Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Drugs, guns and war in Myanmar

Southeast Asia
Nov 3, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By Brian McCartan

BANGKOK - Mounting tensions between Myanmar's military government and ethnic groups with which it has ceasefire agreements in the country's northern regions have spurred a surge in drug trafficking. Driven by militias' growing demand for weapons to counter anticipated government offensives, a narcotics fire-sale is raising concerns of greater instability along the borders of several neighboring countries, including China.

Myanmar's military regime has demanded that the insurgent groups with which it agreed ceasefires in the late 1980s and early 1990s hand over their arms to government control. A deadline set for the end of October has been allowed to pass and discussions between the military and two main ethnic armies, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (Eastern Shan State) (NDAA), are reportedly continuing.

Neither side appears willing to back down, prompting speculation that new fighting may be imminent. Under the government's proposed Border Guard Force plan, ethnic armies would be downsized into several battalions consisting of 326 men. Each would have a contingent of Myanmar army and non-commissioned officers and operate under the central command of the Myanmar Army. The junta has said it will provide weapons, equipment, uniforms and even salaries to the proposed units.

The generals have indicated that a handover of weapons, either through the border guard scheme or through forced surrender, is key to their plan to achieve national reconciliation by holding general elections next year. The political stakes for that plan are high. The junta has demonstrated a willingness to risk the ire of ally China through an assault in August on the Kokang ceasefire group, which caused a flood of refugees to stream across the border into neighboring China.

Both the Myanmar army and the Kokang have since reinforced their troops and appear to be preparing for further hostilities that security analysts predict could spill over into other insurgent-controlled territories. It's still unclear if Myanmar will risk its relations with Beijing by attacking the remaining and better armed ceasefire groups along the Myanmar-China border, a battle plan that has the potential to significantly destabilize southern China.

Under the government's plan, the ceasefire groups' political wings will be allowed to transform into political parties to contest the general elections. Ethnic leaders, however, say that handing over their armed forces to government control would entail relinquishing their bargaining power vis-a-vis a regime that frequently uses military force to press its demands. It would also mean handing over much of the apparatus that protects, produces and transports their narcotics trafficking operations.

Since a 1989 mutiny that broke up the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) and spawned several ethnic armies in the north - including the UWSA, NDAA and the Kokang group - the drug trade has steadily expanded in the region. The military government has both permitted and profited from the groups' drug production and trafficking, despite official claims to lead an internationally assisted counter narcotics campaign and disingenuous pledges by several of the insurgent groups to be drug-free.

The ceasefire groups have plowed their profits into places such as Panghsang and Mong La along the Myanmar-China border, transforming them into boom towns. They have also invested in more legitimate businesses in central Myanmar, as well as in neighboring China and Thailand. For example, the UWSA's financial controller, Wei Xuegang, who is wanted for narcotics trafficking in the United States and Thailand, has built an extensive business empire in Myanmar around his Hong Pang Group.

Without firm autonomy agreements with the Myanmar government, a substantial portion of ceasefire groups' profits have gone towards the upkeep of their armies and the procurement of new weapons. According to security analysts, the UWSA has since its 1989 ceasefire agreement grown into the largest and best armed fighting force in Myanmar outside the government's army. The narco-trafficking militia consists of between 15,000 and 20,000 heavily armed foot soldiers.

Should negotiations over the border guard plan collapse and a renewed civil war break out in northern Myanmar, ethnic insurgents risk losing access to their extensive drug-financed business operations. According to Sai Khuensai Jaiyen of the Shan Herald Agency for News, an exile-run media organization that closely tracks the drug trade in Shan State, there are reports that Wei has started to sell parts of his business holdings and has suspended some of Hong Pang Group's operations in apparent preparation for hostilities. The company is involved, among other things, in lumber, agriculture, gas stations and department stores in the towns of Lashio, Mandalay and Yangon.

Security analysts and counter-narcotics officials in Thailand believe that, without access to funds from their business interests, insurgent groups like the UWSA will be forced to step up their narcotics production and trafficking activities. As nationalist Chinese Kuomintang general Duan Xiwen said in 1967 about fighting in Shan State: " ... to fight you must have an army, and an army must have guns, and to buy guns you must have money. In these mountains the only money is opium" - and now methamphetamines.

Insurgent patron
China has been the main patron of the ceasefire groups along its border since the CPB mutiny in 1989. The relationship, from Beijing's perspective, is a pragmatic one that ensures that China has leverage against Myanmar's generals with which to protect its large and growing economic and strategic interests in the country. China has provided development and economic assistance to the ceasefire groups, as well as advanced weapons and even some training in their usage. This has included 120mm and 130mm artillery and hand-held surface-to-air missiles.

China's goodwill towards the ceasefire groups has been partly contingent on their agreement to curtail drug smuggling into and through China. Pressure from Chinese officials has been placed on ethnic insurgent leaders to prohibit the smuggling of narcotics into China. Much of the drug trade to China consists of opium and heroin, which is becoming a growing problem seen in rising addiction rates in the country.

The ability of the UWSA, NDAA and other ceasefire groups to fight will be partially dependant on whether China permits them to maintain their known cross-border businesses and investments, as well as access to weapons and ammunition. Without the ability to generate income through these operations, ethnic insurgent leaders will be faced with the choice of either surrendering once their stocks of ammunition are depleted - as happened to the Kokang in August - or stepping up narcotics production and trafficking to raise funds and purchase arms and ammunition from dealers in Thailand and China.

The insurgent groups' main market for narcotics is Thailand. While heroin is still exported to the outside world via well-established and well-protected trafficking routes in Thailand, most of the methamphetamines produced are destined for Thai consumption. China, too, could soon be faced with an upsurge in narcotics smuggling, both to its growing addict population and through well-documented routes across its southern region out to Shanghai and Hong Kong. Myanmar remains China's main source of heroin.

Thai counter-narcotics officials are already claiming that the UWSA is engaged in a fire sale by cutting prices to quickly move its stores of narcotics to buy more weapons before hostilities with government forces begin in the approaching cool season. In August, the Thai army quietly revived an elite counter-narcotics force previously known as Task Force 399 and renamed as 151st Special Warfare Company.

Task Force 399, which was tasked with interdiction at the border and supported by US Special Forces personnel, was known previously for taking a proactive approach to interdicting drug traffickers including, some analysts of the drug trade say, pursuit across the border into Myanmar territory.

Over the past five months, there have been frequent reports in the Thai media about arrests of drug traffickers, disruption of smuggling gangs and seizures of large quantities of narcotics. The New York Times in an October 1 article cited Thai Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) figures that 1,268 kilograms of heroin had been seized between January and August this year, a huge increase on the 57 kilograms seized in the region last year.

Last week, the government announced plans for a new drug suppression force to combat trafficking in border provinces next to Myanmar. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban linked the creation of the new force to an increase in drug trafficking from Myanmar, according to media reports. The plan still needs government approval, but if enacted the new unit will by coordinated by the army's Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Regional reach
While the bulk of the drug trafficking ceasefire armies are stationed along the Myanmar-China border, the UWSA has also built up a substantial area along the Thai border, contiguous with Thailand's northern Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, through which much of its heroin and amphetamine trade now passes. Because the Myanmar army controls territory between the main UWSA units, each is largely self-sustaining through their narcotics trafficking. Maintaining the security of this area will be key for access to the Thai market.

Another key narcotics trade point is across the Mekong River into Laos. The NDAA operates at least one major trade point jointly with the UWSA at Sop Lwe on the Myanmar side of the river near the small Lao town of Xieng Kok in the northern Luang Nam Tha province, says a researcher familiar with the trade who recently visited the site. This route, stretching across the width of UWSA and NDAA-held territory along the China-Myanmar border, avoids the necessity of sending narcotics shipments south across government-held territory to reach the Thai border.

Observers of the regional drug trade have claimed that the UWSA and NDAA have established methamphetamine laboratories in Laos, an accusation that Lao officials have consistently denied. Trafficking routes, however, are much harder to deny. Thai counter-narcotics officials claim methamphetamines and heroin are smuggled through Laos to less well-patrolled points in northeastern Thailand, including Nong Khai, Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani provinces.

The ONCB reckons between three million and five million methamphetamine pills are smuggled into northeastern Thailand from Laos each year. In a sting operation in July, Thai police arrested two Lao men and a Thai woman in northeastern Udon Thani province with 160,000 methamphetamine tablets worth as much as US$1.4 million when sold in Bangkok. Police allege one of the Lao men was an important trafficker in Laos with direct contact to Myanmar-linked drug labs.

An increase in production and trafficking in Myanmar could have far-reaching regional implications. In Vietnam, there has been in recent years an upsurge in trafficking of methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs smuggled through Laos and traced back to northeastern Myanmar. The drugs are known to be smuggled to the northern cities of Hanoi and Haiphong and down the length of country to Ho Chi Minh City, feeding a growing addiction problem. Demand has increased in Vietnam as its large population becomes more affluent. Cambodia and Malaysia have also seen an increase in narcotics trafficked from Myanmar.

The production and trafficking of narcotics has fueled a succession of insurgent groups in Myanmar's northeastern region since the 1950's and will continue to do so should fighting with the government resume. Better communications and more efficient trafficking routes and methods, as well as more easily produced synthetic drugs in mobile laboratories, have financed the growth of certain Myanmar insurgent groups. And as they prepare for new hostilities against the government, the region's narcotics problem seems set to grow.

Brian McCartan is a Bangkok-based freelance journalist. He may be reached at brianpm@comcast.net.

Humanitarian emergency aid for typhoon victims in Cambodia


Source: Government of the Republic of Korea

Date: 02 Nov 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

1. With regard to enormous loss of human lives and property in Cambodia caused by typhoon "Ketsana" on October 1-2, the Government of the Republic of Korea has decided to provide emergency relief supplies worth 200,000 dollars to support recovery efforts in Cambodia and join the international community in its humanitarian assistance activities.

Typhoon "Ketsana" that hit northwestern Cambodia on October 1-2 has left 43 people dead, 67 injured, about 6,000 families homeless, and around 48,000 families short of food. The typhoon also caused property and infrastructure damage, washing away or damaging about 1,000 houses, sweeping away 57,000 hectares of farmland and livestock, and destroying roads.

2. During the summit between President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Hun Sen on October 22, President Lee expressed his intention to provide cooperation through the Foreign Ministry in response to a request from the Cambodian side to support typhoon recovery operations. The Korean government will provide relief food and daily necessities that the Cambodian government has asked for.

Spokesperson and Deputy Minister for Public Relations of MOFAT

* unofficial translation

Russian, Cambodian ships collide in Black Sea



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SOFIA, November 2 (Itar-Tass) -- The Russian ship Nikolai Psomiadi and the ship Dolian flying the Cambodian flag, collided in neutral waters of the Black Sea off Bulgaria on Monday.

According to the Marine Rescue and Coordination Centre in Varna, the incident occurred outside Bulgaria’s 12-mile territorial zone during a storm. The captains of both ships rejected the offers of help.

The press service of the ministry of transport, communications and information technologies said the Bulgarian Navy has been notified of the incident. A helicopter is ready to fly to the scene of the incident, if need be.

PM Vows Peaceful Solutions to Disputes with Cambodia

2 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The prime minister vows to peacefully settle conflicts with Cambodia, particularly concerning the recent controversial statement by the Cambodian prime minister.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stressed that the government will make efforts to settle any conflicts with Cambodia in a peaceful manner, keeping in mind the nation's territorial rights.

Abhisit's explanation came in response to the question by appointed senator Kamnoon Sittisaman during today's Senate meeting.

The prime minister said Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security Suthep Thaugsuban has clarified various issues, particularly inaccurate information, with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian ambassador to Bangkok.

Abhisit expressed belief that the conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia would not get out of hand.

The prime minister went on to say that in the parliamentary meeting next week, the government will review the minute of the meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on land border demarcation.

He noted that the minute will be considered according to procedure as stipulated by Section 190 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Abhisit said he does not oppose setting up a joint parliamentary committee to handle the review as proposed by Kamnoon.

Regarding the demarcation of the Thai-Cambodian border, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai government is trying to hold bilateral talks with Cambodia.

He added that he does not object to requests by archaeologists to join inspection trips across the border.

Kasit revealed that, so far, the government has been able to plant 48 out of 73 markers to demarcate the border.

Meanwhile, the Patriotic Thais Club today submitted a letter to the prime minister at Parliament, urging the government to launch serious measures against and stop giving any aid to Cambodia.

The group then lodged a petition with the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, demanding that the Cambodian government issue an apology and withdraw troops from the Preah Vihear Temple within three days.

Millions die because of high malaria drug prices

Faith Ndaa, a malaria patient, lies on her bed at the high dependency unit of Kilifi district hospital, November 26, 2008.  REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

By Kate Kelland

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly a million people die from malaria each year because they cannot afford the most effective treatment and instead often buy old drugs to which the malaria parasite has become resistant, researchers said on Monday.

Artemisinin combination therapy, or ACT, drugs made by firms such as Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis can cost as much as 65 times the daily minimum wage in some African countries, according to a study of 6 high-risk nations by Populations Services International Malaria.

ACTs can cost up to $11 to patients buying over the counter, while older drugs to less effective drugs cost just $0.30 cents.

"With most people accessing anti-malarial medication through the private sector, price becomes a critically important barrier," said Desmond Chavasse, director of PSI.

"A full course of an adult treatment of ACT can be up to 65 times the minimum daily wage. This provides an overpowering incentive (for patients) to make the wrong anti-malarial choice."

Malaria is a potentially deadly disease transmitted via mosquito bites. Children account for about 90 percent of the deaths in the sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia -- the worst affected areas.

Chavasse was speaking to reporters from Nairobi, where he was at an international malaria conference to present a study called ACTwatch -- a research project by PSI and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the malaria drugs market across 6 sub-Saharan African countries and Cambodia.

The study -- designed to provide baseline data to allow experts to judge a planned drug subsidy scheme being offered in 11 nations -- looked at availability, pricing and volumes for 23,000 malaria treatments sourced from 20,000 outlets.

In most countries, ACTs make up only 5 to 15 percent of the total volume of anti-malarials on the market, it found.

According to PSI, the majority of malaria endemic countries changed their treatment policies about three years ago to favour giving ACT drugs in the face of widespread malaria resistance to older monotherapy medicines.

But Chavasse said despite this, ACT availability can still be as low as 20 percent in public sector health clinics.

Malaria experts hope a $225 million Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) subsidy scheme launched in April by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will drastically cut the price of ACTs in poorer nations.

The plan is being offered to Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Niger, to try to cut ACT prices to about $0.20 to $0.50 cents.

Stunned Wilson High students grieve for slain classmate

Odell Smith, 16, covers his face and grieves with fellow Woodrow Wilson High students at the spot where Melody Ross was shot and killed. "I just saw her moments before she was shot...she was smiling," said Smith. (Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times / November 2, 2009)

Friday night's shooting jolts parents who consider campus to be the safest school in Long Beach.

By Seema Mehta
November 3, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Mourning students at Long Beach's Wilson High School gathered Monday by the pavement where classmate Melody Ross was shot after the homecoming football game. Leaving handwritten notes to Melody and her family, the teenagers lit candles and shed tears as they remembered the bubbly 16-year-old.

"Why her?" asked sophomore Micah Mathis, 15, who took French with Melody, an honors student. "That's what I want to know."

The mood at the coastal campus was somber as students, teachers and administrators struggled to comprehend what occurred Friday, when someone fired into a crowd of students leaving the game, striking three people, including Melody, who was fatally wounded.

Police patrol cars circled the school. The principal's voice cracked as she addressed students. Grief counselors met with a steady stream of teenagers, who wore black shirts in Melody's honor and released balloons during a lunchtime ceremony attended by her parents.

"It's a large high school, but it's like a family and it feels like we've lost one of our own," said Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. "The students are very resilient and they are helping each other get through this difficult time."

Wilson has 4,300 students, and is racially and economically diverse. The school serves some of the city's most affluent communities, yet half the students receive free or reduced-price lunches, a measure of poverty. Many parents consider Wilson, an early adopter of school uniforms, the safest high school in the city.

Tamura Howard of Signal Hill said her 14-year-old daughter previously attended a Christian school and that she believed Wilson is safe.

"That's why I put her in this school, it has a reputation for being safe and it's in a relatively good neighborhood," said Howard, noting that her daughter attended Friday's game. "This has given me nightmares."

The week had been a boisterous one on Wilson's campus, with pep rallies leading up to the game, and a dance. Students were hoping for an unlikely drubbing of crosstown rival Polytechnic High School, one of the nation's strongest high school football teams.

"Everyone was so, so excited," said senior Daisha Black, 17. "Everyone kept saying, 'Isn't it a good day to be a Bruin?' "

But minutes after the game, shots were fired on Ximeno Avenue just south of 10th Street, striking Ross and two others who are expected to survive.

Although there were hundreds of people leaving the campus, police have no witnesses or suspects. Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide detail at (562) 570-7244.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today to offer a $10,000 reward.

Meanwhile, rumors swirled across campus about who shot Melody.

"People don't want to talk, they don't want to open their mouths," said Black, who was a few feet from Melody when the shooting occurred, and whose boyfriend comforted her while awaiting paramedics.

Students learned about the death Saturday morning through text messages and the Internet.

Madison Guest, 16, didn't believe the rumors until a friend asked her to bring flowers to track practice Saturday. She was on the team with Melody, and recalled hearing her boisterous cheers on the track.

"She was always happy and always supported me in my running," the junior said. "I'm still in shock. I just tried to go on with my day -- that's what she would have wanted."

Melody's parents were sequestered in their North Long Beach home Monday afternoon. The family fled the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields of Cambodia to move to Long Beach before Melody was born.

One month ago, tired of the violence in their last neighborhood, near Anaheim Street, the center of Long Beach's large Cambodian community, the family moved to North Long Beach.

The district's superintendent set up a fund to help the family with funeral costs and other needs at:

Racer drowns on 2nd day of Water Festival in Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov 03, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- One boat racer drowned during the second day of the annual Water Festival boat racing in front of the Royal Palace of Cambodia when their boat sank, said a Phnom Penh municipal police officer on Tuesday.

The boat with 76 racers from Kampong Chham sank on Monday afternoon, said the officer who asked not to be named. All the other racers escaped safely. Only the man identified as Tea, from Koh Soten in Kampong Chham was killed. The sunken racing boat was identified as Meas Srey Pich (The Golden Lady Diamond). The body was recovered downstream near Koh Pich island. This is the first fatality this year.

Nearly 400 boats with more than 25,000 boat racers from various parts of the country participated in the annual water festival lasted for three days from Nov. 1 to 3.

Cambodia's boat races or water festival is a three-day event crediting Cambodia's strong armed forces in defeating enemies by using boats.

Every year, millions of Cambodians are coming from across the country and are flocking to Phnom Penh to view and enjoy the boat races. Besides the boat racing, the three-day celebrations include fireworks, moonprayers and illuminated boats with ministry and royal emblems.

The 1,700-meter race is held on the Mekong River in the capital in front of the Royal Palace.

King Norodom Sihamoni, accompanied by the government leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of the foreign diplomatic corps, watched the boat racing on the first day of the festival celebrations.

With water levels much higher in rivers across the Kingdom this year due to the storms, racers could face greater danger than in years past.

In 2007, five Singaporean racers drowned when their 22-crow member dragon boat capsized during that year's all-ASEAN festival races. Chea Sokhom, secretary general of the National and International Festival Committee, said he had advised racers to be particularly cautious during this year's competition.

ASEAN-U.S. meeting to discuss disaster control, flu prevention


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov 03, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The ASEAN-US Summit to be held after the Singapore APEC meeting in mid-November will discuss topics such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disaster management, A/H1N1 flu influenza control, a Thai official said Tuesday.

The 90-minute Asean-US summit is scheduled for November 15 at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel and will be co-chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the current ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Chairman, Boosara Kanchanalai, Director of Division 4 of Department of ASEAN Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, told a press briefing.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) leaders' meeting will be held on November 14-15 in Singapore.

It is expected that non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disaster management, A/H1N1 flu influenza prevention, climate change, anti-terrorism will be discussed at the Singapore-proposed summit, she said.

"It's not a permanent meeting but was temporarily decided short time ago, " the director said. "Leaders of ten ASEAN member countries have confirmed to join the meeting."

Details of the agenda and the joint statement will be worked out later this week by the Philippines, the coordinator for the Asean-U.S. meeting, Thailand's Nation news network earlier said.

The ASEAN-US Summit was first planned in September 2007 in Singapore but then-president George W Bush called it off at the last minute due to his tight schedule at home. Bush met ASEAN leaders three times during his tenure -- in October 2002 in Los Cabos, Mexico; in December 2005 in Busan, South Korea; and in September 2007, in Sydney. But these occasions were part of the APEC leaders' meetings, and as a result only seven ASEAN members could attend. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are not members of APEC.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has visited the area twice since she took office. The first time, she visited Indonesia and ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta in February and in July she attended the 42nd AMM/PMC meeting and 16th ARF in Thailand's southern island of Phuket. During her stay in Phuket, Clinton signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia or TAC with ASEAN members.

The U.S. secretary of state said she and U.S. President Obama believed that Southeast Asia is vital to global progress, peace and prosperity. "Southeast Asia and ASEAN are critically important to our future," she added.

Also at the summit, ASEAN and the United States are expected to discuss an ASEAN-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which was proposed by Senator Richard Lugar last month. He said an FTA should be part of a comprehensive strategy towards ASEAN.

ASEAN-U.S. trade increased from 161 billion U.S. dollars in 2006 to more than 178 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. U.S. investment in ASEAN grew from 3.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2006 to 6.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2007. The region is the sixth largest export market of the United States.

Dane Abused Young Girls in Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian court charges 61-year-old Danish man for abusing three underage girls, and he faces 10 years in prison. His name is Jørgen K. Hansen.

By Morten Scheelsbeck

The town Poipet near the Thailand border where the sexual assaults took place.The 61-year-old Danish man Jørgen K. Hansen is in Cambodia accused of abusing three underage girls in the town Poipet near the Thailand border, the Prosecutor of the provincial court in Banteay Meanchey Cambodia informs.

10 years
State Prosecutor So Vath told news agency AFP that Jørgen K. Hansen risks a prison sentence of at least 10 years if he is found guilty of the pedophilia accusations.

One of the abused girls' mother is accused of having sold her child for prostitution.

According to the local police Jørgen K. Hansen came to Cambodia from Thailand and abused three girls, all under the age of 15 years old, at a guesthouse in the border town of Poipet.

“He has, through an interpreter confessed having had sex with girls, and the victims have also told us about him,” says the local chief of police, Hun Hean.

Cambodia tightened in 2003 legislation towards pedophilia and to get rid of the country’s reputation as the pedophile's paradise, and since then dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child abuse or deported for trial in their home countries.

Until 9:48 o'clock this morning Jørgen K. Hansen stood posted as a member of the Danish Chamber of Commerce in Thailand on their website. After that the the name of the accused pedophile was removed from the site.

ScandAsia news reporter Sarah Mia Haagerup is on her way to Banteay Meanchey to follow up on the story.

Created 2009-11-03

Cambodia, Russia to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 03 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian National Assembly (NA) Head Heng Samrin will lead a lawmaker delegation to visit Russia, according to the official invitation from Sergey M.Mironov, Chairman of the federation council of Russian federation, an NA press release said on Monday.

Heng Samrin will pay an official visit from November 4 to 10 to strengthen relations between the two countries, the release said.

The Cambodian delegation plans to meet with Sergery and other senior officials from the Council of Federation, it added.

Both sides will also discuss the US$1.5 billion debt owed by Cambodia dating from the 1980s.
Cheam Yeab, chairman of the NA Finance Committee, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He said in August that Russia agreed to cancel most of Cambodia’s debt.

The vice chairman of the Russian Parliament Valery A. Yazev told the Cambodian Government during a visit last month that up to 70 percent of the debt was being cancelled by Moscow, Cheam Yeab. But later on the Russian Finance Ministry denied saying that Russia agreed to forgive any debt.

Ouk Rabun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said that Cambodia owes more than US$2.3 billion to various countries. This amount does not include the potentially forgiven Russian debt. During the 1980s, Cambodia was a close Russian ally and relied heavily on Moscow for weapons, food and infrastructure equipment. In the past few years, Russian investors have created mega projects in Cambodia. According to a report from Cambodian investment broad of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), Russia invested over US$234 million in Cambodi a in the first six months of this year, focusing on tourism resorts and telecommunications. The bilateral trade volume between the two countries was worth about over US$20 million in 2008.

Cambodia and Russia, old friend from the cold war, first established diplomatic ties in 1956 and re-established diplomatic ties after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties was celebrated in May 19, 2006.

No Signs of A/H1N1 at Water Festival

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 03 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Although A/H1N1 has killed four Cambodians, there are so few signs of the rumored epidemic during the three days of the Water Festival November 1-3.

The number of racing boats was down on last year, with only 391.

Many of those who attended Water Festival wore masks to prevent A/H1N1after a media campaign publicizing the risks.

Cambodian Vice Chief Coordina- tor for the Water Festival Committee Chea Sokhum told DAP News Cambodia that the numbers of Cambodians decreased compared to last year. But, he added, “it was only the first day, so we could not conclude as many choose to visit the second day and the last days of the ceremony.”

Some sources reported that after Cambodia suffered devastation in northeastern provinces from Typhoon Ketsana, A/H1N1 and the Global Economic Crisis, visitors to the Water Festival would decrease. Chea Sokhum, however, stressed that just as many Cambodians attended for the ceremony as usual. He claimed that Cambodia has “no serious problem” with A/H1N1 “because the Cambodian Health Ministry to prevent for the first time, it is different like the US or Philippines.”

The Health Ministry distributed about 50,000 leaflets detailing the risks from A/H1N1 all provinces and in Phnom Penh citizens ahead of the Water Festival.

Director of Department of Against Epidemic Disease of the Ministry of Health Sok Touch said that all fatalities had also suffered other chronic health problems. The Ministry of Health recommended Cambodians prevent the disease themselves by using handkerchiefs, cleaning their hands and wearing face masks.

As of last weekend, there were 239 recorded cases of A/H1N1 and at least four Cambodians have died. There have been 41,513 recorded cases of A/H1N1 in Southeast Asia, with 75 deaths. Across the Asia Pacific region there have been 122,267 cases and 455 deaths. Europe has recorded over 6,300 cases with 261 recorded deaths, Africa 13,297 cases, 75 deaths, and America 160,129 cases and 3,539 deaths, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

Independence Day Ceremony Changed to Nov 8

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 03 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The National and International Ceremony Preparation Committee has decreed that the Independence Day ceremony will be changed to November 8, rather than the normal November 9, according to a press release.

The change is apparently to help the King attend the event but also participate in an important traditional ceremony.

Chea Sokhum, National and International Ceremony Preparation Committee Secretary said that Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen and other high-ranking officials will place garlands at the Independence Monument on November 8. On Nov- ember 9, King Norodom Sihamoni will place garlands and Tean Chey, a traditional candle. On November 11, the King will ceremonially blow out the Tean Chey. “The ceremony will dedicate to ancestors holding from 3 pm at Independence Monum- ent,” the press release said.

This is the 56th anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France, after France had control of Cambodia as a colony 1863-1953.

The Independence Day ceremony is seen by many as a chance for paying their respects to former King Norodom Sihanouk, who many credit with brokering independence from France.

One Racer Drowns on Second Say of Water Festival

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 03 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

One boat racer drowned during the second day of the annual Water Festival near the Chaktomuk Hall when their boat sank.
The boat sank at around 4 pm on Monday. All the other racers escaped safely.

The dead man was identified only as Tea, 45, from Koh Soten in Kampong Chham. The sunken racing boat was identified as Meas Srey Pich (The Golden Lady Diamond).

The body was recovered downstream near Koh Pich island. This is the first fatality this year.

2009-11-01 Khmer Water Festival 2009 - Day 1

Visit http://www.khmerlive.tv/arc... for full lenght video. Cambodian Water Festival 2009. This video is the beginning of Day 1 of the Festival on November 1st 2009.

CAMBODIA: Climate Fight an Uphill Battle, But All’s Not Lost

Source: Inter Press Service
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"I hold my fingers crossed, but to be realistic I don't see major things happening in Barcelona this week," Peter Acquah, secretary of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), told IPS from Nairobi.

AMCEN met last week in Addis Ababa for a final conclave before African negotiators meet their counterparts from the rest of the world at the 15th Conference of Parties in the Danish capital on Dec. 7-18.

The result of the talks in the Ethiopian capital was an unambiguous "No" to the present draft for a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol by a new climate agreement in Copenhagen.

Developing nations – jointly negotiating under the umbrella of the G77 plus China – are building up the pressure on the road to Copenhagen by playing their cards close to their chest.

"Of course rapid movement becomes all of a sudden possible if the Annex I countries are willing to put some numbers on the table in Barcelona that go past the current proposed cuts in emissions," Acquah acknowledged. "And if they come up with a realistic figure to finance the deal."

Climate Change - the Bigger Picture

Global warming is caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Most scientists agree that we can handle a two degree increase of temperatures worldwide. Beyond that, it is thought, climate change is will become unpredictable and extremely difficult to manage.

This point is likely to be reached when the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeds 450 parts per million (PPM). Currently the concentration is approaching 390 PPM and increasing by three percent annually.

The Kyoto Protocol directed 37 industrialised nations (the so-called Annex I countries) to cut their emissions by roughly five percent compared to 1990 levels. The U.S. refused to ratify this accord and its emissions have increased by 20 percent, compared to 1990.

The other parties have managed to reduce their emissions according to Kyoto. Total emissions by Annex I countries were reported to have fallen by 12 percent between 1990-2005, but this is not enough. Especially since the largest drop came from the breakup and deindustrialisation of the Soviet Union. By 2007 only six of the Annex I countries outside the former USSR-bloc had reduced their emissions.

The Kyoto parties now emit roughly 25 percent of all greenhouse gasses. Rapid industrialisation of emerging countries like China and India has been accompanied by a significant rise in emissions. The developing world now contributes almost 50 percent of global emissions.

The rest is largely attributed to the US. China is the biggest polluter emitting 6.8 billion tonnes annually (21.5 percent), followed by the U.S. with 6.4 billion tonnes (20 percent). However, per capita China emits only 5.5 tonnes, compared to the 21.2 tonnes U.S. citizens contribute.

According to a recent article in the scientific journal Biogeoscience the whole of Africa emits a mere 3.7 percent of global output. This includes South Africa that emits1.5 percent of global CO2. The entire continent's carbon footprint between 1990-2004 constituted less than half the CO2 emissions of the UK in that period.

The biggest challenge for Africa is to prevent emissions through deforestation. The Congo Basin is the biggest forest carbon-sink after the Amazon rainforest, but is under threat. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that four million hectares of African forest disappears annually because of logging.

Because developing countries' contribution to the problem of global warming is historically insignificant, talks on climate change are conducted along two tracks. First there is the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocal (AWG-KP) which deals with further cuts by developed nations.

The second is the Ad-hoc working Group for Long-term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA) which is designed to spur the developing world into taking actions against climate change.

Africa's interpretation of the "common but differentiated responsibilities" of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a reduction of emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by the industrialised world (the Annex I countries of the Kyoto Protocol - see sidebar) by 2020, a reduction of 95 percent by 2050 and a cash injection of 1.5 percent of GDP from developed nations to compensate for the effects of climate change in the developing world.

"Africa, as the most vulnerable continent, deserves the right to full support to adapt to climate change. Africa has also contributed the least to the global greenhouse gas emissions yet its communities stand to suffer the most," said AMCEN in a statement this week.

"Such support is estimated to be anywhere between $200 and $400 billion a year, one third of which should go to adaptation to climate change," Alf Wills, chief negotiator of South Africa and a spokesman for the G77/China group told IPS from Barcelona.

"The window of opportunity here is finite though. If global warming reaches the two degree Celsius threshold, the costs will increase dramatically and adaptation will become much less feasible. This is also why it is imperative that developed nations further reduce greenhouse gasses."

Linda Fairhurst, Adaptation to Climate Change programme coordinator Africa for ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability recently told IPS that climate change is likely to have a devastating effect on the continent. "We are looking at serious consequences for water provision and sanitation, livelihoods, transport and energy."

Fairhurst warned that low-lying settlements like the town of Walvis Bay in Namibia, the city of Maputo in Mozambique or Tanzania's Dar es Salaam are seriously threatened by rising seas levels.

In August AMCEN put the cost of fighting climate change at $67 billion a year for Africa alone.

"But it's not just about the money," said Acquah. "It follows from the Kyoto Protocol that Africa should be provided with the means to adapt to climate change. This includes the transfer of green technology and there is little movement on that front. In Bangkok we booked no progress in the field of intellectual property rights."

Emissions in Africa are a modest 3.7 percent of global CO2 output, mostly caused by deforestation, gas flaring and coal-fired power generation in a handful of countries. One of the main expectations for Copenhagen is that a deal will be reached on Reducing Emissions Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), which should see billions flowing into the continent to preserve rainforests and plant trees.

This money is badly needed for adaptation. A recent study by UK scientists published in the Oxford Review suggests that "the impact of climate change on Africa is likely to be severe because of adverse direct effects, high agricultural dependence, and limited capacity to adapt... Adaptation will be impeded by Africa's fragmentation into small countries and ethnic groups, and by poor business environments."

The International Food Policy Research Institute recently predicted wheat yields on the continent will down be 30 percent in 2050, while prices will almost double due to climate change.

"If we don’t agree on an ambitious and binding treaty we will be remembered as the generation which spent billions on credit cards, spread environmental vandalism and did nothing to confront the most intractable problem of our times," Kim Carstensen, chief of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, fumed on the eve of the Barcelona talks. "I am sure none of the leaders would want to be remembered this way."

But one of the major questions in the negotiations is who will commit first and to how much. The EU is willing to go to a 30 percent cap on emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, but only if developed nations will cut emissions their emissions as well.

Largest polluter China has promised to cut CO2 by a "notable margin" from 2005 levels, but demands a 40 percent cut by developed countries in return. In the U.S., a law is proposed that would cut emissions to roughly seven percent of their 1990 levels, but it's likely the bill will be torpedoed in Congress.

African countries, meanwhile are keen to maintain a firewall between mandatory commitments made by industrialised countries and those demanded of the developing world, which they insist should be voluntary.

"Mitigation actions for Africa should be voluntary and nationally appropriate and must be fully supported and enabled by technology transfer, finance and capacity building from developed Countries," stated AMCEN last week.

"Higher temperatures in the next few decades are caused by the historical emissions of developed countries, so they have a first responsibility," added Acquah.

The fundamental problem is that AMCEN and the G77 include China, India, Brazil and South Africa, the emitters of tomorrow. Developed nations are adamant these big emerging economies should also commit to mandatory cuts.

In Cambodia, a Cry for Small-Scale Subsidies

November 2, 2009
By Simon Marks

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A $20 solar-powered lamp could benefit millions of rural Cambodian residents, but most still can’t afford it. Subsidies, its makers say, are sorely needed.

Generous subsidies for businesses and tax incentives for consumers are needed if developing countries like Cambodia are to promote renewable energy alternatives — particularly in rural areas — a conference in Phnom Penh on green energy was told last week.

At the moment, conference participants said, such incentives are lacking.

“Cambodian investors have low investment capital,” said Rin Seyha, the managing director of SME Renewable Energy, a Cambodian-based renewable energy investment firm. Unlike neighboring Vietnam, there is little in the way of tax incentives and subsidies on loans for renewable energy companies, he said.

Jeroen Verschelling, the director of Kamworks, a Cambodian-based solar energy company, said consumers who wished to use more environmentally friendly energy sources were often forced to ask for help from microfinance institutions that tend to provide loans with extremely high interest rates.

Mr. Verschelling said large scale coal plant and hydropower projects were able to easily secure financing. For smaller, renewable projects, he said, “It is much harder to do that.”

According to the environmental group Geres, 80 percent of Cambodia’s energy consumption comes from biomass, mostly from burning timber. The United Nations Development Program estimates that just 20 percent of the population has access to the national power grid.

Small, renewable energy developers say this means that most energy-sector financing is directed at projects that benefit only a fifth of Cambodia’s residents.

Kamworks has recently begun a basic solar powered light for people in rural areas. The lamp, which retails for about $20, needs direct sunlight during the day and runs for about 12 hours at night on its lowest setting, or about three hours on its highest.

“To pay $20 at once is a huge amount for local people,” said Patrick Kooijman, the marketing director for Kamworks, who added that the lamps really ought to be given away for free. “I think that the private sector getting involved in things like this is the only way it really can work in the long term.”

Margaret Ryan, an energy consultant for Khmer Solar, which specializes in solar power installation, said that despite government efforts to slash import tariffs on equipment used for renewable energy sources, the Cambodian consumer was generally unable to afford the costs of installing solar panels. (Tariff rates on imports have been reduced to 7 percent from 35 percent on items like solar panels and battery chargers and have been altogether eliminated for items like wind and hydraulic turbines.)

“Even if labor is very inexpensive, it is still costly,” she said. “Any expense is too much expense.”

To reduce prices, Khmer solar is encouraging Cambodians to install the equipment themselves by disseminating simple installation leaflets and employing operators who can troubleshoot for clients with technical issues. But these efforts are a drop in the pond when trying to make major inroads into Cambodia’s energy sector.

“The next obstacle to overcome will be a workable plan for a subsidy,” Ms. Ryan said. “It would be wonderful if the government subsidizes the poorest to get solar systems. But I doubt it will happen.”

Beehive Radio Owner Dons Monk Robes

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Mam Sonando, the 69-year-old owner of an independent radio station in Phnom Penh, took up his monk’s robes on Monday to lead a 30-day peace march from Phnom Penh to areas near the disputed border.

Mam Sonando, along with 10 Buddhist monks and 10 nuns, began walking from his Beehive Radio studio in Phnom Penh, with plans to continue through the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Oddar Meanchey, a journey of nearly 600 kilometers.

Mam Sonando, who was jailed in 2006 under anti-defamation laws, told VOA Khmer he hoped to build a haven on the border for villagers of Chup Koki, “to avoid border issues with the Thai side,” and to prevent reported killings by Thai border authorities.

Having saved $80,000 from overseas and local donations, he said, he wanted to build a pagoda, hospital and school for the poor.

Ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yiep said he welcomed the plan, “if this act follows the advice of the Buddha.”

Mam Sonando was a monk at the Bak Nam pagoda, in Svay Rieng province, in 2002.

Thais Protest Over Soldiers on Border

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Nearly 500 Thai protesters gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok Monday to protest the presence of Cambodian troops near Preah Vihear temple. Soldiers from both countries have been entrenched along the border since July 2008.

The protest follows remarks from ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra that he would not accept exile status from Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen angered Bangkok last week by announcing he would welcome Thaksin in Cambodia without abiding by an extradition treaty.

The protesters demanded that Cambodian troops leave the area around Preah Vihear temple, which they claim belongs to Thailand.

Koy Kong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the demand “illegal.”

“Cambodia cannot accept the demand by Thai protestors,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials said Monday that Thaksin’s statements were likely to cool the ongoing war of words between leaders of the two countries.

“Thaksin showed his support for the Bangkok government,” by declining Hun Sen’s exile invitation, said Kem Sokha, head of the opposition Human Rights Party.

“If Thaksin makes asylum in Cambodia, it degrades the Thai government,” he said. “So, Thaksin does not want to degrade the Bangkok government in the name of the nation. Thaksin thinks of the national interest more than his personal interest.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said Thakisn’s declining to come to Cambodia would “avoid an uncomfortable feeling between the ruling parties of Cambodia and Thailand.”

However, Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thaksin may also want to keep his political options open. Were he to seek political asylum in Cambodia, he would not be allowed to participate in politics in Thailand. “So he decided not to go to Cambodia.”

Thaksin lives in exile and faces a two-year jail term on charges of corruption if he returns to Thailand.

Cambodia Mulls Resource Transparency Initiative

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
02 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

[Editor’s note: VOA Khmer recently spoke with specialists in the field of natural resource management in developing countries and learned that Cambodia is not alone in struggling to use natural resources to benefit its citizens. The resource curse, where natural riches fail to help the poor, is a worldwide scourge, the global experts told VOA Khmer in numerous interviews. Below is Part Nine of the original VOA Khmer weekly series, airing Sundays in Cambodia.]

Cambodia is considering application to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, despite heavy criticism of its handling of natural resources so far, an official says.

Cambodian People’s Party Lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the initiative could help provide expertise in the field, “with adequate experiences in managing oil and gas.”

The Oslo-based Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative is a non-profit organization that helps country’s manage their natural resources.. In 2002, Britain’s then-premier Tony Blair announced the concept of the initiative at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The initiative focuses on transparency and accountability in managing oil and gas and requires companies to publish payments to host governments. So far, 30 countries, including five in Asia, have implemented the program.

“If the government officials and parliamentarians are interested in applying for EITI, we welcome that,” Sam Bartlett, Asia director for the group, told VOA Khmer. “We are ready to support those stakeholders in any way so that they can adapt the EITI to the challenges in Cambodia.”

Bartlett noted, however, that Global Witness, which has issued two reports critical of the government that are banned in the country, is a member of the transparency initiative’s board.

Cheam Yeap said, were Cambodia to decide on the initiative, it were defer decisions to the board.

“If Global Witness is still angry, or wants revenge on the Cambodian government, or Cambodia, it’s not a surprise, because we’ve had some sorts of conflict in the past,” he said. “If Global Witness is on the board and is still angry with Cambodia, let the EITI board of directors decide.”

Global Witness has been campaigning against illegal logging in Cambodia since 1995. Over the last three years, Global Witness has issued two reports, “Cambodia’s Family Trees” and “Country for Sale,” severely criticizing the government for mismanaging natural resources, claiming Cambodia’s elites are able to diversify their commercial interests to reap all forms of the country’s assets. (The government denies these reports.)

Eleanor Nichol, a Global Witness campaigner, told VOA Khmer in an interview in Washington that the group’s goal was not to publish anti-government material, but the truth inevitably affected a few officials.

“It’s not anti-government information,” Nichol said. “But what happens is, actually, that it tends to point back to members of the Cambodian government, because they tend to be using their positions of power to exploit their country’s natural resources. So, inevitably over the period of time, it has brought us into a conflictual relationship with the Cambodian government.”

Cambodia needs to consider not only EITI, but also overall governance of natural resources, she said.

“They also need to look at the way in which concessions have been allocated and who the concessions have been allocated to in order to ensure that the best deal has been obtained for Cambodia and its citizens,” she said.

Mam Sambath, chairman of the newly established Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, supported transparency attempts, saying the initiative would provide information to the public, informing the decision-making process.

The transparency initiative also comes with financial support to build government and civic capacity, perform outreach work to companies, and coordinate work through different organizations and agencies, Bartlett said.

Both Indonesia and East Timor have committed to the initiative, while the Philippines and Vietnam are both considering how it could fit into their regulations.

Mon, Nov 02, 2009
The Straits Times

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By Kimberly Spykerman

CAMBODIAN villager Reun Rim was selling noodles on the street and earning 75 cents a day, until she heard she could get a loan of US$100 (S$139) to start a farm.

The money is a loan from VisionFund, a World Vision initiative which offers the poor in developing countries a leg-up, not a handout.

With the sum of money, the 29-year-old and her husband began rearing pigs in Samrith village, located 30km from the provincial town of Kampong Thom, north-east of Phnom Penh.

Within a month, they were making between US$2.50 and US$5 a day, which covers their loan repayments, food for the family and, most importantly, their two children's school fees.

'Now they can go to school, and I'm determined to encourage them to complete their education,' she said.

VisionFund aims to help many more like Reun Rim become self-sufficient.

It extends loans to those who lack the collateral and credit history needed to borrow from big banks, finding great success among villagers who want to start their own businesses.

It boasts a repayment rate of 98.2 per cent in Cambodia - an almost flawless track record - where monthly interest rates range from 1.6 per cent to 3.5 per cent, about a third of the 5 per cent to 10 per cent that local moneylenders charge.

Since its launch in 1993, it has helped more than 600,000 people in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

The fund's parent organisation, World Vision, is a Christian humanitarian body which tackles problems of poverty in 98 countries. It charges interest on VisionFund microloans - to teach villagers to become financially independent, under the usual competitive market conditions.

World Vision in Singapore joined in last year, taking villages in Cambodia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka under its wing.

In rural Cambodia alone, about 800,000 families have benefited from VisionFund loans. Nearly seven in 10 borrowers in the 47 participating countries are women.

It works like this: VisionFund sets up community banks in rural villages. Each bank needs about $9,000 to support the villagers, money that comes from donors.

Then, its loan officers teach residents about cash flow and credit discipline - by using colourful flip charts - and subsequently disburse money to successful applicants, usually between 20 and 60 villagers with potentially good business plans.

Loans range from US$20 to US$120, with most people borrowing about US$90. They continue to receive regular training and mentoring sessions from loan officers after getting the money.

In time, they can move on to borrowing bigger sums to grow their businesses - up to US$5,000.

To encourage prompt repayment, VisionFund's community banks get neighbours to act as mutual guarantors.

Doing so, explained World Vision Singapore executive director James Quek, makes the loan a community responsibility with a higher chance of repayment: 'Because of the cohesiveness of the community, they don't want to burden their neighbours.'

Public relations and branding adviser Christine Kwee, with her church friends, recently donated almost $10,000 to start another community bank in rural Cambodia. She said: 'I didn't know $2.50 was enough to feed a family for a day. I guess it's about teaching someone to fish. It's really worth supporting.

Weather forecast for the Asia-Pacific

AP - Monday, November 2

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tropical storm Mirinae will produce another day of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and thunderstorms throughout Vietnam and Cambodia on Tuesday as it treks westward through the Gulf of Thailand.

Mirinae is not expected to redevelop after battering the Philippines, where it left 20 people dead as a typhoon.

Elsewhere, a strong disturbance exiting Japan will kick up a few early morning showers in North Korea and the Sea of Japan, as well as light scattered showers in northern Japan on Tuesday.

As the system exits into the Pacific Ocean, a broad ridge of high pressure will build in behind it, bringing pleasant and dry weather to much of eastern China, the Korean peninsula, and southern Japan.

Temperatures across these regions will begin to warm through the afternoon. This warming trend is expected to last until midweek.

For Australia, showery weather in Victoria and southeastern New South Wales will begin to diminish as low pressure exits southeastward across Tasmania and higher pressure returns to the nation.