Archive for June 2010
30/6/2010 PPenhPost by Chrann Chamroeun
PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday questioned the wife of a prominent businessman for nearly two hours in connection with an alleged murder plot targeting Suv Chantha, the wife of Suv Chantol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
Interior Ministry officials accompanied the woman to court on Tuesday morning after a summons was issued, and she was released late Tuesday afternoon, investigating judge Te Sam Ang said.
“I have freed her to go home without filing any charges,” Te Sam Ang said. He declined to explain why she had been summoned.
Two men and two women were charged last Wednesday in connection with their alleged involvement in a scheme to kill Sun Chantha in her villa in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune on June 13. Sun Chantha filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry on June 16.
Dun Vibol, who is defending the foursome, said three of them had told court officials that they had been hired by the woman questioned on Tuesday to carry out the killing.
“It is the right of the investigating judge to issue the arrest warrant to invite [the woman] for interrogation over the attempted murder case, considering that it is part of the investigation to find out the truth,” he said.
“Referring to testimony from three of the four suspects, [the woman] ordered them to kill Sun Chanthol’s wife.”
One of the four suspects, 37-year-old Chan Sokha, last Thursday retracted an earlier confession to police, saying it had been made under duress.
Dun Vibol on Tuesday speculated that the court had freed the woman because officials had not discovered any concrete evidence against her. He added that he did not expect the case to be brought to trial “for at least six months”.
30/6/2010 PPenhPost by Uong Ratana
Union leader Chea Mony has offered to pay 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation on behalf of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, who was ordered to furnish the sum after being convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen last year.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said Tuesday that he was collecting donations to cover the payment, 8.5 million riels of which is due Thursday.
“We do not want to lose [Mu Sochua] from government or the National Assembly because she is a very good woman,” he said.
On June 17, the National Treasury wrote to Mu Sochua informing her that a payment of 8.5 million riels must be made within two weeks, or by July 1. Government officials have warned that Mu Sochua could face prison if she does not pay on time.
But the Kampot parliamentarian, who was first convicted of defamation last August, repeated that she would prefer to go to jail than to admit guilt, and that she did not want anybody to pay on her behalf.
“Firstly, I will not pay. Secondly, my conscience will not allow anyone to pay on my behalf,” she said by phone from Manila. “If I was afraid of this, I would not have sued Prime Minister Hun Sen.”
BANGKOK, June 30 (Xinhua) — Thailand’s government has no plan to replace the state of emergency with the Internal Security Act (ISA) in some areas, Deputy Prime Minister overseeing security Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday, the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT) reported.
The Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) and government are going to assess the situation next week to see if the state of emergency can be lifted or not, he said.
The assessment on the situation will be made before the state of emergency will complete its 3-month term of the enforcement on July 7.
Though the anti-government protests ended on May 19, the government has still maintained its enforcement of the state of emergency in order to ensure security for the public.
The state of emergency has been imposed from April 7, 2010, in 24 provinces of Thailand’s 76 provinces, empowering police and army to control the then anti-government protests.
The death toll from a series of violent clashes between the “red-shirt” protesters and troops during March 12 to May 19 stood at 88 as some 1,885 others were wounded.
MANILA – BENIGNO Aquino was on Wednesday sworn in as president of the Philippines amid joyous celebrations and desperate hopes he will usher in a new era of clean government for the corruption-wrecked nation.
Police said up to 500,000 people, many of them wearing the Aquino family’s signature yellow, turned up for the festival-style inauguration ceremony at a seaside park in Manila. The crowd roared and waved yellow flags as the 50-year-old bachelor Aquino, wearing a traditional Filipino ‘barong’ shirt, took his oath in front of a Supreme Court judge.
‘I think he can reduce corruption and improve governance,’ high school teacher Terlito Malaya, 52, said as he waited for Mr Aquino to be sworn in. ‘Poverty is also a very big problem and needs a permanent solution… but no-one should think right now that he will fail.’
Mr Aquino rode to the country’s biggest election victory on May 10 on a pledge to fight woeful graft and poverty that he said thrived during the nearly 10-year reign of outgoing president Gloria Arroyo.
Another crucial factor was his status as the son of Philippine democracy heroes Benigno and Corazon Aquino, who remain revered for their efforts to overthrow dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His mother, Corazon, earned a reputation as an incorruptible leader during her six-year term as president following the ‘people power’ revolution that toppled Marcos in 1986.
Her death from cancer last year reignited national support for the family, which in turn lifted her son from political lightweight after 11 years as a low-profile member of parliament to presidential frontrunner. East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk were among the foreign dignitaries to attend the inauguration.
HANOI – A Viet couple have been jailed for 23 years each for torturing their 14-year-old domestic helper with boiling water, chemicals and pliers, a court official said on Wednesday.
The trial on Tuesday of Huynh Thanh Giang, 30 and his wife Ma Ngoc Thom, 33, attracted thousands of people from the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau, said Lam Thanh Quang of the provincial court.
The shrimp-farming couple were arrested in April for allegedly torturing the boy by breaking his teeth with pliers, locking him up and forcing him to drink his own urine, state media reported.
The victim told the court that he had also been beaten on the forehead, back and face with a hammer, bamboo, and plastic cable.
‘I had many injuries on my head. My right chest was burnt by boiling water… I was even hung and beaten in the sun,’ Tuoi Tre newspaper on Wednesday quoted him as saying.
Two teenage employees who helped the couple beat the boy were each sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, Quang told AFP. The victim’s mother earlier told state media she had given her son permission to work on the shrimp farm for a monthly wage of 500,000 dong (S$37).
HANOI, June 30 (Xinhua) — Vietnamese and Lao parliamentarians pledged to work together to deepen relations and cooperation between the two national assemblies and the two countries, Lao newspaper the Vientiane Times reported Wednesday.
The pledge was made at the meeting between the visiting Chair of the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment Dang Vu Minh, and Lao National Assembly President Thongsing Thammavong.
At the meeting, the Lao National Assembly President highly valued Minh’s visit for strengthening traditional solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between Laos and Vietnam.
Thongsing said he expects to boost bilateral cooperation in environmental protection and natural resource management as Vietnam has a lot of experiences in these fields.
Poor land management and deforestation topped the agenda of the ongoing 9th Ordinary Session of the Sixth Legislature of the Lao National Assembly, said Thongsing. Laos targets to increase its forest coverage from the current 53 percent to 70 percent of its land area by 2020.
At the meeting, Chair of the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment Dang Vu Minh thanked the Lao side for its warm hospitality.
Vietnamese and Lao assemblies had common concerns over issues regarding natural resources protection, said Minh.
Minh said he would do his utmost to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation between Vietnamese and Lao assemblies, in particular, and the two countries as a whole.
29/6/2010 AP by Cheang Sopheng
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and three other Cabinet ministers have contracted swine flu and the premier is recovering after several days of medical care, the health ministry said.
Hun Sen, 59, required “urgent treatment” after Friday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, the Public Health Ministry said in a brief statement released late Tuesday.
“After receiving treatment from medical specialists, the health of Prime Minister Hun Sen is back to normal,” the statement said.
The prime minister publicly mentioned last week he had come down with fever and flu-like symptoms, and he was absent from the 59th anniversary of his ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Monday.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has canceled some of his schedule because of his health,” said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.
He said Hun Sen was still receiving medical attention, but gave no details.
The statement also said that Yim Chhay Ly, one of several deputy prime ministers, and two other Cabinet-level ministers — Chhay Than and Tao Senghour — had caught the H1N1 virus. It did not give details about their condition.
At least six Cambodians have died from swine flu and at least 600 have contracted it since the virus was first detected in the country last June.
Hun Sen has been at the center of the country’s politics since 1985, when he became the world’s youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.
Forestry officials found the animal Saturday, acting on a tip, in the jungles of Maungdaw township in northwestern Rakhine state, the New Light of Myanmar reported, describing the elephant as about 38 years old and 7 feet and 4 inches (2.2 meters) tall.
White elephants, actually albinos, have for centuries been revered in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other Asian nations. They were normally kept and pampered by monarchs and considered a symbol of royal power and prosperity.
The elephants are not necessarily white. They can look similar to other elephants except for certain features like fair eyelashes and toenails, light-colored hair or a reddish hue to the skin.
The newspaper did not say where the elephant would be housed. It will be the fourth white elephant held in captivity in Myanmar. The three others are at the Mindhamma Hill park, in suburban Yangon, where they live in an enclosure with spiraled pavilions, a manmade waterfall, ponds, trees and vegetation.
Soraida Salwala, of the Thailand-based Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, said the group normally objects to placing elephants in captivity but stopped short of criticizing the capture of white elephants. In Thailand, all white elephants are traditionally handed over to the country’s revered king.
“The white elephant is a sign of great blessings and fortune for the land,” she said, adding that traditional Myanmar and Thai beliefs are similar on the subject.
Previous white elephants transported from the jungles have been heralded in lavish ceremonies where the Myanmar’s military leaders sprinkle them with scented water laced with gold, silver and precious gems.
A war was fought in the 16th century between Thailand and Myanmar, then Siam and Burma respectively, over disputed ownership of four white elephants.
Government recommends a $5 per month increase for garment workers
28/6/2010 PPenhPost by Meas Sokchea and Irwin Loy
THE government has recommended a US$5 boost to the monthly minimum wage for garment-sector workers – an amount that falls far short of demands from some union leaders.
Officials with the Labour Advisory Committee are planning to meet with union representatives and factory owners on July 8 to discuss issues including the contentious minimum wage, according to a press release issued Friday by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.
“The meeting will discuss an agenda including the minimum salary increase for workers in garment and shoe factories,” the statement said. “The government allows an increase in the minimum salary of $5, and another $6 as a living supplement to the basic salary.”
The current minimum wage for full-time garment workers is $50. Workers already receive a mandatory $6 cost-of-living allowance on top of that.
The press release stated that probationary workers currently earning a minimum salary of $45 a month would receive a similar boost in salary.
Unions and garment factory owners in 2006 agreed to discuss changes to the minimum wage by the end of this year, but there has been no consensus on a suitable increase.
Major unions have proposed wages of $70 and $93; employers have not publicly disclosed how much they are willing to pay.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), which demanded an increase to $70 a month, said the government’s recommendation doesn’t meet workers’ needs.
“The Ministry of Labour has done this again and again. Workers have a minimum wage of $50 and a $6 bonus already. So [the recommendation] is different than what we demanded,” he said.
Chea Mony threatened earlier this month to stage a three-day strike in mid-July if the union’s demands were not met. On Sunday, he said that plan was still in place.
“If [employers] do not have a “If [employers] do not have a resolution for workers … workers will hold a strike,” he said.
Other union leaders contacted Sunday had differing reactions to the government’s minimum wage recommendation.
Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU), said a $5 increase would not conform to today’s economic realities.
“Five dollars is not enough,” said Ath Thun, who questioned why the government had issued its recommendation before unions and factory owners had even sat down to discuss the issue face to face.
Labour Ministry officials could not be reached Sunday.
But Chuon Momthol, president of the pro-Cambodian People’s Party Cambodian Union Federation (CUF), said he was satisfied with the government’s recommendation.
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said his organisation had not been officially informed about the government’s decision.
“We will support the recommendation of the government even though it may not be ideal for the industry at this point to have such a revision,” Loo said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, noted that many unions had been asking for a more significant boost to the minimum wage, and that his own organisation had, in response to research commissioned last year, recommended that the minimum wage be raised to $71.99 a month.
As part of a study produced in September, researchers interviewed 300 garment workers, and concluded that they would need at least $71.99 a month to pay for basic needs such as food and shelter as well as remittances.
“They spend a lot of money on food, on medicine, on clothing, on rent and so on. Based on this, the minimum wage should be $71.99 a month,” Moeun Tola said. “If it is less than this, workers cannot survive.”
He warned that garment workers will shift to better-paying, but more dangerous professions in the entertainment industry if they see little improvement in their salaries.
New term for FTU head
Also Sunday, Chea Mony was granted a new three-year term as president of the FTU, despite having announced in May that he would step down because of health and personal reasons. He vowed Sunday to continue demanding higher salaries for his union’s members.