Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Xayaburi dam divides Laos and stirs tension over Mekong hydropower

View Original New Source:  http://www.theecologist.org/investigations/energy/1072947/xayaburi_dam_divides_laos_and_stirs_tension_over_mekong_hydropower.html

Brendan Brady

29th September, 2011

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Laos is among Asia's poorest nations. But a proposed dam could do more harm than good for many of its inhabitants. Photo: Brendan Brady

upporters of a controversial dam in one of Asia’s poorest countries say it will bring huge economic benefits. Critics say it could threaten fisheries and rice cultivation, threatening the livelihoods of millions. Brendan Brady reports from Laos

Standing over various maps and charts outlining dam proposals, Viraphonh Viravong says the plans that lie before him promise to herald better times for his country. Viraphonh is the director of Laos’ Department of Electricity and point-person for the Xayaburi dam, which, depending on who you ask, is the first step in a new initiative to lift Laos out of poverty and under-development, or the beginning of a precipitous decline in the health and stability of the Mekong River.

Laos is one of the poorest and least developed countries in East Asia, a status that its communist government says it can shed by drastically expanding the country’s hydropower capacity. Doing so, it says, will provide electricity countrywide and fund better public infrastructure and services with electricity export revenues. Already, hydropower projects draw more than half of total foreign direct investment in Laos, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. But in the un-dammed 1880-kilometer main channel of the Mekong running through the country, the government sees too much hydropower potential to leave unharnessed.

Viraphonh says that enlarging the country’s hydropower scheme is a natural evolution….

 

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September 29, 2011

TrustLaw Scrapbook – Laos needs help developing legal aid –Asia Foundation

 

View Original News Source:  http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/blogs/trustlaw-scrapbook/laos-needs-help-developing-legal-aid-asia-foundation

By Thin Lei Win |

Tens of thousands of villagers in Laos, especially those living in remote places, have limited access to legal resources, according to Asia Foundation which helped set up a programme to encourage access to justice in the country four years ago.

The programme, run in conjunction with the Lao Bar Association (LBA) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ), provides poor and rural Lao populations with greater access to legal aid through paralegals made up of volunteers from local villages.

There are only three legal aid clinics so far and more is needed, Asia Foundation said.

“Although the LBA’s capacity is developing, only a few legal aid clinics have been set up around the country to support the tens of thousands of Lao citizens,” it said, to help with issues ranging from compensation and sexual assault to land disputes, domestic abuse, and inheritance disputes.

“The harder to reach rural poor in Laos still only have limited access to legal services – services that need to extend to minority groups, women’s networks, and other marginalized populations,” the article added.

September 28, 2011

Dark side of tourism: Sexual exploitation of children

View original News Source:  http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2011/09/27/dark-side-of-tourism/

September 27, 2011. 7:55 am • Section: Travel

Today is World Tourism Day and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was right when he described tourism as “a force for a more tolerant, open and united world.”

But tourism can also be a force for evil.

The numbers of visitors to southeast Asian countries is growing exponentially. But with that growth comes a perversely abhorrent trend: child sexual exploitation.

More than ever, we’re travelling to countries perhaps we would have never set foot in five or 10 years ago because of internal strife of one kind or another. Countries that were once on the risky lists are now on the must-go lists: like Laos and Cambodia, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, countries like Vietnam and Thailand have become de rigueur among world travellers.

Thailand’s  tourism grew by 26 per cent in the first six months of 2011 (11.7 million visitors), according to a news release from World Vision. Laos saw 2.5 million visitors last year – equal to Cambodia – while Vietnam had five million.

These numbers present mostly incredible opportunities for the people living there as their economies diversify to accommodate the demands of international tourists.

Sadly, with the good tourism comes the bad — including people who travel overseas to have sex with young boys and girls.

“Wherever the money flows, there is power,” says Caroline Riseboro, vice- president of public affairs for World Vision Canada. Her organization is marking World Tourism Day by trying to educate the public about child sexual exploitation in the world’s “hot-spot” countries, which are mainly in southeast Asia.

Forty per cent of male tourists who travel to the Philippines go there for sexual purposes, according to information provided to World Vision by the Philippine ambassador to U.S.

If you’re wondering why the problem persists in these countries, Riseboro, says it’s the extreme poverty that forces people into desperate ways of making money. That includes children selling their bodies for sex, often as part of prostitution rings.

World Vision, is shining a light on the issue in the hopes of educating all travellers.

Riseboro says tourists can help effect change by asking questions. For example, when you’re booking into a hotel or with a tour operator, ask them if they have a policy protecting children from sexual exploitation. That means the company makes it their business to be on the lookout for child sexual exploitation in their daily duties. For example, at a hotel, employees would report an adult checking into a hotel room with a local youngster and reporting the suspicious activity to authorities. (Even so, Riseboro says enforcement is weak in many of these countries.)

Riseboro also encourages Canadian travellers to report to authorities any type of crime of child sexual exploitation that they may see in their travels, especially if they believe it’s a Canadian.

“It’s challenging. Get a description or make enquiries.” It may be more difficult to pursue, she says, but it’s worthwhile. If the perpetrator is a Canadian, she encourages travellers to get a description (if the person is travelling on a visa the he may be easier to track down).

“If Canadians are putting pressure on destinations, like the Philippines, that will help change the system,” she says.

Bill C268, which was passed into law in 2010 in Canada, imposes a minimum five-year sentence on Canadians convicted of travelling overseas to have sex with children. Previously, there was no minimum sentence.

“We wouldn’t turn a blind eye if this happened to children in Canada, why should we turn a blind eye to a child in the Philippines or any other country for that matter, Riseboro says, adding, “People don’t understand they have the power to combat this issue.”

For more information on this issue go World Vision and  learn  more here about corporate responsibility in travel and tourism.

September 27, 2011

North Korea’s Kim Jong Il meets visiting Lao president

www.taiwannews.com.tw

NKorea’s Kim Jong Il meets visiting Lao president

View Original News Source:  http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1715670

Associated Press
2011-09-23 09:01 PM

North Korean media say the country’s leader Kim Jong Il has held cordial talks with the visiting president of Laos.

The official Korean Central News Agency says Kim and Choummaly Sayasone had a “warm meeting” Friday.

It says they also visited an exhibition on North Korea’s military.

The report says Choummaly gave gifts to Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un is Kim Jong Il’s youngest son and expected successor. The younger Kim was among officials who attended a banquet for the visiting leader.

KCNA says Choummaly departed from North Korea on Friday. He had arrived Wednesday.

The two impoverished countries have long had friendly relations based on their shared communist backgrounds.

N. Korean leader meets Laos president: KCNA

View Original News Source:  http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110923000899

2011-09-23 20:20

SEOUL — Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone wrapped up a three-day official visit to North Korea Friday after a meeting with leader Kim Jong-il, the North’s media reported.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the two leaders met in the North’s capital Pyongyang but gave no other details.

The Laotian president arrived in Pyongyang Wednesday on what the North earlier called an “official goodwill visit.”

In a separate report, the KCNA said Sayasone was seen off at the airport by a number of North Korean officials, including the country’s titular head of state Kim Yong-nam.

Pyongyang and Vientiane established diplomatic ties in 1974.

Laos also established formal diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1974, but severed them a year later. Both restored ties in 1995.

(Yonhap News)

September 27, 2011

Finding freedom: Laotian Soom Chandaswang was born in refugee camp, came to Worthington at age 8

View Original News Source:  http://www.dglobe.com/event/article/id/52076/

By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe

Ryan Mcgaughey/daily globe Soom Chandaswang stands with the handmade, silk wedding dress she wore when she married her husband, who is also Laotian.

WORTHINGTON — Soom Chandaswang and her family had to have been thrilled to finally arrive in the United States.

After all, the family had spent 15 years at the Ban Napho refugee camp in Thailand, fleeing their homeland of Laos in the midst of war. Soom arrived in the U.S. at age 8 and after a short stint in Sioux City, Iowa, has called Worthington home since.

The journey here

“My parents are from Laos themselves, and they were farmers,” Soom explained in her office at Nobles County Integration Collaborative in Worthington, where she has worked for the past year. “They worked in the rice fields, and they lived in a small village in Laos with mainly just close family members and relatives.

“Basically, the whole village fled because of the war that was happening in Laos, when Communists took over their village,” she continued. “They had no choice but to escape. Some didn’t make it; they would lose their lives to the jungle, minefields or being captured by soldiers.”

Seven members of Soom’s family finally were able to leave the Thailand refugee camp, and Soom proudly showed souvenirs of that time.

She still has her family’s ICM cards — “it has your name, your identification and is basically like a Social Security card, except it was for us to go to America,” she said. “If you don’t have it, you don’t come.”

The family was in a Philippines camp for a brief time prior to departing for America, and the time spent there as well as in Thailand is still fresh in Soom’s memory.

“It kind of burns in my mind what the camps were like,” she said. “The conditions were very similar. It was very crowded, and the family usually stayed in a one-room house. … The food is portioned out depending on the size of your family, and the food truck comes once a week. So, with our family, we had to portion it out for the rest of the week, and if we didn’t portion it out and we finished our food early, we didn’t eat.”

Growing up

in Worthington

Soom, her parents and four of her siblings went to Sioux City first because an uncle lived there. After residing there for about three months, they headed north to Worthington.

“My mom’s brother, my other uncle, he lived here in Worthington, plus we got sponsored by a pastor who lives in Bigelow, Pastor Ron Lammers,” Soom detailed. “He speaks Lao — that’s how we communicated with him. He found us our home … and a job for my older sister — all the rest of us were too young. My mom and dad never had a chance to be educated; they stayed home and took care of us.”

Soom entered first grade at Worthington’s Central Elementary knowing “not a word” of English. She proved to be a quick learner, though, and was out of English as a Second Language classes after just a year.

After graduating from Worthington High School in 2001, Soom opted to remain in southwest Minnesota. She received a two-year liberal arts degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, then went back to Minnesota West and earned a diploma in practical nursing.

“I stayed basically close to home because my family is here in Worthington,” she said.

Soom said she attends Wat Lao Siri Buddharam Temple in Worthington, which she described as a home to a number of celebrations. The biggest of those events, she added, observes Lao New Year, when plenty of activities take place prior to a larger-scale celebration in Brewster.

Food and values

Soom said her third-oldest sister and her husband, as well as a younger sister, have made journeys to Laos to visit. She would also like to travel to her homeland at some juncture.

“I would like to see where my parents grew up,” she said. “And I’ve never met my grandparents, or my dad’s side of the family.”

In the meantime, Soom regularly partakes in food she’d normally eat if in Laos.

“There’s sticky rice, a lot of vegetables, anything that we can basically find that will remind us of Laos,” she stated. “Top Asian (Worthington grocery store) has a lot of that stuff.

“We grew up with nothing, so we’re not picky,” she continued. “My dad, he hunted when we were in Laos, and when he came to Thailand he couldn’t because we were in the camp. … I remember when my brother and dad went hunting — they took a big risk and went hunting, and they came back with a python that we ate for the whole week and shared with the neighbors at the camp. We ate turtles, frogs, insects — whatever we could find. I also remember when we went to the refugee camp in the Philippines, we had kimono dragon; that was my first time eating that. It was what the people on the Philippines hunted, it was what they sold.”

Soom wore a traditional Lao outfit for her wedding day that was hand-made from silk. She said dressing in traditional Lao clothing is not so common among members of the younger generation.

Soom also cited the importance of basic values that are stressed in Laos, including one in particular.

“Listen to your elders, although in the U.S. it has changed,” she said. “Our parents were really strict on that.”

Soom’s family is comprised of six girls and two boys. Her parents, she said, don’t speak English, so she gets plenty of opportunities to speak Lao with them. (Lao is the language; people that hail from Laos are Laotian.)

She also has another special individual she speaks Lao with; her husband.

A traditional wedding

Soom met her husband, Khunteuang Nakhornsak, in Worthington.

“His family is originally from Laos and they also had the same kind of journey where they ended up in Thailand at a camp,” she said. “We just never met each other there.”

Soom’s three older sisters had arranged marriages, she said, and she conceded that “if I were in Laos, it would be different.” Still, Soom and her husband had a very traditional Lao wedding, right down to her Khunteuang’s family paying Soom’s family a dowry.

“All the elders from his side and the family, they had to come to an agreement about how much (to pay),” Soom said. “Even though we were not born in Laos, we still know the traditions. Our parents, they basically guided us on what to do.”

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