Cambodia Defends Flag Burning Protest as ‘Freedom of Expression’
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Cambodia Defends Flag Burning Protest as ‘Freedom of Expression’
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Cambodian Buddhist monks and laymen protest in front of the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Aug. 11, 2014.
Cambodia on Friday defended a group of demonstrators who burned a flag of Vietnam in front of Hanoi’s embassy, saying the act was part of freedom of expression allowed in the country, rebuffing demands from the neighbor that they be punished.
Cambodian Ministry of Interior Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the flag burning during a protest by the Khmer Krom ethnic minority would not affect relations between the two countries.
The demonstrators were simply “expressing their opinions in a democratic country,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“Protesters commonly burn flags around the world—it may be unethical, but as long as it is done during a lawful protest, it is acceptable,” he said.
Khieu Sopheak reminded Hanoi that protesters in Vietnam had frequently burned Chinese flags in demonstrations following Beijing’s deployment in May of an oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam’s coast in the South China Sea.
Protests are extremely rare in Vietnam and are often brutally repressed by the authorities, as dissent is not tolerated in the one-party communist state.
Khieu Sopheak explained that the political systems of Cambodia and Vietnam are “different” and that Hanoi could not expect Phnom Penh to react the same way to protests by its citizens.
“Cambodia is different from Vietnam. Cambodia adheres to a form of liberal democracy with a multi-party system. Cambodia allows freedom of expression under the framework of the law,” he said.
“This incident does not represent or reflect the foreign policy of the Cambodian government and it does not affect Vietnamese-Cambodia relations. [The demonstrators] were simply expressing their opinions in a democratic country.”
On Aug. 12, some 600 Khmer Krom protesters gathered at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh demanding an apology from Hanoi for a June statement made by an embassy official claiming that Khmer Kampuchea Krom provinces had long been under Vietnam’s control.
The embassy official, Trung Van Thong, had said that Khmer Kampuchea Krom, a region comprising much of present-day southern Vietnam, belonged to Vietnam even before it was officially ceded to it by France in 1949.
At one point during the demonstration, prominent monk and protester Seung Hai burned a Vietnamese flag, which was then stomped and spat upon, according to a report by the Cambodia Daily.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement on Wednesday that the act “ran counter to the fine traditional neighborliness between Vietnam and Cambodia and deliberately offended the feelings of the Vietnamese people,” according to a report by Vietnamese state media.
“Vietnam demands that Cambodia strictly try these extremists in accordance with the law and take effective measures to prevent similar actions from repeating in the future,” Binh said.
Khieu Sopheak on Friday called the protests over Thong’s statement warranted, adding that Vietnam had overreacted to the flag burning incident.
“The demand [of the protesters] was appropriate and [Le Hai Binh’s] comment [appears] to be his own personal point of view,” he told RFA.
“We respect the good relationship between the two friendly countries.”
The demand for an apology from Vietnam over Thong’s statement has also been taken up by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy.
“If the Vietnamese Embassy does not apologize, the Cambodian people should use their fingerprints to file a petition to oust [Thong] from his post and force him out of Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy said Friday.
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed the hope that the CNRP would refrain from whipping up anti-Vietnam sentiment for political gain.
CNRP lawmakers had recently rejoined parliament after breaking a political deadlock with Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) following disputed elections in July last year.
The CNRP has accused Hun Sen of being a "puppet" of neighboring Vietnam. Many Cambodians are wary of Vietnam’s influence over their country’s affairs.
An estimated 1.7 million people, or one in four Cambodians, died in what came to be called the “Killing Fields” after the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The regime was unseated when Vietnam invaded the country four years later.
Vietnam occupied the country for a decade before withdrawing its troops and signing the Paris Peace Agreement to restore sovereignty and stability to Cambodia.
France’s Cochinchina colony, which included the former provinces of Kampuchea Krom, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949, but had been under Vietnamese control since the mid-17th century.
One of the most important seaports of Kampuchea Krom, once called Prey Nokor, is now known as Ho Chi Minh City—the financial hub of Vietnam and one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia.
Since Hanoi took control, the Khmer Krom living in Vietnam—believed to number considerably more than one million and who are ethnically similar to most Cambodians—have increasingly faced social persecution and strict religious controls, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
On the other side of the border, the Khmer Krom who leave Vietnam for Cambodia remain one of the country’s “most disenfranchised groups,” Human Rights Watch said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sum Sok Ry. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Finalists of Miss Myanmar International 2014 @ Training -
# ၾသဂုတ္လ (၁၇) ရက္ေန႔မွာ ရန္ကုန္၊ အမ်ဳိးသားကဇာတ္႐ုံမွာ က်င္းပမယ့္
Miss Myanmar International 2014 ျပိဳင္ပြဲအတြက္ အၾကိဳေလ့က်င့္မွဳ #
Miss International 2013 Arrive Yangon City -
# Miss Myanmar International 2014 မွာ ဒိုုင္ အျဖစ္ ပါ၀င္ကူညီမယ့္
Miss International 2013, Ms. Bea Rose Santiago ရန္ကုန္သို႔ ေရာက္ရွိ #
Surrogacy Hub Thailand to Restrict ‘Rent a Womb’ Services
Thailand is cracking down on a thriving but legally dubious industry where infertile foreign couples pay Thai women to bear children.
Any foreigners leaving Thailand with children born to surrogate mothers here must now produce a court order verifying legal custody.
That was confirmed Friday to VOA by the chief of Immigration Bureau’s Division 2, police major general Suwichpol Imjairach.
This comes after the leader of the military junta governing Thailand said negative publicity about surrogacy babies has led to the country being portrayed in a bad light. That prompted General Prayuth Chan-ocha to order further restrictions, but the immigration regulation has nonetheless caught some couples by surprise.
Thailand’s foreign ministry confirmed that at least one couple, from Australia, was stopped Thursday at a Bangkok airport and prevented from leaving the country with babies born to Thai women.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that since Wednesday, two same-sex Australian couples and two American couples, in total, were halted at airport immigration counters in similar circumstances.
The junta -- which seized power in Thailand May 22 -- has proposed legislation to be quickly submitted to the appointed national legislative assembly that would strictly ban commercial surrogacy.
This is having an immediate chilling effect, as the chairman of the Medical Council of Thailand, Somsak Lolekha explained to VOA.
“Most doctors stopped doing this because they worry. It's not clear whether they will be put in jail or not as a criminal. We have to discuss with the government when they pass a law. It's our duty to help the infertile people to have kids,” said Somsak.
Under Thai medical regulations, surrogate mothers are only supposed to be compensated for expenses and she should be a relative of one of the potential parents.
At Thailand's Office of Prevention and Protection of Children, Youth, Elderly and Vulnerable Groups, the director general, Rarinthip Sirorat, has advice for foreign couples thinking of utilizing Thai surrogate mothers: “don't do it.”
“It has to be the relatives of the intended parents. So it is impossible for the foreign couples to have something like a close relative in Thailand,” said Rarinthip.
But the current medical regulations have allowed for surrogates not related to the genetic parents on a case-by-case basis, according to medical authorities. They say that loophole has been exploited, as the practice is so lucrative for Thai brokers and doctors. So they began marketing their services on the Internet in foreign languages to those looking for egg donors or surrogates.
This brought together fertile Thai women with many thousands of foreign couples, including gays, who cannot have their own children by conventional means.
The proposed law specifically calls for the surrogate mother to be a relative of a member of the couple seeking to have a child. No artificial insemination surrogacy would be permitted for same-sex couples or those who are not married.
Specialists in the field, including some key bureaucrats, are calling for a careful study among various interested groups before a new law is passed.
Somsak notes that if the legislation is put on a fast track it will call into question the fate of thousands of babies now being carried by Thai surrogates for foreigners.
“For those already pregnant, I think we have to help them for the sake of the baby. We have to do everything to help the child. They should go back to their genetic parents or their intended parents. And I think we have to try to help them so the parents can get that baby back to their home,” said Somsak.
Police on Thursday shut down one fertility clinic. They said the New Life IVF Clinic, located in a Bangkok high-rise building, was not licensed.
Online information on the clinic’s website, now removed, stated that the cost of a basic surrogacy service started at $30,000 - less than a third of what it would cost in the United States.
Costs in Thailand can soar to $50,000 for those requiring the donation of an egg.
Another clinic, the All IVF Center, was forced to close last week.
Critics have termed these clinics “baby factories.”
Authorities say they suspect one of the clinic’s clients was a wealthy Japanese businessman listed on 15 birth certificates as the father of babies born to surrogate mothers in Thailand.
Some of the babies have been taken out of Thailand and their apparent genetic father, 24-year-old Mitsutoki Shigeta, flew out of the country recently.
The co-founder of one fertility center, Mariam Kukunashvili, is quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying she turned away Shigeta after providing for him two surrogate mothers simultaneously because “he wanted more and more babies.”
Authorities say they have informed Shigeta’s lawyer that they desire to speak with the Hong Kong-based Japanese entrepreneur, although he has not been charged with any crime.
Media reports here says police want to question Shigeta as part of their probe into possible trafficking of children.
Meanwhile, two doctors are under scrutiny by the Medical Council of Thailand for involvement in a highly publicized case involving a boy born with Down syndrome. His Thai birth mother accuses the Australian surrogate parents of abandoning the boy but taking home the child’s twin sister, who was born healthy.
The children’s biological father, David Farnell, a convicted child sex offender, and his wife, Wendy, have contradicted the birth mother’s version of events. The Australian couple says doctors stated that the boy, known as Gammy, had a congenital heart condition and would not survive.
The representative in Thailand of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), Caspar Peek, said legislation should protect the rights of the child “first and foremost” and also provide protection for the surrogate mother, as well as the intended parents whose genetic material is being used.
“Once it becomes commercial then the motivations of women to accept this [commercial surrogacy] will change. You may get the wrong people into this; you may get very young girls, you may get very poor women, you may get women who are undernourished and of course that creates a risk to their health as well. And of course there are people who will make money out of this -- and then it's all not above board anymore,” said Peek.
As he put it, things become complicated when there are contracts involved.
“Contracts are often not enforceable. If you were to take a child out of Thailand, that is born by a surrogate mother without all the paperwork in order and you will take this child to Australia or to New Zealand or any other country - it's highly probable that the authorities in your home country will not accept this child,” said Peek.
The industry -- which also thrives in some eastern European countries (including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and Ukraine) -- expanded in Thailand after India last year banned such services for gay couples and required heterosexual mates to have been married for at least two years.
In addition to gay couples, Thailand is an attractive surrogacy market for Chinese and Indian parents seeking male heirs, who find most Thai clinics have no qualms about gender selection.
Additional reporting by Ron Corben.
Any foreigners leaving Thailand with children born to surrogat...
Ukraine Says Its Forces Regaining Control of Luhansk
Ukraine said on Sunday its forces regained control of a police station in Luhansk, in what could be a breakthrough in Ukraine's efforts to push back pro-Moscow separatists who controlled the city for months.
Kiyv said its forces raised the national flag over the station, and claimed that the rebels were fighting a desperate rearguard action to hold on to Luhansk, which is their supply route into neighbouring Russia.
Meanwhile, a column of armored vehicles led by pro-Russia rebels was reportedly spotted near the Russian border. Heading west, deeper into rebel held territory, it was said to include a mobile surface-to-air missile system.
Earlier, pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian Mig-29 fighter jet Sunday in the war-torn eastern region of the country.
A military spokesman said the pilot ejected from the plane and was rescued from the Luhansk area.
Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross have arrived in Russia near Ukraine's border to start inspections on a huge Russian aid convoy parked near Ukraine's border.
An ICRC spokeswoman told the news agency that an agreement was reached Saturday on how to inspect the convoy. She said she doubted the inspections would begin Sunday. However, Ukrainian officials said they have begun inspecting the aid convoy.
A Russian aid convoy of trucks is escorted by a police vehicle as they travel on a road to the border control point in the Russian town of Donetsk, in the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 17, 2014.A Russian aid convoy of trucks is escorted by a police vehicle as they travel on a road to the border control point in the Russian town of Donetsk, in the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 17, 2014.
The nearly 300 truck convoy parked outside the Russian town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky is awaiting security guarantees to allow it to cross into Ukraine with the humanitarian aid. The ICRC would then have the responsibility for distributing the aid to Ukrainians caught in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and separatists.
Moscow said the mission was purely humanitarian, but Kyiv and the West have voiced concerns it could serve as a "Trojan Horse" for an invasion or a way to re-arm pro-Russian rebels who have suffered previous losses.
The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are meeting Sunday in Berlin to discuss the tensions in Ukraine.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild newspaper that he hoped the talks would help put an end to violence in eastern Ukraine and help provide residents of the war-torn region with humanitarian aid.
French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso discussed the situation Saturday. Afterward, Hollande called on Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and urged Kyiv to exercise restraint in its military activities. He said France was ready for a new summit on the issue and added that Sunday's meeting could be used as a first step toward that end.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
Germany, Guinea-Bissau React to Ebola Outbreak
Germany is urging its citizens to leave Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia due to the Ebola outbreak in the West African nations.
The foreign ministry announced the government directive on Wednesday, but said the appeal for nationals to leave did not apply to medical workers or diplomatic staff.
Also, Guinea-Bissau has announced it is closing its border with Guinea because of fears over the spread of Ebola.
At a news conference late Tuesday, Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira said its southern and eastern borders with Guinea would remain closed "until further notice."
Ebola outbreaks, deaths in West Africa, as of August 11, 2014Ebola outbreaks, deaths in West Africa, as of August 11, 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 1,000 people have died since the Ebola outbreak began in February, most of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Nigeria's health ministry confirmed a new case of Ebola on Monday. Officials there say 10 people have been infected and two people have died.
In another development, the Confederation of African Football said Wednesday that two African Cup qualifying matches that were set to be held in Guinea and Sierra Leone next month would be moved to other countries.
The group did not announce the new venues.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected more than 1,800 people, and is on pace to infect more people than all previous outbreaks of the virus combined.
The disease has no known cure. On Tuesday, a WHO panel of medical experts said it is ethical to give Ebola patients unproven drugs to try to fight the disease.
The foreign ministry announced the government directive on Wednesday...
Robin Williams' daughter 'leaves' Twitter after abuse - BBC Newsbeat
Robin Williams' daughter Zelda says she is leaving Twitter because of social media abuse after her father's death.
The 25-year-old posted that she was deleting Twitter from her devices "maybe forever".
It appears at least two people sent her "photoshopped" images claiming to show her father's body.
Robin Williams, 63, was found dead at his California home on Monday after taking his own life.
Police said the actor and comedian had been treated for depression and killed himself by hanging.
Zelda, 25, initially posted a tribute to her father on Twitter saying: "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."
Later, she asked for two Twitter users to be reported for abuse, before deleting her message.
She said on Tuesday she had now decided to leave the site.
Russell Kane 'offended' by some Robin Williams suicide comments - BBC Newsbeat
British comedian Russell Kane has told Newsbeat he's "offended" by some comments made after the death of Robin Williams.
The 63-year-old, who was known for films like Mrs Doubtfire and Jumanji, was found dead at his home in California on Monday.
Police believe he hanged himself.
He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and is said to have been struggling with "severe depression".
Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam
Kane says: "People's comments saying how selfish Robin Williams is for doing this, people just don't understand what depression is like".
TalkSport has apologised after its radio presenter Alan Brazil said he had "no sympathy" for suicide and some social media users have also made similar comments.
But Kane says: "People don't choose to have mental illness, it's an illness and disease just like any other. Choice in the sense that healthy people understand it doesn't come into it."
He also says the mood has changed at the Edinburgh Fringe festival since news of the death was announced.
Speaking from the comedy event, he says: "Everyone had the same experience, a lot of people got the news as they were going to bed.
Mrs Doubtfire was one of Robin Williams' most famous roles
"At one of the most high pressure comedy festivals in the world, it really focussed you on the things in life that are important and how dangerous this comedy profession can be, when you're going through these highs and lows all the time of stand up."
Kane adds: "I'm guessing it's the same if you're a musician or anyone who goes out in front of an audience and gets cheering every night and then the next minute you're sat in a hotel on your own at night it's a dangerous thing to do to your brain over and over again.
"One minute you're the next big thing, a movie star, the next minute you might not be so successful so it's a constant up and down with your emotional energy."
The 33-year-old also told Newsbeat his own stand up style has been inspired by Robin Williams.
Williams also starred in Jumanji
He says: "I came to him through Mrs Doubtfire, then when I got older and started getting into stand up comedy, I started looking at how he started which is this unbelievably energetic dynamo stand up, improvisational genius."
"I may not be the funniest comedian, I may not have the best jokes, but energy I will try to take on any other comics, so he was one of my inspirations'" he adds.
"Wherever you're from he just touched you with his humour and his comedy particularly the roles he played, a lot of us, we filter them through our childhood."
Obama Meets With African Leaders at Summit
President Barack Obama holds three public forums with African leaders on Wednesday, the final day of a massive three-day summit in Washington.
Obama is scheduled to speak at sessions that will focus on sustainable economic growth, peace and stability and good governance across the African continent.
Fifty African heads of state and government are attending the unprecedented summit. Late Tuesday, the White House hosted a state dinner for the visitors, where the president noted his African heritage and said that for his family, the bonds between the U.S. and Africa are deeply personal.
Earlier, Obama announced $33 billion in U.S. private and public investment in various African countries.
Speaking at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, he said the investment and financing commitments will support both African and American jobs. The bulk of the commitments will come from private sector companies like Coca-Cola and IBM.
Obama is scheduled to speak at sessions that wil...
Australian commuters help free man trapped against platform
Commuters in Western Australia have helped to free a man after his leg became trapped between a platform and a busy train.
CCTV footage captured at the station in Perth shows the man slip and fall as he tries to board the carriage.
His fellow passengers, along with transport staff, then tilt the train so he can pull himself free.
The BBC's Adnan Nawaz spoke to David Hynes, a spokesman for TransPerth, about the dramatic rescue.