Geneva.

It was unclear whether the U.S. ground troops heading this way would be used for security operations as well as humanitarian efforts.

Port-au-Prince's ruined buildings fell on both the poor and the prominent: The body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found in the ruins of his office, said the Rev. Pierre Le Beller at Miot's order, the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in Landivisiau, France.

Haitian Senate President Kelly Bastien was rescued from the collapsed Parliament building and taken to a hospital in the neighboring Dominican Republic. The president of Haiti's Citibank was also among the survivors being treated there, said Rafael Sanchez Espanol, director of the Homs Hospital in Santiago.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to the hospital at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the military has been detaining suspected terrorists.

The U.S. Embassy had no confirmed reports of deaths among the estimated 40,000 to 45,000 Americans who live in Haiti, but many were struggling to find a way out of the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has launched a Web site to help Haitians find loved ones missing in the quake.

Robert Zimmerman, deputy head of the group's tracing unit, said people in Haiti and abroad can use the site to register the names of missing relatives.

As dusk fell Wednesday, thousands of people gathered on blankets outside the crumpled presidential palace, including hundreds of women who waved their hands and sang hymns in a joyful, even defiant tone.

Ricardo Dervil, 29, said he decided to join the crowd because he was worried about aftershocks and was tired of seeing dead bodies.

"I was listening to the radio and they were saying to stay away from buildings," he said. "All I was doing was walking the street and seeing dead people."


Associated Press contributors to this story: Jonathan Katz and Jennifer Kay in Port-au-Prince; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Frank Jordans and Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva; Matthew Lee and Julie Pace in Washington; Jamey Keaton in Paris; Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo; Alicia Chang in Los Angeles, and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana.

Is The World Set for Another Rice Crisis?

Written by Our Correspondent
Thursday, 14 January 2010

via CAAI News Media

"This year, I will not have enough rice to eat for the whole year," says Kong Chanthorn, a rice farmer in Srayov Kharng Tbong village in Cambodia's Kompong Thom province. "I am afraid I cannot earn the money to buy rice to support my families because this year its price is too high."

Chanthorn is not alone. The global price of rice, a staple for half the world's population, is rising inexorably again, up more than 25 percent in recent months, stoked by Philippine and Indian import demand although not to the stratospheric levels of late 2007 and early 2008. At that time the price rose from about US$300 per metric ton to as much as US$1,100. Prices later fell back to about US$400 as government panic subsided across the region and bans on export were lifted, and as planting pushed up stocks.

Cambodia's rising prices were precipitated by the onset last September of Typhoon Ketsana. On Wednesday Pov Samy, the secretary general of Cambodia's National Committee for Disaster Management, said Ketsana had caused flooding in eight of the country's 24 provinces and damaged public and private buildings to the tune of US$153 million. A further US$131 million is needed to restore the buildings' hardware, he said.

But the cost to rice farmers suffering lower production yields and higher food prices remains unknown, not only in Cambodia but in other areas of Asia as well. The damage from the typhoon, plus the potential of falling stocks from a recurrence of the El Nino weather phenomenon, raises the risk of skyrocketing prices.

Chanthon, 33, says he lost half the annual yield from his rice paddy from Ketsana. And although villagers in his area have received seeds and food help from non-governmental organizations, they have not been enough. "Some villagers have to catch fish to earn some money to buy milled rice," he said. "My daughter's rice field is all gone and my son-in-law has had to fish."

"Flooding from Ketsana has pushed the price of rice up in our community," Chanthorn. "Last year during the same period rice only cost 9000 riel [$1.75] for a basket. Now the price is near 13,000 riel [$2.10]."

Food security has become a major political issue in Asia in recent years due to imbalances in the demand-supply chain and hoarding by national governments. In response to the problems, the World Food Program has initiated a number of emergency projects, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) last month launched a US$300 million fund-raising campaign for the region.

"Rice is fundamental not just to Asian economies but also Asian culture," IRRI Director General Dr Robert Zeigler said in a statement at the launch of the fund. "There is no doubt that rice research can help. For four decades, rice production has steadily increased in Asia, pushed ahead by new varieties developed through research that has helped ensure enough rice for all Asians.

"What we need more than anything is to make the necessary investments, especially with the looming threat of climate change," he added. "After all, in Asia, rice is life."

New statistics released by HSBC show that rice production could fall 20 percent this season due to a rage of mainly weather-related factors such as typhoons, flooding and droughts. As a result, global rice prices have surged to US$610 per metric ton. Along with the anticipated return of El Nino in 2010, the drop in yield could spell trouble for a region increasingly important to world economic growth although there is some debate over stocks.

Typhoon Ondoy, as Ketsana was known in the Philippines, severely damaged Filipino rice production, resulting in record buys of 202 million tons to build adequate stockpiles for 2010. Reuters reported on Jan. 13 that Philippines unmilled rice output is expected to hit a record this year, however, and that the El Nino effect expected to be mild. Bloomberg, however, quoted Philippine Agriculture Undersecretary Emmanuel Paras as saying as much as 20 to 20 percent of the country's rice growing regions could be affected by the weather phenomenon.

Some 1.5 million people affected by food shortages are beneficiaries of a $56 million WFP project in the Philippines. Running through June 2010, the program will attempt to trigger recovery through agricultural projects and support. However, the Philippines program is facing a funding shortfall of $33 million. Further emergency donations are needed in Cambodia, where 25,000 households received 1,250 tons of rice for the month of September to avoid starvation, but have been left to fend for themselves since.

"Food assistance provided by [UN programs] during crises is aimed at saving lives and ensuring people do not exhaust their meager resources to survive the ordeal," said Mike Huggins, WFP spokesperson for Asia. "By supporting people during tough times, they are better able to recover their livelihoods and get back on their feet when conditions improve."

In his December report for HSBC, "What's Cooking with Rice?," economist Frederic Neumann noted that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts that global rice production in 2010 will be below global demand for the first time in five years. At the same time, stocks among major exporters are running about 20 percent below normal, he said — adding that the numbers may even underestimate the problem.

In 2008, continually low stocks and steadily growing demand "set up the market for a price spike that ultimately became self-perpetuating," Neumann wrote. "In a major review of the episode, the USDA recently concluded that hoarding and emergency trade restrictions imposed by governments were the main driver for the run-up in rice prices."

None of these underlying agricultural problems have disappeared in the past year. Following its driest monsoon season for 37 years, the Indian government is expecting its summer-sown rice output to fall by some 18 percent, forcing it to become a net importer for the first time in nearly two decades in order to cope, the USDA said.

"Rising rice prices should generally be positive for rice farmers across the region as it raises their income," Neumann said in an email exchange. "However, lower income groups tend to be more negatively affected. In a sense, therefore, rising rice prices represent a redistribution of income."

After two devastating typhoons and some of the heaviest rains in almost 40 years, the Philippines is also suffering massive production shortages that are expected to increase the country's import demand by 25 percent. The government was forced to revise up its emergency operations budget to provide for an additional 44,628 metric tons of food aid and extend the emergency operations plan through June of 2010.

The problem of food security and pricing is expected to increase hoarding by individual countries that could put at risk the consumption driven economic recovery of the region. This would exacerbate an already precarious situation for developing countries weathering the global economic recession.