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Archive for November 25th, 2009|Daily archive page

Dollar keeps upward trend against dong

In Vietnam Banking Finance on November 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

The US dollar continued to rise November 24, reaching VND19,770 on the black market, up VND200 on Monday, following the increased inter-bank rate of the State Bank of Viet Nam.

The central bank yesterday added an additional 3 dong to the inter-bank rate, bringing it to VND17,030 per dollar. So far this year, the dollar on the banking market has appreciated about 5.18 per cent against the dong.

However, many foreign exchange dealers on Ha Trung and Tran Nhan Tong streets said there was no sign of an immediate rush for the dollar.

Responding to a rumor that many people had-withdrawn savings to buy dollars, Governor Nguyen.Van Giau told Viet Nam News that: “Commercial banks have reported it is not correct. Deposit accounts at banks remain unaffected.”

Shortage of dollars

The dollar rise was blamed on a shortage on the market. Mr. Giau explained that this was the result of the global recession making the major sources of dollars, including exports, foreign direct investment, remittances and tourism shrivel, thereby reducing supplies.

Governor Giau confirmed that the central bank had prepared an additional dollar supply to ease tensions. However, details about the plan was not disclosed.

Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Research Director at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City, suggested Viet Nam should hasten the equitisation of State owned enterprises to attract foreign capital from abroad, and thereby introducing more dollars into the domestic economy.

“That solution seems to be the best way to solve the forex question at this time because it can cool the forex market and accelerate the equitisation of state owned sector – both of which Viet Nam wants,” he said.

On the precious metal market, gold yesterday steadily hovered around VND28.4-28.6 million (US$1,450) per tael.

Compared to prices on Monday, the buying price was up VND200,000-300,000 per tael but the selling price remained pretty much unchanged. People remained cautious with their trading decisions.

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Nguyen-era items show in Hue

In Vietnam Culture on November 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

Forty-eight relics from the Nguyen dynasty era donated by private collectors to the Hue Royal Fine Arts Museum are on display at the former royal capital’s An Dinh Palace.

Worship bronze statues  from the Nguyen dynasty era are on the display  (Photo: TTO)

The objects on show at the exhibition, organised by the museum, are mostly made of silver, brass, precious stones, porcelain, silk, wood and paper.

Among them are a pair of ivory tusks donated by a Vietnamese expatriate living in France, a tea set gifted by Doan Phuoc Thuan, a collector in the central coastal province of Phu Yen, and a collection of King Minh Mang’s poems written on paper donated by Frenchman Andre de Crozet.

A set of three life-size brass statues of Jesus’s mother Mary, donated by a Hue-based company, is among the most valuable relics on show.

At the time of the exhibition’s opening, Nguyen Huu Hoang donated a porcelain basin and plate, Le Gia donated a land register, and a group of collectors presented a pair of vermilion-lacquered gilded wood panels.

The exhibition will go on until the end of the year.

The Hue Royal Fine Arts Museum, run by the Hue Historical Relic Preservation Centre, houses a large collection of relics from the time of Vietnam’s last imperial dynasty, which ruled from 1820 to 1945.

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Mekong Story: Challenge and Dream

In Vietnam Culture on November 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

This is the name of a mobile exhibition organized by 15 agencies in Laos, Cambodia, Sweden and Vietnam that will open at the Vietnam Ethnology Museum in Hanoi from November 25, 2009 to February 25, 2010. The exhibition will then travel on to An Giang province, Cambodia, Laos and finally Sweden in 2012.

The photo “Fishing on Mekong River” is on the display (SGGP)

The exhibition reflects life along the Mekong River through nine stories. The materials used in this show are from the Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development in Southeast Asia.

Fifteen agencies in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam joined the World Cultural Museum of Sweden to organize this exhibition. Vietnamese agencies participating in this project are the Vietnam Ethnology Museum, the Cultural Heritage Agency, the Vietnam History Museum and An Giang Province Museum.


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President vows justice in Philippine massacre

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

MANILA, Nov 25, 2009 (AFP) – Philippine President Gloria Arroyo on Wednesday vowed justice would be served after an election-linked massacre that claimed at least 46 lives was blamed on a political ally.

“The president is really very angry about this incident,” presidential spokesman Cerge Remonde said on the ABS CBN television network.

“The president is very clear that those people responsible, regardless of who they are, should be brought before the bar of justice.”

Police earlier said the top suspect in Monday’s killings was Andal Ampatuan Jnr, a member of Arroyo’s ruling coalition and the son of a powerful regional politician who has helped secure votes for the president in previous elections.

Photojournalists light candles during a indignation rally in Quezon City, suburban of Manila on November 24, 2009, denouncing in strongest possible terms the massacre (AFP photo)


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Arroyo vows justice as massacre toll hits 52

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo vowed Wednesday justice would be served after 52 people were killed in a political massacre, but refused to say if an ally blamed for the murders would be arrested.

Journalists and troopers look as a backhoe pulls the wreckage of one of three vehicles that was dumped together with massacre victims along a hillside grave in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines on Wednesday Nov. 25, 2009. (AFP Photo)

As more bodies were pulled out of shallow graves following Monday’s election-linked killings in the lawless south of the country, Arroyo insisted she was committed to tracking down those responsible.

“This is a supreme act of inhumanity that is a blight on our nation,” presidential spokesman Cerge Remonde said on the ABS CBN television network.

“The president has vowed that the perpetrators will not find the way to escape justice.”

Police earlier said the top suspect in the massacre was Andal Ampatuan Jnr, a member of Arroyo’s ruling coalition and the son of a powerful regional politician who has helped secure votes for the president in previous elections.

“According to the initial reports, those who were abducted and murdered at Saniag were initially stopped by a group led by the mayor of Datu Unsay,” national police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said.

Ampatuan Jnr is the mayor of Datu Unsay and his father of the same name is the governor of Maguindanao province, a lawless part of the strife-torn Mindanao island where the massacre took place.

However, two days after the massacre, authorities indicated an arrest of Ampatuan Jnr was not imminent.

Speaking on DZMM radio, Espina said investigators still needed to speak with witnesses before they could secure a court order for the arrest of the suspects.

Asked if Ampatuan Jnr would be arrested, Remonde replied: “I will not telegraph our punches”.

But he said Arroyo had delivered a message to the Ampatuan clan, which has its own private army, not to obstruct the police investigation.

The massacre occurred after about 100 Ampatuan gunmen allegedly abducted a convoy of aides and relatives of a rival Maguindanao politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, plus a group of journalists.

The victims were abducted as they were travelling in a six-vehicle convoy to nominate Mangudadatu as the opposition candidate for governor in next year’s elections. He was not in the convoy.

They were shot a short time later at close range, some with their hands tied behind their backs, and dumped or buried in shallow graves on a remote farming road close to a town bearing the Ampatuan name.

The death toll rose from 46 to 52 after six more bodies were pulled out of the graves on Wednesday, according to police.

The victims included at least 13 local journalists who had been intending to report on Mangudadatu’s governorship nomination, making Monday’s killings the deadliest single attack on the media in history.

Ampatuan Snr had been grooming his son to take over as governor of Maguindanao province, and the victims’ relatives have alleged the Ampatuans organised the murders so that Mangudadatu would not run for governor.

Arroyo on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao and neighbouring Cotabato city, a stronghold of the Ampatuans, amid fears the killings could trigger a clan war.

But instead of ordering tough action against her allies, she sent a special envoy, Jesus Dureza, to the Ampatuan camp on Tuesday to get the clan to pledge its cooperation in an investigation.

The ruling coalition’s candidate for next year’s presidential election, ex-defence secretary Gilberto Teodoro, backed calls for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the suspects.

“This is a test case. The government should be decisive in going against this group, to arrest the perpetrators no matter who they are, whether they are political allies or not,” he said.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights chairwoman, Leila De Lima, also called for immediate action by the president.

“I am appealing to President Gloria Arroyo to show political will, for her to show to the public that the investigation by the government is serious,” she told AFP.

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India is ‘indispensable’: Obama

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

Barack Obama threw the biggest party of his presidency for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, hailing the world’s largest democracy as “indispensable” and pledging to work out a range of thorny issues.

US President Barack Obama (R) and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh toast each other during the first official State Dinner of Obama’s administration at the White House in Washington. (AFP Photo)

Obama rolled out the red carpet for Singh for the first full-fledged official visit of his White House, climaxing in a black-tie dinner that was one of Washington’s most elite social occasions since his January 20 inauguration.

Obama, who had caused unease in India with his early focus on neighbors China and Pakistan, assured that the world’s largest democracy was a true partner on his top priorities from counter-terrorism to climate change.

“Our nations are two global leaders, driven not to dominate other nations, but to build a future of security and prosperity for all nations,” Obama said, flanked by Singh. “As we work to build that future, India is indispensable.”

In a toast later before the more than 300 guests dining in candlelit tent on the White House lawn, Singh told a moved Obama that his historic election “captured the imagination” of millions of Indians.Related article: Obama’s big night

“You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity and equal opportunity,” Singh said.

In a nod to Indian concerns about Pakistan, the two leaders issued a joint statement voicing “grave concern about the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremists emanating from India’s neighborhood.”

Obama accepted an invitation to visit India next year and his administration signed eight memoranda aiming to solidify growing cooperation.

One 10-million-dollar initiative named after Obama and Singh would support university linkages; India is already the top source of foreign students in the United States.

The two nations also agreed to launch a dialogue on economic relations, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to head to India in early 2010.

Other projects would work to boost food security and support research on green technology, with two dozen cities across the United States and India to test new systems on solar technology.

Climate change has been one of the few points of recent discord between India and the United States, with each side pressing the other to make further commitments ahead of next month’s high-stakes Copenhagen summit.

But Obama, who is expected to make an announcement in coming days on a target for US cuts in carbon emissions, said he agreed with Singh and Chinese leaders to reach a “strong operational agreement” on reducing global warming.

“It takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen,” Obama said.

With a cold drizzle covering Washington, the White House called off an elaborate welcome on the South Lawn. But it went ahead with a glittering dinner whose guests included entertainment mogul Steven Speilberg and members of the increasingly influential 2.5-million-strong Indian-American community.

“You are the hottest ticket in town,” Vice President Joe Biden told Singh at a lunch he co-hosted for the premier with Clinton.

Showing the new president’s style, his wife Michelle Obama served fresh arugula (rocket) grown at a White House garden she set up in a drive to encourage better eating habits.

The entertainment for the night was to feature two Oscar-winners — Jennifer Hudson, the singer and actress from “Dreamgirls,” and A.R. Rahman, the composer of music for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The pageantry comes one week after Obama paid his maiden visit to China, where he faced criticism at home for a lack of concrete achievements, with Chinese state television not even broadcasting his sole public forum.

India, by contrast, has transformed in a matter of years in US eyes. After decades of mutual unease during the Cold War, ties with the United States have been rapidly warming and enjoy strong support across party lines.

Former president George W. Bush signed a landmark accord with Singh to allow cooperation on civilian nuclear technology, ending New Delhi’s long pariah status for declaring itself a nuclear weapons state.

Obama is a strong advocate of nuclear disarmament and many Indians doubt he would have reached the same agreement. But Obama pledged to go ahead with the deal.

“I am confident and I have the assurance that that process can be completed without much further loss of time,” Singh said.

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Khmer Rouge prison chief ‘should get 40 years’

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:46 am

Prosecutors demanded a 40-year jail term Wednesday for Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, as the former cadre made a final apology for his role in the deaths of 15,000 Cambodians at his torture centre.

This picture taken and released by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), shows former Khmer Rouge chief of S-21, known as Tuol Sleng prison, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch (centre), standing in the courtroom at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. (AFP Photo)

The country’s UN-backed war crimes court heard closing arguments from both sides in its first trial delving into the horrors of the communist regime behind the “Killing Fields” atrocities three decades ago.

Under their leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly two million people through starvation, overwork and execution in their bid to turn Cambodia back to a rural “Year Zero” between 1975 and 1979.

Lawyers for the prosecution said expressions of remorse by Duch — whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav — did not amount to a full guilty plea for his time in charge of S-21, or Tuol Sleng, the movement’s main prison.

“We submit… that the sentence to be submitted by this trial chamber should be 40 years in prison,” prosecutor Bill Smith told judges.

“In imposing this penalty, you are not taking away the accused’s humanity but you are giving it back to the victims of S-21,” he said. “Let’s recall that unlike the prisoners at S-21 he is being met with open and evenhanded justice.”

Duch’s crimes on their own warranted the maximum life sentence that the tribunal could impose — but a previous period of unlawful detention should reduce that to a 45-year term, Smith said, explaining the prosecution’s demand.

The 67-year-old’s partial acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with prosecutors meant they had allowed a further reduction in their request to a sentence of 40 years, he said.

But he added that “no one should make the mistake that this case is equal to an unqualified guilty plea before an international tribunal.”

Duch, formerly a maths teacher, faces charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder. A verdict is not expected until early next year.

After the prosecution finished its arguments, bespectacled Duch began his concluding remarks, sitting in the dock and recounting how Khmer Rouge leaders ordered people to be “smashed” during the regime’s internal purges.

“To the survivors I stand by my acknowledgement to all crimes. As for the families of victims, my wish is that you kindly leave your door open for me to make my apologies,” Duch said.

“In order to express my most excruciating remorse I have fully and sincerely cooperated with the court whenever it is needed of me.”

The defence has sought to portray him as merely obeying orders to protect his life and those of his family — while the prosecution has said he was the “personification” of the Khmer Rouge’s “ruthless efficiency”.

The trial has heard how inmates at S-21 — a former high school — had toenails and fingernails pulled out and had the blood drained from their bodies in primitive medical experiments.

Inmates were forced to give false confessions of betraying the regime or working for foreign intelligence services. Only around a dozen of the 15,000 men, women and children taken there are known to have survived.

Most prisoners were taken to a so-called “Killing Field”, an orchard at Choeung Ek, near Phnom Penh, killed by a blow to the base of the neck with a steel club and then had their bellies sliced open.

The prison and the orchard now form a genocide museum.

The Khmer Rouge were toppled by Vietnamese troops and Vietnamese backed Combodian forces in 1979 but continued to fight a civil war for nearly two more decades. Pol Pot died in 1998.

For Cambodians the controversial tribunal, established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the United Nations, is the last chance to find justice for the Khmer Rouge’s crimes.

Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle, and was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.

The joint trial of four other more senior Khmer Rouge leaders is expected to start in 2011.

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26 wounded in twin bombs in Iraq shrine city

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:46 am

Two bombs within minutes of each other exploded at a restaurant early Wednesday in Iraq’s shrine city of Karbala, wounding at least 26 people, police and medical officials said.

An Iraqi soldier stands guard along a highway near Karbala. (AFP Photo)

The first bomb targeted diners inside the restaurant in the heart of the city, located 110 kilometres (69 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, around 9:00 am (0600 GMT), causing several injuries, police said.

However, a second bomb minutes later, after an ambulance and medics had arrived to help the wounded, caused most of the casualties.

A senior health official for Karbala province told AFP that at least 26 people had been wounded in the attacks.

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China executes 2 for role in tainted milk scandal

In World on November 25, 2009 at 10:46 am

China executed a dairy farmer and a milk salesman Tuesday for their roles in the sale of contaminated baby formula — severe punishments that Beijing hopes will assuage public anger, reassure importers and put to rest one of the country’s worst food safety crises.

In this Sept. 18, 2008 file photo, a child cries as he waits for ultrasonic scan to detect for problems related to consuming tainted milk formula at a hospital, in Shijiazhuang, northern China’s Hebei province. (AFP Photo)

The men were the only people put to death in a scheme to boost profits by lacing milk powder with the industrial chemical melamine; 19 other people were convicted and received lesser sentences. At least six children died after drinking the adulterated formula, and more than 300,000 were sickened.

Beijing has responded swiftly and comprehensively to eliminate problems in its food production chain that have spawned protests at home and threatened its export-reliant economy. The milk powder contamination struck a nerve with the public because so many children were affected, but was only one in a series of product recalls and embarrassing disclosures of lax public health safeguards.

Melamine, which is used to make plastics and fertilizers, has also been found added to pet food, eggs and fish feed, although not in levels considered dangerous to humans. The chemical, which like protein is high in nitrogen, fooled inspectors. It can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

China has tightened regulations and increased inspections on producers and exporters in cooperation with U.S. officials, who have noted a drop in the number of product recalls on Chinese exports.

But Beijing continues to struggle to regulate small and illegally run operations, often blamed for introducing chemicals and additives into the food chain. The country has 450,000 registered food production and processing enterprises, but many — about 350,000 — employ just 10 people or fewer. The U.N. said in a report last year that the small enterprises present many of China’s greatest food safety challenges.

Zhang Yujun, the farmer, was executed for endangering public safety, and Geng Jinping for producing and selling toxic food, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Much of the phony protein powder that Zhang and Geng produced and sold ended up at the defunct Sanlu Group Co., at the time one of China’s biggest dairies.

Xinhua said an announcement of the execution had been issued by the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, although a court clerk who answered the phone Tuesday said he was unable to confirm the sentences had been carried out. Most executions in China are performed by firing squad.

Of the others tried and sentenced in January in the scandal, Sanlu’s general manager, Tian Wenhua, was given a life sentence after pleading guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products.

Three other former Sanlu executives were given between five years and 15 years in prison.

There was outrage after news spread of the doctored milk in September 2008, both because of the extent of the contamination and allegations that the government prevented the news from breaking until after the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The cover-up accusations were never publicly investigated, and authorities have since harassed and detained activist parents pushing lawsuits demanding higher compensation and the punishment of government officials. Families were offered a one-time payout — ranging from of 2,000 yuan ($293) to 200,000 yuan ($29,000), depending on the severity of the case — to not pursue lawsuits.

Tuesday’s executions brought some comfort to Li Xinquan, who lost one of her 8-month-old twin daughters who was fed with melamine-tainted formula from Sanlu. Li has campaigned to force authorities to admit negligence and provide fair compensation.

“They deserved it. This is the punishment they have received from the government,” said Li, whose other daughter survived because she was breast fed.

Another parent, Wang Zhenping, also voiced satisfaction with the executions, reflecting strong support for the death penalty in China, which executes more people annually than the rest of the world combined.

Wang, who said his 2-year-old son appeared to have recovered from melamine poisoning, rejected the compensation offer and said he was growing weary of the struggle.

“I feel like it doesn’t really matter now,” he said.

U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said last month that Beijing has made progress in increasing product safety.

The numbers of consumer recalls of toys imported from China had fallen from more than 80 in fiscal 2008 to about 40 in fiscal 2009, Tenenbaum said.

“Chinese suppliers and U.S. importers are now on notice from both governments that it is a mistake to depend on good intentions and a few final inspections to ensure compliance with safety requirements,” she told a conference in Beijing.

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German company helps improve vocational training

In Vietnam Education on November 25, 2009 at 10:45 am

Rober Bosch Vietnam Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of the German-based Robert Bosch GmbH, on November 24 announced its project to help four vocational schools in Vietnam improve their training capacity.

Official of the Robert Bosch Vietnam Co.,Ltd introduces hand-held power tools and teaching accessories to the Can Tho Vocational College.

According to the Saigon Giai phong (Liberated Saigon) daily, under the three-year project, four vocational schools, including the Ho Chi Minh-based Cao Thang Technical College, Hanoi Industrial Vocational College, Da Nang Technology College and Can Tho Vocational College, will receive hand-held power tools and teaching accessories, worth a total of US$120,000.

The company will also organise training courses for the college staff and offered opportunities for students to work in the company.

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