EPA PE R ASEAN+ : OIL PLUNGE-RELATED OPPORTUNITY ✪9 First INDEPENDENT English daily www.elevenmyanmar.com THURSDAY, January 8, 2014 Cardinal urges religious tolerance INSIDE NATIONAL Exact date for national ceasefire signing is not set yet: minister ✪2 Myanmar’s new Catholic cardinal warns against religious extremism AGENCIES Yangon BUSINESS Influx of visitors leads to record tourism revenue ✪5 ASEAN+ Pope visit sparks frenzy in the Philippines ✪7 Newly appointed cardinal, Yangon archbishop Charles Maung Bo, stands in front of a portrait of Pope Francis. LIFESTYLE EPA MYANMAR’S first cardinal said Tuesday he would push for an end to sectarian violence in his country, two days after he was elevated to the heights of the Roman Catholic Church. The Buddhist-majority country’s first Catholic cardinal warned that religious extremism could derail Myanmar’s muchvaunted reform process. Charles Maung Bo, 66, was promoted to cardinal on Sunday by Pope Francis alongside 19 others. Many hail from the developing world as the Vatican’s support shifts from its traditional European stronghold. Overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar has seen a spate of communal unrest in recent years, particularly in the states of Rakhine and Kachin. Bo called on religious leaders of all faiths to help ease tensions. He warned that Buddhist nationalism directed against minority Muslims could drive the latter to connect with international extremist groups that would “retaliate”. “So far they have been more on the quiet side, but if they come with the force of an international community of Muslims, then violence, terrorism, suicide bombers and all these things could happen,” Bo told Reuters in an interview at the red-brick cathedral in downtown Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Myanmar’s minority religions have looked on with alarm at growing instances of intolerance from a small but increasingly vocal core of Buddhist nationalists. Overall, Christians are thought to make up about 3 per cent of Myanmar’s 51 million population - around 750,000 of them Catholics. Muslims make up another four per cent and Buddhists around 90 per cent, with other religions including Hinduism and animism. Bo warned there were no quick solutions to solving the country’s religious tensions. “Although the problems of religious conflict cannot be solved immediately, I believe that we can solve these problems if we continue trying with noble and good spirit.” “If religious leaders show unity, their followers will gradually gain greater understanding and I think the violence will then lessen,” he told AFP from his office in St Mary’s Church in Yangon. “I will make a strong effort to achieve stability in Rakhine and Kachin states where there has been unrest among different ethnic groups,” he added. Bo called for mutual understanding and urged the government to do more to curb hate speech by radical monks. Myanmar emerged in 2011 from half a century of military rule, and the semi-civilian government has lifted curbs on freedoms of speech, association and media. But the reforms have been accompanied by a rise in Buddhist nationalism, with monks forming groups aimed at promoting the country’s Buddhist character. Sectarian violence since June 2012 has killed at least 240 people, mostly Muslims, while almost 140,000 Muslims remain in displacement camps after their homes were destroyed. Bo said he was optimistic about Myanmar’s reform process, but warned that the military could again seize control if the peace process failed and sectarian violence continued. “We hope that chaos won’t happen,” he said, calling on the military to make greater efforts to build trust with ethnic armed groups, and for more monks to speak out against extremism. “For peace in the country the Buddhist monks also have quite a major role to play too,” said Bo. Francis appointed 20 new cardinals, 15 of whom will be eligible to vote for the next pope. It was the first time cardinals from Myanmar, Tonga and Cape Verde were appointed and the appointees from all three nations are electors. Chin Tsong Palace: A haven of art ✪10 2 NATIONAL MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Exact date for national ceasefire signing is not set yet: minister EFFORTS are under way to achieve the nation-wide ceasefire agreement before February 12, said a government peace negotiator. Though, he could not confirm the exact date of the signing. Union minister Aung Min, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC), said President Thein Sein and 12 ethnic armed groups discussed the points that have yet to be compromised for the national ceasefire in Nay Pyi Taw on January 5. “In meeting with the president, the ethnic leaders expressed their demands. The president himself told them as much as he could,” said Aung Min. “More trust can be built as the President takes responsibility for some issues. So we can say the peace process is moving forward. While an exact date is not set, we are trying our best to sign a nation-wide ceasefire agreement soon.” Primarily, all parties aimed to have the accord signed before the Union Day, which will fall on February 12. Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, general secretary of the Karen National Union, said: “On February 12 (Union Day), the name ‘the Union of Myanmar’ emerged. We have two reasons to sign a nation-wide ceasefire on Union Day. First, both parties are trying to reach a ceasefire agreement. Second, we made lots of compromises in the latest coordination meeting. We have only a few points to discuss, and will continue our coordination. All can agree to seek coordination before February 12.” Colonel Khun Oakka, leader of the Pao National Liberation Organisation, said the talks between the NCCT and UPWC are close to achieving their goal. However, he said the nationwide ceasefire deal could be signed only if the problems of renewed violence between the Myanmar Army and ethnic armed groups could be solved. The government invited all the 16 ethnic armed groups to discuss the ceasefire. However, four armed groups - the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang EMG Soe Min Htaik MYANMAR ELEVEN MP Dr Aye Maung, chairperson of Arakan National Party, at the political-parties meeting. National Liberation Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Chin National Front - could not attend the talks for various reasons. Earlier, the UPWC and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), comprised of representatives from the ethnic armed groups, held a meeting in Yangon on December 22 and 23 to discuss the remaining eight out of 103 points included in the nationwide ceasefire draft. After the discussed points have been approved by the armed group leaders, the whole ceasefire draft could be finalised, he said. In another development, as President Thein Sein met the leaders on January 5, on the same day 53 political parties including the ruling Union State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee to decide sealed-monastery case MYANMAR ELEVEN The State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee will have to decide how to wrap up the case of the sealed- Maha Thanti Thukha monastery, said Yangon Region Religious Affairs Department Officer Sein Maw. “We are going to proceed with the case according to the decision of the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. Currently, we don’t know how to do it. We have not received any information,” said Sein Maw. The Maha Thandi Thukha monastery in Natchaung Ward, Tamwe Township was owned by Penang Sayadaw until last June. While the abbot was visiting Japan to promote Buddhism on June 10, 2014, monks from the Yangon Sangha Nayaka Committee, as well as officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the police, raided the monastery and placed it under the control of the Sangha Maha Nayakha Committee, the ruling body for Buddhist monks. Penang Sayadaw wanted the monastery to be a centre for religious education. However, Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee sought to rent the monastery to hold wedding ceremonies, market festivals and dance training courses. Penang Sayadaw called the move unjust and called on the government to settle the issue of its ownership. The Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee argued that regional courts should not interfere with religious affairs and that only the highest team organised by Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee would be qualified to adjudicate the case, said Htun Solidarity and Development Party discussed on public participation in ceasefire talks. According to MP Dr Aye Maung, chairperson of Arakan National Party, the meeting was planned a week earlier. The parties focused on a proposed joint campaign to collect public opinions throughout the country; public sessions to share knowledge on the ceasefire talks; and the formation of public peace committees. “The campaign will require a lot of money,” said Aye Maung. He was also concerned that some ethnic groups may not take part in the ceasefire accord. He noted that Section 17-(1) of the Unlawful Association Act is now an obstacle for ethnic groups to sit at ceasefire talks, as their positions are not warranted as political parties. He also suggested political parties establish a joint peace working committee similar to Myanmar Peace Centre, the government’s think tank which is devoted for peace talks. Further, he pointed out that the armed ethnic groups have become stronger. Therefore, the government should revise its problem-solving methods. “There should be equality and self-regulation for ethnic nationals to solve the conflicts. It’s time for the government to prove its high-mindedness.” Nyunt, director of the Religious Affairs Department. Although the public sent letters to the Union parliament, the Rule of Law, Peace and Tranquillity Committee, the Government’s Guarantees, Pledges and Undertakings Vetting Committee, the Yangon Regional Government Committee as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Yangon Region’s Sangha Maha Nayakha Committee to resolve the dispute, no action has yet been taken. Prior to seizing control of the monastery, the Ministry of Religious Affairs charged five monks of violating religious disciplinary rules and trespassing on the monastery grounds. The case is on-going. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 3 National MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Findings on death of Letpadaungtaung farmer under review Govt actions harm democratisation efforts MYANMAR ELEVEN Two associations working on political prisoners’ rights in Myanmar warned that the government’s actions against political dissidents and protesters pose a threat to democratisation and national reconciliation efforts. In the statement, issued a day before the 67th Independence Day on January 4, the Former Political Prisoners Society and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said that Myanmar people still do not enjoy basic human rights or the fruits of independence. Moreover, the Myanmar government continues to violate the human rights of students and workers and confiscate land from farmers. Constitutional change is neces- EMG The fencing damages crops in the mining area. MYANMAR ELEVEN The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is reviewing its findings on the death of a farmer during a protest at the Letpadaungtaung copper mine in Sagaing Region. The commission will release a report about the incident within days, said Sit Myaing, vice-chairperson of the NHRC. The clashes between protesters and police began on December 22, when the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co Ltd (MWMCCL) tried to erect a fence around lands for which local farmers claimed they had not received compensation. Female protestor Khin Win, 56, was shot dead by the police that day. An investigation team led by NHRC members Zaw Win, Soe Phone Myint and Dr Nyan Zaw went to the scene to investigate the case on December 30. Their four-day probe was completed on January 4. “They have returned and submitted their findings to the commission, which is reviewing them. A certain solution will emerge. Within a few days, we will publish the report,” said Sit Myaing yesterday. MWMCCL continued fencing the site on December 23, but on December 24, it suspended the fencing operation after a second day of clashes with protesters. The government is now under fire for slow investigation. Fuelling dissents was a report by a government committee, tasked to be in charge of the dispute. In the report released on January 9, it said over Ks 10 billion (US$10 million) in compensation has been distributed to farmers who were dispossessed by the project, and each of the farmers has received an amount of that matches the value of the lands they lost. However, residents, parliamentarians and members of civic organisations in the Letpadaungtaung area argue that the claims of the committee’s statement fail to take into account the full scope of the damage done to the famers’ livelihoods. Lower House MP Khin San Hlaing from Pearl Township, near the project area said: “The project’s operation period is 30 years. The copper yielded will be worth millions of dollars, as calculated by the current market price. If the mines are found to contain gold and uranium, as some assumptions suggest, the profits will be greater than expected. So the compensation given to the farmers is petty compared to the profits.” According to their contract, the Myanmar government will receive 51 per cent of the profits, the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd will receive 19 per cent, and Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Co Ltd (MWMCCL) will receive 30 per cent. MP Khin San Hlaing continued that the locals lost the lands and livelihoods they inherited from their ancestors and now face unemployment, as the mine project will produce few job opportunities for the locals. “Their main profession is agriculture. All members of a household are employed if they have arable lands. The new jobs can’t employ more than one or two members of a family. Agribusiness was the most beneficial job for them,” Khin San Hlaing said. MWMCCL provided some job opportunities to locals, but these have not compensated for the incomes the farmers lost. Lawyer Thein Than Oo weighed in: “What do they mean by ‘reasonable compensation’? Did the farmers really enjoy the compensation as the government has said? Did experts assess the values of the lands? A paper report produced through under-the-table compromises won’t work in this case. If the compensation was really sufficient, the residents would not bother to stage such intense demonstrations. What is missing in this compensation process is transparency.” Thein Than Oo is also a member of the Lawyers’ Network tasked with investigating the murder case of Khin Win, who was shot dead in December during clashes with the police. He continued: “The market price per acre is more than Ks 3 million in Letpadaungtaung area alone. The government based its compensation values on a Ks 1.5 million [per acre] figure. Thus, the lives of farmers remain insecure. According to 1894 Land Acquisition Act, the government has the right to seize land only if they can satisfy the needs of the landowners. But the government is now failing to do so. It even brought charges against over 70 farmers for assault and trespassing. The Chinese were able to file cases against the locals, while Myanmar citizens had to struggle to open a case for the death of Daw Khin Win. There were about 700 Chinese men accompanying police when they cracked down on the demonstration. There’s just a tonne of injustice beyond expression.” Thwe Thwe Win, a local from Wethmay Village, remarked on the committee’s announcement: “I’ve found the announcement that was shared online by the Presidential spokesman U Ye Htut’s Facebook account. What I want to ask U Ye Htut is for how many times has he been in Letpadaungtaung? It only mentioned that the farmers have received compensation, but it did not mention those who refused compensation or the one shot dead. The [the death of Khin Win] occurred because not every farmer has received the compensation.” Win Htay, a local from Setel Village, echoed: “It’s wrong to say everyone has received compensation. About 1,113.17 acres of land have been compensated, but they are all fenced up now. The demonstrations are taking place to retain our lands. Ward and village administrators have obtained compensation to which they have no rights. Some families been broken up due to the intimidation of the authorities.” The announcement on January 5 contained 20 provisions, but it did not mention the death of Khin Win or the matter of compensation for ruined plantations. sary to end these violations, the statement said. It also said 164 political prisoners remain in jails across the country, and 203 political activists currently face lawsuits. In the statement, the two associations called for the unconditional release of political prisoners and an end to charges against political activists as the government proceeds with its democratic transition and national reconciliation. The associations said they would continue to work together with other relevant associations and the government to ensure the wellbeing of political prisoners. The government recently announced that no political prisoners remain in jail, which civil organisations working on prisoners’ rights contest. Kantblu farmers’ complaint rejected EMG 4 Farmers from Kantblu fail to win court’s support. Ye Yint Aung MYANMAR ELEVEN A Kantblu Township court has rejected a complaint lodged by farmers against tenant farmers. The tenant farmers were hired by the army to harvest the crops planted by local farmers whose lands were seized by the army in Kantblu. Although the judge initially accepted the complaint, which was last month, he ultimately decided not to let the case proceed. “In the middle of last year, soldiers and tenant farmers destroyed our crops. They set fire to our shelter. We filmed and photographed it. When we sued them at the court through the police station, they first seemed to accept our complaint, but then the court rejected it two weeks later. They told us that if we were not satisfied with the court’s decision, we should to lodge a complaint to higher court,” said a local farmer from Khaowntar village. The army destroyed some crops and hired tenant farmers to reap the rest. The army is now guarding the crops and will not allow anyone to enter. The farmers cannot reap their own crops, and they are heavily in debt for their investments on the crops, said local farmers. “We were devastated when we saw they were reaping our crops. We felt that we had been cornered to be beaten when the court rejected our complaint. We lost pigeon peas and sugarcane plantations worth millions of kyats,” said farmer Kyaw Khant. The farmers report that they face unemployment, a lack of healthcare and education services and shelter, and they blame this on the Myanmar government. “They set fire to our house and sent the breadwinner of my family to the prison. The rest of them are on trial. We have to go to a court hearing instead of working for a living. We are in heavy debt. We don’t know how to respond. We want to do something to them,” said farmer Daw Khin. Local farmers said they are facing a lack of funds and other issues, which prevent them of bringing the case to another court. KYAT EXCHANGE BUSINESS Buy Sell US $ 1,027 1,034 Euro ¤ 1,207 1,225 762 774 Singapore $ Source: KBZ Bank 5 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Influx of visitors leads to record tourism revenue Region needs more cooperative tourism marketing THE NATION VIENTIANE TIMES Natural beauty of Inle Lake draws a large number of visitors each year. MYANMAR ELEVEN OCEAN tourism in the Myeik Archipelago in Kawthoung District, Taninthayi Region, generated more than US$85,000 in December – a record high – according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in Kawthoung District. Last December, a total of 601 tourists visited the archipelagos in Myeik Township. Most visitors came from France, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand and China. “The district’s revenue in December last year is 39 per cent of the total for all of 2013. 601 of foreigners visited the Myeik Archipelago. The number of ships in the area is rising. The foreigners are interested in the beautiful ocean scenery. That’s why they stay at sea for many days. A German tourism guideth book described the Myeik Archipelago as the 15 top tourist destination for 2015. The regional government committee is now lifting the travel restrictions, and authorities are fulfilling the requirements,” said Officer Hlwan Moe from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in Kawthoung District. The Myanmar government allowed foreigners to travel freely in the archipelago in Kawthoung District, except in restricted areas. A foreigner must pay $100 per sea excursion, or $150 to travel beyond a certain distance. ■ Record year Myeik is one of destinations that helped draw visitors to Myanmar and boost tourism revenue for the country. Last year’s tourist arrivals set a new record, earning over US$1 billion, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The number of tourist arrivals reached 3.5 million and generated $1.135 billion in revenue. The record revenue in 2013 amounted to $926 million. Since the government put more focus on tourism, Myanmar’s tourism has been booming. The tourism sector receives more tourist arrivals and generated increased revenues year on year. The ministry said that much of the benefits went to smallscale tourism businesses. The number of tourist arrivals is expected to reach an estimated four or five million in 2015, thanks to the policy to expand tourist destinations. The government officials from Myanmar and Thailand held discussions on the development of tourism sector in December 2014. Before these discussions, Myanmar has implemented its plan to develop tourism sector in cooperation with Germany, Norway, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Australia and Italy. Myanmar is implementing the Tourism Master Plan with help from Norway and the ADB. The ministry will expand tourist destinations to coastal regions. Most visitors now go to Bagan, Inle and Yangon. ■ New destinations With the aim of attracting tourists, the Myanmar Restaurant Entrepreneurs Association also plans to upgrade the Inle Night Market situated in northern Shan State. “We have a plan to upgrade the night market this month. However, we will first discuss it with locals and the authorities. Inle Night Market should be upgraded because many of foreigners visit it,” said Myo Min Zaw, chairman of the association’s Inle Zone. At present, the market has only ten shops that open at 10.30pm. Plans are underway to expand restaurants as well as souvenir shops and regional product shops. The association hopes that the upgrade would draw more local and foreign visitors, which would generate more income to local businesses and crate more jobs. There is also a plan to build a night market in Yangon, but the location is not finalised yet. “Personally, I wish the market opened somewhere on Strand Road. The road is now busy and the night market should attract more tourists,” said Myo Min Zaw. “In other countries, riverside roads are designated for night markets, where vendors can park their cars and sell their products. In the morning, the markets are clean because the vendors leave nothing.” WB weighs in on selecting audit firm for EITI report MYANMAR ELEVEN The World Bank has joined in selecting independent audit firm for the implementation of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The audit firm will help assist the tripartite committee, consisting of representatives from the government, the private sector and civil society organisations. Min Zarni Lin, the deputy chief of Myanmar EITI Implementation Team, said that the country is inviting bids from international audit firms this month. The audit firm’s main task is to review incomes from extraction of resources in accord with international criteria. Myanmar, as a candidate of EITI, is supposed to submit the report specified on the country’s mining sector to EITI Secretariat no later than January 2016, or within 18 months after a country is approved as a candidate to become a full-fledge member. Civil society organisations considered reporting the plight of land-grabbed locals due to Letpadaungtaung copper mining project to EITI Board as the case clearly breached the commitments the government made for its membership. The six member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) need to work together for mutual benefit to accelerate growth in the tourism sector, a senior Lao tourism official has said. Currently, the private sector is creating joint package tours among GMS countries but more work is needed between GMS governments to promote the entire region as a tourist destination. Director General of the Tourism Marketing Department, Saly Phimphinith, said “We need to arrange more events or meetings to allow more tour companies from the six countries to meet and discuss how to cooperate in organising package tours among member countries.” The GMS countries comprise Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Leaders of the six countries agreed at the 5th GMS Summit in Bangkok last month that a tourism package should be organised to boost visitor numbers in the region. Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, was quoted in TTR as saying “In the past, each GMS member country conducted independent marketing activities attempting to persuade tourists to visit just their own country, but there was a lack of connectivity or cooperation…so the packages are also not very popular among tourists.” Initially, there are two routes that will be promoted in the plan. The first route will link Thailand, Laos and Vietnam in which tourists will cross the third Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River between Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom province to Thakhaek district in Khammuan province. The second option is for tourists to visit Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Under the umbrella of ACMECS, the five countries – Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar - have already agreed in principle on a single visa. It was initiated in 2005, under the concept known as “Five Countries, One Destination” and is still in a preparatory stage. However, Thailand and Cambodia jointly introduced the single visa scheme in late 2012, as a pilot project. But the single visa remained a barrier to promoting convenient travel and as long as security issues were high on the agenda it was unlikely to change. International tourist arrivals in GMS countries are increasing by more than 12 per cent per year and generated close to US$50 billion in receipts in 2013. Laos missed out on these gains due chiefly to under investment in tourism infrastructure. Business 6 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Gem company builds road on Kachin creek MYANMAR ELEVEN Hpakant EMG Trucks are passing the newly-constructed road. Ministry. The rest comprised minerals, ores and gemstones. The total is $48 million higher than during the same period last year, the ministry said. Jade exports by sea totalled $107.163 million and those exported overland were worth $68.518 million. Most exports of mining products through border checkpoints, including jade, go to Casino town raises the stakes with factories THE STRAITS TIMES Poipet, a Cambodian town fuelled by gambling and crossborder trade, is trying to build up a manufacturing base Under the glow of a blinking replica windmill in the dark, a dozen sheep shuffle around a browning patch of grass. A wiry man in a cowboy suit keeps watch as excited children flock around, to the strains of Thai country music. This is Poipet, a Cambodian district bordering eastern Thailand, where pastiches are as common as slot machines. The scruffy town, better known for its bustling Thai-oriented casinos, is poised for growth as bilateral relations, fraught over border disputes, show signs of easing and tax incentives ease the way for trade and investment. Cross-border trade is already firmly established in the area, with a sprawling market in the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet anchored by hundreds of Cambodian vendors living in Poipet. Then, six months ago, rumours of a crackdown by Thailand’s post-coup government sent more than 200,000 migrant Cambodian workers fleeing across the border back home. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen - known to be close to Bureau, about 24,000 Thai exiled former Thai premier nationals crossed over into Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother Poipet using short-term border of ousted premier Yingluck passes last February. Many of Shinawatra - called it a “violathem spent more than a few tion”. hours in Poipet’s nine casinos, Today, the workers have which Cambodian nationals are returned, allowing both neighbanned from entering. bours to turn their attention to “I come here for a change of special economic zones being atmosphere,” says 79-year-old developed on both sides of the border. Poipet has had a head start. A new Japanese hard disk component factory with about 1,000 workers is already operating at an industrial park 5km from the border. Another three companies - including multinationals like Toyota Tsusho - are due to move in soon, says Chhour A vendor depend largely on visitors. Vichet, chief executive of Sanco Cambo Investment Group Taweetip Limsuklam, as she showed The Straits Times the that is behind the special econine passport stamps she nomic zone project. acquired here last year. Prior to If it takes off, it promises to this, she had gambled on ships add variety to Poipet’s casinomoored off Thai waters as well dominated job scene. as Singapore waters. Not that its casinos are not According to the Phnom thriving. During a Straits Times Penh Post newspaper, the counvisit on a weekend last month, try earned US$22 million in construction workers swarmed casino and gaming-related taxes over half-built annexes as a nevin 2013, a sum which analysts er-ending stream of Thai puntsay understates the size of the ers rolled up on golf carts ferryindustry, with more than 50 ing them directly from the borcasinos scattered all over the der checkpoint. country. According to the latest statisHun Sen, who is regularly tics from Thailand’s Immigration China. Exports of raw mineral products exceed by far those of value-added products. The rise in official exports follows a crackdown on illegal trade by the Customs criticised for turning the country into a gaming hub for its neighbours, said in 2012 that building casinos was his secret plan to protect the border. “The biggest goal for giving permission to build casinos is to protect the border,” he was quoted as saying. “One can remove border markers, but one can’t remove five-storey hotels.” The off-beat rationale does not detract from the fact that casinos have created thousands of jobs in a country with the lowest per capita gross domestic product in Southeast Asia, which was $944.4 in 2012. In Poipet, the effect is obvious, with its casino strip wedged between the two border checkpoints teeming with young Cambodians drawn by the relatively comfortable jobs. “It’s easy,” says Meas Sophea, 28, who, after 12 years of schooling, earns 6,500 baht ($197) a month as a dealer. “I work for only eight hours a day… I’m happy.” In the hardscrabble town, where trucks laden with cars, machinery and consumer goods from Thailand constantly rumble through, and where locals need to cough up their own cash to fix roads in their neighbourhoods, the casino strip also provides a welcome change of scenery. “This place is beautiful,” declares seven-year-old Seak THE STRAITS TIMES A gem company is building a road on the side of Uru creek in Kachin State, to enable the passage of trucks to a mine, said local people. The road is some 40 feet wide, said residents of Mahmon village, Hpakant in Kachin State. They were concerned that filling the creek with earth would make the creek narrower. As such, danger of floods during the raining season could be more imminent. In the raining season in 2014, Hpakant witnessed the worst floods in history. Most people including the schoolchildren had to face difficulties in moving one place to another. If the creek becomes narrower, villages in the upstream of Hpakant could also witness floods. Hpakant region has more than 300 joint venture companies and 500 private-owned companies working on over 15,000 gem blocks. Local people have complained about pollution from the mining activities as waste is being dumped into the creek. State MP In Phan Garan said recently that he would submit a proposal of possible danger of flood in most villages in Hpakant to the respective parliaments. During April 1 and August 15, 2014, exports of mining products totalled $281.153 million, of which $175.681 million was jade, according to the Commerce Department in cooperation with mobile teams that monitor trade routes over land and at ports. The Ministry of Commerce and related agencies set up the mobile teams. Leap Chanrath, whose parents take her here for picnics on its neat lawns once a month. Such greenery is rare in other parts of town. At dusk falls, the strip glitters with fairy lights more befitting a city mall than frontier town. “Casino growth has a limit,” says Dr Chap Sotharith, senior research fellow at Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. “We cannot have a thousand casinos, or it would be like Las Vegas. “But manufacturing and industry can still grow because we have a large labour force.” In Poipet’s special economic zone, Sanco is touting a stable electricity supply from Thailand, labour recruitment services and the duty-free import of equipment and construction materials. Across the border, while full details have yet to be firmed up, business leaders speak of longterm plans to connect Cambodia to Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and to provide better connectivity between south-western Cambodia’s Sihanoukville port and Thailand’s main Laem Chabang container port. The plans give hope to townsfolk like Bun Heang, 48, who thinks that casino jobs are dishonourable and is averse to his children working there, even though they are jobless and his family business is failing. “If more factories come, I’d ask my daughter to go and apply,” he says. ASEAN+ 7 MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 The entreprising in the Philippines shall profit FOR most Filipinos, next week’s papal visit will kick off the new year on a high spiritual note. For the most enterprising, though, it is as much a commercial as a religious occasion. Shops in malls and makeshift street stalls are selling a myriad of papal memorabilia - pins, rosaries, water bottles, mugs, towels, T-shirts, umbrellas. And they are flying off the shelves, as this nation of 80 million Catholics goes all out to welcome the Pope. These items sell for as low as 20 pesos (US$0.44) for a prayer card. The Catholic Church sanctions the sale of these souvenirs, but it does not have the manpower to regulate all vendors. Anyone with a stall and a space outside a church can sell any number of items. There are even cartoonish “Francis dolls” being sold online. In Pampanga province, north of the capital Manila, pastry chef Lillian Borromeo has created “papal biscuits” from a mould etched with the Pope’s image and the words “Viva Santo Papa”. Caritas Manila, the social arm of the Church, has been selling papal memorabilia since October. It sells about 100 T-shirts daily, apart from many other items, said Choy Gagalac, Caritas’ garment designer. Part of the sales proceeds will help cover the cost of the papal visit, said Caritas executive director Anton Pascual. Radyo Veritas, a church-run broadcaster, has authorised traders to sell papal items at gift shops inside malls. Its 10 per cent cut on sales helps fund its operations. Outside Manila, one small garment-maker in Cebu city is shipping some 500 T-shirts to neighbouring Tacloban city and Palo town in Leyte province, where the Pope is scheduled to share a meal with victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The Church is not frowning on this merchandising mayhem. “The Church sees it as a way of propagating awareness of the Pope’s visit. In a way, these small businessmen look at it as an opportunity to gain, but at the same time it raises awareness regarding the Pope’s visit,” Father Joel Camaya of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communication told The Straits Times. Still, the Church is monitoring the messages in these souvenirs. For Gloria Ramos, 46, a vendor selling papal trinkets in Paranaque city, south of Manila, the visit is a chance to earn some extra money to feed her family, as well as do a good People wearing baroque carnival costumes and masks attend the Angelus prayer of Pope Francis during the Feast of the Epiphany at St Peters Square in Vatican City on January 6. THE STAR EPA THE STRAITS TIMES, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER M’sia’s Fire and Rescue Department releases ‘hot’ calendar deed. “At least we’re not stealing,” she said. ■ Securing Pope Francis a big challenge Security officials will provide air cover and deploy snipers on rooftops in addition to nearly 40,000 troops from the police and the military to protect Pope Francis during his visit from January 15 to 19, officials said on Tuesday. “We are considering everything, his preferences, his personality, the crowds which will reach millions. That will serve as a challenge to us,” said Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman of the Philippine National Police. Lt Gen Jeffrey Delgado said the Philippine Air Force (PAF) would provide round-the-clock air patrols to ensure that all routes and venues are secured. All PAF helicopters and available assets will be deployed in Metro Manila and in Palo and Tacloban in Leyte province where the Pope will say a Mass for victims of last year’s Supertyphoon “Yolanda”, said the Air Force chief. Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said snipers would be posted in strategic positions and high-rise buildings along Roxas Boulevard to complement a security force of 6,000 to 7,000 troops and around 5,000 reservists that would work alongside the 25,000 PNP force mobilized for the papal visit. Close-in security will be provided by the Presidential Security Group. Speaking at a joint Department of National DefenceAFP traditional New Year’s call, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government had not monitored any specific threat to the Pope, and to the holding of the Black Nazarene procession on January 9. “We are looking at all angles, looking at all reports and act on these,” he said. Catapang admitted that ensuring the Pope’s safety was a big “security challenge.” “It’s a security challenge in a way but we can do it. We will just make do of available forces. We are in joint forces with the PNP. The PNP will bring in the biggest contingent,” he said. ■ Bigger than Barack’s crowds Compared to the state visit of US President Barack Obama last year, the papal visit is expected to draw far bigger crowds. “It will be more challenging to plan the security. The PNP considers all scenarios as challenging, that is why we adopted a whole of government process,” Mayor said in a press briefing in Camp Crame on Tuesday. The PNP has formed Special Task Force “Papal Visit 2015” led by Director Ricardo Marquez to protect the Pope. The PNP will secure the immediate vicinity of the venues Pope Francis will visit, while others will be deployed for perimeter and route detail. Mayor said the PNP was considering everything in planning the security arrangements, including Pope Francis’s preferences. The Pope will not be riding a bulletproof vehicle during his visit here, but will be using a white, open car. Pope Francis is also known for mingling with crowds. Since Pope Francis is considered a head of state, the PNP considers the papal visit as a state visit and apostolic journey which requires the specific protocol and security appropriate for the head of the Catholic Church. The PNP urged the people to cooperate. “We ask them to observe the rules and security arrangements, the public will serve as a safety net in our preparations on security and public order,” Mayor said. The Malaysian Fire and Rescue department have set many a beating heart aflame with the release of their hot new 2015 calendar. Featuring mainly uniformed muscular male officers going about their daily routines or striking impressive poses, the calendar nevertheless also pays tribute to women officers, with the months of March and May dedicated exclusively to a female pilot and a female ground officer within the department. “Previously, we had a different concept for the calendars but this time we wanted to show that our officers are healthy and fit. It is also a mark of appreciation for our officers. All of the models in the calendar are operations officers from around the country,” said Norizan Saad, the Fire and Rescue Department’s senior superintendent II of corporate management. He added that the new concept was important to encourage everyone, including those within the Fire and Rescue department, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Although the Fire and Rescue department have released many calendars in the past, this is only the second time the calendars have been made with a ‘healthy and fit’ concept, said Norizan However, these exclusive calendars are not for sale and will be only made available to Fire and Rescue department officers, state Fire and Rescue departments and related ministries. But fret not members of the public - to win (very) limited copies of the calendar, Facebook users were asked to answer questions relating to the duties of Fire and Rescue department officers. In less than 24 hours, the posting regarding the competition on the Fire and Rescue department’s Facebook page received nearly two thousand likes and over a hundred replies, many of which were from members of the public who were eager to get their hands on the calendars. Over the past month, Fire and Rescue Department officers dispatched to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia have received praise for their tireless efforts and hard work in carrying out flood relief operations. ASEAN+ 8 GLOBAL BRIEFS More rains expected in Malaysia Malaysia’s weather bureau on Wednesday warned of more rains in areas devastated by floods in recent weeks, as the government rushed aids to hundreds of thousands of victims. The Malaysian Meteorological Department said “monsoonal rains with strong winds are expected to occur over the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Sabah from Wednesday until Friday. Aid organisations have been rushing supplies to the more than 250,000people displaced by the most severe floods to hit the country in decades. Rescuers on Tuesday recovered the bodies of two Nepalese workers buried by a landslide in the state of Kelantan, bringing to 25 the confirmed death toll from the disaster, according to the police. Monsoon rains started around three weeks ago, pounding the coastal states with high tides, forcing people to flee their homes and seek shelter in schools or stadiums. —DPA MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Indonesia bans cheapest flight seats after AirAsia crash Parts of the crashed AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 laying on the sea floor, ‘Star Wars’ sequel may get ‘silat’ touch Three Indonesian actors from Hollywood director Gareth Evans’ locally shot action franchise The Raid will appear in the next Star Wars movie, a reliable cult film website is reporting. TwitchFilm said on Monday that the stars of The Raid 2: Berandal, Iko Uwais (Rama), Yayan Ruhian (Prakoso) and Cecep Arif Rahman (“The Assassin”), would appear in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, slated for release in December. Decrying the “CGI trickery” of other Star Wars films, Twitch editor Todd Brown wrote that Episode VII director JJ Abrams has “cast a trio of highly skilled martial artists who have already demonstrated their skills with blades, batons, etc in a world where super powered warriors fight with blades, batons, etc.” None of the actors would confirm their bow in the most eagerly awaited film of 2015. —THE JAKARTA POST AGENCIES INDONESIA said Wednesday it would stop budget airlines from selling seats at rock-bottom prices, in an effort to re-emphasise safety following the AirAsia crash 10 days ago. The lowest ticket prices for Indonesia-based budget airlines would be set at 40 per cent of the highest-cost fare, Transport Ministry spokesman Julius Barata said. “We want to prevent a price war so that airlines don’t compromise on safety,” he said. “We want to protect the public.” The cause of the crash on December 28 is still unknown, with no firm evidence that flight safety checks were involved. Herry Bakti Gumay, a former Indonesian civil aviation chief, said that safety standards at lowcost airlines were no different from those at full-service carriers. “Safety is the basis for all airlines,” he said. AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed into the Java Sea on its way from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, after requesting permission to climb to avoid bad weather. Divers frustrated by zero visibility and strong currents were Wednesday still aiming to reach objects thought to be part of the plane’s fuselage, and thought to contain many of the victims’ bodies. Thirty-nine bodies have been found so far out of the 162 people on board, but only about five have been recovered in the past three days. “Our priority is to find more bodies and the black boxes,” said search operations chief, Tatang EPA The Bali provincial administration is drawing up a bylaw on the protection of local traditional fabric, as part of efforts to preserve the tradition and push for production and quality enhancement in line with market demands. Bali Industrial and Trade Office head Ni Wayan Kusumawathi said her office, in cooperation with academics at Udayana University, was drafting a bylaw on Balinese traditional-fabric protection. The ordinance is expected to be passed this year and to act as a stimulant in the development of the fabric and as in preparation for global market competition. The draft, said Kusumawathi, had been preceded by the identification of traditional Balinese textiles. —THE JAKARTA POST EPA Bali prepares by-law for traditional cloth protection Zaenudin. “The strong currents are making the search difficult, but we are making all-out efforts,” he said. On Tuesday, AirAsia released a statement quoting its chief Tony Fernandes as saying that the company has the right to fly Surabaya-Singapore. “We had flown that schedule and had rights for seven days a week. We have secured both slots as well as approval from both Indonesia and Singapore. What happened was purely an administrative error,” it added. The country’s transport ministry said earlier on Wednesday that it had fired one transport official and disciplined several others in a crackdown following the crash, as it investigates how the flight was able to depart without permission. “To date, we have taken action against eight officials - two from the transport ministry, four from state navigation operator AirNav, and two airport officials,” transport ministry official Hadi Mustofa told AFP. “One of the transport ministry officials was fired and the other official was temporarily suspended. As for the other six officials, some have been temporarily suspended and some have been transferred.” Singapore authorities say the Sunday flight schedule had been cleared at their end. ■ Tail found Indonesia said Wednesday it had found the tail, potentially marking a major step towards locating the plane’s black boxes and helping shed light on what caused it to crash into the sea ten days ago. Search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said he was sure of the discovery after seeing photographs of the underwater wreckage, on which the company logo could be seen. The “black box” flight data recorders, crucial to determining the cause of the crash, are usually housed in an aircraft’s tail. “We have successfully obtained part of the plane that has been our target. The tail portion has been confirmed found,” Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta. The plane vanished from radar screens during a storm on December 28 when it was flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board, most of them Indonesian. Despite a huge recovery operation assisted by various countries, progress has been patchy with poor weather conditions hampering the search. So far 39 bodies have been found, all of them floating on the sea. Search chiefs earlier said five large parts of the plane had been detected but had not confirmed which parts of the aircraft. “I am led to believe the tail section has been found. If right part of tail section then the black box should be there,” AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes wrote on Twitter after the announcement. “We need to find all parts soon so we can find all (our) guests to ease the pain of our families. That still is our priority.” Indonesia alleges the plane was flying on an unauthorised schedule when it crashed and AirAsia has since been suspended from flying the SurabayaSingapore route. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 9 ASEAN+ Singapore firm launches mobile app for halal foodies The Malaysia Stock Exchange fell in line with regional movements yesterday, with fears sparked by the global slump in oil prices and the Greek political crisis. Oil plunge a ‘golden opportunity’ for Asia economies AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Singapore THE plunge in crude prices will give a much-needed boost to Asia’s oil-guzzling economies and provides governments a “golden opportunity” to implement crucial structural reforms such as cutting expensive energy subsidies, analysts say. A slowdown in the key export markets of Europe, China and Japan, the end of US stimulus measures, and an expected US rate hike - fuelling a flight of foreign cash in search of better returns - has left some governments having to make tough decisions to get back on track. But experts say lower oil prices would ease inflationary pressures throughout much of Asia, allowing many central banks to either keep monetary policy on hold or reduce interest rates. And the Asian Development Bank last month said developing countries could see an additional 0.5 per centage point of growth on average this year if oil prices remain low. However reforms are needed, analysts say, and among the most crucial and controversial is the removal of fuel subsidies, which in the past been the catalysts for sometimes violent protests across the spectrum, from the impoverished to the region’s growing middle class. While global equity markets are being strafed by a continuing slump in the prices of black gold - they have fallen more than 50 per cent since June to five-and-ahalf-year lows - analysts said countries should grab the opportunity and move now. Malaysia, Indonesia and India have already made cut to the populist but economically disastrous subsidies, which have contributed to government fiscal deficits. Shang-Jin Wei, chief economist at the Manila-based ADB, said in a statement that easing oil prices “present a golden opportunity” for oil-importing countries to introduce the reforms. And Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at global consultancy IHS, warned if they fail to move, leaders “will miss the window of opportunity and face public resistance to removal of fuel subsidies if oil prices strengthen significantly in future years”. ■ Angry protests Previous efforts in Indonesia to slash fuel subsidies sparked violent protests, but the country’s new president Joko Widodo has vowed to tackle the problem despite risks to his popularity. Widodo, who took office in October, wants the money diverted to overhauling infrastructure and helping the country’s poorest. An attempt by former Indonesian president Suharto to reduce the subsidies triggered riots that helped end his threedecade dictatorship in 1998. India also experienced similar protests in the past when it tried to cut the subsidies - diverted government funds used to artificially keep fuel prices low. Removing the payouts allows market forces to determine prices and free them from political manipulation. The softer crude prices will also provide some respite for the region’s oil-reliant economies, facing global headwinds from slowing in their key export markets. Biswas said “most of the Asian economies are large net importers of oil and gas, and will benefit from lower oil import costs and significantly reduced fuel costs for consumers”. “This positive boost helps to mitigate the negative effects of China’s moderating growth rate and Japan’s slump back into recession in late 2014,” he said. Analysts expect India, Asia’s third largest economy, to be a major beneficiary as it imports nearly 80 per cent of its oil needs. Like China and South Korea, the lower prices should keep inflation in check and allow the central bank to implement muchneeded interest rate cuts with less fear of stoking inflation. Among the top winners is the airline sector, while shipping and energy-intensive heavy manufacturing industries such as steel will benefit across the region. Shukor Yusof, founder of Malaysia-based aviation research firm Endau Analytics, said jet fuel accounts for about a third of airline operating costs in Asia. ■ Further losses ahead “You’re likely to see airlines posting profits for the fourth quarter of 2014 and for this coming quarter,” he told AFP. “Given the trend in falling oil prices, we should see a corresponding correction in air fares as well.” However, oil and gas exporters including Malaysia and Brunei stand to take a hit. With petroleum-related earnings accounting for 30-40 per cent of Malaysian government revenues annually, the ringgit currency has fallen almost 11 per cent against the US dollar over the past six months as oil prices sank. Malaysia in October forecast economic growth of 5-6 per cent for 2015, but the World Bank projects the expansion at 4.7 per cent due in part to lower oil prices. And there could be further falls in the oil price from the present levels of $47.90 for West Texas Intermediate and $50.82 for Brent. Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore, told AFP he expects WTI to hit bottom at $46 and Brent to hover at $50-$53 in the second quarter of this year. He forecasts WTI to average $58-$63 a barrel this year, against the average $92.60 in 2014 and $98.05 in 2013. Brent is projected to average $60-$65 this year, compared with $99.29 last year and $108.70 in 2013. But Ang and other oil market watchers say further price falls to below $40 would not surprise them. AFP AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Singapore A Singapore-based company on Wednesday launched a mobile application that enables Muslim foodies and travellers to share halal restaurant discoveries around the world. The free “HalalTrip” app, available for Apple iOS and Android devices, enables users to take and upload photos of halal dishes, write comments and share them through social media. Clicking on a photo gives details about the dish as well as the location of the restaurant. The app, which has English and Arabic interfaces, also uses a traveller’s location to display photos of halal dishes served in nearby restaurants. The term halal is used for food, products and services that comply with Islamic requirements. “Halal food is one of the biggest drivers of tourism for the Muslim market,” said Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of HalalTrip, part of a Muslim-oriented business group called CrescentRating. “When travelling, one of the main concerns of Muslims is halal food. What we did is to bring in a social media element into discovering halal food and making it more fun and more intuitive,” he told AFP. Fazal predicted the Muslim travel market would be worth $192 billion a year globally by 2020, up from $140 billion in 2013. Vietnam devalues dong to boost growth AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Hanoi Vietnam’s central bank on Wednesday said it would devalue the dong currency in a bid to contain inflation and bolster economic growth. The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) will devalue the reference rate by one per cent to 21,458 Vietnamese dong per dollar to “control inflation and... push up economic growth”, it said in a statement. The move - the second devaluation in eight months - is “in accordance with the developments of the domestic and international financial markets, creating a solid stability for the forex market”, the SBV said. Economist Vu Dinh Anh from the state-run Economic Finance Institute told AFP the dong had been under mounting pressure on foreign exchange markets late last year. “The SBV had to proceed with the adjustment to avoid disadvantages against other currencies,” he said. In communist Vietnam, the dollar, along with gold, is considered a safe haven against economic uncertainty. Vietnam’s economy grew 5.98 per cent in 2014 - the highest for three years - while inflation slowed to 4.09 per cent, official figures showed. The government is targeting economic growth of 6.2 per cent this year. MYANMAR ELEVEN, Thursday, January 8, 2014 Wyne Su Khine Thein to stage first concert in March The majestic Chin Tsong Palace has stood the test of time as home to several government offices over the past century. EMG Wyne Su Khine Thein A haven of art MYANMAR ELEVEN THE historic colonial-era building of the Chin Tsong Palace on Kabaraye Pagoda Road has been given a new lease on life as the Central Cultural Department. The department is responsible for organising painting, sculpture, handicraft and traditional art activities open to the public. “The reason for opening the Central Cultural Department is to provide a place for the sale and exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and other cultural artefacts. We will rent the ground floor for exhibitions and showrooms. Myanmar traditional performances and puppet shows can be staged at the mini-theatre,” said Htay Lwin, deputy director of the Fine Arts Department under the Ministry of Culture. “The main goal is to create a one-stop hub for local visitors and foreign tourists that are interested in the traditional arts. We will open this [department] together with the State Fine Arts School,” he added. “We have staged our art exhibition here since December 7. It’s great that the Ministry of Culture has arranged for all of our arts to be brought together [under one roof] like this. It will become an attraction for both local and foreign visitors. They can observe ancient architectural styles while viewing paintings and Myanmar handicrafts,” said Ma Thet of the Myanmar Art Centre art exhibition. The Myanmar Art Centre has just mounted its first art exhibition at the palace. The rental rate is Ks 50,000 (US$50) per day and long-term rental rate is negotiable. Chinese merchant Lim Chin Tsong built the Chin Tsong Palace in 1915 at a cost of over two million rupees. The five- storey building, a hybrid of Western and Eastern architectural styles, is adorned with a collection of British paintings. After his death in 1923, the building was passed down through various owners and was used as the headquarters of the All Burma Broadcasting Station under Japanese rule and refurbished as a hotel in the aftermath of World War II. It was then renamed as “Kanbawza Yeik Tha” in 1951. Since 1988, the Ministry of Culture currently has maintained an office and the State Fine Arts School on the palace grounds. EMG ARTS&CULTURE 10 Pop singer Wyne Su Khine Thein’s first concert has been postponed from this month to March as a result of her mother’s medical treatment overseas. The concert, originally set for last Sunday, has been rescheduled for sometime after the end of the matriculation exam in March. “I need to postpone my concert as I need to go abroad for [the sake of] my mother’s health and prepare for other things. As it is my first concert, I will do my best so that it will be worthy of the long wait by my fans. I plan to hold it after the matriculation exam. I will announce the exact date later,” said Wyne Su Khine Thein. Wyne Su Khine Thein rose to prominence with the song “A Pyit Ma Myin” and her commercially acclaimed debut album “Met Lauk Sayar”. Her second album “Myat Hlae” and third album “Arr..Bwar” also struck a chord with her fans. She has also featured [prominently] in various group albums. The concert has so far been postponed twice. Last time, it was called off because of her wedding. ASEAN FOCUS Art education project spreads its wings An art education project run by the Education for Development Fund-Lao (EDFLao) together with the education sector is set to be rolled out at schools in other provinces after its initial success in Savannakhet. Over 200 primary school children in Phontoum village, Outhoumphon district, Savannakhet province have benefited from the scheme since it was launched in 2010. Various art topics have been taught at the school four times. The subjects include drawing, painting and other activities, and have been taught by Professor Dr Katsuhiko Hibino from the Tokyo Fine Art University in Japan. The aim of the project is to give children the opportunity to share different experiences in drawing and painting. This information was revealed at a seminar to promote art education held in Vientiane recently with the support of the Japan Foundation Asia Centre. The event was attended by EDF will not only support the school in the Savannakhet province, but also plans to assist other schools in other provinces. EDF was established in 1995 and began carrying out projects in 1997. So far, over 25 primary schools have been supported by the organisation and more than 50,000 scholarships have been awarded to students and teachers. It is a charitable organisation that aims to reduce poverty in central and southern Laos through educational development. EDF-LAO VIENTIANE TIMES the Ministry of Education and Sports’ Deputy Director of the Physical and Art Education Department, Khamphan Onphan, EDF-Lao Managing Director Mr Khamhiane Inthava and other invited guests.
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