Friday, January 29, 2010

Heart Pump Could Save Possibly Millions of Lives

The World Health Organization says heart disease kills about 17 million people every year and that it will become the leading cause of death in developing countries. But now, there is some hope. A new device is being marketed that could save countless lives.

Seventy-eight-year-old Richard Stowe has a mechanical pump inside his chest that keeps blood flowing throughout his body. The only evidence is a battery pack and a power line on his side. "The two batteries are feeding power to the controller and then to my chest," he said. "There is no feeling. It just feels very normal like I had no pump."

Stowe is at the forefront of a revolution in the way heart patients are being cared for.

Dr. Leslie Miller at Washington Hospital Center is involved in clinical trials of heart pumps, including this one that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved as a device that can permanently replace the heart for patients who are too old to be considered for a heart transplant.

"Heart failure really begins to increase over the age of 60 when the chances of heart transplantation diminish, so this is going to be a major therapeutic option for a great many patients in the future," Dr. Miller said.

Heart pumps were initially considered a stopgap measure...until a donor heart became available. But the newest pumps are small. They are attached directly to the heart and connected to a battery outside the body.

British Court Rules Freezing Terror Suspects' Assets 'Unlawful'

Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government orders freezing the assets of terror suspects are unlawful. The decision comes only a week after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that certain stop and search powers of Britain's police are also illegal.

The Supreme Court ruled that financial restrictions on five suspected terrorists were a breach of their human rights.

The order to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists was made by the treasury in 2006, in order to inhibit the financing of international terrorism.

But the orders were not voted on in Parliament and Wednesday the Supreme Court said Britain's government would have to obtain parliamentary approval for 'far reaching measures' to combat terrorism.

In response, a spokesperson for the treasury said it would introduce fast-track legislation to make sure their power to freeze assets won't be interrupted.

Eric Metcalfe is human rights policy director at the legal human rights group Justice. He says Wednesday's ruling represents a critical defense of the democratic principle in Britain.

"This is a democracy governed by the rule of law and it is profoundly important that democratic representatives deliberate in a proper manner about how laws are made and whether the right balance has been struck," he said.

Australia offers $25m to Taliban peace fund

AUSTRALIA is among the first countries to donate towards a new fund designed to encourage the Taliban to lay down their guns in Afghanistan, pledging $25 million.

Plans for the $US500 million ($560 million) reintegration and peace fund were unveiled as world leaders and foreign ministers from 70 countries attended a one-day conference on Afghanistan's future in London.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith pledged $25 million as part of an extra $100 million Australia will pour into a range of Afghan projects from mine clearing to reconstruction.

Australia's donation to the fund was part of $US140 million ($157 million) worth of pledges made at the conference, which also agreed Afghanistan should take more control of its own security from the end of 2010.

The fund was set up by the Afghan government, which hopes to attract $US500 million worth of donations so it can offer money and jobs to entice moderate Taliban members to stop fighting Allied troops in the war-torn country and rejoin mainstream society.

Indians want United Nations to intervene

PROTESTERS have marched on the Australian High Commission in New Delhi chanting anti-Australia slogans and appealing for the United Nations to intervene.

The National Students' Union of India called for the Indian government to make sure the UN ensures the security of its citizens in Australia.

This follows months of jingoistic and anti-Australian commentary in the Indian media.

Some estimates are that up to 4000 Indian students have cancelled plans to study in Australia in the past 12 months as a result of the global economic downturn and fears over rising violence.

Melbourne is second only to London in terms of population as a destination for international students. Last year more than 190,000 international students enrolled in Victorian education institutions.

The State Government yesterday opened a new 24-hour support and welfare service in Carlton for international students.

This one-stop shop offers students counselling, crisis accommodation, food aid and help with any other welfare needs.

Victorian Premier John Brumby admits there have been some racial attacks, but dismissed calls for the UN intervention as nothing but scaremongering.

Clinic tackles root cause of dentistry woes

Western practice says it is working to make sure local dental industry isn’t just pulling teeth


Dentist Dr Deborah Moore says Phnom Penh’s European Dental Clinic offers a local alternative to places like Bangkok, and even attracts the occasional health tourist.


ALTHOUGH locals, expats and tourists alike are generally sceptical of the Kingdom’s healthcare industry, international staff at Phnom Penh’s European Dental Clinic say it has raised standards of dental care in Cambodia.

Founded in 1994 by dentist Dr Eric Le Guen and technician Philippe Guibert, the clinic was the first of its kind in Cambodia.

“Before that, everyone was going to Bangkok,” European Dental Clinic dentist Dr Deborah Moore said.

The practice provides a range of services, akin to a dental clinic in the West, including hygienist services, implants, tooth extraction, as well as orthodontics offered monthly by a visiting specialist from Bangkok.

“We offer everything, really,” said Dr Moore.

Getting Cambodia milling again

Politics is politics, business is business – it’s not relevant – and we do business, not politics.Why did Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc decide to invest in a sugarcane plant and plantation in Koh Kong province?

We realised that Cambodia has more available area for its agriculture base, a climate similar to Thailand ... suitable for sugarcane-growing.

Moreover, we were determined to develop an agriculture business and agro-industry in Cambodia to serve the ASEAN market and Asia.

Companies have gotten privileges under investment-promotion measures of the Cambodian government … 90-year concessions for sugarcane plantation areas of 20,000 hectares … in Koh Kong [province], [and] tax incentives.

The company has also gotten a privilege to export raw sugar to the EU under the EBA (Everything but Arms) quota.

We have confidence that – this project – it can contribute to and generate GDP growth, economic development, income distribution and employment in Cambodia.

Also it can promote close international economic [cooperation] between Thailand and Cambodia.

How much was invested in this new plant? Who are the joint-venture partners?

The investment cost for the sugar mill was about US$60 million. Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co Ltd was founded by three joint-venture partners – Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Limited, the Thai investor, holds 50 percent; Vewong Corporation, a Taiwanese investor, holds 30 percent; and Okhna Ly Yong Phat, the Cambodian investor, holds 20 percent of the common shares of the company.

PM confident government will survive

There is no reason to dissolve parliament now and the Democrat Party and its coalition partners will continue working together to move the country forward, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday.

Asked if he thought the Democrat-let administration would last beyond March because of the split over constitutional amendment, Democrat leader Abhisit said he was confident it would survive that long and that it could last a lot longer than that.

Mr Abhisit insisted that his party had not defaulted on the agreement made with its coalition partners and had never promised it would support changes to the charter.

Finance Minister and Democrat key member Korn Chatikavanij said the government was still stable, even though the Democrats decided not to join their coalition partners in a parliamentary motion to amend the charter.

Mr Korn said the government will not call a snap general election, as some people speculate, because it has several important tasks to complete, especially the injection of money into the system to stimulate the country’s economy.

The minister was confident there would not be another coup, as it would be unacceptable to the international community.

However, Chart Thai Pattana Party adviser Somsak Prissanananthakul accused Mr Abhisit of ignoring the agreement made with the coalition partners before the formation of the Democrat-led government.

Mr Somsak said his party would not clear up anything with the prime minister and that the coalition partners had been deceived.

Mr Somsak on Wednesday submitted an open-letter to the premier stating that the Democrat Party had, before forming a coalition administration, promised to support changes to the 2007 constitution.

The veteran politician insisted that his open-letter was not a threat to the prime minister or the Democrats.

“I just wanted to point out that Mr Abhisit is ignoring the agreement made with the coalition partners.

“The premier had asked the parliament and the parliamentary committee for reconciliation, political reform and constitutional amendments to make a study on charter changes, but now he has decided against it.

“If the premier does not want to change the charter, he should have informed his coalition partners of this in the first place,” Mr Somsak said.

Asked about Mr Abhisit's assigning Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti to mediate talks to clear up the rift with the coalition partners, Mr Somsak said he personally thinks it is not necessary to clear up anything.

“But If Mr Abhisit wants to meet me, I will go to meet him,” he said.

Mr Somsak did not say whether his party would allow its MPs a free vote at the conclusion of the parliamentary debate on the opposition's motion of no-confidence in the prime minister.

Newin Chidchob, leader of the Friends of Newin faction inside the Bhumjaithai Party, refused to comment about the Democrat decision not to support the charter amendment motion.

He told reporters to ask Interior Minister and party leader Chavarat Charnvirakul.

Reds to rally at army HQ

Red-shirt protesters are free to rally in front of army headquarters on Friday, but they must abide by the law, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Thursday.

Members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) say they will gather tomorrow to demand the army to publicly clarify the rumours of a pending coup.

Mr Suthep said security forces had made preparations to handle the coming anti-government rallies. Police would be in charge of maintaining peace and order, but soldiers would be deployed if the situation gets out of control.

The protests would be allowed, provided they remained within the law.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the anti-government movement's plans to protest at the army headquarters, and later at air force headquarters, and demand clarification of coup rumours was unnecessary. The army had already made it clear there would be no coup at this time and people should not be disturbed by the rumours.

Couple arrested over Indian man's murder

A young married couple has been arrested in connection with the death of a fellow fruit picker, whom police say was burned alive and left beside a southern NSW road.

NSW police said the body of Indian national Ranjodh Singh, 25, was found beside Wilga Road at Willbriggie, near Griffith, on December 29 last year.

"We will be saying that Mr Singh was alive when his body was set on fire," Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch told reporters in Sydney after the couple's arrest.

"It will be alleged that the persons involved in this matter were well known to the victim."

A third person is likely to be arrested over Mr Singh's death, Mr Murdoch added.

Previous media reports said the post-mortem examination revealed Mr Singh's throat had been slashed and that he had been stabbed a number of times before being bound and set alight.

Mr Murdoch admitted Mr Singh had "significant" injuries prior to being set alight.

While police wouldn't confirm the nationality of the 23-year-old man and his 20-year-old wife, who were arrested in Sydney's Sans Souci at 11am (AEDT) on Thursday, it is understood they are the same pair prevented from boarding a flight to Nepal earlier this month.

Mr Murdoch said: "The motive for this horrific crime is not race-related".

Representatives of the Immigration Department who were present for the couple's arrest, took a number of other people into custody at the same time.

While Mr Singh had been based in Wagga Wagga, police said he was working in Griffith, where the married couple lived before moving to Sydney.

The investigation is ongoing, and police are calling for information about the occupants of a red 1996 Ford Falcon sedan seen at a carwash in Yambil Street, Griffith, shortly after 3am on December 29.

Police are also keen to talk to anyone who travelled on the 9.30am CountryLink bus from Griffith to Wagga Wagga on December 29.

Information can be provided confidentially via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

Monday, January 25, 2010

Australia Day - 26th Janaury 2010

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian
It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It's the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.  Please click this link to read more Austarlia Day and Our Nation.

Please click here to listen to Australia National Anthem

Astralia National Anthem "Lyric"

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts;

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history's page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands,
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands,
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share,
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair.

There are a number of ceremonial aspects to many Australia Day events which have become both a tradition and a symbol of our national day. Please click here to read more Australia Day Ceremonies.

Citizenship ceremonies have become an integral part of Australia Day celebrations. Australia's history of immigration is a critical part of our national story.

Australia Day. Celebrate What's Great!  What you would expect

The National Capital City "Canberra"

New South Wales "Sydney, Darling Habour during the day" and "Sydney, Darling Habour Spectacular & Fireworks"



Victoria - "Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony", "Australia Day People's March",



Queensland "Brisbane"



Admitting the US and Russia to the regional architecture

THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA are the two important global powers missing in the discussion of a new regional architecture. Both countries, through their existing economic and political ties, have approached the regional community-building effort differently - in ways that suit their perceived roles.

But they do share a common objective - to become parts of the ongoing dynamism in the region - whether it be East Asia, Asia or Asia-Pacific.

Proposals by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatomaya to establish a new regional institute have generated heated debates over the shape of things to come. Rudd's framework on the Asia Pacific community is more specific and widely discussed than Hatoyama's East Asia community, which up until now has not provided any details or modalities. However, both ideas support the ongoing regional institutions within Asean and would not dismiss the grouping as a foundation for future cooperation. Additional features, mandates, functions and members could be refined and added later on.

Numerous ideas have been proposed and discussed, concentrating on mandates and membership that will cope with 21st century challenges. Participation of the US and Russia has repeatedly been mentioned as pivotal to any new set-up, particularly future membership of the East Asia Summit (EAS). For the US, the one-year-old Obama Administration's new attitude towards Asia and the ascension of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) has created an overall favourable atmosphere to expand and intensify its engagement within the region -commensurate with Obama's pronouncement as a Pacific power.

Akin to the US, Russia is also a member of regional organisations such as the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec). Both the US and Russia have fulfilled the three requirements set forth by Asean for admission to EAS—a dialogue partner and a signatory of TAC that has substantial relations with Asean. However, Moscow has been more assertive on this front. As far as Russia-Asean relations are concerned, Moscow has been pushing for closer economic and security cooperation but with little success. The Asean Centre at the Moscow State University of International Relations will soon be established.

In the early 1980s, Moscow tabled several proposals to establish a new regional security forum in anticipating post-Cold War strategic imperatives. Unfortunately, they fell on deaf ears. Moscow continues to view itself as a Europe-Asia power. One major impediment was the grouping's hostile attitude towards Moscow's support of proxy wars in the region. Once the Berlin Wall crumbled and the Soviet empire disintegrated, its pragmatic approaches and policies have propelled better cooperation and friendship with Asean and individual members.

In Kuala Lumpur, December 2005, Russia came close to becoming a foundation member of EAS or Asean plus six. Only last minute forceful intervention by certain Asean members stopped such an ambition after former US State Secretary Condoleeza Rice expressed serious concern over the planned admission. To save Moscow's political embarrassment, Malaysia, the host, quickly invited Russia as a guest to the inaugural EAS. Since then, Russia has continued to push for early EAS membership. Last year, it failed to convince Thailand, as the Asean chair, to push for its EAS membership and the second Asean-Russia summit.

Political turmoil inside the country and uncertainty surrounding a series of summits rendered twin initiatives impossible. At the next EAS in Hanoi in October, the second Asean-Russia summit has been scheduled. It is an open secret that Vietnam wants the second Asean-US leaders' meeting to be held also in the country. Obama offered to host the follow-up leaders' meeting with his Asean colleagues in his country this year when he met them last November.

The central question Asean has to tackle is whether the US should be invited to join EAS along with Russia, either in Hanoi this year or later on. In her speech last month at the Hawaii-based, East West Center, US State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear that Washington is interested in EAS and is studying how her country can associate with the five-year-old summit. She said the US proposed to begin consultations with Asian countries on how the US might play a role in the EAS and the summit would fit into the broader institutional landscape. That much was clear. At this juncture, Asean has yet to reach a consensus on the EAS enlargement even though there is no official moratorium policy. Several Asean dialogue partners who have fulfilled the three criteria also want to join EAS.

EAS could serve as a new overarching structure where concerned countries in the region can discuss pertinent transnational issues and subsequently deliver results.

Expansion of EAS will be less problematic because the membership is still small. Both ARF and Apec have big members straddling Asia, as well as North and South America. ARF has 27 members and Apec 21, but the latter includes Taiwan and Hongkong while India, the region's rising power, has been left out. After the September 11 tragedy, the Bush administration tried with some success to intensify anti-terrorism cooperation among the trade-focused members.

One way of sustaining Asean centrality within the common call for a new architecture is to admit the US and Russia together to EAS. Then, the so-called Asean plus six (Asean 10, India, Australia, New Zealand) will be transformed into Asean plus eight, leaving Asean plus three (APT) unchallenged--to be the only institution that represents real East Asian regional building. China—the APT prime mover—would not object to such an arrangement as it would continue to be the APT driving force. Japan and South Korea have already utilised the APT as a platform to strengthen their ties with Asean and China.

The larger EAS has begun tackling broader issues including nuclear proliferation, climate change and food security - and would answer in part Rudd's proposal and Tokyo's insistence on having the US participate in a new regional architecture.

Finally, Asean would also need creative ideas to sequence a series of summits with dialogue partners to allow their leaders with super-tight schedules to attend them. Obviously, one cannot expect a US president to join Asean-initiated summits and leaders' meetings twice or thrice a year.

Torn between two colours

Forget the economy or Thailand's image overseas. They are, in the eyes of Attorney General Julasing Wasantasing, only collateral damage of the on-going political divide. The real victim is far more important, and although it is yet to fall, it's in great danger of collapsing.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation on Friday, Julasing warned that the yellow and red shirts are making it increasingly difficult for Thailand's justice system to function. Political prejudices are interfering with legal matters like never before, although in some cases more than the others. This, he said, is a real problem that has to be stopped.

"I have been told I have to listen to the people. But when the people are divided into two camps, which side should I listen to?" Julasing asked, reflecting on pressure that has been mounting on a justice system trapped in the middle of the political crisis.

He half-jokingly called himself an "orange shirt", someone who loathed both the seizure of the Suvarnabhumi Airport and last year's Songkran mayhem. "I can't live with either incident. The airport blockade brought tears to my eyes and I can't tolerate the Songkran riots either," the attorney-general said.

When justice is obstructed or, in other words, merits of decisions by police, prosecutors and judges are defined by colours, the end can be near, he warned. "We should stop and start anew. If every case is influenced by the yellow or red colours, Thailand's problem is never going to end," he said.

One of the cases in point is Thaksin Shinawatra's assets trial. The yellow shirts have their own perspective on how "justice" should be served, and likewise for the red shirts. Few people are looking at the case with truly neutral eyes.

Heading an agency that represents the state in the Thaksin assets case, Julasing would not comment much on it, only observing that only a verdict acceptable to both sides will bring the political crisis closer to the end or at least will not amplify it. That is easier said than done, he admitted, as a bilaterally acceptable ruling would require seizing some of Thaksin assets and unfreezing the rest.

"The best I can do is instruct prosecutors not to be influenced by colours in their works. And I have also told them justice means fairness and compassion. Under these circumstances it's important not to be too rigid, and national interests and unity must be taken into account every time," he said.

Democrats approach decision on charter changes

The Democrat Party will decide its position on the proposed constitutional amendments tomorrow, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.

The Democrats failed to vote on the changes at a two-day seminar in Krabi at the weekend.

The party agreed that views for and against the changes should be presented to the executive committee, and it would be left to it to make a final decision tomorrow whether to support the changes.

Mr Abhisit yesterday said there were both proponents and opponents of the proposed changes. It was normal to have differences of opinion within the party, he said.

The prime minister said the Democrats will hold talks with their coalition partners after tomorrow to try and find common ground.

Observers say the Democrats might have to yield to their coalition partners' demands to change two sections of the constitution if they are to maintain unity.

Govt rejects chaos threat

Govt-in-exile, coup plot has PM unmoved

The government has dismissed claims by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra that he plans to set up a government-in-exile.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship supporters pack their tents after ending their rally at a Khao Soi Dao golf course and resort in Chanthaburi yesterday. THITI WANNAMONTHA

It also played down rumours that the anti-government red shirts plan to sow political chaos ahead of a key court decision.

The anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is ratcheting up pressure on the government ahead of Feb 26, when the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is scheduled to deliver its verdict on whether the state should seize 76 billion baht in frozen assets belonging to Thaksin.

The UDD also says it is planning to rally at the army headquarters to ask the military if it plans to stage a coup.

And Thaksin's supporters plan to issue documents which they claim explain how he acquired his assets.

Speaking via video link to a red-shirt protest at the Khao Soi Dao golf course and resort in Chanthaburi, where UDD members gathered at the weekend, Mr Thaksin on Saturday said he would set up a government-in-exile soon.Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday brushed aside such a plan.

Cambodian, Thai troops in shoot-out

Thai border rangers have clashed with Cambodian troops near the Preah Vihear national park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district.

Twelve rangers attached to the 23rd Ranger Forces Regiment were on patrol near Huay Khanun dam, east of the national park, when they were ambushed about 9.25am yesterday by Cambodian troops, a military source said.

The Cambodians fired RPG rockets and sprayed the rangers with bullets. The rangers sought cover before returning fire. The gunfight lasted about 10 minutes but no one was hurt.

The source said Cambodian forces moved up over 1,000 troops along their side of the border, opposite Ban Samtae in Si Sa Ket, after the clash. Cambodia has denied starting the confrontation.

"There was a small clash," Cambodian deputy military commander Chea Dara said, claiming the Thai side were the first to open fire. "They entered our territory. It was Cambodian self-defence. We don't allow anyone to invade our territory." A military source said the clash came after the Cambodian soldiers barred a Thai patrol from entering a disputed border area. The Thais tried to negotiate with the Cambodians but the situation escalated into gunfire.

Tensions eased after the commanders of the two forces agreed to establish closer contacts.

The two sides also suspended their border patrols for the time being.

The border situation flared up two weeks ago when two Cambodian soldiers were captured for trespassing on Thai soil, according to the source.

The soldiers were later sent back but the commanders of their units faced disciplinary punishment. They blame the Thai soldiers for causing the latest round of border hostility.

Nat Sri-in, commander of the 63rd Infantry Battalion responsible for security operations at Ban Samtae and the Chong Ta Thao border pass near the Preah Vihear national park, said rangers also clashed with illegal loggers when they came across them while on patrol yesterday.

The loggers opened fire to scare off the approaching rangers and then ran off when the rangers returned fire, Lt Col Nat said.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tony Abbott walks fine line on immigration stance

TONY Abbott has suggested some recent migrants oppose equality and Australians are anxious that citizenship is given away too lightly, but insisted "boat people" are only "guilty of hope".

Mr Abbott has used an Australia Day Council address in Melbourne to raise controversial immigration issues and suggest he favours more migration to Australia to boost our population.

He stood by Howard-era tough lines against so-called boat people, but urged opponents of immigration to try to understand the desperation that prompts their journeys.

"Why wouldn't people who might otherwise wait in camps for years try to short-circuit the process, especially if they're plausibly told that getting to Australia means the beginning of a new life?" Mr Abbott said in his speech.

"At worst, boat people are guilty of choosing hope over fear."

Soon after his election as Liberal leader late last year, Mr Abbott vowed to turn back boat arrivals.

He attacked the Rudd Government's border protection measures, saying that while people smugglers were the main villains, governments which allowed desperate people to think that getting on a boat might be a short cut to permanent residency would not be blameless.

What is happening to the land of 'mai pen rai'?

I HAVE BEEN back in Bangkok now for almost two weeks and am finding discussions about Thai social institutions and politics quite unsettling. Something new and sinister is afoot and it is not just the pontificating and bluster from the red and yellow shirts.

What has happened to the land of smiles and mai pen rai?

400 armoured sedans have been sold in Thailand in the past year - a previously unheard of number

Wives are being trained in the use of pistols

Prices of protective amulets are on the rise
Expectations are being set in many quarters of a great struggle about to break out that will decide Thailand's future as a polity and a nation. Some say that the deity that protects Thailand is asleep, therefore everything is up for grabs. There is talk of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra preparing for his last great battle to influence recovery of his frozen assets, political parties are manoeuvring for knockout blows on constitutional reform.

I was told that some 400 armoured sedans have been sold in Thailand in the past year - a previously unheard of number. Wives are being trained in the use of pistols. Someone was said to have fired a grenade at the office of Army chief Anupong Paochinda. Prices of protective amulets are on the rise.

What has happened to the land of smiles and mai pen rai?

My Viking ancestors, some of whom sacked Paris with Ragnar in the late 700s, used to believe in the Ragnarok - or the final battle at the end of the world where there were to be no winners, only losers, and only two survive to repopulate the world.

I myself have come to the position that violence is to be used on rare occasions only; that moderation is the far wiser course in life.

Extremism perpetuates injustice and prevents the emergence of natural balances and the constructive interaction of forces and counter-forces.

The importance of the centre, of the middle way, of moderation was central to Aristotle's understanding of ethics.

We can all take good counsel from the words of William B Yeats in his poem "Second Coming":

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

For Yeats, when the centre cannot hold and things fall apart, the great beast is coming, an evil thing that no one wants or needs.

Much sound counsel, therefore, can be found in Thai values and traditions that expressly seek the middle-way and avoid open confrontations. Buddhism, of course, is a middle-way between sensualist and ascetic deprivation.

But I have a sense that in Yeat's terms, the Thai centre is not holding, pressed between essentially farang values and judgements on one side, and very hierarchical old Thai social practices on the other. Therefore we see in Thailand recently a tendency where the best appear to "lack all conviction" and the worst are filled with "passionate intensity".

So, what is to be done?

The time has come to reframe the great questions before Thailand and upset the forces pressing for polarisation and confrontation.

Farang perspectives on individualism and hierarchy, resting as they do on emotional, psychological, intellectual and philosophical nihilism of post-modernism, offer little in the way of constructive visions for a common good for Thais.

Unreflective social traditionalism offers little in the way of a constructive vision for the 21st century.

Cooperating, balancing, blending, amalgamating, keeping the core and letting go of the periphery - classic traits of successful Thai modernisation, not to mention successful resistance to the Khmer, the Burmese, Colonialists and the Communists - should now be in vogue.

It is a time for a grand consultation and compromise, and not for demands and rigid self-seeking.

Stephen B Young is a 1963 graduate of the International School of Bangkok and a 1967 graduate of Harvard College. In 1966 he discovered the bronze age site of Ban Chiang.

Abhisit sets human rights record poorer : HRW

Thailand's human rights situation under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was getting worse over the past year, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual report Thursday.

"While Prime Minister Abhisit sometimes said the right things about human rights in 2009, his actions didn't match his words," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The government continually undermined respect for human rights and due process of law in Thailand."

The 612 page World Report 2010, the organization annual review of human right practice around the world, said there were growing crackdown on protesters and other critics, including intensive surveillance of the internet, a failure to curb abuses by security force in Thailand.

There were also serious breaches of the country's obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers, it said.

The Nation

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chinese company picked to boost capital's port capacity

Upgrade to be funded by already approved loan from Beijing


Phnom Penh Port is set for a makeover following a newly signed deal with Shanghai Co, according to the head of the port Hei Bavy.CHINESE company Shanghai Co has been selected by the government to develop infrastructure at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (PPAP).

Hei Bavy, director general of PPAP, told the Post Wednesday that the business has been awarded the rights to develop the port from the Cambodian government. It is set to start the project this March and due to finish 30 months later.

The scheme will be funded by a US$30 million Chinese loan, announced by the government in October.

In its first stage, Shanghai will equip the 59-year-old port with modern goods-lifting equipment and build a new port for storing containers in a deep-water area. This will be situated on the Mekong River, in Kien Svay district, 20 kilometres east of Phnom Penh.

“We hope more ... containers will be shipped through Phnom Penh Autonomous Port because of this development project,” said Hei Bavy.

It is hoped that after development the port will be able to load from 120,000 to 300,000 standard containers of goods per year, he added. At present, it is able to load a maximum of 50,000 to 60,000 per year.

In 2009, PPAP shipped only 43,500 standard containers of freight, a drop of 7.44 percent compared with 2008, due to the global economic crisis.

Hei Bavy predicted that the shipment of freight at PPAP this year might reach 60,000 containers, due to a predicted increase in rice exports and some other agricultural products.

“I believe that Cambodia will continue to develop in the future. There will be bigger demand for produce, which means transportation services will need to expand too,” Hei Bavy said.

Last week, Chan Nora, secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce, predicted that business in Cambodia would improve this year because large amounts of agricultural products like rice, corn and rubber had been reserved for export.

HK bourse expert points to IPO opportunies

CAMBODIA’S new stock market will benefit companies and help them bring in extra capital for expansion, a Hong Kong expert said in a Thursday seminar.

Referring to securities markets and the private sector, Alec Yiu Wa Tsui, former CEO of Hong Kong Stock Exchange and former chairman of Hong Kong Finance Institute, said: “Newly listed companies will bring in new capital, win prestige, attract professional management, and earn more business opportunities.”

However, the former CEO said that there are burdens for companies that wish to become listed on the exchange. He named the cost of an initial public offering (IPO), the possibility of corporate restructuring before an IPO, and continued need for compliance with listing requirements – such as regular financial reporting and ac hoc disclosure of sensitive information – as factors.

“However with risk comes opportunity,” he explained.

The Kingdom’s first stock exchange is due to launch at the end of this year, after its implementation was delayed.

Sorn Sokna, chairman of the newly founded Financial Institute of Cambodia, said that a number of Cambodian companies already have a transparent and effective corporate culture, which means they have the potential to engage in the stock exchange.

“However, these companies have shown great reluctance in engaging with the securities market, primarily due to a lack of clear understanding in the ways they could participate,” he added.

Keat Chhon, finance minister and chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia, said the most important factor from the government’s side is that the bourse becomes a transparent, effective, just, sustainable, and investor-protective force in the economy.

OZ gold estimate at latest drill due in Q1

MEASUREMENTS to estimate gold resources at Okvau, in Mondulkiri province, are set to be finalised by mining company OZ Minerals in the first quarter of 2010.

According to the company’s fourth-quarter report released Thursday, structural and geological modelling at the gold deposit have recently been completed, and resource calculations are now under way.

The company hopes to outline an initial inferred resource by the first quarter of 2010, as part of its “new discovery” programme, the report added.

The modelling followed a 5,800-metre drilling programme to test previously unidentified gold mineralisation at Okvau.

Last month, a spokesman for OZ Minerals told the Post it aims to identify at least 2 million ounces of gold at its Cambodian concessions by the end of this year.

Surface sampling and geophysical analysis is ongoing at the four other areas being explored by the company.

The areas, located close to Okvau, are Oput, Area 6, Granite Hill and Area 1. “These prospects are currently being, or will be, drill-tested in 2010 to ascertain the district-scale potential in the Okvau region,” Thursday’s report said.

Australian-based OZ Minerals outperformed its estimates in the last quarter of 2009, according to the figures released. Copper and gold production exceeded expectations at its Primrose Hill site in Australia.

The company mined 36,497 tonnes of copper and 30,526 ounces of gold during the period.

OZ Minerals recently refocused on gold and copper mining in Australia and Southeast Asia following the June sale of US$1.35 billion of its zinc mines to China Minmetals Non-Ferrous Metals Co.

POST BAG Cambodia pours scorn on Thai scholar's article

Re: the article by pseudo Thai scholar Pavin Chachavalpongpun published in your newspaper on Jan 18, 2010 under the title, ``In spat with 'Siem', Hun Sen needs Hanoi in his corner.''

This article is completely ridiculous, absurd and vulgar. It fully demonstrates how your newspaper has simply become a political tool serving the government in power and those who have a political agenda to undermine relations between Cambodia and Thailand, without having any sense of professional journalism, truth, tactfulness and politeness.

Your newspaper has allowed such a vulgar scholar to express his ultra-nationalistic and fundamentally provocative views, which have significantly contributed to the worsening of bilateral relations and escalating tensions between the two neighbouring countries. Both your newspaper and this pseudo, cocky scholar would be held accountable for the growing tensions between the two countries.

First, for Cambodia, the restoration of diplomatic relations depends on several important factors:

1. Thailand must stop demanding for, and encroaching on, Cambodia's land near the Preah Vihear Temple.

2. Thailand must stop opposing the inscription of Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple on the World Heritage List.

3. Thailand must stop demanding to use its own term [Phra Viharn] for Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple which has long been used by the Khmer people since the 11th century when it was built and named, as well as has been recognised by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) since 1962 and more recently by the World Heritage Committee.

Second, to say that ``Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to challenge the Thai leadership'' shows complete ignorance. Samdech Techo Hun Sen has never challenged the leadership of any country, including Thailand's. Prime Minister Hun Sen only defends the national interests, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cambodia. As the prime minister of Cambodia, he has the right to appoint any person to be adviser to the Cambodian government. This is the sovereign right of Cambodia.

Third, Cambodia's leaders do not engage in a ``zero sum'' game and would not use the balance of power in Cambodia's relations with its neighbouring countries. Our Cambodian leaders would never play ``one neighbour against the other'', as pretentiously claimed by this unscientific, discredited author. In fact, they are only dealing with real politics in Cambodia's relations with its neighbour.

Fourth, your newspaper should stop misleading the public on the history of Cambodia. Historically, the Army of the United Front for National Salvation of Cambodia was set up in 1978 by Cambodian leaders, namely Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Hun Sen and Samdech Heng Samrin, and appealed to Vietnam for help in order to topple the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

Without the collapse of the Khmer Rouge at the time, there would not be any Khmer Rouge tribunal today. In fact, the Vietnamese troops all withdrew in 1989, two years before the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements in October 1991.

Fifth, the bilateral relations between Cambodia and Thailand are fundamentally based on mutual respect. If a neighbouring state treats another neighbouring country well, that country would certainly reciprocate in kind. This is the principle of reciprocity, which is widely used in international relations.

Sixth, I think that this pseudo scholar has quoted an opposition party leader in Cambodia, who is well-known as being ultra-nationalistic and xenophobic. By quoting Sam Rainsy's words on the Cambodia-Vietnam border issue, this vulgar scholar has allowed himself to become the spokesperson of Sam Rainsy, without knowing it.

Finally, to claim that His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Ambassador Hor Nambora, Cambodia's Ambassador to the United Kingdom; and Ambassador You Ay, Cambodia's Ambassador to Thailand, are of Vietnamese lineage is absolutely insulting.

This Thai ill-bred scholar, if he is civilised and well-educated, would not have stated such a thing _ that Cambodian leaders and high officials are ``Vietnamese proxies''. It should be recalled that these words were the favourite terms used by the Khmer Rouge to attack the government which had overthrown the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. Do you know the name of the neighbouring country which helped and sheltered the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s and for most of the 1990s?


Charge d'Affaires, Royal Embassy of Cambodia

Little help for migrant labour

Despite the cabinet's decision to extend by another two years the nationality verification deadline for migrant workers, the problems of underground labour and exploitation will not go away.

It is estimated that there are about 2-3 million migrant workers in Thailand, mostly from repressive Burma. The deadline extension will allow the registered workers, numbering about a million, a two-year grace period to have their nationality verified and passports issued by their governments as preconditions for obtaining work permits here.

But there are still many stumbling blocks ahead.

To start with, the Thai authorities are not equipped to help the workers deal with a complicated system which concerns various agencies as well as the governments from the workers' countries of origin.

In addition, if the Burmese government still refuses to speed things up by processing the nationality verification requests in Thailand and still requires the workers to travel back and forth to Burma, the chances of meeting the deadline are zero.

Parties ready for charter drive

The coalition parties say they have gathered enough support to push for a motion to amend the constitution.

Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa yesterday said more than 95 MPs had now signed on to support the motion, which was enough to submit it to parliament.

Mr Chumpol yesterday held talks with leaders of the Puea Pandin Party at a Bangkok hotel.

He said Puea Pandin and Chart Thai Pattana would work together to amend sections 190 and 94 of the charter.

Section 190 covers the requirement for the government to seek parliamentary approval before signing international agreements. The parties want to amend Section 94 to change the electoral system from large multi-seat constituencies to single-seat electorates.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women see Facebook as a recipe for business success

Networking site a new forum for Cambodian businesswomen


A female worker takes a look at the Cambodia Women in Business page on Facebook Tuesday. The group reached 100 members Monday, a figure that is still rising.


Helping women in business have access to information is a good thing."

UNDERREPRESENTED female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom are utilising the Internet in a bid to discuss their problems and encourage business growth.

A group called Cambodia Women in Business has set up on social-networking site Facebook to act as a forum for businesswomen.

It was started by female participants in the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF), a group that facilitates business discussions between the public and private sectors. They found that only 10 percent of participants were women, despite a 2009 study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Asia Foundation which found that 55 percent of private businesses in Cambodia were owned by females.

A spokeswoman for the IFC Coordination Bureau, which organises the forum, explained that participation by women in formal associations and forums may be lower, as many operate small and informal enterprises.

The IFC hopes that for some, the forum will provide an accessible place where gender-related issues can be discussed.

Julie Brickell of the IFC explained in an email Tuesday: “Two things happened to start this off. Women participating in the forum wanted to come together to discuss problems they face as entrepreneurs, and to help each other. They also wanted to reach other women who are not participating in the forum and draw them in.

“Since these women were all using the Internet, they thought setting up a Facebook page would be a good means of facilitating dialogue on this topic.”

Since its launch in November, over 100 women and men have become members of the site. They post links to academic studies, newspaper articles and discussions on gender equality in Cambodia.

The IFC reports the reaction has “been very enthusiastic” so far. It hopes that by promoting women’s empowerment, they can fuel economic growth within the business community and so reduce poverty.

Former women’s minister Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party welcomed the move, but said she believes that underlying issues causing gender inequality need to be addressed in Cambodia, and that the Internet is an inaccessible resource in much of the country.

She pointed to a lack of education, the pressures for women as carers, societal values and poverty – as well as considerations such as micro-finance interest rates – as factors holding women back in developing small businesses such as tailors, grocery stores and wedding outfitters.

Scholars from the Shinawatra International University in Thailand and Preston University in Cambodia interviewed 61 female entrepreneurs in Phnom Penh in 2009 and reported that 47.5 percent of respondents had a problem balancing work with being a housewife, 14.8 percent reported resistance from their husband’s family and 9.8 percent spoke of the indifferent or hostile attitude of society towards female entrepreneurs.

“Anything that is helping women in business have access to information is a good thing. If women were more educated, they’d be able to use computers and the Internet. In turn, that would help advance their businesses,” said Mu Sochua.

Mong Riththy fires up 'clean' charcoal brand

MONG Riththy Group is preparing to put “cleaner” charcoal on the domestic market after a US$10 million investment, its president told the Post Tuesday.

In the coming two weeks, the company is set to introduce between 250 and 1,000 tonnes of Acacia charcoal on the domestic market each month at a price of 1,200 riels (US$0.30) per kilogram, said Mong Riththy.

The special charcoal is thought to be cleaner than the domestic charcoal used normally, as it burns at a high heat and does not produce as much smoke as other varieties.

It has been produced using wood from Acacia trees planted in 2005 on 3,200 hectares of land in the Keo Phos area of Stueng Hav district, Preah Sihanouk province, Mong Riththy said.

“We hope that our company will be successful in putting its clean charcoal into the market because the product is easy to use, burns well, and does not affect the health of users,” he explained Tuesday.

He added that a grinding plant and 50 charcoal kilns have been built to process the wood, which is mixed with palm oil shells to produce the charcoal.

Mong Riththy said he hopes to encourage people to grow Acacia trees to avoid cutting down the Kingdom’s natural forests. One hectare of the crop, which takes five years to mature, could earn about $500 per year, he added.

Government officials welcomed the move to produce cleaner fuel.

Ty Sokun, director general of the Department of Forestry Administration, said Tuesday that people throughout the country cut down around 3.5 million tonnes of wood to use as cooking charcoal each year.

According to a report from the Department of Forest Administration, 70 percent of the firewood people use to cook in Cambodia is cut from natural forest. The other 30 percent is cut from fruit trees.

“We believe that it is a good idea to produce clean charcoal because it will help reduce the demand for firewood from natural forests,” said Ty Sokun.