Archive for March, 2014

March 31, 2014

Mekong Dams: Opposition Grows to Laos’ Mega Dams Ahead of Summit

(The Cambodia Daily (subscription))

Opposition Grows to Laos’ Mega Dams Ahead of Summit

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:   http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/opposition-grows-to-laos-mega-dams-ahead-of-summit-55246/
By and | March 31, 2014

Protesters take to the Mekong River in Stung Treng province on Saturday to demand a halt to Laos’Don Sahong dam project, which they say will impact the livelihoods of people living along the river. (Lyda Ngin)

Leading conservation groups on Sunday issued a joint declaration opposing the construction of Laos’ controversial Xayaburi hydropower dam as communities in northeastern Cambodia staged protests on Saturday against the project, which experts say could harm millions of people living downstream.

The joint declaration, signed by 39 environmental groups, comes ahead of this week’s Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit in Ho Chi Minh City during which high-level delegations from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand will address the impact of dam development on the Lower Mekong region.

The Xayaburi dam is the first of 10 proposed dams on the mainstream Lower Mekong River and the Lao government, despite fierce resistance from Cambodia and Vietnam, has pushed ahead with its development, making it a test case for the MRC’s goal of achieving regional consensus before dam-building goes ahead.

“[T]he Xayaburi hydropower project in Lao PDR is one of the potentially most damaging dams currently under construction anywhere in the world” and “constitutes the greatest trans-boundary threat to date to food security, sustainable development and regional cooperation in the Lower Mekong River basin,” the declaration says.

Amid mounting evidence that the dam will cause irreversible damage to biodiversity, fish stocks and human livelihoods, the signatories have set a one-year deadline to achieve a halt on construction so that the MRC’s study on the potential long-term effects of large-scale dams can be completed.

“The Mekong Summit is the critical moment for Cambodia and Vietnam to take a strong stance and make their concerns heard loud and clear before it is too late,” Kraisak Choonhavan, former chairman of Thailand’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said in the statement.

The groups are also calling on Thailand to pressure Laos by pulling out of its agreement to purchase most of the electricity generated by the Xayaburi dam, and asking the consortium of six Thai banks financing its construction to reconsider the effect on their reputations of bankrolling a potentially devastating project.

Laos has also announced that a second mainstream dam, the 256-MW Don Sahong dam—just 1.5 km from the Cambodian border —will also go ahead without regional consultation, despite the fact that studies have shown it threatens the entire ecosystem of the Lower Mainstream Mekong by blocking the only channel in southern Laos that allows year-round fish migration.

Communities Take to the River

On Saturday, more than 200 protesters in Stung Treng province took to the Mekong River in boats to draw attention to the danger the Don Sahong dam presents to local communities and wildlife, such as the critically endangered Mekong River dolphin.

Villagers—including students and local officials—gathered at Preah Romkil pagoda in Thal Borivat district at 8 a.m. and traveled by boat to an area of the river inhabited by the dolphins, according to Vong Kosal, a legal officer for NGO Forum, which last week drafted a petition calling for the immediate halt of the dam.

“We are collecting thumbprints from all participants and will send them to the [Cambodian] government to convey our concerns with the other heads of states at [MRC] summit in Vietnam,” Mr. Kosal said.

A separate protest on Saturday in Kratie province saw another 200 people board 42 boats in Sambor district for a seven-hour journey to raise alarm among communities living along the Mekong River.

“We have prepared an open letter and will send our message to the four countries attending the summit to stop construction of the [Don Sahong] project,” said Sam Sovann, executive director of the Northeastern Rural Development Organization.

Elsewhere, Some 200 ethnic Chong villagers in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley will today submit a petition to the provincial government office as part of an ongoing protest against the imminent construction of the Stung Chhay Areng dam.

Development of the dam by Chinese company Sinohydro (Cambodia) United Ltd., local environmental groups argue, will lead to hundreds of evictions and require the flooding of thousands of hectares of land, including areas of the Cardamom Protected Forest considered sacred to the Chong.

“The villagers want the general public to know that their ancestral land is threatened by the development of this dam,” said Ing Kongcheth, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho.

“They want the dam project canceled—the damage it will cause if it goes ahead is huge.”

(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)

pheap@cambodiadaily.com, henderson@cambodiadaily.com

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved.

——————

Hundreds protest Laos dam

Yin Vuth, one of hundreds of Cambodians who protested against the Don Sahong dam over the weekend, said that if construction on the project in Laos goes ahead, the fish will disappear, and once the fish disappear, the dolphins will be next. “All we will …

Environmental groups oppose controversial Laos dam on eve of regional summit

Nevertheless, Laos is marching ahead with construction without agreement among its neighbors,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, leading environmental activist and former chairman of Thailand’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. “The Xayaburi project severely …

Environment Groups Plan to Oppose Laos Mega Dams

BANGKOK, THAILAND — This week officials from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand will meet to discuss the impact of planned hydropower dams on the lower Mekong region. But several environmental groups have already concluded the main …
March 31, 2014

Laos seeks private investment for budget problems

 

Laos seeks private investment for budget problems

 

Laos has invited private investment in national road construction for the first time, media reports said on Monday, as it faces mounting budget problems. Picture:

Laos has invited private investment in national road construction for the first time, media reports said on Monday, as it faces mounting budget problems. Picture:

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.enca.com/money/laos-seeks-private-investment-budget-problems

March 31, 2014

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

 

Thailand: Separatists Targeting Teachers in South

March Sees More Teachers Killed; Investigate Security Force Abuses

 Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/30/thailand-separatists-targeting-teachers-south

March 30, 2014

Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children. Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(Bangkok) – Separatist insurgents in Thailand’s southern border provinces should immediately end attacks on teachers and other civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Since January 2014, insurgents have killed three ethnic Thai Buddhist teachers in the conflict-ridden region.

“Separatists need to stop attacking those who are educating children,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Separatists in southern Thailand are committing war crimes when they kill and maim teachers and other civilians.”

Under the laws of armed conflict, which are applicable in the fighting between the insurgents and Thai government forces in southern Thailand, deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes.Thai authorities should investigate and appropriately punish security forces committing abuses during operations in the south.

On March 20, insurgents shot dead Somsri Tanyakaset, 39, a teacher at Kok Muba Friendship School in Narathiwat province’s Tak Bai district, while she was on her way home. On March 14, insurgents shot 43-year old Siriporn Srichai while she was riding a motorcycle to work at Tabing Tingi Community School in Pattani province’s Mayo district. The assailants then poured gasoline on her body and set it on fire. A leaflet saying, “This attack is in revenge for the killing of innocent people,” was found nearby. On January 14, two days ahead of the National Teacher’s Day, insurgents shot Supakrit Sae Loong of Ban Nibong School in Yala province’s Kabang district while he was riding a motorcycle from school back home.

Separatist forces have killed at least 171 teachers and torched or detonated bombs at more than 300 government-run schools in 10 years of insurgency in the southern border provinces.

The Patani Independence Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani) in the loose network of the separatist National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-Coordinate) have ambushed teachers while traveling to and from their schools, and killed them in their classrooms and lodgings. The insurgents say that they target teachers in retaliation for violence committed by Thai security forces and pro-government militias against ethnic Malay Muslims. Insurgents also attack teachers and government-run schools as a part of their campaign to eradicate symbols of the Thai state and drive the Thai Buddhist population out of what insurgents claim is Malay Muslims land.

During the decade of armed conflict, insurgents have killed more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians. Some insurgent cells have merged with underground cartels involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and human trafficking across the Thai-Malaysian border, adding to the thriving criminality in the region.

Insurgents have argued that Islamic law permits attacks on civilians in certain circumstances. However, the laws of war, which are binding on non-state armed groups as well as national armed forces, prohibit all intentional attacks on civilians, including reprisal attacks. The insurgents have also been responsible for other laws-of-war violations, including the summary execution of captured civilians and combatants, mutilation or other mistreatment of the dead, and deliberate attacks on civilian objects, such as schools.

Thai security forces have also been implicated in extrajudicial killings and other abuses against suspected insurgents or their alleged supporters in the ethnic Malay Muslim community. Instead of seriously investigating alleged abuses, the government has repeatedly extended the state of emergency in the south, which provides near-blanket immunity to military personnel and police for actions they take in the line of duty. The use of these extensive powers to shield officials who commit rights violations has generated anger and alienation in the ethnic Malay Muslim community.

The Thai government should launch credible and impartial investigations into alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights law by security personnel from regular and voluntary units in the region. Inquiries by the police and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Center into rights abuses have proceeded very slowly and shown few concrete results. Officials often fail to keep the families of victims apprised of any progress in the investigation, compounding the families’ frustrations. While financial reparations were paid to some victims’ families, offering money to families of victims should not be considered a substitute for justice.

“The government needs to ensure that Thai security forces protect public safety with full respect for human rights,” Adams said. “Shielding abusive security personnel from prosecution will only boost insurgent extremism and intensify the atrocities.”

March 30, 2014

Minnesota: State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

 

State Capitol monument to Hmong-Lao veterans is moving forward

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/253056851.html

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 – 5:26 PM

We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

Jim Ragsdale 

The old Hmong soldier’s voice broke as he told of coming upon American pilots in the smoking wreckage of their plane or helping evacuate a chaotic CIA base as the dominoes were falling in Southeast Asia.

Xai Paul Vang, 65, of Cottage Grove, spoke in the hallway of the Minnesota State Office Building last week, evoking memories of the “Secret War” in his native country of Laos in the ’60s and ’70s.

And explaining why a patch of ground in the Minnesota State Capitol Mall means so much to him.

“Every year in the last seven years, he has come to the location where it is designated for the monument, to honor it,” said an interpreter as Vang spoke. Even if he dies before it is finished, Vang feels “his spirit will be there. That is designated for him and all the Hmong-Lao veterans.”

The past was very much in the present in the crush of legislative business a few feet away. The House Committee on Capital Investment heard a pitch for a long-planned memorial on the Mall to the Hmong and Lao veterans and their families, who have been part of the fabric of St. Paul and the Twin Cities since the wars ended in 1975.

“We’re here in America, the land of freedom, because of the sacrifices made by our elders,” Yia Michael Thao, the son of a soldier who fought on the U.S. side, told the committee.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton are considering a proposal to spend $450,000, combined with another $150,000 to be raised privately, to build the memorial. This is the second go-round for the project, which once fell short of private fundraising goals.

This time Thao, who serves as finance chair for the project, said $130,000 has already been raised. It has been greenlighted by Gov. Mark Dayton and in an initial capital bill proposed by the House committee chair, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul. It has moved through a committee in the Senate, where its champion is Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, also a Laotian-born son of a Hmong soldier.

The soldiers’ story links steamy Laotian jungles with icebound Twin Cities neighborhoods. The CIA secretly recruited hill-dwelling Hmong and lowland Lao to find fallen pilots and hold back North Vietnamese troops operating in Laos. When the communists took over and U.S. allies fled, St. Paul became a beacon for resettlement.

The Capitol Mall is already a sea of stone and bronze ghosts, including Christopher Columbus and Leif Erikson (each honored as “Discoverer of America”) and memorials to veterans of 20th century wars, women suffragists, fallen police officers and firefighters and Minnesota workers. A state tally lists 20 existing memorials and statues.

2015: 40th anniversary

The new project, to be located near an existing Vietnam War memorial, would be dominated by an 8- to 9-foot bronze plant known as the “vigorous sprout,” with petals bearing images of the war, the escape from Laos and resettlement. It also will include stone walks with traditional needlework designs, plantings of Minnesota grasses and the words “Sacrifices for Freedom” engraved in stone.

If approved this year, the monument could be built in 2015, the 40th anniversary of the end of the war.

Two other centers of Hmong and Lao immigration, Sheboygan, Wis., and Fresno, Calif., have erected memorials in public places, and the U.S. government placed a small plaque at Arlington National Cemetery. It appears this would be the first such memorial on the grounds of a state capitol.

As the new generations of Hmong-Americans get further away from the wartime trauma, ex-soldiers like Charles Vu, 67, of St. Paul, want to make sure they remember how they got here. Vu said he was based at the secret air base at Long Cheng — the same one Xia Paul Vang helped evacuate — and served from 1968-75. Like his brothers-in-arms, he has many stories to tell.

“We support the Hmong and Lao memorial for our children, so they know our history,” Vu said.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

March 27, 2014

Ho Chi Minh Trail

TEDEd

The infamous and ingenious Ho Chi Minh Trail – Cameron Paterson

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-infamous-and-ingenious-ho-chi-minh-trail-cameron-paterson

Let’s Begin…

The Ho Chi Minh Trail not only connected North and South Vietnam during a brutal war but also aided Vietnamese soldiers. The trail shaved nearly five months of time off of the trip and was used as a secret weapon of sorts. Cameron Paterson describes the history and usage of the infamous trail.

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