Wednesday, 7 April 2010

China Continues to Refuse to Become a Member of the Mekong River Commission – Tuesday, 6.4.2010
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Posted on 7 April 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 659

“Phnom Penh: China continues to refuse to become a member of the Mekong River Commission, but said that it will continue good cooperation with the Commission.

“The Minister of Meteorology and Water Resources, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, said so in the afternoon of 5 April 2010 at the Phnom Penh International Airport, after accompanying Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen to attend the first Mekong River Commission summit from 4 to 5 April 2010 in Thailand.

“Mr. Lim Kean Hor said, ‘All member countries of the Mekong River Commission try their utmost to encourage China and Myanmar to become members of the Commission. We have been doing this work for many years. But recently, the Undersecretary of State of Foreign Affairs of China announced that China will keep on cooperating with the Mekong River Commission to exchange information when the water gates are opened or closed during the rainy and the dry seasons etc…’

“Previously, there had been criticism about the bad impact of the construction of hydro-electric dams at the upper regions of the Mekong River in China, making the level of the downstream water shallower.

“Mr. Lim Kean Hor added that the level of the water becomes shallower because of climate change. Recently, there have been droughts at the upstream countries, like in China, Laos, and Thailand. The level of rain dropped and thus, the level of the water of the river dropped also. Therefore, the construction of the hydro-electric dams must not be considered as the root problem. He went on to say that for the construction of each dam, there had been very careful studies. Independent assessors were selected to assess the environmental impact of the construction of hydro-electric dams in the upper regions.

“Also, Mr. Lim Kean Hor talked about the participation in the International Mekong River Commission summit held in Hua Hin in Thailand, saying that the prime ministers of four member countries, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and of China were present at the meeting. It was the first summit since the Commission was created 15 years ago. The summit focused on how to sustainably develop the Mekong River Basin in the four countries.

“Mr. Lim Kean Hor went on to say that during the summit, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen met with the Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and China supports and encourages cooperation with Cambodia.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5169, 6.4.2010

Note – Additional Information

To promote, support, cooperate and coordinate in the development of the full potential of sustainable benefits to all riparian States and the prevention of wasteful use of Mekong River Basin waters, with emphasis and preference on joint and/or basin-wide development projects and basin programs through the formulation of a basin development plan, that would be used to identify, categorize and prioritize the projects and programs to seek assistance for and to implement at the basin level.

This declaration of principles is supported by practical requirements, by which all Member States committed themselves not to act independently, but in mutual consultation; the Dialogue Partners China and Myanmar did not make these commitments. The result is that the Member States can only administer together, what comes flowing down the Mekong River – after the upstream countries have decided themselves how much water may be used for hydro-electricity or for agricultural irrigation – that is not under a similar commitment for rules based cooperation.

Notification: Timely providing information by a riparian to the Joint Committee on its proposed use of water according to the format, content and procedures set forth in the Rules for Water Utilization and Inter-Basin Diversions.

Prior consultation: Timely notification plus additional data and information to the Joint Committee as provided in the Rules for Water Utilization and Inter-Basin Diversion, that would allow the other member riparians to discuss and evaluate the impact of the proposed use upon their uses of water and any other affects, which is the basis for arriving at an agreement. Prior consultation is neither a right to veto the use nor unilateral right to use water by any riparian without taking into account other riparians’ rights.

Proposed use: Any proposal for a definite use of the waters of the Mekong River system by any riparian, excluding domestic and minor uses of water not having a significant impact on mainstream flows.

In addition to the data and information required for Notification, the notifying State shall timely provide the Mekong River Commission Joint Committee with available and additional technical data and information on its proposed use of waters for an evaluation of impacts by the other riparian States.

The Malaysian News Agency Bernama reported

PHNOM PENH, 6 April 2010 (Bernama) – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that blames on China over droughts of the Mekong River is baseless and the global climate change is to blame instead.

Hun Sen, who attended last week’s Mekong Summit in Hua Hin of Thailand along with other leaders and scientists, said: “They (some countries) are blaming China while China itself is being victimized by droughts.

“.. China’s Lancang River has no water, either,” the Xinhua news agency cited Hun Sen as saying here. “The upper part of China’s Yunnan province is also facing severe droughts, worse than Cambodia,” he said. “The level of water in the Mekong River totally depends on rain and the level of water fluctuates with the climate change,” said Hun Sen.

“I am not defending China, but I am saying this only to provide justice for China,” Hun Sen said, adding that he had a separate talk with China and Laos on the sidelines of the Mekong Summit in Thailand.

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Hun Sen's U-turn marks tough time for Thaksin

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Published: 7/04/2010

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's attempt at rapprochement between his country and Thailand was widely expected by foreign relations observers. It was only a matter of timing, they say.

Hun Sen told Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban at the weekend that he would no longer allow fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to use his country as a base to attack the Thai government.

The Cambodian prime minister said he could distinguish between personal relations and the national interest, and asked Thailand to put aside the past and think about ways to help restore relations between the two countries.

Such comments stand in sharp contrast with the position taken last year by Hun Sen.

Relations initially turned sour, and animosity was given free rein, after Thailand opposed Phnom Penh's attempt to list the Preah Vihear temple on the shared border as a World Heritage site.

Things then took a decided turn for the worse in November when Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as economic adviser to himself and his country. Both countries recalled their ambassadors.

Hun Sen said he could not work with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his foreign minister, Kasit Piromya.

But such ideas seemed to have been forgotten on Sunday when he walked over and embraced Mr Kasit after a dinner in Hua Hin where he was attending the Mekong River Commission summit. Hun Sen said he and the foreign minister were old friends.

Why the shift in attitude?

Thaksin has not made use of Cambodia as a base for his video calls to red shirt followers even though it is an apparent safe haven after Hun Sen granted him immunity from extradition to Thailand late last year.

Instead, he has hopped from country to country - from the United Arab Emirates to Montenegro, from Sweden to Russia - all the time risking the ignominy of being expelled in line with the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry's requests for him not to be given any international safe haven.

There is certainly something amiss in the relationship between the Cambodian leader and Thaksin.

One Thai diplomatic source hinted that the change was no accident, but the result of a gradual process that had been engineered through diplomatic channels.

It could also be a case of the Cambodian leader realising that Thaksin could lose the game he has been playing and this could cost Hun Sen a loss of face.

It is said Hun Sen would dearly like to see a return of his country's ambassador to Thailand.

Whatever the reasons for the rapprochement, Thailand would be wise not to rush in before responding to these signals.

Any formal attempt to resume this troubled relationship must be conducted wholly in the interests of the two neighbouring countries. Such efforts must be sure not to serve any particular individual such as Thaksin.

Moe Alkaff brings funny to Cambodia

Moe Alkaff brings funny to Cambodia
ENTERTAINERS WITH A HEART: (Above) Magician Alex Tan (left) and Moe Alkaff making the kids laugh with their magic tricks. (Below) Alkaff in a group shot with kids from a village in Siem Reap. --PICTURES COURTESY OF MOE ALKAFF

He performs magic to entertain kids in Aids homes and orphanages there,4136,235956,00.html

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By Veena Bharwani
April 07, 2010

THE frail Cambodian boy was lying motionless in bed, crying in pain at a home in Phnom Penh.

He was dying of Aids.

Unable to watch the pitiful five-year-old cry any more, local funnyman Moe Alkaff went to the boy's bedside and started making funny faces.

Seeing his antics, the boy's wails turned into laughter.

The 47-year-old veteran entertainer, along with seven friends, met the boy and many others during his mission trip to Cambodia between March 21 and 29.

Apart from donating food, money and medicine to the poor, Alkaff did what he does best - pull on the comedian hat to make the kids laugh and forget their pain.

In all, Alkaff and his friends visited 12 floating villages, Aids homes and orphanages in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Although he met many children, it was the little boy with Aids that he remembers the most.

Alkaff, who was the host of the long-running local gag show Gotcha in the 90s, said: 'I can't get this poor boy out of my head. He was crying unbearably for a while. He was so ill that he couldn't move at all. His head was turned to one side.'

But Alkaff said that seconds after he made the boy laugh and left the room, the boy burst into tears again.

'How can this stuff not bother anyone? It was tough but as much as possible, we wanted to make the kids laugh,' said Alkaff, who lives in Colorado but works out of Singapore.

Alkaff, who runs his events company Moezik locally, also hosts events in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Middle East.

'Food is temporary and will run out. But what we can offer these kids is a few laughs.

'This will make them smile and give them hope and will last a longer time than food,' he said.

Alkaff and his friends performed magic, danced, somersaulted and played games with the kids they met.

'The kids didn't understand English, so we just used actions to make them laugh,' said Moe, who just completed filming Ice Star Asia - an ice-skating version of Dancing With The Stars - at the end of December.

In the reality TV show, which will be broadcast to regional television channels, celebrities are paired with professional skaters.

Alkaff is the oldest member in the reality TV contest.

Eye-opening experience

Magician Alex Tan, 34, who travelled with Moe and the rest, said the trip was an eye-opener for him.

'I have been doing magic for 13 years and I have never seen kids like magic the way they did in Cambodia.

'We are just so fortunate in Singapore.'

Alkaff said the idea for the mission trip came about when he saw photos of his close friend, Ms Serene Herman, a Singaporean, on a mission trip in Cambodia.

He said: 'The pictures touched me. I had never seen so many poor people up close. You know, for Singaporeans, the idea seems very far away.'

Alkaff and his friends raised nearly $14,000 through a charity dinner and just from asking for 'loose change from friends'.

He said he plans to go on mission trips twice a year now.

'Some of the kids didn't want us to leave. They kept holding our hands and grabbing our feet before we left,' he said.

Major quake hits Indonesia, Thailand raises tsunami alert

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JAKARTA: A major 7.8-magnitude quake hit Indonesia’s northern Sumatra early Wednesday, US seismologists said, triggering a tsunami alert in nearby Thailand but no immediate reports of damage or injuries

The quake struck at a depth of 46 kilometres (29 miles), just off northern Sumatra, at 5:15 am (2215 GMT Tuesday), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Thailand warned people in coastal areas to evacuate to a safe place.

The National Disaster Warning Centre there said there was a high risk of a tsunami on the Andaman Coast, which was battered by an Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed an estimated 5,400 people in Thailand alone.

Since then, Thailand has installed a high-tech warning system designed to reassure tourists and businesses that the country’s beaches are safe.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a watch for local tsunamis in Sumatra, saying sea levels indicated a tsunami was generated, but it said a widespread destructive tsunami was not expected.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

A massive tsunami hit Indonesia and other countries in the Indian Ocean rim in 2004, killing about 220,000 people, most of them in Aceh province in northern Sumatra.

A 7.6-magnitude quake in West Sumatra province in September last year killed about 1,000 people, according to official figures. -- AFP

Thai protesters clash with riot police

Anti-government demonstrators walk near a police line Tuesday, April 6, 2010, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Anti-government demonstrators briefly engaged in a pushing match with police, pelting them with eggs and water bottles before backing off. Protest leaders have defied a government order to vacate the commercial heart of Bangkok as they try to pressure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to relinquish power. (AP Photo/Wason Waintchakorn)

Anti-government protesters use barriers to push back riot policemen during a demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Thousands of anti-government demonstrators clashed with Thai police and military troops trying to prevent them from leaving from the capital's commercial district to stage protests elsewhere in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai soldiers walk after they were forced to withdraw from a street past protesters who support ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during an anti-government demonstration Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of anti-government demonstrators clashed with Thai police and military troops trying to prevent them from leaving from the capital's commercial district Tuesday to stage protests elsewhere in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

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By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer – Tue Apr 6

BANGKOK – Thousands of anti-government demonstrators clashed with Thai police and military troops trying to prevent them from leaving from the capital's commercial district Tuesday to stage protests elsewhere in Bangkok.

The demonstrators pushed against police lines and pelted the riot squads with eggs and plastic water bottles along a tree-lined boulevard in front of the Four Seasons Hotel.

Protest leaders have defied a government order to vacate the commercial heart of Bangkok as they try to pressure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to relinquish power. They vowed Tuesday to stage convoys through 11 main city roads the administration has declared off-limits to them.

"We will teach the government a lesson — that every road belongs to the people," said a protest leader, Nattawut Saikua.

About 1,000 riot police and soldiers faced off against a similar number of protesters as luxury hotels in the area barricaded their doors, guests taking photographs from a safe distance.

Some of the protesters clambered atop police trucks parked across the road to block the demonstrators. The light overhead railway that runs above Rajdamri Road was shut down by the operators.

"We were going to see a movie," said Les Stanley, a 55-year-old Australian resident in Bangkok. "Oh well, this is more interesting than a movie."

The government restated that it wanted to solve the crisis peacefully.

"Under the current climate, many citizens wouldn't want violence to take place or confrontation. And we've been mindful of that concern," government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn said as the clashes began.

Business leaders have called for an end to the crisis, predicting even greater shocks to the economy and tourism if it persists.

More than a dozen shopping malls were set to close their doors for the fourth day in Bangkok's luxury shopping district, which includes five-star hotels like the Four Seasons, the Hyatt and InterContinental. Guests at the hotels there were checking out in greater numbers.

"The protests have hit thousands of entrepreneurs as well as their staff and employees because (the area) is a prime shopping and tourist location," said a joint statement by three leading business associations in the district, which estimated losses in the area since the occupation began at up to 900 million baht ($28 million).

The "Red Shirt" protesters, mostly farmers from impoverished provincial areas who have characterized their movement as a class war against the Bangkok elite, have sworn not to let up their pressure until Abhisit steps down and calls new elections. Abhisit has offered to call elections by the year's end, but the protesters want quicker action.

The movement — known formally as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — contends that Abhisit came to power illegitimately in the years after ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed in a 2006 coup on corruption allegations. The group is made up largely of Thaksin supporters and pro-democracy activists who opposed the putsch.

So far, the government has refrained from using force against them despite pressure from segments of the Bangkok population fed up by business losses and disruption to daily life.

Allies of Thaksin — whose policies of cheap health care and low-interest village loans benefited the rural poor from which many of the protesters are drawn — won the first elections after the coup but two resulting governments were forced out by court rulings. A parliamentary vote brought Abhisit's party to power in December 2008. The Red Shirts say his rule is undemocratic and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy.

Abhisit must call new elections by the end of 2011, and many believe Thaksin's allies are likely to win — which could spark protests by Thaksin's opponents.

Thaksin, a multimillionaire convicted in absentia on corruption-related charges, is a fugitive abroad and encourages the Red Shirts with frequent messages. His six years in office were riddled by accusations of nepotism and an erosion of democratic institutions.

Hun Sen Sacks Top Forestry Official

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By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 April 2010

Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly fired the head of the government’s forestry administration Tuesday, claiming the official proved unable to stop rampant illegal logging in the country.

Ty Sokhun was “no longer capable” of settling the deforestation issue, Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast nationwide from the annual meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees the forestry department.

Hun Sen said Tuesday Ty Sokhun had made “grave mistakes” as head of the forestry administration.

The government is currently in the middle of a crackdown on illegal logging, but environmentalists say the sweep has been too little and too late in coming.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday authorities were working to “clear out” officials involved in deforestation.

“The action will be taken nationwide,” he said. “If not we cannot resolve [illegal logging].”

In a 2007 report, the environmental watchdog Global Witness singled out Ty Sokhun and other forestry and agriculture officials, as it accused the country’s elites, many of them close to Hun Sen, of exploiting timber resources.

The country lost as much as $2 billion in timber resources between 1993 and 2001, the group said, in report that was later banned by the government.

Meanwhile, the crackdown continues. Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, which is heading the campaign, said military forces would first sweep border areas near Thailand and Vietnam, seeking to arrest criminal organizers.

Angkor's Ancient Drought

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By Art Chimes, VOA
Original report from Washington
06 April 2010

For hundreds of years the Khmer empire ruled in what is now Cambodia.

But in the 13th century, the capital city, Angkor, fell into ruin. A new scientific study indicates that climate, specifically decades of drought interspersed with intense monsoons, helped bring down the Khmer capital.

Brendan Buckley, the Columbia University scientist who led the study, says that in the ancient world, Angkor was known for its sophisticated water system.

"Well, Angkor was really the dominant civilization in that part of the world without any question. It was the center of their universe. And it was called the 'hydraulic city' because it had really remarkably massive arrays of barays, which are these giant water tanks and a series of canals and interconnected waterways that was really unparalleled in the ancient world in that part of the world."

Buckley isn't an archaeologist. He studies tree rings, which record the growth history of trees that can be hundreds of years old, or even older. A new ring is added every year, and thicker rings represent a kind of savings account, when the tree collects more nutrients than it can use. Thin rings show the tree is barely getting along, like during a drought year.

Using samples from around Southeast Asia, Buckley and his colleagues saw this pattern in tree rings from recent years, when he could corroborate the rings with other historical climate information. His newest tree ring samples, from [a rare cypress, Fokienia hodginsii, in] southern Vietnam, enabled him to take the climate record back much further.

"We realized we have trees that are more than 1,000 years old. And we started seeing these big, giant periods of drought that took place around that time. And as I started to get more interested in the history of Southeast Asia I realized that that was the time of the collapse of Angkor."

The research team used what are called core samples from hundreds of trees throughout Southeast Asia. Using a hollow tube, they drill into the tree and extract a 5-mm wide cylinder that shows each ring starting with the most recent, just under the bark.

By comparing rings from different trees and with other historical data, you can often identify particular rings with the exact calendar year that they grew.

"We were able to match up the narrow and wide rings exactly so that we can assign the exact calendar dates to the exact rings of every tree. In the tropics, a lot of tree species don't even form rings that we can see. So to be able to get a tree that, first of all, has very clear rings that we're able to visually match to each other and then go through and produce these long records was remarkable."

The rings tell a story of decades of drought, which dried up Angkor's extensive water works, followed by monsoons that overwhelmed the 'hydraulic city.'

But the climate shifts weren't the only factor at work in the decline of the Khmer capital, which was a long time coming. Buckley quotes his co-author, Daniel Penny, as saying the climate was the "final nail in a coffin that took about 200 years to build," as Angkor and the Khmer empire were being buffeted by political, social, and economic stress.

"The times were changing, [shifting] toward an economic system that was taking them more to the coastline so they could trade with Chinamore readily. I believe that drought was one of the things that piled onto the pile of things that were affecting the Angkorians at that time. And it may very well have provided that final impetus to really kind of kill off this inland agricultural system."

The idea of a civilization being pushed over the edge by climate change resonates in the modern world, of course, and Brendan Buckley says his research on 13th century Southeast Asia has some lessons for us today.

"We probably have more abilities to adapt than they did at the time. But one of our biggest problems is a very large agrarian based population in places like India or Southeast Asia. And it's very hard to adapt to that giant population being in an area that is likely to be hit by these kinds of problems. The other thing is that rising sea level, which we're already seeing the evidence of in places like Ho Chi Minh City is a great example. So this is becoming an actual problem that we can see in real time on the ground. I guess that remains to be seen how we're going to cope with it."

Prof. Brendan Buckley's paper on climate's contribution to the demise of Angkor in present-day Cambodia was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cambodia Urged To Join Transparency Initiative

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By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 April 2010

International mining experts have called on Cambodia to join an organization to promote transparency in the extractive industries to help prevent a resource curse as it moves toward oil and mineral exploitation.

Under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, resource-rich countries work to ensure the revenue from their natural resources go toward improving the lives of its citizens.

“Now is the best time for Cambodia to actually join the EITI and prepare itself for those future revenue flows, since it is much more difficult to join the EITI once you already have extractive activities in place and huge revenues are flowing in,” Radhik Sarin, international coordinator of Publish What You Pay, said in an interview.

The appeal came during a three-day workshop among mineral experts from 15 countries in Phnom Penh to pave the way for a better mineral resource management and as Cambodia’s government says it could begin mineral resource extraction in the next two to five years.

“[EITI] is basically a tool for getting a clear understanding of all the financial resources to make sure that the revenue are properly spend for development issues,” said Sarin, who also serves on the board at EITI.

Cambodia expects to extract oil and gas in 2012 and mineral resources in 2015. The International Monetary Fund has estimated revenue of $172 million in the first stage of oil and gas extraction, with the amount increasing to $1.7 billion by 2021.

But experts worry that money could end up in the pockets of corrupt officials. Cambodia was listed as one of the most corrupt countries in 2009 by Transparency International.

Fabby Tumiwa, director of the Institute for Essential Service Reforms, which is based in Indonesia, said EITI could help.

“By implementing EITI, a country can avoid the resource curse,” he said. “So Cambodia has to avoid that scrape. EITI will help the country in their economic development, in particular investment in extractive industries, because investors will think that the risk of investment will be lower, [and it can help] reduce corruption and provide transparency on revenue management.”

To become a member of EITI, a country must publish on a regular basis all material from its oil, gas and mining payments and all revenues received from them, as well as performing independent audits and engaging civil society.

By implementing EITI, a country can improve its investment climate as well as promote greater economic and political stability, proponents of the initiative say.

Timor Leste, which produces 100,000 barrels of oil per day and receives an annual revenue of $1 billion, is an example.

“Before EITI, there is no information from governments and companies to us and to the public,” said Mericio Akara, director of the Luta Hamutuk institute. “We have no control of the budget. So 30 percent of the money was missing. But when we joined EITI, we controled every single revenue from the oil and gas sector.”

Indonesia, one of the largest oil producers in Southeast Asia with a total of annual revenue of $20 billion, is now applying to become a member of EITI.

“We’ve already produced oil and mining for more than 20 years,” said Muhammed Husen, deputy coordinating minister at Indonesia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs for Energy, Mineral Resources and Forestry. “Finally now our production is already half less than 20 years ago, but we have nothing. That is our mistake, because…corruption ocurred in all sectors.”

“EITI is one of the tools to attract more investors to come to Indonesia and learn how to manage the money,” Husen told VOA Khmer in an interview. “By learning from Indonesia, Cambodia should try its best to become an EITI’s member.”

Cambodian lawmaker Cheam Yep said the government recognizes the benefit of EITI and wants to join, but he was not sure when.

“We need to have a petroleum law, a law on taxation, on human resource development, and to well prepare business contracts to make sure that investors can’t cheat us and that government officials must not practice corruption,” he said. “As soon as we have these things, we will join EITI.”

Defense Chief ‘Disappointed’ in Loss of US Aid

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By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 April 2010

Cambodia’s top military leader expressed disappointment Thursday with a US decision to suspend a shipment of military aid as retribution for the expulsion of 20 Uighurs from the country in December.

The US announced last week it would halt the shipment of 200 trucks to the military because Cambodia had violated its international obligations by deporting the Uighurs, who had sought political asylum from China.

“When [the aid was] about to come, there was a suspension, or freezing, that’s the issue,” Defense Minister Tea Banh told VOA Khmer Monday. “Some issues are unrelated, but then they affect smooth cooperation, and that’s what has caused us to be disappointed.”

Cambodia and the US only recently patched up their military relations, with direct US aid resuming in 2007. Such aid had been suspended for a decade following a 1997 coup d’etat that put Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in power.

Cambodia has meanwhile become a willing ally in the US effort to disrupt international terrorism and has allowed an FBI attache to operate at the US Embassy. The US will also aid Cambodia in a regional military exercise later this year.

Tea Banh said Monday such a rapid suspension in aid was not good for either country, and he said the Uighur issue was separate from defense issues.

Scot Marciel, who is in charge of Asia affairs for the US State Department, told a conference Friday the aid had been suspended as a “clear message” to countries that they must honor their international obligations and commitments.

The US had tried at high levels to stop the deportation of the Muslim Uighurs, Marciel said.

The group had fled unrest in their home province of Xinjiang but had been branded criminals by Chinese officials.

Twenty were deported just one day ahead of the visit of a senior Chinese official and the announcement of $1.2 billion of Chinese aid to Cambodia. And while two of the Uighurs escaped and remain at large, the fates of the 20 who were expelled remains unclear.

The Chinese government has tried nearly 200 Uighurs following anti-Chinese protests and rioting in Xinjiang in July 2009, and an untold number have been executed as a result.

The suspension of aid means Cambodia committed a wrongful act according to international law, said Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“This can be seen as a warning or as reflecting the displeasure of the US for such a deed,” he said.

Cambodian Senate delegation welcomed in Hanoi

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April 6, 2010

National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu received a delegation from the Cambodian Senate led by Chea Cheth, Chairman of the Financing, Banking and Auditing Commission, in Hanoi on April 5.

Vice Chairman Luu affirmed that the traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation between Vietnam and Cambodia is a valuable asset for both countries’ future generations.

He said he was pleased to see that bilateral co-operation, especially in economics, trade, culture, science and education, has been developing over the past years.

While expressing thanks for the Cambodian government’s facilitation for Vietnamese businesses’ investment in such areas as mining, energy, telecommunications and rubber planting, the NA Vice Chairman stressed that the two parliaments play an important role in creating legal frameworks, mechanisms and policies for investment co-operation between the two countries.

He said that the two sides have exchanged a number of high-ranking delegations and shared experiences in legislation and supervision as well as supported each other at multilateral forums, thus contributing to peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and the world at large.

For his part, Chea Cheth said the purpose of his delegation’s visit was to learn renewal and development experiences from Vietnam , especially in law-making and supervision, allocation and management of State budgets at all levels, implementation of gender equality and narrowing the development gap between urban and rural areas. (VNA)

Remains of Journalists May Have Surfaced in Cambodia

In this 1968 file photo, Sean Flynn (R) is seen during operations near Ha Thanh, some 325 miles from Saigon, in South Vietnam

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Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh
06 April 2010

Exactly 40 years ago, the war photographer Sean Flynn rode out of Phnom Penh on a motorbike, accompanied by photojournalist Dana Stone. They disappeared and have not been heard from since. But human remains uncovered in a remote part of Cambodia last month might hold a clue about what happened.

Sean Flynn and Dana Stone were in Cambodia, covering the country's drift into civil war. The two were well known journalists in the region. Flynn was the son of legendary Hollywood actor Errol Flynn.

They disappeared on April 6, 1970, and are believed to have been captured by Vietnamese troops and handed over to the Khmer Rouge, who eventually killed them.

Renowned British war photographer Tim Page, a close friend, has spent a large part of the past two decades searching for Flynn's remains.

His research led him to a site in eastern Cambodia where he believes Flynn, Stone and perhaps 10 other journalists may have been held for more than a year before being executed.

Last month two Australians got to the site and partially dug it up. They say they found Flynn's remains, and have handed them over to U.S. military scientists to be identified.

However, Page says American scientists should go to the site and professionally excavate it. "I'm hoping this is going to somehow oblige them to go into these zones and do the good thing," he said.

Local news reports indicate a U.S. team will head to the site later this month.

That would coincide with the arrival in Phnom Penh of many of the journalists who covered the region in the late 1960s and 1970s, visiting to mark 35th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge government.

"It would be nice to think that we might get some closure this year on some of our compadres. If it proves to be Sean or Dana, we've kicked a goal. I'm not keeping my hopes up," Page stated.

During their time here the journalists will unveil a memorial to the 37 Cambodian and foreign journalists who died or disappeared during the war.

Among the names on the memorial will be Sean Flynn and Dana Stone.

Page says that, in war, friends become closer even than family. It is that camaraderie that has provided him with the motivation to seek out the final resting place of his old friend.

Aspire Signs MOU to Explore Mining Property in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Aspire Has Obtained the Right for Exploration and Geological Data Collection in Cambodia

April 06, 2010

TORONTO, April 6, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Aspire International, Inc. ("Aspire" or the "Company") (OTCBB:APIT) announced today that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME) of Cambodia for conducting geological data collection in Phnum Ngout area, Salakrau district, Pailin province, Ratanakmondol and Samlot districts, Battambang province, Kingdom of Cambodia.

The objective of the MOU is the cooperation of geological data collection for preliminary geological survey for mineral deposits in the above-mentioned area. The MIME Ministry of Cambodia agrees to allow the Company to cooperate with General Department of Mineral Resources (GDMR) to conduct the geological data collection to consider in applying for the exploration and exploiting licenses in the future.

The surface area by mining standards is quite exceptional at 261 square kilometers. This sizeable area under acquisition is considered to contain rich amounts of Iron Ore that, based on historical exploration data, represents a potential resource size believed to be in excess of 1 billion tons of exploitable Iron Ore.

Iron Ore has more than doubled in price over the past year and currently sells for as high as $140 per ton. With recent media reports of expectations of prices in excess of $200 per ton by year's end, it makes this MOU an especially valuable opportunity for Aspire to acquire a very sizeable Iron Ore deposit so close to China, which is by far the largest importer and most voracious consumer of Iron Ore in the entire world.

Aspire International Inc. (OTCBB:APIT) was registered on December 18, 2007 in the state of Maryland. Perfisans Networks Corporation, founded in 2001, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aspire International Inc. and is headquartered in Markham, Ontario, Canada.

More information can be obtained from the Company's web sites at  and

Cautionary Statement

This press release contains statements relating to future results of Aspire (including certain projections and business trends) that are "forward-looking statements" as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to: the cyclical nature of the semiconductor industry and the markets addressed by the company's and its customers' products; demand for and market acceptance of new and existing products; successful development of new products; the timing of new product introductions; changes in product mix; product obsolescence; the availability of manufacturing capacity; fluctuations in manufacturing yields; pricing pressures and other competitive factors; the ability to develop and implement new technologies and to obtain protection for the related intellectual property; the uncertainties of litigation; our ability to attract and retain qualified personnel; as well as other risks and uncertainties, including those detailed from time to time in Aspire's Securities and Exchange Commission filings. These forward-looking statements are made only as of the date hereof, and the company undertakes no obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

CONTACT: Aspire International, Inc.
Investor Relations
(905)943-9996 x 230

Maoist Rebels Kill 76 Soldiers in Eastern India

Men carry an injured paramilitary soldier for treatment at Jagdalpur in India. Maoist rebels launched a series of deadly attacks on forces patrolling the forests of eastern India. (Associated Press / April 6, 2010)

Maoist rebels exercise at a temporary base in the Abujh Marh forests, in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh in this April 13, 2007 file photo. Maoist rebels killed at least 60 paramilitary soldiers in attacks Tuesday April 6, 2010, in eastern India, a senior police official said, the most casualties since government forces launched an offensive against the insurgents last year.
(Mustafa Quraishi/AP Photo)

via CAAI News Media

Maoist rebels ambush soldiers in Indian forests killing 76 in the deadliest attack in 43 years

The Associated Press
By INDRAJIT SINGH Associated Press Writer
PATNA, India April 6, 2010 (AP)

Maoist insurgents claiming to fight for India's rural poor killed at least 76 soldiers Tuesday in a series of carefully planned ambushes in the forests of eastern India, underscoring the rebels' strength despite a government offensive.

The attack by hundreds of Maoists in a rebel stronghold in Chhattisgarh state was the deadliest by the militants against government forces in their 43-year insurgency.

The rebels launched the initial attack early in the morning, firing on a group of soldiers as they returned to base from a two-day patrol in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada forests, S.K. Pillai, the federal home secretary, told reporters in New Delhi. More soldiers were killed when they stepped on land mines the Maoists planted throughout the ambush zone, he said.

R.K. Vij, the inspector general of the Chhattisgarh police, said 17 more soldiers who went to recover the bodies were killed in land mine explosions.

More than 500 guerrillas — known as Naxalites — were involved in the attacks, said Vij. He said 76 soldiers were killed and seven wounded, three critically. The government found no rebel bodies.

Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, the nation's top law enforcement official, said the soldiers were part of a joint operation involving state forces and paramilitary fighters.

"But something has gone very wrong. They seemed to have walked into a trap set by the Naxalites. Casualties are quite high and I am deeply shocked," he said.

Few other details were available from the isolated, thickly forested area. The rebels rarely speak to the press.

Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels have tapped into the rural poor's growing anger at being left out of the country's economic gains and are now present in 20 of the country's 28 states.

Named after Naxalbari, the village in West Bengal state where their movement was born in 1967, they have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters.

While many are poorly armed — often going into battle with handmade weapons forged from plumbing pipes — they regularly launch bloody attacks on government forces. In February, they killed at least 24 police officers in West Bengal state in an attack on their camp.

The government dismisses Naxalite claims to speak for the country's poor, arguing they do little but wreak havoc in some of India's most impoverished regions.

"The Maoist ideology is a dead-end ideology. The killing of innocent people as well as destruction of public property, including schools, bridges, roads and culverts has really nothing to offer to people whom they claim to represent," Pillai said.

The soldiers attacked Tuesday were part of the government's "Operation Green Hunt" offensive, which is aimed at flushing the militants out of their forest hide-outs.

Several experts questioned the government offensive, saying inadequately trained and poorly equipped soldiers were often sitting ducks for Maoists much more familiar with the terrain.

"It's a flawed operation," said K.P.S. Gill, a retired senior police officer involved in operations in several insurgency-hit areas. The heat alone, he said, would weaken soldiers on long patrols.

April temperatures in the area often hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).

In the past few months that the Indian government has cracked down on the rebels it has also said it was ready to discuss all their demands, but only if they gave up violence. About 2,000 people — including police, militants and civilians — have been killed over the past few years.

Benefit for Cambodian Landmine Removal today in Palm Springs

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Staff Reports • The Desert Sun • April 6, 2010

Peabody's Cafe in downtown Palm Springs is set to host its third annual benefit for Cambodian Landmine Removal from 7 to 9 p.m.

Attendees can bid on exotic items made in Cambodia as well as items donated by Palm Springs merchants, according to a Small Hotels of Palm Springs (SHoPS) e-mail. The items to be auctioned typically value $30-$50, the e-mail stated.

Cambodian Landmine Removal has "a huge impact on those in especially rural and more remote areas who suffer from the fear of living amongst old land mines and far-to-often (sic) the devastating injuries sustained when encountering them directly," the e-mail stated. "This organization also takes care of about thirty youngsters who've lost limbs due to landmines."

Those interested can RSVP by sending an e-mail to with a head-count in the subject line, the e-mail stated.

Peabody's Cafe is at 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

World's largest toothpick city of 3.5 mln toothpicks

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(Photo: CRI Online)

BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhuanet) --Stan Munro, a former TV anchor, spent five years building the world's largest toothpick city, Toothpick City II: Temples and Towers, with 3.5 million toothpicks.

The "architect" has finished various kinds of buildings with toothpicks. The Toothpick City II contains replicas of 40 world-famous religious architectures and towers, including the world's tallest Khalifa Tower in Dubai and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai, China.

Stan plans to receive the Guinness certificate of the world's largest toothpick architecture in July.


Cambodia, Vietnam boost legislative bonds

via CAAI News Media


The traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia is a valuable asset for both countries’ future generations.

The statement was made by National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu during a reception for a delegation from the Cambodian Senate led by Chea Cheth, Chairman of the Financing, Banking and Auditing Commission, in Hanoi on April 5.

Mr Luu said that bilateral cooperation in many fields including economics, trade, culture, science and education, has seen significant development over the past years.

He thanked the Cambodian government’s for facilitating Vietnamese investment in such areas as mining, energy, telecommunications and rubber planting, stressing the two parliaments’ important role in creating legal frameworks, mechanisms and policies for investment cooperation.

Mr Chea Cheth said the Cambodian Senate wants to learn from Vietnam’s experiences in law-making and supervision, allocation and management of State budgets, implementation of gender equality, as well as in narrowing the development gap between urban and rural areas.

NA Chairman welcomes Cambodian delegation

via CAAI News Media

April, 06 2010

HA NOI — National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu affirmed the traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation with the Cambodian Senate while meeting with Chea Cheth, chairman of the Senate's Financing, Banking and Auditing Commission in Ha Noi yesterday.

The NA Vice Chairman went on to say that the bilateral friendship and co-operation were a valuable asset for both countries' future generations.

Luu was pleased to see that co-operation, especially in economics, trade, culture, science and education, has been developing over the past years.

While expressing thanks for the Cambodian government's facilitation of Vietnamese businesses' investment in such areas as mining, energy, telecommunications and rubber planting; the NA Vice Chairman stressed that the two parliaments play an important role in creating legal frameworks, mechanisms and policies for investment co-operation between the two countries.

Luu said the two sides have exchanged a number of high-ranking delegations and shared experiences in legislation and supervision, as well as supported each other at multilateral forums, which has contributed to peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and in the world at large.

For his part, Chea Cheth said the purpose of his delegation's visit was to learn about development experiences from Viet Nam, especially in law-making and supervision, allocation and management of State budgets, implementation of gender equality, and narrowing the development gap between urban and rural areas.

Chea Cheth and his entourage also visited the country's commercial hub, HCM City, and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang to study and learn more about the country's development projects. — VNS

No small feat: World's landmarks recreated in miniature... using 3.5million toothpicks

via CAAI News Media

By Daily Mail Reporter
06th April 2010

You'd need a steady hand and the patience of a saint to build any sort of structure out of toothpicks. So this toothpick city, created by New Yorker Stan Munro, is a pretty remarkable feat.

Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the Vatican, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Eiffel Tower were among over 50 iconic landmarks replicated at a 1:164 scale.

The former journalist, who now works full-time on his toothpick creations also included a number of British structures, among them Tower Bridge, the Cutty Sark and Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower.

Painstaking effort: The Eiffel Tower was among over 50 iconic landmarks built by Stan Munro using toothpicks

Munro, who has been working on Toothpick City II for the past five years, is determined to win the Guinness World Record for the Largest Toothpick Structure after a previous attempt to win the title in 2005, Toothpick City I, was beaten by a 4.5m-long alligator built by fellow American Michael Smith.

His current multinational cityscape has already used over 3.5million toothpicks - 500,000 more than Smith's winning design - but the 39-year-old is not ready to stop work on it just yet.

'I've been working on it morning to night for five years,' he said.

'I have beaten the record already but I'm going to make a few more buildings before I get the paperwork in.

'I aim to include buildings from every major religion and every country possible.'

Faithful replicas: At its highest point, the tip of the Burj Khalifa, Toothpick City II is over five metres tall

At its highest point, the tip of the Burj Khalifa, Toothpick City II is over five metres tall. Each building is faithfully copied to scale using architectural blueprints and photographs, but some have proved much harder than others to replicate.

Munro admitted that Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple was the hardest thing he had ever made.

'Oh man, there was swearing and tears over that one,' he said. 'I'd love to work out how to do the Gherkin in London but it's eluding me right now.'

He added that his favourite piece is the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

'That's where I married my beautiful wife,' he said.

Landmarks: Munro featured a number of British buildings, among them Tower Bridge and the Cutty Sark

Swearing and tears: Replicating Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple was the hardest thing Munro had ever done

Munro is still working on the city but plans to get official confirmation from Guinness by July 2010. He has asked U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert to place the final toothpick on his city.

He painstakingly counts the number of toothpicks used by the number of boxes he empties, and discounts every one he wastes.

He told how he had been playing with toothpicks since he was a small child, and is completely self-taught.

'I learnt the hard way,' he said. 'Trial and error. It sent me crazy a long time ago but I still think I have the best job in the world.'

Cambodian PM gives Chevron ultimatum on oil, AS

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SOPHENG CHEANG Associated Press Writer
Tue, Apr 6

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) Prime Minister Hun Sen pressed Chevron Corp. on Tuesday to get crude flowing from this impoverished country's first major oil discovery, threatening to cancel its rights to the offshore site if production does not start by 2012.

Hun Sen's announcement reflected the government's urgency about reaping oil revenues it says will help to finance develop and reduce poverty. Chevron drilled 15 wells in 2007 at the site, Block A, west of coastal Preah Sihanouk province, and says it is evaluating its commercial potential.

"We have given a deadline to the Chevron company to produce oil by the end of 2012. If not, the contract will be terminated," Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh.

A spokesman at Chevron's regional headquarters in Singapore declined to comment on Hun Sen's remarks without knowing their full content. However, Chevron said in a statement that it is "aligned with the Royal Government of Cambodia's desire to see production from Block A as soon as economically possible.

The first oil date is reliant on a successful exploration program, and is dependent on achieving key milestones." Companies from Australia, China, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea also have expressed interest in exploring Cambodian waters for oil.

Critics have expressed concern that oil income could exacerbate Cambodia's already rampant corruption if the government fails to develop a proper legal environment to manage the expected windfall.

Climate Change To Blame For Mekong Droughts: Cambodian PM

via CAAI News Media

PHNOM PENH, April 6 (Bernama) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that blames on China over droughts of the Mekong River is baseless and the global climate change is to blame instead.

Hun Sen, who attended last week's Mekong Summit in Hua Hin of Thailand along with other leaders and scientists, said:"They (some countries) are blaming China while China itself is being victimized by droughts.

".. China's Lancang River has no water, either," Xinhua news agency cited Hun Sen as saying here.

"The upper part of China's Yunnan province is also facing severe droughts, worse than Cambodia," he said.

"The level of water in the Mekong River totally depends on rain and the level of water fluctuates with the climate change," said Hun Sen.

"I am not defending China, but I am saying this only to provide justice for China," Hun Sen said, adding that he had a separate talk with China and Laos on the sidelines of the Mekong Summit in Thailand.

Hun Sen also said that the climate change hit countries across the world. "In Cambodia, wells are dried up," he said.

"We -- Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam -- are facing droughts as well."

The first Mekong River Commission Summit was held in Hua Hin, Thailand, on April 4-5. The meeting, which was attended by heads of the governments from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as their dialogue partners of China and Myanmar, had discussed how to tackle the climate change and respond to the Mekong River's droughts as well as to achieve sustainable development in Mekong basin.

During the meeting, China had pledged to make closer cooperation with the countries that use water from Mekong river, according to Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia's minister of water resource management and meteorology, who also attended the summit.

Cambodian minister says China's dams have no impact on lower Mekong

via CAAI News Media

Source: Xinhua
April 06 2010

Cambodia said Monday that Chinese dams built on the upper parts have no impact on the level of water in the downstream of the Mekong River.

Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resource management and meteorology said based on studies and experts the dams built by China have no impact on the change of water level in the lower Mekong River, but because of climate change, lack of rainfalls and drought in the upper parts in China, Laos and Thailand.

Lim Kean Hor made the statement upon his arrival at the Phnom Penh International Airport from the first Mekong River Commission Summit held in Hua Hin, Thailand on April 4-5.

The meeting which was attended by heads of the governments from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam plus their dialogue partners of China and Myanmar had discussed how to achieve sustainable development in the Mekong basin.

During the meeting, China had pledged to make closer cooperation with the countries that use water from the Mekong River, according to Lim Kean Hor.

During the meeting, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao said that "China now has three hydropower stations in operation over the Lancang River, namely Jinghong, Manwan and Dachaoshan. " Those three are cascade hydropower stations that do not consume water, with scarce effect on the water volume flowing across the border."

The research and evaluation work by various Chinese and overseas institutes supports Song's remarks. According to a brochure issued by China's Ecosystem Study Commission for International Rivers, the study by those institutes including Canada Dilon Environment Scientific Consulting, drew the same conclusion.

Song said the runoff volume of the Lancang River accounts for only 13.5 percent of that of the Mekong River. The runoff of the Mekong River mainly comes from the middle-and-lower Mekong basin, amounting to 86.5 percent.

He also quoted a statement by the Mekong River Commission last month as saying that the water level decline of the Lancang-Mekong main stem is contributed by an early ending of rain season in 2009, a low monsoon rainfall and an extreme scarcity of dry-season rainfall.