Archive for ‘Cambodia’

June 17, 2014

Cambodian Activist’s Fall Exposes Broad Deception

June 16, 2014

Report into Thai industry of migrant workers – More than 150,000 Cambodians flee Thailand

Fearing a Junta Crackdown, Cambodian Workers Stream Out of Thailand

April 14, 2014

U.S. State Department: Happy New Year’s Bengal, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand

 

Happy New Year’s Bengal, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his well wishes to South and Southeast Asian countries celebrating New Year’s.
By JC Finley   |   April 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM   |

WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI)The U.S. Department of State wished the people of Bengal, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand a Happy New Year.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry sent the following message to Bengali communities on their April 14 New Year’s Day:

“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send warmest greetings to Bengali communities around the world as you celebrate Pahela Boishakh.”The United States joins you in celebrating the vibrant history and culture of the Bengali-speaking people. Your rich cultural heritage, from food and song to poetry, art, and literature has greatly enriched our own.

“As you gather with family and friends to celebrate the New Year, know that the United States stands with you as a partner and friend. Shubho Nobo Borsho!”

  • Kerry sent the following message to Cambodians:

“On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I am delighted to send best wishes to the Cambodian people as you celebrate the Khmer New Year starting on April 14.”Since my time as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee I have been strongly committed to helping the Cambodian people build a better tomorrow for future generations. I believe the path to a better tomorrow includes addressing the atrocities of Cambodia’s past and building a more democratic future.

“The United States and Cambodia share common interests in promoting regional stability, fostering economic development, and improving health and education in Cambodia. And we look forward to strengthening our partnership in the years to come.

“I wish your country peace, prosperity and a joyful New Year celebration.”

  • To the country of Laos, which celebrates New Year’s from April 14-16, Kerry wrote:

“On behalf of President Obama I am delighted to extend my greetings to the people of Laos on the occasion of the Lao New Year.”The American people join you in the spirit of hope, celebration, joy, and renewal. May the New Year bring prosperity to Lao people all around the world.

“The New Year is a time of great opportunity and expectation and I hope this year will provide even greater opportunities to work together and enrich the important friendship between Laos and the United States.”

  • Kerry wished the people of Myanmar well in peace and democracy efforts as they celebrate New Year on April 17.

“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate and send best wishes to the people of Myanmar on the occasion of Thingyan.”The United States is committed to working in partnership to help your country realize the promise of peace, democracy, expanded economic opportunity and justice for everyone in your country. We cherish the hope that your work to achieve a historic ceasefire and political dialogue will be the basis for national harmony and a shared vision for the future.

“Your leadership as ASEAN Chair demonstrates your increasing impact in the region, and showcases your country’s progress and potential.

“As you gather with family, friends, and neighbors to honor your rich traditions and culture with prayer, celebration and renewal, know that the people of the United States send their best wishes for a peaceful and happy New Year.”

  • Kerry wished the Nepalese prosperity and joy during their April 12-15 celebration.

“On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer the people of Nepal best wishes for a prosperous and joyful New Year.”Nepal has achieved important milestones this past year, including the democratic election of a new Constituent Assembly.

“I hope that the coming year will bring further progress towards enduring political stability and the full completion of a new constitution, keeping your country on the path of prosperity and peace.

“Naya Barshako Shubha-Kamana!”

  • To Sri Lankans, who celebrate New Year’s on April 14, Kerry sent the following message:

“On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warmest greetings to the people of Sri Lanka and the vibrant global Sri Lankan diaspora.”This New Year brings a new opportunity for all Sri Lankans to join together in the spirit of tolerance, reconciliation, and peace. As Sri Lankans gather to mark the potential of the New Year, we join in celebrating with you.

“As you continue your work to build a prosperous, democratic Sri Lanka, I offer my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday and a prosperous, peaceful year ahead.”

  • Kerry extended New Year’s greeting to Thailand, whose New Year’s celebrations began on April 13 and conclude on April 15:

“On behalf of President Obama and the American people, it is my great pleasure to extend New Year’s greetings to the people of Thailand. I hope this Songkran provides all Thais an occasion to spend an enjoyable time with family and friends and to look forward to good luck and prosperity in the New Year.”We are proud to mark another year in the enduring friendship between Thailand and the United States. Our nations enjoy an unshakable bond that transcends politics in either of our countries, and we look forward to working together in the New Year on important issues such as trade relations, health research, security cooperation, and educational exchange.

“I look forward to the opportunities that the New Year holds for both of our nations and for our alliance. I wish you a happy and healthy Songkran!

[State Department]

April 14, 2014

Mekong hydropower dams: Laos considering, Vietnam needs “quick reactions”

 

Mekong hydropower dams: Laos considering, Vietnam needs “quick reactions”

VietNamNet Bridge – Laos promises to consult with experts and consider the construction of hydropower dams on Mekong River is the good news for Vietnam. However, scientists say Vietnam needs to act promptly to take full advantage of its opportunities.

 

Mekong hydropower dams, mekong river, laos, vietnam

 

The comment was made by Nguyen Viet Dung, Deputy Director of PanNature, a Vietnamese not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving diversity of life and improving human well-being.

Dung believes that what needs to be done immediately is to provide reports on the possible impacts of the hydropower dams on the Mekong’s lower course. The reports, with convincing arguments and figures, need to be provided to Laos as soon as possible, so that the country can fully consider the pros and cons of its proposed hydropower plant project.

Quick, quicker

The second summit of the International Mekong River Commission has ended with a satisfactory outcome. Vietnam suggested setting up a research team, with the presence of representatives of Laos and Cambodia, which would be charged with analyzing the possible impacts of the hydropower plants on Mekong.

Vietnam, at the summit, proposed that Laos waits for Vietnam’s research work to reach a conclusion before it decides whether to move ahead with its project. The research is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngoc said that Laos has promised to thoroughly consider the possible negative impacts shown by Vietnam and Cambodia.

Dung, applauding Lao goodwill, has urged Vietnamese scientists to carry out the research and make public the result of the research to confirm the dangers to the people in the Mekong’s lower course.

“This would be really a big challenge for Vietnamese researchers, who need to clarify what are the impacts to be caused by hydropower dams and what are the impacts to be caused by other factors,” Dung commented.

“Only by clarifying the issues, will Vietnam be able to convince Laos and involved parties,” he said.

How to make the research outcome recognized?

However, worries still exist. A scientist said the next question is whether the conclusions reached by the research team will be accepted by Laos and the involved parties. And even if they agree on the conclusions of the researchers, will they be cooperative and adjust their plans accordingly?

Dung, agreeing with the opinion, stressed that the research must be conducted with the active participation of representatives from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand as well.

Recent surveys have all shown that Mekong’s basin is one of the five largest river basins in the world to be witnessing the sharpest decline in flow. The annual flow of the Mekong in the lower course has declined by 10 percent over the last 30 years.

The Mekong river section running across Vientiane in Laos has become so depleted that people can cross the river on foot in the dry season. In the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, salt water has invaded the Tan Chau area of An Giang Province, something which never happened in the past.

Mekong has been playing a very important role in Vietnam’s socio-economic development. The Mekong Delta, with an area of 40,000 square kilometers, is home to 20 million people. Its products make up 27 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, and it provides 90 percent of the nation’s rice exports and 60 percent of its seafood export turnover.

Thien Nhien

April 14, 2014

Mekong River at risk as Laos forges ahead with dam-building spree

Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien Daily

 

Mekong River at risk as Laos forges ahead with dam-building spree 

Monday, April 14, 2014 16:35
The Challenge Program on Water and Food- (CPWF) Mekong dams database provides the locations of every known commissioned, under-construction and planned dam in the Mekong River Basin
Construction of a giant controversial dam in Laos has been well underway since it began in late 2012. Laos is also set to push ahead with a second hydropower dam on the Mekong River this year in the face of growing concerns among its neighbors.
Opponents of these projects said their commencement would also kick off the construction of the 9 other dams planned by Laos on the lower reaches of the 4,900-kilometer (3,045-mile)-long Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. The river begins in the Tibetan plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.
Regional leaders have continued to beat the drum of safeguarding the mighty river, but in reality, the rhetoric has been more prominent than action, environmental activists say.
They say that although it is still not too late to put a brake on the damming frenzy and devise a plan to promote the sustainable development of the Mekong, success in doing so would hinge on the political will of governments to make scientifically sound decisions before forging ahead with any more dam construction.
But apparently, “powerful commercial interests have been allowed to ransack the Mekong River’s rich resources by building damaging hydropower dams which have yet to demonstrate proven and effective mitigation measures,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers, a California-based environmental group.
In November 2012, Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion Xayaburi dam project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors who said the 810-meter (2,600ft) dam would unleash massive ecological changes on a river that feeds around 60 million people.
A technical review released in March 2011 by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) – a regional body established to coordinate dam projects on the river – on the Xayaburi dam is considered the most comprehensive analysis of its potential impact. It warns that more than 50 studies are still required before regional governments reach a consensus over whether the Xayaburi and other Mekong mainstream dams should be built.
But last September, Laos notified the MRC that it would forge ahead with the second dam, the Don Sahong, on the lower Mekong, despite calls from foreign donors to consult neighbors that face a trans-boundary impact on fisheries and the risk of deprived livelihoods.
A regional summit that ended recently in Vietnam dismayed environmental activists who had hoped for tougher stance against the dam-building binge.
“While [we are] pleased that Mekong leaders recognize the negative environmental and social impacts that hydropower development poses to the mainstream, we are disappointed that leaders did not condemn the current rush of dam building on the Mekong mainstream,” Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, said in a statement issued after the Mekong River Commission summit wrapped up April 5 in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Words without actions are meaningless,” Trandem said. “The Lao government must stop its free reign of Mekong mainstream dam building.”
Business as usual
Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’s deputy energy minister, confirmed to Thanh Nien News that the Xayaburi project is now around 30 percent complete and construction on the Don Sahong dam would begin at a site less than 2 km away from the Cambodian border in December this year.
Landlocked Laos, looking to become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power – mostly to Thailand, has promoted the Xayaburi dam as a potential source of income and investment that will spur its small economy.
“The Lao government sees hydropower as something of a silver bullet to lift the country out of poverty and genuinely believes there is no alternative,” Philip Hirsch, director of the Australian Mekong Resource Center at the University of Sydney, told Thanh Nien News.
But given that the power to be produced by the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam is quite small, experts say an important question, in this context, is which are the more and less damaging sites for dam construction.
“Building a dam that blocks the major fish migration route in the model of one of the world’s most significant artisanal freshwater fisheries does not seem like a very sensible priority,” Hirsch said.
Environmental groups warn that the impacts posed by the Don Sahong dam bring a new level of risk to the biodiversity of the Mekong River, threatening to block the only channel of the Mekong that currently allows for year-round fish migrations on a large scale, while also wiping out one of the last pools of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
Viraphonh shrugged off such concerns.
“We are very confident that there will be no significant impact on the downstream of the river,” Viraphonh said, adding that Laos hired a number of independent experts to review the feasibility studies on these dam projects.
But those in the opposing camp do not buy into this assurance.
They say these claims are based on models which have never been tested in the Mekong, and there are doubts as to whether they could be successful on such a large scale.
“The stakes are high and continuing to build Mekong dams through a trial and error approach is reckless and irresponsible,” Trandem of International Rivers said. “The Mekong is too valuable for risky experiments.”
‘Right to develop’
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are bound by a 1995 Mekong treaty to hold inter-governmental consultations before building dams. But none has a veto, and Laos will have the final say, though considerable diplomatic pressure can be exerted on it.
Laos and its neighbors – particularly Vietnam and Cambodia – have been at odds over the decision-making stage, or the prior consultation process, of the Don Sahong project.
While Laos maintains it only needs to notify its neighbors of its intent to build the dam because it is located neither in the tributary nor on the mainstream of the Mekong, the other two countries demand that the consultation process take place to decide over whether to build the dam, citing its trans-boundary impacts.
Vietnam and Cambodia reiterated their position at the Mekong River Commission summit on April 5.
Viraphonh, the Lao energy official, bristled at criticism that his country has provided no information to its neighbors about how it plans to address the serious impacts that experts expect to see on important migratory fishes species, saying Laos has nothing to hide.
He maintained that for a small project like Don Sahong, only notification would be needed. But, more importantly, he stressed that “Laos [also] needs to develop and for the right to develop, [we] don’t need a consensus or agreement [to go ahead].”
A Cambodian fisherman who lives by the Mekong River casts his net outside Phnom Penh. Regional leaders have continued to beat the drum of safeguarding the mighty Mekong River, but in reality, the rhetoric has been more prominent than action, environmental activists say. Photo: Reuters 
Muddy the Mekong water
Addressing an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Russia in 2012, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang called for sustainable exploitation of the Mekong River, saying nations could soon get embroiled in conflicts over access to water.
“It would not be over-exaggerating… to view the water resources of the 21st century as the oil of the 19th and 20th centuries,” Sang said.
Environmental activists say Laos’s “unilateral” move to plow ahead with the construction of two controversial dams highlights the urgency to give the 1995 Mekong Agreement more teeth.
“Because the [treaty] and its procedures are riddled with ambiguities, the Mekong River faces a dangerous trajectory, in which unilateral interests are hijacking regional cooperation and well-being,” said Pianporn of International Rivers.
Meanwhile, experts have lamented that China’s dam-building spree in both Southeast Asia – in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar – and at home is threatening to have a serious impact on the lower Mekong.
International Rivers, a US-based nonprofit group that works to protect rivers, has been collecting information on China’s global role in dam building since 2008.
In Southeast Asia alone, it said, the number of Chinese dams that are under construction or are proposed include 10 in Cambodia, 26 in Laos, and 55 in Myanmar. Of them, four are to be built on the mainstream Mekong – three in Laos and one in Cambodia.
In the meantime, China’s upstream dams continue to cause worry due to the lack of information about their water flows, development plans, cumulative environmental impacts, and trans-boundary impacts. China has constructed or planned to build a total of 13 dams on the cascade.
Given the scale and size of these dams, experts say there are certainly other environmental impacts like withholding sediment and changed flow volumes and quantity on the lower Mekong.
They also say there are well-grounded fears that China could capitalize on the lack of political agreement there to gain a lot when taking into account dam development activities in the lower Mekong.
“China itself doesn’t need the power but stands to gain in two ways: First, work for Chinese dam-building and engineering companies,” said Richard Cronin, director of the Southeast Asia program at Stimson Center, a US-based research institute.
“Second, China gains a lot of political influence,” Cronin said. “China has already largely displaced Vietnam’s former influence.”

 

An Dien
Thanh Nien News

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