Thursday, May 28, 2009

PM Hun Sen calls for more ASEAN-EU partnership, cooperation

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) to continue strengthening partnership and cooperation in response to the global challenges.

"I strongly believe that ASEAN and the EU can play a more active and more forceful role in the world," the premier said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

"There is no room for a passive role for us, and we - ASEAN and the EU collectively - need to take on the global challenges with head on," he added.

The 17th AEMM which opened here Thursday will focus on ASEAN-EU's enhanced partnership and cooperation, as well as the world economic and financial crisis and other regional and international issues.

The meeting under the theme of "ASEAN-EU Partnership for Peace, Economic Growth and Development" is also scheduled to address issues of ASEAN integration, food and energy security, and the environment.

Hun Sen, in his speech, reviewed and spoke highly of the ASEAN-EU cooperation, saying "our close relations at present are becoming ever stronger and covering a wide range of areas."

The premier also underlined six areas for further enhancing the cooperation and partnership between the ASEAN and EU, such as continuing implementing the ASEAN-EU Action Plan, moving quickly to realize the EU/EC's accession to the TAC (the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia), supporting each other in the areas of integration and the community building process, and strengthening ASEAN-EU cooperation in the regional and international forum.

On the issue of the global economic and financial crisis, Hun Sen said "the current crisis presents both the danger and the opportunity for some countries, particularly those in the developing world."

But he warned that "the danger is that some countries may resort to protectionism." He asked to "reform the international financial institutions" to serve the interests of all.

This biennial ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting were attended by representatives from all the 10 ASEAN countries and the 27 EU member states, as well as the delegates from ASEAN Secretariat and EU Commission.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong and Jan Kohout, Czech deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs whose country is current EU president, are co-presidents of the meeting.

The 16th Ministerial Meeting between ASEAN and EU was held in Germany in 2007.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The first overpass in Cambodia breaks ground

Cambodia broke ground at Phnom Penh capital's busiest intersection Wednesday for the country's first road overpass.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of the project, intended to reduce Phnom Penh's increasing traffic problems, at a ceremony opening another new bridge at the intersection.

"It is will be the first overpass bridge of Cambodia," Hun Sen said at the ceremony.

Officials said construction of the 308-metre (1,010-foot) overpass would cost more than six million dollars and would be finished within one year.

The premier said Phnom Penh had changed from "ghost city, a city that has no people, and a shocked city, into a vivid city."

All residents of Phnom Penh were forced into the countryside during the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime, as the hardline communists enslaved the nation on collective farms.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Hun Sen also called on the people to respect traffic laws, saying that doing so meant they "respect their own lives."

Traffic fatalities have more than doubled in Cambodia over the past five years, becoming the second-biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS.

Better roads and more vehicles have contributed heavily to this toll, but bad driving is the main cause behind most accidents, police say.

Cambodia has finally begun to emerge from decades of civil conflict, but has been hit with gridlock as well as a building boom that has begun to change radically the face of its once-sleepy capital.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

19 new garment factories in Cambodia opened

Nineteen new garment factories opened in Cambodia in the first quarter this year, creating job opportunities for workers who lost employment due to the world financial crisis, local media reported on Wednesday.

These new factories, on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh, will employ 6,069 people, helping to offset the closing of 46 garment factories that led to the loss of 21,400 jobs in the first three months of this year, according to official data from the Ministry of Labor.

"We welcome newly opened factories, because they help create jobs for workers who lost employment when previous factories closed," Oum Mean, secretary of state at the ministry, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Bun Var, general manager of Jit Textile, one of the factories that reopened, said that he will provide 1,600 jobs this year, but adding that the future of the sector was generally unknowable given current uncertainty. "No one can predict the business lifespan of a new factory," he said.

Meantime, Cheath Khemara, a labor affairs official for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) predicted that the garment sector's woes would continue indefinitely. "It will be difficult to attract new factories to Cambodia given the current situation," he said, blaming labor strikes for scaring off investors.

Cambodia's garment exports dropped 35 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Exports to the United States were worst hit, down 47 percent compared with same period last year, while those to the European Union (EU) fell 22 percent, according to the earlier figures obtained from the Ministry of Commerce.

Activists in Cambodia urge release of Suu Kyi

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Rights activists demanded freedom for Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, ahead of a series of meetings between European Union and Southeast Asian ministers in Cambodia.

Dozens of Western, Myanmar and Cambodian rights campaigners demonstrated at the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh, urging ministers to pressure the ruling junta to release the opposition leader and other political prisoners.

"We are asking ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) that is meeting with the EU (European Union) to raise this issue to be discussed during the meeting," said Kek Galabru, president of a local rights group.

"ASEAN must push for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," she added. Asian and European foreign ministers on Tuesday called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar political prisoners after two days of Asia-Europe meetings in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

She is on trial in military-ruled Myanmar where she faces up to five years in jail on charges of violating her house arrest after an incident in which an American man swam to her house.

Representatives from the EU and the 10-member ASEAN were scheduled to attend a welcome dinner Wednesday evening, ahead of Thursday meetings intended to focus mainly on cooperation between the two regions amid the global financial crisis.

"According to the official agenda of the meeting, they will not discuss about issues of any specific country," Cambodia's foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

"We don't know whether the ministers will raise the issue of Myanmar to be discussed or not. If they do, it will be an unofficial agenda," he added.

Several local diplomats, however, told AFP they expected Myanmar to be at the forefront of discussions.

Myanmar's treatment of prisoners, along with North Korea's recent nuclear test, dominated much of the agenda during Hanoi's ministerial meetings this week.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for 13 of the past 19 years since her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in 1990 polls but was not allowed to take power.

The Nobel laureate took the stand for the first time on Tuesday in her trial at Yangon's notorious Insein jail and argued she had not violated the terms of her house arrest.

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