Cambodia orders US NGO to close and expels foreign staff

The order comes a day after the strongman premier threatened the Cambodia Daily, one of the country’s few remaining critical newspapers, with closer over an alleged unpaid tax bill of $6.


3 million, calling them “thieves”.

In a statement on Wednesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said foreign employees of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have seven days to leave after the group allegedly failed to formally register or pay correct taxes.

“Authorities are geared up to take the same measures against any foreign association or non-government organisation that fails to abide” by Cambodia’s laws, the statement added.

In recent weeks a string of foreign-funded organisations including the NDI have been named in Cambodia’s pro-government press or by officials as facing tax or regulatory probes.

Political playbook

Analysts say the cascade of legal cases is straight from the political playbook of Hun Sen, who has cornered opponents throughout his three-decade rule, in the run-up to elections.

Cambodians are due to go to the polls in just under a year, in a poll many expect to be a close-run affair.

Apart from the Cambodia Daily, which is owned by an American, the US-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America have also been legally targeted.

All have denied wrongdoing and said they are being selected for their independent reporting.

In a statement, the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said the Cambodia Daily “has a history of running stories that have angered the government, leading many to believe the tax department is being used to target critics” before the poll.

The NDI, which says it works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide, has been operating in Cambodia since 1992.

A country ravaged by war

In recent weeks, pro-government media have accused the organisation of helping Cambodia’s opposition party to try to topple the government.

The NDI, chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But they have previously declared themselves as “strictly non-partisan”, adding they also trained many members of Hun Sen’s ruling party.

To supporters, Hun Sen – one of the world’s longest serving leaders – has brought growth and stability to an impoverished country ravaged by decades of war.

But critics say corruption, inequality and rights abuses have also flourished.

Growing closer to China

In recent years he has grown closer to China while criticising the US, one of Cambodia’s largest donors.

In 2015 the government passed a broadly-worded law regulating NGOs. Critics warned the legislation would make it much easier to shutter organisations deemed critical of the government.

Impoverished Cambodia is home to some 5,000 NGOs.

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Queensland to implement safety laws following Dreamworld disaster

Rides at theme parks, shows and fetes also require less stringent inspections than cranes, the state government’s recently published review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) regulations has also shown.


The review, commissioned after the death of four people on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride and a fatal workplace accident at Eagle Farm racecourse last year, has outlined a number of gaping holes in public safety issues at these facilities.

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It prompted the government to introduce industrial manslaughter laws that will hold corporations and negligent individuals responsible for any deaths.

The review found some rides at school fetes and small local shows are more than 30 years old, and aren’t subjected to any major inspection requirements.

It has earmarked “poor mechanical integrity and lack of modern safety control measures” as a “significant concern” for these older rides.

“High turnover of operators (especially for mobile amusement devices at smaller shows) and lack of effective operator training are significant contributing factors to amusement device incidents,” the report also noted.

Similar concerns were raised for established theme parks like Dreamworld.

Following the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi on October 25 last year when Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned, WHSQ conducted audits on 90 rides at major theme parks.

It found annual inspections of rides are legally required but that they fall short of the type of inspections required for plant equipment like cranes.

Inspectors also noted there were no strict rules surrounding competency of ride operators.

“By way of comparison, a high-risk work licence is required to operate a forklift truck and arguably the risk associated with the operation of certain large amusement devices is significantly higher than for a forklift,” the review said.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the government’s implementation of the 58 recommendations in the review would give the public more confidence in the amusement industry.

“Our harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent to employers who are tempted to cut corners when it comes to safety in the workplace,” she said.

Queensland Emergency service personnel are seen at amusement theme park Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 (AAP)AAP

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Turnbull tries to turn page at paper mill

With three of his ministers bound for the High Court and the same-sex marriage debate raging on, Malcolm Turnbull was struggling for clear air.


It was time for the company of some familiar faces, to turn over a new page.

Or better yet, an enormous stockpile of freshly-made paper in Tumut to try and rewrite the script.

So on came the hard hat, headset and high vis as he headed off for a tour of paper giant Anthony Pratt’s mill in southern NSW.

The location was not lost on the prime minister as he stepped out of the car and into the town where his father was born in 1926.

As the eligibility of his cabinet colleagues dominated headlines across the country, it was a fact Mr Turnbull returned to several times throughout the day.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about people having citizenship by descent, so on that basis I’m a citizen of Tumut by descent. I hope you won’t disown me,” he told those attending a lunch on site.

Taking a turn around the mill, Mr Turnbull was surprised to learn how few workers were required at any one time to keep the manufacturing plant afloat.

He and Mr Pratt talked shop as they trotted over boardwalks high above the ground and snaked through a series of throbbingly loud factory floors, as a throng of photographers followed their every move.

“Anthony, we are so proud, all of us here, of what your family has achieved. It is a remarkable Australian success story,” Mr Turnbull later proclaimed as he dined with the Pratts.

The PM’s extraordinary outburst at Bill Shorten – whom he labelled a parasite and social-climbing sycophant for sipping champagne with billionaires including the Pratts – must have seemed a distant memory.

“You are great Australians, making a great commitment to our great nation,” Mr Turnbull told the family.

Mr Pratt on Wednesday announced a $2 billion plan to create thousands of manufacturing jobs over 10 years.

He made the same pledge to Donald Trump in New York three months ago, which the prime minister was also in town to see.

A $100 million upgrade to the Tumut mill would be the first in a series of investments in Visy’s Australian operations, creating some 13,000 permanent jobs plus another 14,000 construction jobs.

The prime minister gave a long and wide-ranging press conference on the virtues of jobs and investment, Australia’s involvement in global wars and the simmering citizenship crisis.

But there was one question he would not go near – just why was he in town?

“There’s no federal funding in this announcement today, so what are you doing here? Is this to assure voters that you’re not distracted?” he was asked by a reporter.

“Thanks for the editorial,” Mr Turnbull fired back. “Do you have any other questions?”

Shoppers reject Reject Shop’s new products

Discount retailer The Reject Shop says it has failed to get its product range right amid a decline in consumer spending.


The Reject Shop’s net profit dropped 28 per cent to $12.3 million in the year to July 2, as the company had forecast in April.

Weak trading conditions, particularly in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, contributed to a fall in like-for-like sales of 1.6 per cent.

Chief executive Ross Sudano said sales were particularly challenging in the second half of the year, largely due to declines in consumer spending and a poorly received merchandise strategy.

He said the group had over invested in new products at the expense of everyday value and branded bargains.

“The impact was a perceived loss in value by some of our customers and reduced foot traffic,” Mr Sudano said.

“This occurred at a time when the availability of discretionary income is challenged, and consumer confidence amongst our core customers continued to deteriorate.”

Mr Sudano said The Reject Shop was returning to basics, with a focus on everyday items at good prices, and branded bargains.

However, the tough trading conditions experienced in the second half of 2016/17 have continued into the current financial year.

The company’s comparable sales in the first seven weeks of 2017/18 were down three per cent on the same period a year ago.

“Nonetheless, we are confident that our continuing initiatives to improve sales, along with the positive effects expected from the promotional activities planned from September, will see the company return to positive comparable sales growth during the half, albeit at a low level,” he said.

Shares in The Reject Shop dropped 26 cents, or 5.9 per cent, to $4.14.


* Full year net profit down 27.8pct to $12.3m

* Total sales revenue down 0.7pct to $794m

* No final dividend, down from 19 cents

Aussie squad feels the heat in Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi weather is proving challenging in more ways than one for Australia’s Test squad, with allrounder Glenn Maxwell suffering heatstroke during training.


Maxwell has revealed he fell ill during the first day of training in Dhaka ahead of the first Test starting on Sunday.

The local monsoon season has made for punishing weather, with periodic rain and thunderstorms giving way to sweltering heat and humidity.

“I copped a bit of heatstroke on the first day, which wasn’t a good start,” Maxwell said on Wednesday.

“I think just doing some running outside, then I had to go inside to do some fitness testing, and going back outside probably didn’t help too much.

“Basically, my body shut down a little bit but I was fine after a bit of an ice bath and plenty of fluids.”

Steve Smith’s men had a light training session on Wednesday, with a waterlogged ground having earlier forced the cancellation of a tour match on the outskirts of Dhaka.

It was a different story on Tuesday when the squad trained in the heat for almost three hours, pushing pacemen Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird to the point of exhaustion.

“Yesterday was obviously pretty tough,” Maxwell said.’

“Obviously with the morning rain and the overnight rain, I think all the moisture’s coming out of the ground and making it quite sweaty work for us.

“But it’s been good. We’ve got a lot out of the last few days, basically putting on the finishing touches for day one.”

Australia’s disrupted preparation has raised questions about their level of readiness to face an improving Bangladeshi side which has proven tough to beat on home soil.

But Maxwell said the squad’s pre-tour training camp in tropical Darwin had been more than ample preparation.

“The way we prepared in Darwin, I think the wickets were perfect,” he said.

“Even coming here and having a couple of hits on these wickets, it’s very similar to what we were facing in Darwin, if not a little bit easier I suppose in the nets.

“We put extreme conditions in Darwin with the wickets where we made them ridiculously tough to bat on, and guys tested themselves really well during that week.

“I think the guys are more than well-equipped to handle whatever comes at us in this first Test.”