Sunday, 13 June 2010

What you buy often isn't what you paid for

Consumers are unknowingly forking out for fake goods at genuine-product prices,

Published: 12/06/2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Buying counterfeit products is often thought by people as not really being that big a deal as long as you know what you are paying for is not the real thing.

But consumers in Thailand and neighbouring countries are increasingly being dragged into uncharted territory. They unknowingly pay for counterfeit goods at the market price for the real product, but then are landed with lower-than-expected standards and quality.

Worse still, it can be a matter of life and death when such products are, for example, medicines, engine spare parts, electronic appliances and food - which have successfully made their way through crossing-border distribution chains.

This trend is hardly a new thing in the region. But with the creation of the economic corridor in 1992 under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) project, cross-border illegal trade has escalated and become more organised, a recent seminar was told.

The GMS is home to about 250 million people, covering Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunan province of China. The project has increased transnational legal trade exponentially thanks to transport development and the opening of borders to trade.

But on the dark side, organised networks of producers and distributors of counterfeit products have taken advantage of good road networks which are no longer controlled so strictly by authorities at borders, says Anne-lise Sauterey, a Bangkok-based researcher at French think-tank, the Research Institute on Contemporary Asia.

"Counterfeiting is a phenomenon that is developing. It affects economies and public health," she says.

The regional extension of legal trade means the same is happening with illicit trade too.

This brings about a convergence of legal and illegal production sites as counterfeiters use the same labour to generate pure profits, she says.

"Diversification of products, distribution relocation and the networks of counterfeiters have become more complex," she notes. "Products are unrecognisable using low production costs, while clients buy at market prices."

Thailand's advanced road network continues to be a vital link in the supply line for commodities needed by illegal traders. Corruption among local authorities and lax controls at remote border points in the GMS countries are also key factors, she says.

This reflects a revolution in counterfeiting, she says, and special attention needs to be paid to China and Laos.

Yunan province has been a hub for both the production and storage of counterfeit products in which producers normally change their distribution routes to regional and international markets to evade controls, she says.

Laos has emerged as a production base and counterfeit producers from other countries, especially China, have been relocating there.

"The relocation matches increased demand in Vietnam and Cambodia for goods such as alcohol, food, engine spare parts, cars and toys," she says.

"At the same time, Vietnam and Cambodia can export the goods to the international markets."

It is difficult to estimate the counterfeit trade value in the region, she says.

But it forms a significant part of the US$250 billion (8.25 trillion baht) annual figure for the illicit trade globally.

Beyond the illegality is the impact on end-users.

Among products on the market, fake medicines are a major public health concern. People have fallen victim to "death merchants" who produce and sell counterfeit drugs, Ms Sauterey says.

Mass production of fake medicines takes place in northern Laos. In Vietnam, slightly different labelling of products tricks consumers into buying them.

These drugs contain wrong or insufficient active ingredients, which harm the health of users, she says.

Expired medicines are also repackaged for sale in the region and can easily slip through border controls because the packaging is genuine, she says.

"In Cambodia and Vietnam, 50% of the drugs are counterfeit," she says.

In Thailand, over-the-counter sales of medicines where some pharmacists sell assorted medicines in separate bags has also made it easier for counterfeiters.

Apart from drugs, Franck Fougere, managing director of Vidon & Partners, a law firm specialising in intellectual property, warns that the impact of the use of other counterfeit products is also far more harmful that one might expect.

For example, counterfeit engine spare parts can result in malfunctioning vehicles like a number of cases where planes have crashed, he says.

Packaged food products and toys have also fallen victim to the illegal trade and the majority of them are from China, he says. "Counterfeit toys may contain hazardous substances such as lead."

Ms Sauterey said sharing information at the regional level can help fight the illicit trade of counterfeit goods.

In 2008, 48 border liaison offices were established among the GMS countries to curb illegal border activities.

But there has been limited cooperation so far, while authorities lack the capability to do their jobs.

Each country also uses it as a tool to strengthen its border security controls instead, she says.

Int'l organizations help digging wells for Cambodian farmers

via Khmer NZ News Media

June 12, 2010

Cambodian government in cooperation with development partners have been digging about 1, 000 water wells for Cambodian farmers in rural areas, a government official said here Saturday.

Mao Saray, director of rural water supply department of Ministry of Rural Development, said Saturday that the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Children Fund and International Monetary Fund are the major development partners that have engaged in the project.

He said the government allocated 2,000 million riel (about 500, 000 U.S. dollars) for water well projects.

Irrigation network and clean water supply are still inadequate in Cambodia, and thus many Cambodian villagers dig their own water wells to get water for their daily consumption.

Mao Saray said the digging of water wells for rural farmers are conducted throughout the 24 provinces and city -- with the aim of helping the people access to water.

However, he said, of the 24 provinces and city, there are seven provinces and cities that the underground water contains acetic which is harmful to human skins and health.

He said the seven provinces and city are Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Thom, Kompong Chhnang, Kratie and Prey Veng.

And in order to get rid of their health risk by the use of water wells in those locations, health experts help them use proper filters.

Of the country's 14 million population, about 80 percent are farmers.

Source: Xinhua

The Royal Government Plans to Issue a Sub-Decree Determining the Rate of Disabled People to Be Employed at State and Private Institutions – Saturday, 12.6.2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted on 12 June 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 668

“The Royal Government of Cambodia plans to issue a sub-decree soon about the rate of disabled people that should be employed at state institutions, companies, factories, and enterprises.

“A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation, Mr. Sem Sokha, said in the evening of 11 June 2010 that the sub-decree had already been checked by the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council, and it will then be sent to relevant ministries, and finally to a cabinet meeting.

“Mr. Sem Sokha added that the sub-decree will be released soon, because also Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen wants it to be issued soon in order to help handicapped people to work at state and private institutions.

“Mr. Sem Sokha mentioned some contents of the sub-decree, which states that state institutions are required to employ at least 2% disabled people [among their total personnel] who have sufficient qualifications, while private companies, factories, and enterprises are required to recruit 1%.

“When he was asked what actions would be taken, if any state or private institutions do not adhere to the sub-decree, he explained that they will be fined to pay 50% of the salary of the civil servants they would have to hire. That means if a ministry is required to employ two or three disabled people but do not employ them, they have to pay 50% of their salaries as a fine. He added that for companies, factories, and enterprises, they will be charged 40% of the staff salary. According to a demographic study in 2004, 4% of the population are disabled.

“Mr. Sem Sokha said that when the sub-decree becomes valid, disabled people will receive full rights to live integrated in society and especially they can work at different state and private institutions like normal people.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2273, 12.6.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 12 June 2010

30 years after killing fields, Cambodia grows new generation of art conservators

The Khmer Rouge caused the deaths – by killing, starvation, and disease – of an estimated 2 million Cambodians, including an entire generation of art conservators. Skilled professionals are now reemerging.

Metals conservator Huot Samnang at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is part of a new generation of art conservators and educated professionals rising from the ashes of the Khmer Rouge, who in the 1970s killed most of the country's intellectuals and educated elite because they were considered a threat to the Maoist regime.
Irwin Loy

via Khmer NZ News Media

By Irwin Loy, Contributor / June 12, 2010

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

In a side wing of Phnom Penh’s National Museum, Noeun Von is slowly bringing a piece of his culture back to life.

He casts a cloth over a bronze Buddha, removing the dust that has settled on the figure. When this piece was first unearthed, the figure’s head had been detached from its body. But now the piece has been meticulously repaired, allowing the intricate details on the centuries-old bronze to be revealed.

Mr. Von’s handiwork, and that of his colleagues in the five-year-old metals conservation laboratory, will be on display this year in the United States as part of “Gods of Angkor,” a major exhibition of the work of Khmer bronze casters hosted by the Smithsonian Institution.

More than a presentation of Cambodia’s precious art, however, the exhibition will also shine a spotlight on the skilled professionals working to preserve this country’s culture.

An entire generation of conservators was lost during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted from power in 1979, preservation of invaluable Khmer artifacts was left largely to the foreign conservators who ventured into the country. Slowly, however, that has changed.

Through a training partnership with the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, a new crop of young museum professionals has risen to replace the lost generation.

“We can run the lab and do the conservation by ourselves,” says Huot Samnang, who heads the laboratory. “Step by step, we’re becoming self-sufficient.”

The “Gods of Angkor” will display some of the first pieces preserved entirely by the laboratory – a series of seven bronze Buddhist images. It is of no small significance in a country where cultural identity is intertwined with its rich Angkorian heritage.

“We feel proud of this exhibition,” Mr. Samnang says. “We can let the world know about our culture and the craftsmen that produced this incredible art.”

The ICC And The Use Of Force

VOA News

via Khmer NZ News Media

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The court's founding in 2002 was a key development in international law, creating a permanent forum to bring to justice those responsible for crimes of staggering scale.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, centre, receives former UN Secretary Kofi Anan, right, and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, left, during the opening of the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in Kampala, Uganda, 31 May 2010

One amendment would define the crime of aggression, which the statute gives it power to prosecute, but does not delineate.

Diplomats from around the world are meeting in Kampala, Uganda, to review the workings of the International Criminal Court and possibly expand its authority. The court's founding in 2002 was a key development in international law, creating a permanent forum to bring to justice those responsible for crimes of staggering scale and providing recognition and relief to their victims. With 111 member-nation signatories, its mandate is no less than to protect future generations from the savageries of genocide and other crimes against humanity that have ravaged generations past and present.

In reviewing the court's operations, delegates and observers at the Kampala conference are discussing how effective the ICC and the broader system of international justice have been and what might be done to improve their effectiveness. They are also considering amending the ICC's founding document, the Rome Statute. One amendment would define the crime of aggression, which the statute gives it power to prosecute, but does not delineate. The aggression issue has divided delegates wary of expanding the ICC'S mandate at a crucial time in its development, when it has yet to complete a trial in the cases already before it.

The United States joins in this sense of caution, and has warned that pushing ahead without consensus could entangle the court in political disputes and jeopardize its ability to carry out its already challenging mission.

While the United States isn't a party to the ICC, it has an abiding interest in its work and success. The U.S. fight against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is reflected in its support for the work of the tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, among others. The end of impunity and the promotion of justice are stabilizing forces in international affairs.

Portland teen raises money for Cambodian school

via Khmer NZ News Media

6/12/2010, 1:00 a.m. PDT
The Associated Press

(AP) — PORTLAND, Ore. - On a tidy shelf in a bright turquoise bedroom in Southwest Portland sits a framed certificate from the Cambodian Ministry of Education. It is written in Khmer, the official language of the Southeast Asian nation, except for a name: Christina Schmidt.

The document, essentially a fancy thank-you note, was presented to the 15-year-old last winter in a tiny village about a day's drive northwest of Phnom Penh after she helped raise more than $16,000 to build a secondary school in the impoverished country.

"I feel like it's part of my duty to give back and to help others who aren't as lucky as I've been," Schmidt said.

Now, as she wraps up her freshman year at Lincoln High School, the teen with a passion for nonprofit work and a knack for raising money is preparing for her next project: a family Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala. She and her 13-year-old brother, Andrew, have raised $2,000 to put toward construction supplies. They will donate their time to build a house with the family that will live in it.

Schmidt, sitting at her dining room table, traces her interest in humanitarian work to a 2007 family vacation to Vietnam and Laos that introduced her to life in developing countries.

She got involved with Cambodia a few months later while considering what do the next year for her eighth-grade project, required of students at Arbor School of Arts & Sciences, the private school she attended in Tualatin.

An e-mail from her dad held the answer. It contained a news article about a girl who raised thousands of dollars for American Assistance for Cambodia, a nonprofit that builds schools. As soon as she read it, she rushed downstairs to her dad's home office.

"This is what I want to do," she told him. "I want to do this."

Her excitement surprised her father, David Schmidt, a pulmonary specialist at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center.

"I didn't intend for her to do that exact project," he said. "But she grabbed onto it kind of like grabbing a bull by the horns."

Before jumping in, Christina Schmidt tracked down and pored over American Assistance for Cambodia's tax records. "They use every single cent that they get so well," she said.

She also learned that if she could raise $13,000, it would be matched with $20,000 from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank-enough to build a school.

Next, Schmidt had to track down a professional to work with, a requirement of her school. She found a mentor in Kim Freed, former managing director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation, who had years of fundraising experience.

Freed said she was nervous when she heard that Schmidt planned to raise $13,000 in nine months.

"But I could tell by her determination and her energy that she was going to see it happen," Freed said. "I was very much inspired by her."

Bernie Krisher, former Newsweek Tokyo bureau chief and founder of American Assistance for Cambodia, said schoolchildren often work together to raise money to build schools, but only a very few can accomplish the goal on their own.

"They are very compassionate," Krisher, who has corresponded with Schmidt by e-mail, said of children who devote time and money to advancing education around the world. "They're going to contribute a great deal and learn a lot and probably succeed in life."

Schmidt kicked of a 300-letter fundraising campaing and secured small grants from two foundations. Then during her 2008 winter break, her family traveled to Cambodia on vacation, and Schmidt got the chance to visit an American Assistance school.

Interacting with the students brought her project to a "whole other level," she said. She keeps a gift from them, a frosted blue binder filled with colorful drawings, next to the certificate on her bedroom shelf.

Her favorite drawing, of a yellow and red sun overlooking a field of purple flowers, came with a message: "Hello! My name is Kunthea." She was touched that he made an effort to write in English. "I just thought that was so sweet."

Schmidt and her father returned to Cambodia a year later to attend a dedication ceremony for the school she helped pay for: The Arbor School of Hope. The 80 students lined up in their crisp white shirts and navy slacks and skirts to greet her. They giggled when she said hello in their language: "Johm ree-uhp soo-uh!"

In the end, she raised $16,235.14. Now she's working to use the extra money to secure a water filter and textbooks for the three-room, shingle-roofed school. She has also become interested in water scarcity issues, recently participating in Portland's Walk for Water and helping with awareness days through her high school's Mercy Corps club.

"Christina's always been pretty confident," said her mother, Jennifer Schmidt, who's taking the year off from teaching. "But ever since the project, she seems much older and more mature."

Christina Schmidt is grateful for the outpouring of support she received. She keeps a zip-close bag filled with letters from donors in a cabinet below the certificate of thanks.

"They're just really important to me," she said of the letters. "Because the school wasn't really built by me. It was all the people who gave the money who really deserve the recognition, because without them, it wouldn't have happened."

Baby crocodiles in Cambodia make conservationists snap to

Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells recently in a remote part of Cambodia, after a vigil by researchers. Experts believe as few as 250 of the reptiles are left in the wild.

Baby Siamese crocodiles are seen here after hatching in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells in May after a weeks-long vigil by researchers who found them in the jungle. Experts believe as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread between Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand. (Fauna and Flora / May 20, 2010)

via Khmer NZ News Media

By Ouk Navouth and Jerry Harmer, Associated Press Writers
June 12, 2010

Reporting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia —

Conservationists in Cambodia are celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most critically endangered animals.

Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells recently in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia, after a weeks-long vigil by researchers who found them in the jungle.

Experts believe that as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread between Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand.

The operation to protect and hatch the eggs was mounted by British-based Fauna and Flora International, for whom conservation of this once-abundant species is a key program.

"Every nest counts," program manager Adam Starr said. "To be able to find a nest is a very big success story. To be able to hatch eggs properly is an even bigger success story."

The nest, with 22 eggs inside, was discovered in the isolated Areng Valley. Fauna and Flora International volunteers removed 15 of them to a safe site and incubated them in a compost heap to replicate the original nest. They left seven behind because they appeared to be unfertilized.

A round-the-clock guard was mounted to keep away predators such as monitor lizards. Soon, the crocodiles began calling from inside the shells, a sure sign they were about to hatch.

Within hours, 10 emerged — and a further surprise was in store. Three of the eggs left behind at the original nest also hatched. A field coordinator, Sam Han, discovered the squawking baby crocodiles when he went to recover a camera-trap from the site.

"When I first saw the baby crocodiles, they stayed and swam together near the site. They were looking for their mother," he said. He snapped a few photos of the hatchlings, their noses poking out of the water.

To cap the success, the camera-trap yielded two infrared shots of the mother crocodile returning to the nest.

The reptiles are now being kept in a water-filled pen in a local village in the jungle-covered mountain range. The indigenous Chouerng people who live there revere crocodiles as forest spirits and consider it taboo to harm them. It's likely the reptiles will be looked after for a year before being released into the wild.

But the euphoria is tempered by hard-edged reality. This part of the Areng Valley has been earmarked for a major hydropower project. The conservation group is looking for other areas of similar habitat into which to release the juveniles when the time comes.

"To put these crocodiles back into the Areng Valley could spell certain doom for them," Starr said.

The Siamese crocodile has suffered a massive decline over the last century because of a high demand for its soft skin. Commercial breeders also brought them to stock farms, where they crossed them with larger types of crocodiles, producing hybrids and further reducing the number of pure Siamese.

In 1992 the crocodile was declared "effectively extinct in the wild" before being rediscovered in the remote Cardamoms in Cambodia eight years later.

Siamese crocodiles take 15 years to reach sexual maturity, complicating efforts to revive the population. Only a handful of the 13 new crocs are likely to survive long enough to make a long-term impact on numbers.

At DePaul, survivor of sex slavery recounts her past

Sex slavery can happen anywhere, international human rights advocate Somaly Mam says

via Khmer NZ News Media

By William Lee, Tribune reporter
June 11, 2010

For Somaly Mam, laughter is as strong a weapon in her fight against human trafficking and sexual slavery as her own harrowing tale.

Born into extreme poverty in Cambodia and forced at age 12 to work as a sex slave, Mam has refused to let her horrifying past sour her present, and made it her mission to reach out to young women and girls broken by similar plights.

"Life, you have to laugh," she said Friday after recounting her story to DePaul students and faculty at the school's Lincoln Park campus.

Mam, who will make a commencement speech Saturday at DePaul's School for New Learning, heads an international organization based in Cambodia dedicated to rescuing women held as sex slaves across Southeast Asia. She's also the president of the Somaly Mam Foundation, which raises money to fund her efforts.

Mam claims to have saved about 4,000 young women and girls since starting her agency in 1996. Her work has the attention of actresses Susan Sarandon and Angelina Jolie, and last year, she was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People.

Mam travels the world telling of how a man claiming to be her grandfather sold her to a brothel, where she was sexually brutalized every day for a decade. She was robbed of her hope and left with only shame, she said.

"I always try to empower the victims, to tell them don't be ashamed, don't feel guilty, don't feel dirty," she said. "I try to make them (realize) it's not your life, you didn't want it, it's not your fault, it is society's fault."

Perhaps more traumatic than the rapes was seeing her best friend murdered by a pimp, an event that spurred her to run away.

"The story of my friend is like, she (made) me survive. If you want to (ask) who is my hero, it's her," Mam said. "If you ask me why I'm here, it's because of her. She died. She made me run away, and I'm here and I saved a lot of girls. She's my best memory."

Though she's told her story hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, and has also written a book about it, she said she's cutting back because of how much it drains her.

"Now sometimes it's hard," she said. "When every day I talk about that, it's hard for me. I can talk one time a day, it's OK. But if you make me (talk) 10 times a day about the same thing, you (would) kill me."

Part of Mam's mission is stressing to first-world nations like the United States that trafficking and slavery can happen anywhere.

"Everywhere, every family can have this, if you're not careful. And even sometimes if you're careful, it can happen. So this cause is not one for one people, it's (a) cause for everyone," she said.

An unexpected moment occurred in a question-and-answer portion of Mam's appearance when a 58-year-old woman stood and told the 130-person audience how, as a teenager, she was forced into sexual slavery.

The woman's tearful story earned a round of applause as she and Mam embraced and later posed for photos afterward.

Mam said she often hears such stories — sometimes all it takes is eye contact with a woman in the audience.

"I stop to talk about my life and sometimes I look at the people and I feel that they are also victims," she said. Touching her heart, she added "I feel it here."