#Cambodia – New rules for digital payments

The central bank has issued new regulations governing the licensing of payment services providers (PSPs), requiring that all firms providing online services to accept electronic payments have at least $2 million in registered capital, a move expected to increase the stability of the sector and encourage the consolidation of its smaller players.

A prakas signed by National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Governor Chea Chanto on June 14 and released on June 20 establishes that all PSPs in Cambodia must obtain a licence from the NBC to operate. The licensed firms are required to demonstrate a minimum registered capital of 8 billion riel (about $2 million) and deposit 5 percent of their paid-up capital with the NBC.

PSP licences are valid for six years, with an annual licensing fee of 20 million riel ($5,000), according to the prakas.

The new regulations aim at better governance of third-party processors (TPPs) that act as intermediaries to complete payment transactions, and reflect the rapid growth of financial technology (fintech) solutions.

Chea Serey, director-general of the NBC, explained that any entity wishing to provide digital payment services, including banks and other financial institutions, must now first obtain a PSP licence.

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“This prakas is targeted at the existing institutions that provide payment services or institutions that start to provide payment services,” she said. “This means that most of the existing institutions operating under a third-party processor licence would be required to be relicensed by the NBC.”

Some of the larger firms that operate as payment services providers include Wing, True Money, Asia Wei Luy and PayGo.

According to Serey, the new regulation aims to increase the security of digital transactions while enhancing fair competition and innovation in the fintech sector.

“Currently, innovation in payment areas is moving very fast, but the regulatory framework for payment systems in Cambodia is still behind and the scope of existing regulations cannot cover new payment innovation,” she said. “As a regulator of payment systems, the NBC needed to update and formulate new regulations according to the market’s needs.”

Tomas Pokorny, CEO of Pi Pay, a new payment solutions company that is currently in its beta-testing phase in Cambodia, said the prakas significantly raised the entry requirements for PSPs. Yet he said he expected the new regulations would have a positive impact in that they clearly delineate who can legally provide digital payments.

He added that previously, many entities, even nonfinancial ones, could offer payment services by satisfying the flexible requirements of a third-party processor licence, but now the sector will shift to more-established institutions.

“We believe that albeit this requirement is much higher than the previous relatively low fees for TPP licences, it is rather a good move,” he said. “I think it won’t hinder the expansion of fintech in general, but will rather boost further reclassification of the market.”

Pokorny said it was possible that the high minimum capital requirements would eventually lead to a consolidation of the sector, though he noted this could in turn increase competition in the market and benefit consumers. He added that even with the new prakas, Cambodia’s financial regulations remain some of the most advantageous of developing economies.

“It may raise higher financial requirements for financial operators, however, it also expands their possible service by allowing them to operate in a more innovative and flexible environment,” he said. “We believe it is a necessary step to bring Cambodia closer to the rest of Asean, where the fintech sector has been blossoming for the last couple of years.”

Source – PhnomPenhPost

Dutch sensation journalist Derk Bolt and his cameraman released in Columbia

2 Dutch journalists freed unharmed by Colombian rebels

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Two Dutch journalists have been freed unharmed after being held captive for almost a week by leftist rebels in Colombia.

Derk Bolt and Eugenio Follender were released before dawn Saturday near where they were apprehended by guerrillas belonging to the National Liberation Army. Bolt said the two are doing well and anxious to be back with their families in Europe.

In an interview with Colombia’s Caracol radio, Bolt said the two men were treated well by their captors, suffering only a few scratches from 14-hour marches to evade security forces who had mounted a massive search.

He said the reporters at first thought they were being robbed because their captors demanded they turn over their cameras. Then they were shuttled from safe house to safe house before eventually taking refuge in the jungle.

“It was very hard, but the people who took us captive were very warm and treated us with lots of respect, almost like friends,” Bolt told Caracol. “They always told us our lives weren’t in danger.”

The volatile Catatumbo region in northeast Colombia where the journalists were held is one of the country’s most lawless areas, a major transit zone for drug trafficking to neighboring Venezuela and historically one of the ELN’s strongholds.

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Last year, the ELN held three journalists in the same region for almost a week.

Bolt is host of a Dutch sensation television show called “Spoorloos” (Without a Trace) and Follender is a cameraman for the show, which attempts to help people find their long-lost relatives.

“We are incredibly happy and relieved,” the show said in a Facebook post. “We are grateful to the ministry of foreign affairs. They have done everything, in The Hague and Bogota, to get Derk and Eugenio home safely.”

The ELN is Colombia’s last major guerrilla army, with about 1,500 troops. This year, it joined the government for peace talks in Ecuador, bringing closer than ever the possibility of an end to a half century of political violence after the much-larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reached a deal of its own last year to lay down its weapons.

Unlike the FARC, which has a cohesive, centralized command structure, leaders of the more ideological, Cuban revolution-inspired ELN have had trouble keeping tabs on their troops. Peace talks with the government were delayed by almost a year over the refusal of some guerrilla units to free several civilians and a politician they had been holding captive.

The ELN in a statement said the journalists were detained preventively because they had entered a conflict zone where Colombia’s military often operates covertly.

“Our first duty is the preserve the life of the communities and people that enter these territories, not exposing them” to danger, members of the group said.

Source – AP

Myanmar’s (Burma) Muslims mark Ramadhan out in the cold.

Huddled under umbrellas to escape a thundering monsoon downpour, dozens of Muslims stood in line at a Yangon mosque for a small portion of rice and curry to break their Ramadhan fast.

Many would have normally prayed at Islamic schools that for six decades – most of them spent under Myanmar’s former military government – doubled as a place for Muslims to come together for worship.

But last month the madrassas in eastern Yangon were closed down by a Buddhist nationalist mob, one of a growing number of raids by resurgent hardliners intent on silencing the maligned minority.

“We have faced more discrimination over the last few years,” said Hussein, who used to pray at the schools.

Nearby old bearded men used wooden paddles to stir steaming vats of daal, which was portioned into metal tiffins with rice and handed to waiting families.

Muslims only make up some 3-4 percent of Myanmar’s population, including the Rohingya minority from western Rakhine State, but the religion traces its roots in the country back centuries.

Now many are feeling unwelcome in their own homeland.

“When I was young there was no discrimination. We were very friendly [with Buddhists], so we would eat at their homes and they would eat at ours,” added Hussein, who like many of Myanmar’s Muslims only goes by one name.

“Now we live in this country and we are not free to practice our religion.”

Aung Htoo Myint, secretary of the mosque in Yangon’s poor Thaketa township, said they had struggled to accommodate the hundreds forced to join their congregation after Islamic schools were shuttered.

Many from the mainly Muslim neighborhood braved the monsoon rains to pray together in the street when this year’s holy month of Ramadhan began, but local authorities swiftly banned those gatherings as well.

They have since launched legal proceedings against three people who attended a prayer session, arguing the gathering threatened “stability and the rule of law”.

Bo Gyi, a teacher at the madrassas, said they had been given no details of when the schools would reopen or what would happen to the 300 children who studied there.

“We have written letters to the president and Yangon chief minister as well,” he said, but there has been no reply.

Myanmar has faced growing criticism for how it treats Muslims, who now encounter restrictions on who they can marry and even how many children they can have under the country’s 2015 Race and Religion laws.

Tensions have simmered since 2012 when sectarian violence erupted in Rakhine, killing around 200 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, and driving tens of thousands into displacement camps.

The young civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi has struggled to contain anti-Muslim sentiment since militants claiming to represent the Rohingya attacked police posts late last year.

Since then the hardliners have become increasingly vocal, shutting down Islamic events, forming a political party to stand in the 2020 elections and clashing with Muslims on Yangon’s streets.

Police have arrested ringleaders behind the violence, while the country’s top Buddhist body has banned prominent ultra-nationalist group Ma Ba Tha – which responded by simply changing its name.

But ordinary Muslims fear they are now becoming targets in their own country.

Haroon, 57, who has spent his whole life in Yangon where he works selling chapattis, says he is increasingly worried about the nationalists.

“There is only one group creating this situation,” he tells AFP inside the house where he lives with his wife and three children, unwilling to say the name Ma Ba Tha out loud.

“If that group disappeared completely, everything would be peaceful.”

Source – The JakartaPost

Soldiers shoot attacker in #Brussels ‘terrorist’ blast

Belgian soldiers shot a terror suspect after an explosion rocked the central train station in Brussels on Tuesday in the latest attack to hit Europe.

Witnesses said the suspect shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) before causing the blast, with local media saying the individual had activated an explosive belt.

Authorities reported no casualties, apart from the attacker who was was killed in the confrontation.

Crying passengers were evacuated from the station as the city that hosts the EU’s headquarters was struck by a new attack just over a year after suicide bombers hit the city’s airport and metro system.

“This is considered as a terrorist attack,” federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told a news conference outside Brussels Gare Centrale station.

The blast in Belgium comes a day after a man mowed down Muslims near a mosque in London, and a radical Islamist on a terror watchlist rammed a car laden with weapons into a police vehicle in Paris.

Brussels has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck the city’s airport and metro in March 2016, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds more.

The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, which were carried out by the same Brussels-based cell behind the November 2016 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

Van Der Sypt said that at about 1830 GMT there has was a “small explosion at Central Station here in Brussels.”

“The suspect has been neutralized by the military that were present at the scene immediately after the explosion,” the spokesman said. “He is dead.”

There were no other casualties, Van Der Sypt said.

The incident happened well after rush hour, but hundreds of passengers were still evacuated from one of Belgium’s busiest stations. The nearby Grand Place, a major tourist destination, was also evacuated.

“There were people crying, there were people shouting,” said Elisa Roux, a spokeswoman for the Belgian rail company SNCB.

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At least 62 killed in forest fire still raging in Portugal

A huge forest fire raging since Saturday in central Portugal has killed at least 62 people, most of them dying in their cars as they tried to flee, the government said on Sunday,

“The dimension of this fire was such that we don’t have memory of such a human tragedy,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in Pedrogao Grande, the mountainous region about 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Lisbon.

Most victims were caught in their vehicles on the road while fleeing flames that were destroying their homes. The prime minister said the death toll could rise as firefighters inspected charred remains of some buildings in remote villages.

Police said a lightning strike on a tree probably caused the blaze on Saturday in a region hit by an intense heat wave and dry, gusty winds, which has fanned the flames.

The prime minister said the emergency services acted as fast as they could but acknowledged that some of the efforts like alerting the population might have been hindered because the blaze had ruined phone lines and communications towers.

“What happened was cables and communications towers were destroyed by the fire, even their first replacements melted,” he said. “But nothing compromised the firefighting efforts.”

Most communications have been restored, but Costa called on residents listen to the radio and heed any official advice.

The government declared three days of mourning and sent two army battalions to help the emergency services. The European Union said it would provide firefighting aircraft. France has offered three planes and Spain has sent two, authorities said.

Speaking in the Vatican, Pope Francis, who visited Portugal last month, mentioned the victims in his weekly address.

“I am close to the dear people of Portugal, hit by a devastating fire which is raging in the forests around Pedrogao Grande, causing many victims and injuries. Let us pray in silence,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Twitter message: “Solidarity with Portugal, hit by terrible fires. Our thoughts are with victims. France makes its aid available to Portugal”.

In one village of Nodeirinho, where 11 residents died, state television RTP showed burned out cars and blackened houses. Shocked residents said a whole family that was trying to flee their home in a car had been caught in “a tornado of flames”.

“It does not seem real, it is out of this world … It is a real inferno, we have never seen anything like that,” the mayor of Pedrogao Grande Valdemar Alves told reporters, adding that more than 20 villages had been affected.

Alongside 62 confirmed dead, another 54 people have been injured and taken to hospitals. Four are in a serious condition.

More than 600 firefighters were still battling the flames on Sunday. Several local highways were shut for safety reasons.

The authorities said very low smoke clouds prevented helicopters and fire planes dropping water on the flames efficiently for most of the day.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the site at night and expressed his condolences. He said that “it was not possible to do more than what has been done” in prevention and responding to the fire.

Some local residents said they had been left without firefighters for hours as their homes burned. Many blamed poor forestry reserve planning and depopulation of remote villages that left many wooded areas untended.

By Rafael Marchante and Andrei Khalip | PEDROGAO GRANDE, Portugal

(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Additional reporting by Axel Bugge, Maya Nikolayeva in Paris, Crispian Balmer in Rome and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Larry King and Edmund Blair)

Source – AD + Reuters

58 presumed dead in #London tower fire: Police

The presumed death toll from the London tower block inferno jumped to 58 on Saturday as embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, accused of misreading the growing anger over the tragedy, pledged action after meeting survivors desperately seeking answers.

Dozens of people were still missing three days after the 24-storey Grenfell Tower was engulfed in flames, and worries over the safety of the apartment block’s charred wreck has slowed the search for human remains.

Sixteen bodies have been taken to a mortuary, and the first victim formally identified was named as Mohammad Alhajali, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee.

Queen Elizabeth II said the disaster had cast a sombre pall over Britain, but insisted the country was showing resolve in the face of adversity.

But public anger has been swelling, with furious residents heckling May and storming the local authority headquarters on Friday.

They demanded justice for the victims and claimed Wednesday’s fatal blaze was due to negligence, with many citing the new cladding put on the 1974 concrete tower.

‘Death trap’

“It was a death trap, and they knew it,” one person shouted as demonstrators surged inside the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea council, responsible for managing the social housing block in a working-class enclave of one of Britain’s richest districts.

Police said Saturday that their investigation would look at the building and its 2016 refurbishment, and vowed to bring prosecutions “if there is evidence”.

“There are 58 people who we have been told were in Grenfell Tower on the night that are missing and therefore, sadly, I have to assume that they are dead,” police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters at the scene.

He said that number could change should further information come to light.

The area surrounding the tower has been plastered by distraught relatives with pictures of the missing, from grandparents to young children.

Morocco said seven of its nationals were among the dead.

May was criticized for avoiding locals when she visited the disaster site on Thursday and faced cries of “Shame on you” and “coward” when she returned the following day, with police breaking up scuffles.

On Saturday May met a group of 15 victims, residents, volunteers and community leaders at her Downing Street office. Demonstrators gathered outside, protesting about several issues including the fire.

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Russia says may have killed Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The Russian army on Friday said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed.

In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group’s stronghold.

“Senior commanders of the military groups of the so-called IS military council, 30 mid-ranking field commanders and up to 300 militants who provided security for them were eliminated,” it said.

“According to information which is being checked through various channels, the leader of ISIL Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was also present at the meeting and was eliminated by the strike,” it said.

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ISIL is an acronym for the so-called IS group, also known as ISIS and Daesh.

The US has been informed about the attack, the statement added.

Elusive IS supremo Baghdadi has not been seen in public since proclaiming himself “caliph” in the Iraqi city of Mosul three years ago.

His group has earned global notoriety for imposing a hardline form of Islam that has included stonings, beheadings and amputations.

The Iraqi-born world’s most-wanted man has been rumoured wounded or killed a number of times in the past.

He has been nicknamed “The Ghost” as he has been reportedly spotted around the Syrian-Iraqi border but his whereabouts have never been confirmed.

US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces broke into the IS bastion of Raqa last Tuesday for the first time since it became a hub of the group’s self-declared caliphate and the scene of its most gruesome atrocities.

Source – TheJakartaPost

inferno Grenfell Tower in #London

Fire safety at London’s Grenfell Tower placed under review last year
Residents warned of ‘dangerous living conditions’ as owner ordered changes to way it handled fire risk in its properties.

Residents of Grenfell Tower have said they raised multiple concerns about the risk of fire in the months before the fatal blaze, but were “brushed away” by the council’s tenant management organisation.

Survivors of the disaster said on Wednesday they had raised fears about the fact that there was only one escape route. They also told the Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (KCTMO) of their concerns over the placement of boilers and gas pipes, the absence of a building-wide fire alarm or sprinkler system, and piles of rubbish being dumped and causing a fire risk.

Investigations have begun into the cause of the fire and how it swept so rapidly up the 24 storeys, apparently spreading across a new thermal cladding system installed last year as part of a £10m refurbishment.

Only last November, residents in the Grenfell Action Group had warned about “dangerous living conditions” and said: “It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO.”

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#Panama switches to #China, cuts ties with #Taiwan

BEIJING – Panama and China announced Tuesday they were establishing diplomatic relations, as the Central American nation became the latest to dump Taiwan for closer ties with the world’s second-largest economy.

The move prompted an angry response from Taiwan and will likely further strain ties between Taipei and Beijing, which considers the self-ruled island a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland.

Taiwan is recognized by around 20 countries worldwide and its status is one of the most politically sensitive issues for Chinese leaders who pressure trade partners to accept its “one China” principle.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said in a nationally televised message “to the country and the world” that “Panama and China establish diplomatic relations today”.

The two countries issued a joint statement saying: “In light of the interests and wishes of both peoples, the Republic of Panama and People’s Republic of China have decided to grant each other, from the date of this document’s signing, mutual recognition, establishment of diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level.”

After decades of siding with Taiwan in the disagreement over its status, Panama now “recognises that there is only one China in the world” and that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory.

 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Panamanian counterpart Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado signed the communique in Beijing.

“This is a historic moment, China-Panama relations have opened a new chapter,” Wang said, adding that Panama’s decision was in “complete accordance” with its people’s interests and “in keeping with the times”.

Saint Malo said Panama and China had made an “important step” and started a “new page in our strategic relations”

The announcement comes after Beijing began construction last week of a container port, with natural gas facilities, in Panama’s northern province of Colon.

Panama had long stressed it had diplomatic ties with Taipei and commercial ones with Beijing.

Chinese ships, after those from the United States, are the number two users of the Panama Canal, the Central American country’s main source of budget revenue.

Taiwan’s anger 

Panama is the latest country to cut ties with Taiwan.

In December China signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with Sao Tome and Principe after the African nation ditched the island.

Taiwan reacted furiously to the latest move.

“We strongly condemn Beijing for manipulating the so-called ‘one China’ policy to continue to suppress Taiwan’s international space through various means,” the presidential office said.

“This kind of action is not only an open threat to Taiwanese people’s survival and welfare but also an open provocation to peace and stability in the Taiwan strait and the region.”

Diplomatic tussles between Taiwan and Beijing eased under the island’s previous Beijing-friendly government.

But relations have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen’s China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party was swept to power in a landslide election victory last year.

Tsai has refused to acknowledge the concept that Taiwan is part of “one China”, unlike her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

Cross-strait tensions have been further exacerbated by a highly unusual call from Tsai to congratulate then US President-elect Donald Trump, who questioned Washington’s policy towards the island, including its decision to not formally recognize its government.

Source – TheNation

Rafael Nadal wins record-breaking 10th French Open

Rafael Nadal coasted to a record 10th French Open title on Sunday, demolishing Stan Wawrinka in a brutally one-sided final which also earned the Spaniard a 15th Grand Slam crown.

Nadal, 31, triumphed 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to become the first man in history to win the same major 10 times.

His collection of Slams now stands just three behind great rival Roger Federer, a staggering statistic coming just a year after he quit Roland Garros with a wrist injury.

Playing in his 22nd Grand Slam final, Nadal triumphed in Paris without dropping a set for a third time.

He also lost just 35 games in total and only six in the final, his most comprehensive victory since allowing Roger Federer four games in the 2008 final.

“It’s really incredible. To win La Decima is very, very special,” said Nadal.

“I am very emotional. The feeling I have is impossible to describe.

“It’s difficult to compare with other tournaments but the nerves and adrenaline I feel, it’s like no other place.”

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Once Hollywood A-lister Nicole Kidman had helped unbox the Coupe des Mousquetaires to a crowd already wilting in 30-degree heat, the final was underway.

It was the 22nd Slam finale for Nadal; just the fourth for Wawrinka, the oldest man in the championship match in 44 years.

Sunday was also the first time since 1969 that the Roland Garros final had featured two men over 30.

Despite having spent more than five hours on court getting to the final, 2015 champion Wawrinka had the first break point in the third game.

The 32-year-old couldn’t take it and it proved to be the only break point he earned all afternoon.

From there, it was all downhill.

Nadal was unable to convert four break points in the fourth game.

No matter as he broke through for 4-2 and then went to set point in the eighth game after a relentless forehand barrage sapped the will out of Wawrinka.

A backhand which sailed long gave Nadal the first set with the Spaniard having crunched 10 winners to Wawrinka’s four while committing half the unforced errors.

Nadal forced Wawrinka into another forehand error to break for 2-0 in the second set before the Swiss halted a run of seven games lost with a hold for 1-3.

But the song remained the same, Nadal taking the set in the ninth game, just moments after Wawrinka, who knocked out world number one Andy Murray in the semis, had destroyed a racquet in utter frustration.

First game of the third set and Nadal broke again as the man who stunned him in the 2014 Australian Open final suffered further damage.

Nadal was soon a double break to the good for 4-1, held for 5-1 and then claimed a huge slice of history when Wawrinka limply dropped a backhand into the net.

Source – TheJakartaPost