Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Thais petition UNESCO; court to hear temple dispute complaint

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 24 (TNA) - Thailand's Central Administrative Court has set a hearing on Thursday to determine whether or not to issue an injunction as requested by a group of politicians and activists over the nullification of a cabinet decision concerning the disputed Preah Vihear temple, while another group led by senators petitioned the United Nations agency seeking postponement of the temple registration as a World Heritage site.

Thailand's cabinet on June 17 endorsed a new map -- as yet unseen by the Thai public -- of Preah Vihear that paves the way for neighbouring Cambodia to apply for the disputed temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

Cambodia will present the map as a key document to experts of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) at a meeting in Canada next month.

A group of Thai politicians and activists represented by Sen. Kamnoon Sitthisaman and Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the People's Alliance for Democracy, petitioned the court on Tuesday asking it to nullify the June 17 cabinet decision and to invalidate the signing by Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique of June 18.

Suwat Apaipak, a Thai lawyer, explained that the group petitioned the court for fear that Thailand might lose territory as a result of endorsement of the joint communique. Recognising Cambodia's right to seek World Heritage site status for Phra Vihear is tantamount to affecting Thailand's border, according to Mr. Suwat.

Critics say the Samak administration bypassed Parliament when his government endorsed the joint communique, arguing that Thailand and Cambodia should apply jointly for World Heritage status for the site.

The foreign minister and the cabinet must testify Thursday, according to the court statement.
Meanwhile, about 300 senators, academics and national artists Tuesday petitioned the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to postpone its consideration of the Preah Vihear temple site.

Sen. Priyanandana Rangsit, deputy chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, presented a petition signed by 300 senators, academic and civil society representatives to UNESCO asking the UN agency to postpone its consideration of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, arguing the plan should be proposed by both Thailand and Cambodia because the temple is a transboundary asset.

A 4.6 square kilometre area adjacent to the temple is in an overlapping zone where Thai and Khmer ownership has yet to be demarcated.

Dr. Sheldon Sheffer, Director of UNESCO Bangkok, Asia said he would forward the petition to the World Heritage Committee.

Richard Engelhardt, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific, commented that the process to select world heritage sites normally takes between three and ten years.

Regarding the Preah Vihear case, the Cambodian government proposed the temple to the World Heritage site last year and the World Heritage Committee will meet between July 2-12 to discuss the issue. (TNA)

Thais, Cambodians Dispute Temple Site

Thai tourists visit Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo: AP)

The Irrawaddy

By SAI SILP
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cambodian authorities on Monday ordered the controversial Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border temporarily closed while, on Tuesday, about 300 Thai senators and academics submitted a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), urging the world body to delay making a decision on listing the historical temple as a World Heritage Site.

The Cambodian authorities’ action comes after continuing protests in Thailand ahead of a UNESCO meeting in Canada on July 2-10. Both the Thailand and Cambodian governments signed a joint communiqué last Wednesday endorsing the Cambodian application.

Preah Vihear temple was built in dedication to the Hindu god Shiva and was constructed between the 9th and the 12th centuries. The territory on which the temple lies has been the subject of conflict between the two countries for many years.

In 2007, Bangkok opposed Phnom Penh's application to annex 4.6 square kilometers of overlapping land claimed by both sides. The dispute was settled after Cambodia agreed last month to accept that only the temple lay on Cambodian land.The case quickly became a political issue when opponents noted that Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej bypassed parliament when he endorsed Cambodia's application for UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the temple, which was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962.

Meanwhile, Senator Priyanandana Rangsit, vice-chairman of the Thai Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a press conference in Bangkok that 300 senators and academics had signed a petition which had been submitted to UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Director Sheldon Shaeffer, requesting a delay in the process for the disputed Preah Vihear temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

“Preah Vihear has an overlapping area around the temple between Thailand and Cambodia, so it should be registered as joint-custody of both countries.” Priyanandana said.

Local people in Thailand’s Si Sa Ket Province, where the Hindu temple allegedly overlaps onto, have been protesting since Sunday, accusing the cabinet of endorsing Cambodian sovereignty.

The matter has also been highlighted by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which has been staging anti-government protests in Bangkok for several weeks.

On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet agreed to minor changes in the wording of its resolution on Preah Vihear in an attempt to tone down public criticism.

It also asked the Thai Foreign Ministry to detail the exact dimensions of Preah Vihear temple into the Thai-Cambodian joint communiqué to drive home the point that the area in question is part of the disputed territory, according to a report in Thai newspaper The Nation on Tuesday.

Cambodia's "Killing Fields" court trims budget

24 Jun 2008
Source: Reuters

PHNOM PENH, June 24 (Reuters) - Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal has cut its proposed budget to $143 million instead of $170 million sought from donors, and brought its expected end date forward by a year to 2010, officials said on Tuesday.

The joint Cambodian-U.N. court set up to try Pol Pot's top surviving henchmen for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people under the Khmer Rouge had an initial budget of $56 million, and was expected to run for three years.

But after delays in getting it off the ground, followed by seemingly endless bail hearings, appeals and pre-trial machinations, it quickly became apparent the court would be broke before any of the ageing cadres faced justice.

Presenting the revised budget extension, Cambodia's top official to the court, Sean Visoth, said he was "quite optimistic" foreign donors would come up with the cash.

He also said the court's first full trial, that of Duch, the ultra-Maoist guerrilla movement's chief jailer and executioner, would start in September.

Five top Khmer Rouge officials have been charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity and placed under detention, including Duch and Pol Pot's right-hand man, Nuon Chea, also known as "Brother Number Two". (Reporting by Ek Madra, Editing by Ed Cropley and Sanjeev Miglani)

In Cambodia, giving a stage to 'inclusive arts'

From front, Kong Veasna, Kim Sathia and Mao Tipmony performing at the Spotlight festival in Phnom Penh. (Vandy Rattana/Epic Arts Cambodia)

International Herald Tribune
By Robert Turnbull
Published: June 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH: With the slogan, "See ability, not disability," the London-based charity Epic Arts has been challenging the common perception of disabled performing artists. "This is not about sympathy or therapy," said its artistic director and founder, Katie MacCabe. "We want to show that impairment can actually enhance creativity and that virtuosity is not the just the domain of the able-bodied."

Epic, an acronym which stands for Each Person Is Counted, established a base in Phnom Penh in 2006, three years after MacCabe first visited the city with her husband. Since the suicide of her mother and the subsequent death from polio of her father, MacCabe, 34, a professional dancer, had been seeking radical solutions to the problem of "exclusiveness" in dance, and ways of integrating disabled people into arts communities.

Cambodia represented a unique opportunity. The war-scarred country has one the world's highest ratios of disabled people, few of whom enjoy social protections. Established nongovernmental organizations like The Cambodia Trust, working exclusively with landmine victims, have been encouraging the government to draft legislation to improve their standing.
Epic's mission has been to change public attitudes by training and showcasing disabled performing artists.

Through the trust, MacCabe met Kim Sathia, a former royal dancer who had a high-profile career as professional dancer before a car accident in 1997 paralyzed her below the waist.
Though she was eager to pass on her skills to others, Kim was apprehensive about resuming dancing, until MacCabe persuaded her. Their developing relationship, and the first steps toward establishing an artistic partnership, has been sensitively captured in the 2005 film "The Return," which is currently playing at international dance festivals.

Although doors opened easily for MacCabe, the initial reaction to her work was bafflement, even among the intended beneficiaries. Disabilities were, she said, "everywhere but never discussed" and discrimination was rampant. Greater tolerance in Cambodia in recent years has barely masked a deeply conservative society that often makes a causal link between disability and an individual's bad karma.


That is changing as more performers gain confidence. The 33 artists currently working directly with Epic Arts, eight of them professional, have honed their skills and acquired more opportunities. The emergence of role models such as Kim and Pon Den, a 22-year-old landmine victim-turned-acrobat, has significantly reduced their sense of isolation.

But aside from the benefits to artists, the challenge for Epic Arts is to create a body of work strong enough to merit international scrutiny. Given the vast differences in style and technical facility, that hasn't been easy. While Kim can draw on the literally hundreds of gestures that make up the formal classical syntax, untrained dancers like Pon have adopted acrobatics as their means of expression as well as a physical intimacy more suited to MacCabe's own background in Western contemporary dance.

The answer, said MacCabe, is to "draw out inner movements that are natural to them, harnessing a range of skills into strong narrative pieces. Dancers are encouraged to push their own limits, aided by others with complementary skills. The choreographic mix is richer still when MacCabe invites the able-bodied to join the disabled, significantly blurring the lines between the two.

The discovery of other arts organizations for disabled people in East Asia led to Epic's decision to create Southeast Asia's first inclusive arts festival in late February. Produced by Hannah Stevens of Epic Arts and funded with a grant of $300,000 by the Nippon Foundation, "Spotlight" involved 200 artists in an eight-day event that featured a wide variety of disabled artists from around the region and beyond.

Stevens introduced the opening ceremony at Phnom Penh's Chaktamok Theatre to a packed house that included members of the political elite, among them Princess Buppa Devi, King Sihanouk's eldest daughter and the most famous classical dancer of her generation. Kong Nay, Cambodia's blind virtuoso of the popular two-stringed chapei, acted as the M.C. of the evening.
The appearance of wheelchairs on stage for Kim's new dance, called "Robamm Satrei," drew muted gasps and giggles from some surprised audience members. More relaxed laughter emerged later with the Singaporean actor Ramesh Meyappan's commedia del arte mime version of Dario Fo's "Mistero Buffo," an irreverent satire on modern manners which Meyappan, who is deaf and mute, has toured successfully around Asia.

Japanese acts featured strongly, including the Koshu Roa Taiko, an eight-member team of the hearing-impaired taiko drummers from Mount Fuji; and Aki Kiwashita, who has muscular sclerosis and performed with the dance troupe Creative Sora.

"Stories of Us," a powerful ensemble piece on HIV, drug addiction and sexuality from the deaf Vietnamese dance group Together Higher took some by surprise with its bleak vision and frank approach toward violence and homosexuality.

A more accessible Cambodian meditation on similar issues was "Let's Talk about Love," starring the deaf and mute circus artist Huon Sopheak as Cupid.

In an effort to engage Spotlight's audience on the "relativity" of disability, Jane Hartnell, the artistic director of the event, considered handing out blindfolds, ear muffs and other props but rejected this in favor of three moveable box-like installations designed to simulate the effects of different impairments. "Human beings retain knowledge best when they learn it," said Hartnell.

For its immediate future, Epic is looking toward securing a regional network for disabled performing artists. Stevens said she hopes that continued sponsorship from the Nippon Foundation as well the cooperation of other Southeast Asian countries will guarantee Spotlight's future. As the organization begins to plan the next event, it is openly encouraging potential participants to come to Cambodia to develop their work.

Meanwhile, the number of those seeking more immediate support continues to grow. With funds from the British Embassy, Epic will inaugurate in April a center in Kampot, a coastal town known for its large numbers of landmine victims. The center is intended to be the location of the next festival, planned for 2010. Until then, it will be engaging both disabled and able-bodied children in physical theater, shadow puppetry and arts and crafts.

Cambodian Khmer Rouge trial still US$43.8m short: officials

THE STRAITS TIMES
June 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH - KHMER ROUGE tribunal officials said on Tuesday they were optimistic that those guilty of crimes against humanity would face trial in Cambodia despite a 43.8-million-dollar (S$59.9 million) funding shortfall.

Court officials met with international backers last week in New York and presented a budget that required at least 50.3 million dollars extra to continue their operations until December 2009.

So far, only Japan has come forward with significant new funds.

'We are quite optimistic that there will be contributions from donor countries,' Sean Visoth, director of administration for the court, told reporters.

If trials of the five Khmer Rouge officials currently detained go on longer than expected or if more people are prosecuted, court officials said the budget could swell to 105 million dollars, with cases running to December 2010.

'The money is not going to come easily. We have to work for the money,' said Knut Rosandhaug, deputy director of administration for the court.

Donors have appeared hesitant to give more cash to the court after allegations of mismanagement and political interference.

Japan agreed last week to donate nearly three million dollars and there are some outstanding original pledges, but court officials were seeking much more in a meeting with donors last Friday.
The tribunal, which opened in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodia, was originally budgeted at 56.3 million dollars over three years.

Once in operation, the tribunal significantly raised its cost estimates to more than 100 million dollars.

Court officials said they expect the trial of former Khmer Rouge jailer Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, to start in September.

The United Nations this year announced that an audit showed no financial mismanagement.

But last year, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative alleged that Cambodian tribunal staff, including judges, had bought their jobs.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-1979 rule. -- AFP

Elite group asks Unesco to delay temple discussion

(BangkokPost.com) - About 300 senators, academic and national artists Tuesday petitioned the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to postpone its consideration of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

According to appointed senator Priyanandana Rangsit, the group feels it is important enough that the UN should change plans and refuse to accept the request by Phnom Penh to name the ancient temple as a World Heritage Site during the Unesco meeting beginning in Canada next week.

She said that the plan should be proposed by both Thailand and Cambodia because of land disputes around the site.

Unesco in Bangkok accepted the letter and promised to forward it to Unesco officials later.

Court to hear Preah Vihear case on Thursday

(BangkokPost.com) - The Administrative Court agreed Tuesday to accept a case filed by People's Alliance for Democracy, which asked the court to nullify the cabinet's endorsement of Cambodia's map of Preah Vihear and a joint declaration to be presented to Unesco.

The court scheduled to hear the case on Thursday at 10am.

On June 14, the government approved the new map drawn by Cambodia, which defines the temple's boundary to be proposed to the World Heritage Committee during its meeting in Quebec starting on June 2, placing it inside Cambodia.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama also signed a joint statement with Cambodia Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, supporting the application, soon after Bangkok agreed to the map.

Thai protests force closure of Preah Vihear temple

Heng Chivoan; A military officer patrols the grounds of Preah Vihear June 15 during a celebration of the 46th anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling giving Cambodia sovereignty over the temple. Protests erupted June 22 outside the Thai entrance to the ruins, which sits just meters inside the Cambodia-Thai border, prompting Phnom Penh to close the ancient Hindu monument to tourists out of safety fears, the government said.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Cambodian officials have closed Preah Vihear temple, citing security concerns after protesters claiming that the 10th-century Hindu monument belongs to Thailand rallied near the ruins.

“The gate to Preah Vihear temple is temporarily closed for the safety of tourists because Thai demonstrators are standing ... in front of the gate,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Sisphan told the Post on June 24, a day after the border crossing at the temple was sealed.

“The closure is not a political decision,” he added. “There has been no change in the policy of the Cambodian and Thai governments, and no interference between them.”

Some two dozen Thai protesters remained on the Thai side of the border near the temple, said Ros Heng, chief of the Preah Vihear checkpoint, also on June 24, adding, "We closed the checkpoint because we saw the Thai people were coming and we were worried that ... people on both sides would clash."

The decision came as Deputy Prime Minister Sok An prepared to lead a delegation to Quebec, Canada, where he would push for Preah Vihear's inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Disputes over Preah Vihear have repeatedly prevented its World Heritage listing, with Thailand laying claim to the territory surrounding the mountain-top temple.

Cambodia announced earlier this month that it would seek to list only the temple, which was awarded to the Kingdom by the International Court of Justice in 1962, and a re-drawn map of the area was approved by the Thai government on June17.

But protests in Bangkok and the rally at the temple have further complicated the situation, with Thai demonstrators claiming that Cambodia was encroaching on Thai territory with its World Heritage Site application.

The Preah Vihear protests come against a backdrop of political unrest in Bangkok, where anti-government demonstrators have accused Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government of ceding territory to Cambodia with their support for the temple listing.

The Thais at the temple protest would continue “until we get our Kao Phra Viharn (Preah Vihear) back and expel Cambodians who have encroached on the Thai border,” the Bangkok Post quoted protest leader Saman Sri-ngam as saying, adding that protestors sang the Thai national anthem and patriotic songs during their rally.

“We just learned about the closure this morning, and we have not received official word from the Cambodian government,” said Teruo Jinnai, head of UNESCO Cambodia. “UNESCO is not an authority on border issues; we offer technical assistance for heritage issues.”

The Thai Embassy declined to comment on the situation.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will meet with Thai and Cambodian officials regarding the World Heritage site application from July 2-10.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni visits Vietnam

The Associated Press
Published: June 24, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni has arrived in Vietnam for a three-day visit to boost ties between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

Sihamoni was given a red-carpet welcome Tuesday by President Nguyen Minh Triet. The king's motorcade was greeted by several hundred Vietnamese waving Cambodian flags.

It was Sihamoni's second visit to Vietnam since he took over the throne in 2004, when his father retired.

Vietnamese troops occupied Cambodia for a decade after Hanoi invaded in 1979 to oust the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. In recent years, ties between the two governments have been close.

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry says Sihamoni will meet Wednesday with Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh and lay a wreath at the mausoleum of independence leader Ho Chi Minh.

Cambodia shut a border gate leading from Thailand to the 11th-century temple claimed by both nations

A Thai boy climbs up an entrance step of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 21, 2008. Cambodia shut a border gate leading from Thailand to the 11th-century temple claimed by both nations, an official said Tuesday, June 24, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai tourists visit the Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia near border with Thailand on June 21. Cambodia has closed its border with Thailand at the disputed Preah Vihear temple after a group of Thai protesters rallied near the ruins, an official said Tuesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thai tourists climb down at an entrance step of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 21, 2008. Cambodia shut a border gate leading from Thailand to the 11th-century temple claimed by both nations, an official said Tuesday, June 24, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai tourists visit Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 21, 2008. Cambodia shut a border gate leading from Thailand to the 11th-century temple claimed by both nations, an official said Tuesday, June 24, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Thai people did not shame at all while the court ruling in 1962 as PREAH VIHEAR is belong to Kingdom of Cambodia and the world also know that Preah Vihear is belong to Cambodia. Great that the government of Cambodia is close the gate so now what Thai will do?

Bravery award for daring river rescue


TheRecord.com
June 24, 2008
Kevin Swayze
RECORD STAFF

CAMBRIDGE

Jim Enright's years of keeping his first aid skills up to date pushed him to act when he learned two people were trapped at the bottom of a muddy river in Cambodia.

"It's the training to take action," the environmental worker said last night after receiving a Governor General's bravery award during a Cambridge city council meeting.

Enright, 49, was born and grew up in Cambridge. Since graduating from the University of Waterloo in 1982, he's been volunteering and working for non-governmental environmental agencies in Central America, India and Southeast Asia.

On Feb. 3, 2006, he was on his way to inspect a project in Cambodia to preserve mangrove trees along the coast.

When his car came around a rural corner, he saw a group of people on the side of a slow-moving, tidal river. They told Enright that two people were trapped in a car in the river. None of the bystanders was doing anything about it, however.

Enright dived in and found the vehicle in 2.5 metres of water. By feel, he pulled out a woman, who was then pulled to shore by his U.S. co-worker, Ben Brown. Enright went down again and found a man and dragged him to shore. By then, bystanders were holding the woman upside down by her ankles and shaking her, trying to revive her.

"They don't teach that in CPR," Enright said in an interview after Mayor Doug Craig gave him a certificate of commendation on behalf of the Governor General.

The woman regained consciousness as Enright prepared to start rescue breathing on her unconscious husband. The man vomited and coughed back to life before Enright got started.

The experience underlines the importance of learning first aid, Enright said. "I was at the right place at the right time. We don't know when that's going to happen to us."

Enright left the couple in the care of locals after 15 minutes and continued on his way.

Ten days later, he was handed a newspaper story about the rescued French couple, who were pleading for information about the men who saved them. A telephone call and many emails later, they met in October 2007.

"They say we gave them a second life."

The steamy jungles and rough back roads of Thailand and Cambodia are a long way from Margaret Street in Preston, where Enright grew up and played hockey on frozen ponds. His quest for travel and new cultural experiences "is an addiction," he said. The spark was a field trip to India in his last semester at university. He was soon applying through the federal government for overseas jobs with non-government organizations in Latin America, India and Southeast Asia. Today, he lives in Thailand and is co-ordinator for the Mangrove Action Project.

Mangrove trees live in brackish, slow-moving water along tropical coastlines. They're being removed to make way for shrimp-farming ponds, rice fields and palm oil production, which is used as a biofuel to replace gasoline.

"Mangroves are disappearing at a faster rate than tropical rainforests," said Enright, who is now visiting his mother in Cambridge.

Since mangroves act as natural buffers between the sea and coastal areas, their loss leaves huge areas at risk when tsunami waves hit or cyclones roar ashore. In recent years, people have tried replanting mangroves in devastated areas, but the trees tend to die because they're planted incorrectly.

In the last year, Enright's organization has offered training courses to help people let mangroves naturally regenerate.

"We're promoting working with nature instead of against nature," he said.

Day in pictures: King Sihamoni visiting Vietnam

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni poses for a photo in front of the statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)


Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet (R) and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni shake hands in front of the statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet (R) and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni pose for a photo in front of the statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni reviews the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni reviews the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet (L) and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni review the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi June 24, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Cambodian navy rescues two Thai, five Cambodian 'slaves'

The Earth Times
Tue, 24 Jun 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian navy rescued two Thai nationals and five Cambodians after they jumped from a fishing boat alleging they had been forced to work 24 hours a day with no pay since July, police said Tuesday. Sam Saroeun, the immigration chief of the port city of Sihanoukville, 240 kilometers from the capital, said the men claimed they would rather drown than be slaves any longer and jumped ship from the unidentified vessel Sunday.

"They saw land and they jumped," he said.

The five Cambodians came from various provinces, but police did not know what areas the Thais had originated from, Sarouen said.

"The Thais were escorted back to the Thai border so they could go home," he said by telephone. "All of the rescued men were very weak."

Cambodian authorities said they were investigating the incident, but warned Khmers that they made themselves vulnerable to abuse, kidnap and trafficking if they entered neighbouring countries illegally searching for work.

CAFOD Focuses on Empowerment of Women in Cambodia

Vatican Radio

(24 June 08 - RV) In Cambodia the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, and the aftermath of the war in neighbouring Vietnam, left the country facing massive human and economic need. But while tackling poverty in the Cambodian village of Prolet the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development or Cafod and its partners have decided to focus on the empowerment of women as a catalyst to development.

Thai PM faces critics in no-confidence debate

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej


Senators listen to Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej in Bangkok

A member of the People's Alliance for Democracy protests in front of the government house in Bangkok

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand's prime minister faces his critics in a no-confidence debate beginning Tuesday, as he defends his four-month-old government from claims of mismanagement and cronyism.

Samak Sundaravej took office after his People Power Party (PPP) comfortably won elections in December, ending more than a year of rule by royalist generals who overthrew premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

Samak had openly campaigned as an ally of Thaksin who would replicate his policies in rural areas, but his intimacy with the self-made tycoon despised by the elite and middle classes helped ignite the recent crisis.

The opposition Democrat Party claims Samak is running Thailand on behalf of Thaksin, who is banned from politics, while protesters camped outside Government House say he is suppressing corruption cases against his predecessor.

Democrat MPs also intend to grill Samak and seven cabinet ministers over their handling of the economy, a deal with Cambodia over a disputed temple, the transparency of procurement of buses for the capital, and other issues.

"We want only to do our job of investigating the government," Democrat Party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon told AFP.

"The investigation of a government's performance does not depend on how long they have been in office for. Once they show signs of corruption and inefficient work it's enough to lodge a no-confidence motion."

PPP spokesman Kudeb Saikrajang said Samak was confident going into the debate.

"He can answer any question because the government has done nothing wrong," Kudeb said. "This debate is an effort to link him with former premier Thaksin to destroy his reputation."

The debate will end with a no-confidence vote on Thursday, and Samak has vowed to step down if he loses.

This is a slim prospect, with Samak's six-party coalition dominating two-thirds of the 480-seat lower house, analysts say.

"The opposition doesn't have a large enough number of seats to make any difference, which reflects the fact they don't have the popular vote," said Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a politics professor at Chulalongkorn University.

Samak's toughest week yet began Monday with a debate before senators, nearly half of whom were appointed under the army-backed constitution.

The prime minister refuted charges that he was Thaksin's puppet, telling the Senate: "The members of our political parties may come from the same groups, but it's normal in Thai politics for people to change parties."

He also faces pressure from street protesters led by the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which brought 25,000 people to the gates of Samak's offices on Friday.

The PAD had led protests against Thaksin in the months before the coup, and its latest demonstrations have raised fears of a new coup, which has sent investors fleeing the Thai stock market.

Its rallies exert a strong influence because the leadership is seen as a reflection of the traditional power centres in the palace and the military.

Thaksin had antagonised Bangkok's elite with policies such as free healthcare that endeared him to Thailand's populous rural heartland.

Analysts say that even if Samak were somehow forced out of office, tensions would remain between the traditional elite and voters.

"Even if there is a house dissolution and a new election, the politics will resume the same road because the PPP will come back, a shadow of the Thaksin system, and the PAD will resume its action," said Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a political analyst at Thammasat University.

Cambodian primary schoolteacher accused of raping pupils

M&G Asia-Pacific News
Jun 24, 2008

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian primary schoolteacher was on the run after five of his 8-year-old students accused him of rape, local media reported Tuesday.

Up Sophy, 25, fled before police in the north-eastern province of Kratie could apprehend him, the Khmer-language Koh Santepheap newspaper said.

The grandmother of one of the victims filed a complaint after she noticed the girl was bleeding.
Four other children subsequently also reported serial abuse at the hands of their teacher.

'The first little girl told her parents she had been raped 12 times, and the second said she had been raped five times,' the paper quoted local police officer Chokk Pally as saying. 'These cases were the most serious.'

The two girls who allegedly suffered the most regular and brutal assaults were cousins, the paper said. The three others were also students in Sophy's primary school class.

If convicted, Sophy faces up to 20 years in prison.
Thai tourists visit the Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia near border with Thailand on June 21. Cambodia has closed its border with Thailand at the disputed Preah Vihear temple after a group of Thai protesters rallied near the ruins, an official said Tuesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)


Thai tourists walk at Preah Vihear temple near Thai border in Preah Vihear province, on June 21. Cambodia has closed its border to Thailand at the disputed Preah Vihear temple, after a group of Thai protesters rallied near the ruins, a senior official said on June 24.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia has closed its border with Thailand at the disputed Preah Vihear temple after a group of Thai protesters rallied near the ruins, an official said Tuesday.

Senior Minister Var Kimhong, chairman of the Cambodian government's border committee, told AFP the border crossing was closed Sunday evening when a group of Thai protesters rallied near the checkpoint.

"The reason is Thai protesters demonstrated near the gate to the temple and authorities feared that something could happen to visitors to Preah Vihear temple," Kimhong said, adding he did not know when the crossing would reopen.

The protesters rallied against a decision last week by Thailand's cabinet to allow Cambodia to apply for the Preah Vihear temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

The deal has sparked claims that Thailand would lose territory to Cambodia around the small but emotive site.

Thailand's foreign minister, Noppadon Pattama, who has been criticised for sealing the deal without seeking parliament's approval, told reporters in Bangkok that he was working to have the site reopened.

He insisted that he had done nothing wrong and said Thailand would consider listing the entrance to Preah Vihear on Thai soil as a separate World Heritage site.

"We cannot seek a joint World Heritage listing as Cambodia has already rejected that idea, so we would have to seek our own listing," he said.

Democrats were expected to grill Samak and Noppadon on the Preah Vihear issue Tuesday afternoon as part of a no-confidence debate against the government.

Cambodia last year attempted to have the ancient Hindu site, perched on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border, listed by the UN's cultural body UNESCO. But that effort failed, amid rumours Thailand had blocked the deal.

Cambodia began seeking World Heritage status for Preah Vihear nearly six years ago, but the temple has long plagued relations between the two countries.

Both countries have historically laid claim to the site, which sits on Cambodian soil but can only be easily accessed from Thailand.

Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk took Thailand to the World Court in 1962 over the two countries' claim to Preah Vihear. The court ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia.

A spat in 2003 over Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple -- the most significant symbol of the country's ancient Khmer empire -- sparked a night of riots in which Thailand's embassy and several Thai-owned businesses were burned and looted.

Foster mum reaps a rich reward

Singular example: Deb Archer wants more people to follow her example and become a foster carer. Picture: Wesley Lonergan
TheLeader.com.au
BY JIM GAINSFORD
24/06/2008

WOOLOOWARE foster carer Deborah Archer is literally one of a kind.

Ms Archer, 33, is the only foster carer in Sutherland Shire for Barnardos Adolescent Services which works with adolescents aged between 12 and 18.

A former modelling agent, Ms Archer decided to become a carer after visiting an orphanage in Cambodia.

She has been a full-time foster carer for three years to a girl who is now 15 and who she says has become a permanent part of her family.

``She is my foster daughter now whom I love very much,'' she said. ``When I first met her she did not smile a lot or communicate well. Now she is a bright, vivacious teenager.

``The reward has been to watch her grow and become a beautiful young woman.''

Barnardos Adolescent Services urgently needs more carers to provide safe and nurturing accommodation options for young people who cannot reside with their families.

Barnardos gets hundreds of adolescents a year referred to them from various agencies.

They are young people who are at risk of neglect and abuse and need a safe place to live. And there is a particular need for carers in Sutherland Shire.

Carers need to be over 25 and knowledgeable about how to look after children and adolescents.
They need to have a spare bedroom and have no other adolescents living in the home.

They can have full-time employment outside the home while being a carer. And they don't have to come from a nuclear family.

Ms Archer was single when she first became a foster carer. She is now engaged and said her foster daughter is a beautiful part of her new family.

``She is my family forever now,'' she said.

Barnardos needs several types of carers including long-term carers like Ms Archer, respite carers who can care for children once a month and short-term crisis carers. Barnardos pays a generous allowance and provides 24-hour support. It offers carer training and each young person has a case worker.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer can call Barnardos Adolescent Services on 9787 4440.

Sex workers want legislation changed

Theage.com.au
June 24, 2008

Sex workers have delivered a letter to the Cambodian embassy in Canberra calling for changes to anti-trafficking and sex work laws.

The Scarlet Alliance, representing Australia's sex workers, and the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, say a recent law change in Cambodia equates all sex work with trafficking.

That had led to closures of brothels and widespread human rights abuses against sex workers, they said.

The new laws had simply moved sex work underground, in an unsafe, unregulated environment, alliance president Elena Jeffreys told AAP.

"Hundreds of sex workers have also been arrested, detained, and have faced violence and sexual assault in detention.

"Sex workers who are HIV positive have been unable to access their medication, which is placing their lives at risk."

The Cambodian government overlooked the distinction between sex work and trafficking, Ms Jeffreys said.

"The outcome of the law has been to abolish the entire sex industry in Cambodia.

"It is unacceptable and it is a human rights abuse that trafficking hasn't been approached with a more sensitive and more sophisticated set of laws."

The entire HIV response in Cambodia had broken down as a result of the law change, Ms Jeffreys said.

The Cambodian government needed to repeal and review the anti-trafficking laws and decriminalise sex work.

"This would go a long way to both granting sex workers human rights, and preventing trafficking in Cambodia."

Truckers smuggle petrol to Cambodia

A smuggler uses a motorcycle to transport petrol through the border crossing in An Giang


24/06/2008

VietNamNet Bridge - Ten of thousands of liters of petrol is smuggled to Cambodia everyday from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang. The smugglers start work at the crack of dawn in the border town of Tinh Bien when trucks with Cambodian plates begin waiting to buy petrol.
A smuggler says that despite a recent price hike in Viet Nam, he can still make a big profit. For many, petrol smuggling is their only way to eke out an existence.

Selling oil generates more profit than does selling petrol. They earn VND70,000 (US$4.20) for a 30-liter can of oil.

Smugglers usually gather in Tan Khanh Hoa, Phu My, and Phu Loi communes. In this area, the frontier is the 30 meter-wide Giang Thanh River. Hundreds of cans can be smuggled across the river in an hour.

To cope with the border guards, law violators pay farmer to use rice fields as shortcuts. Some gas stations are so greedy they won’t sell during the day so that they have more to sell to smugglers at night. In the evening, smugglers line up in front of station for a chance to buy.

Some stations owners are willing to provide thousands liters of petrol to smugglers who will pay a higher price.

To curb speculation, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has sent its men to stations to check whether any station refuses to provide service on its own initiative while it still has adequate petrol in its storage tanks. Any station that violates this rule risks a suspension of its business license.

Although the illegal activity is disorganized, law enforcement has confiscated nearly 2,000 liters of petrol in a half month. Although smuggling has been discussed in the media for years, the authorities have not yet come up with any effective countermeasures.

(Source: SGGP)

Cambodian King leaves for Vietnam to pay a visit

www.chinaview.cn
2008-06-24

PHNOM PENH, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian King Norodom Sihamonileft here on Tuesday for Vietnam to pay a three-day visit there.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and other government officials saw the king off at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

At the invitation of Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, Sihamoni is paying a state visit to the neighboring country of Cambodia from June 24 to 26, according to a press release issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

This visit will certainly contribute to strengthening the bond of friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam, the press release said.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Temple locked

Thai tourists visit the Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia near border with Thailand on June 21. Cambodia has closed its border with Thailand at the disputed Preah Vihear temple after a group of Thai protesters rallied near the ruins, an official said Tuesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)
The Bangkok Post

By Post Reporters

Cambodia closed the Preah Vihear ruins on Monday amid worries Thai protests over Phnom Penh's plan to propose the ancient temple for World Heritage listing will spill across the border - after it spilled into parliament and the courts.

The issue was a major point raised during yesterday's general debate by senators who attacked Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government for supporting the Cambodian move.

Outside the parliament, opponents plan to ask the Administrative Court today to nullify the cabinet's endorsement of Cambodia's map of Preah Vihear and a joint declaration to be presented to Unesco.

Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn will lead protestors to petition the court.

M.R. Priyanandana Rangsit, deputy chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, will also hand a protest letter to the office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Bangkok. The letter signed by 300 elite and socially recognised people calls on the UN agency not to accept the temple as a World Heritage site.

The government on June 17 approved the new map drawn by Cambodia, which defines the temple's boundary to be proposed to the World Heritage Committee during its meeting in Quebec starting on June 2, placing it inside Cambodia.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama also signed a joint statement with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, supporting the application, soon after Bangkok agreed to the map.

The closure of the temple came after Cambodian officials held talks to assess the situation.

About 200 Thai protesters gathered near the temple yesterday. Many of them had completed a 110-km walk protesting against Phnom Penh's move. The group began the "Dharma Walk" in Muang Si Sa Ket and arrived in Kantharalak district, which adjoins the temple, on Sunday.

Their demonstration near Preah Vihear added to the worries of Cambodian officials, who in recent weeks have seen growing protests in Thailand against the listing of the temple.

Cambodian officials said the temple, known as Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, will reopen to tourists when the protest rally ends.

Protest leader Saman Sri-ngam warned the protest would continue "until we get our Khao Phra Viharn back and expel Cambodian villagers who have encroached on the Thai border."

They sang the Thai national anthem and a patriotic song Rao Su (We Will Fight) during their rally. Some yelled at Cambodian villagers, demanding they leave the Thai border.

A group of monks, led by Phra Maha Boontueng, also joined the rally. They offered prayers in support of the protesters.

A Thai military source said the army had been informed of the closure of Preah Vihear, but had not contacted Phnom Penh on the issue.

The source said some officers agreed with the protest over the encroachment by Cambodians who built shops and other structures.

"The villagers well know that the area belongs to Thailand, but past governments have done nothing about it," the source said.

In the Senate debate, Phetchaburi Senator Sumol Sutawiriyawat roundly criticised the government over its handling of the Preah Vihear issue, including the failure to jointly propose the listing of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site with Cambodia.

In his defence, Mr Samak insisted Thailand will not lose any territory to Cambodia by approving the Cambodian map and the joint statement.

He stressed the temple is inside Cambodia, as a result of the International Court of Justice's ruling in 1962, and criticised those trying to stir up people to try and reclaim it.

Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda has reacted to the Preah Vihear issue in a short reply to a letter sent to him on Thursday calling on the government and civic groups to help protect Thai territory. It was handed to him by chief adviser to the Supreme Command Gen Pathompong Kesornsuk.

The letter said approval of the new map of Preah Vihear would lead to legal complications when Thailand and Cambodia hold talks on the overlapping areas along their border in the future.

In his reply on June 21 Gen Prem replied the move "is a way to return a favour to the nation".

The temple of gloom

By News Desk
The Nation
Publication Date: 24-06-2008

Thailand's "active support" for the proposed inscription of Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site is strongly highlighted in both words and pictures in Cambodia's main application document to Unesco.

The document, a copy of which was received yesterday by The Nation, features photos of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama engaged in bilateral activities proclaimed to be progress towards reconciliation after decades of territorial dispute.

Disclosure of the document is likely to inflame the ongoing controversy, in which the besieged Samak government is accused of bypassing Parliament and the public alike in making crucial moves that carry possible effects on national sovereignty.

The document's key sections include Cambodia's insistence that the temple is under its sovereignty, the temple's cultural and historical value, international support for the temple's inscription and Thailand's virtual support for the nomination.

Whereas the controversy has centred on a joint communique between Thailand and Cambodia signed by Noppadon, the application document is likely to galvanise critics accusing the Samak government of either being naive and exploited by Phnom Penh or conspiring with the neighbouring government in exchange for political vested interests.

While critics have said the joint communique would put Thailand at a legal disadvantage if new territorial disputes arose in the area, the application document to Unesco could be perceived by some as a diplomatic embarrassment for Bangkok.

The Unesco document devotes considerable space to Cambodia's legal victory over Thailand in the International Court of Justice, detailing the court's rulings on why the contentious temple belongs to Cambodia. Then, only a few pages apart, the document goes on to highlight Thailand's "active support" for inscription.

Samak, whose photo taken during a visit to Phnom Penh in March was played up in the document, was cited as "confirming" Thailand's intention to support the inscription, as was Noppadon, whose photo was also given prominence in the document.

The Preah Vihear controversy will place the Samak government under fire in Parliament today, as the opposition Democrats are set to grill the decision virtually to give up Thailand's long-lasting sovereignty claims, which persisted even after the world court's ruling.

Key points in today's debate will likely include questions on whether the Samak government violated the Constitution in supporting the World Heritage-site push without consulting Parliament and whether it instead should have, for the inscription's sake, proposed a joint effort in which Thailand and Cambodia approached Unesco on more equal grounds.

Cambodia tribunal faces cash crisis

Up to two million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge's rule in the late 1970s [AFP]

Al Jazeera
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The special tribunal set up to try former members of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge government is due to announce a new budget it hopes will see it through a financial crisis.

The United Nations-backed tribunal is preparing to bring to trial five former Khmer Rouge leaders, but those trials will not go ahead unless more cash is found.

The original budget was $56m spread over three years.

But costs have ballooned – in part due to the sheer volume of pre-trial hearings, presided over by a team of five judges.

Up to two million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge rule over Cambodia in the late 1970s, but none of the group's leaders has ever been brought to trial.

Five former top officials are being held awaiting trial before the special tribunal, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They include:

Nuon Chea, the group's deputy leader and so-called 'Brother Number Two' to supreme leader, Pol Pot.

Khieu Samphan, who was the Khmer Rouge head of state.

Ieng Sary, the regime's foreign minister.

Ieng Thirith, wife of Ieng Sary who served as the regime's social affairs minister.

Kaing Khek Eav, also known as Duch, the former head of the notorious Tuol Sleng interrogation centre and head of the regime's secret police.

The Khmer Rouge's former supreme leader, Pol Pot, known as 'Brother Number One', died in his jungle hideout in 1998.

Tribunal officials expect the trial process to last at least until 2011.

However, critics say the advanced ages and frail health of all the accused means that, even if the trials do eventually go ahead, any sentences handed down are likely to be little more than symbolic.

Territorial disputes resolved, Cambodia makes case for Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Hor Hab
Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Following a breakthrough with Thai authorities over disputed territory, a 19-member Cambodian delegation will leave for Canada later this month to secure World Heritage Site status for the 11th century Hindu monument of Preah Vihear.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is also president of the Cambodian national commission to UNESCO, will lead the delegation to a meeting of the agency's World Heritage Committee in Quebec from July 2 to 10, said Secretary of State for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Uch Phoeurn.

The national commission's secretary-general, Tan Theany, and the president of the Preah Vihear National Authority, Ty Yoa, will also attend the meeting, Phoeurn told the Post on June 16.

Preah Vihear, which sits at the summit of an escarpment in the Dangrek mountains, is only one of 10 Cambodian sites nominated for World Heritage listing to be considered at the meeting, Phoeurn said. All were nominated in 1992, when Angkor Wat was listed as a world heritage site.

"I strongly hope that Preah Vihear will be listed," Khmer Civilization Support Foundation chairman Moeung Sonn said at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on June 15 to mark the 46th anniversary of the International Court of Justice's ruling that the temple was owned by Cambodia rather than Thailand.

Thailand had disputed some 4.6 square kilometers of land surrounding the temple, delaying its UNESCO listing. But Cambodia agreed last month to include only the temple in its proposal – a move that Thai authorities have said should pave the way for its acceptance this year.

"It is the first time in Cambodia that the KCSF has celebrated the anniversary," Sonn said at the ceremony, attended by hundreds of people in a park opposite Phnom Penh's Wat Botom.

The event included a photographic exhibition of Preah Vihear temple and information about the ICJ's 1962 ruling in favor of Cambodia.

An appeal for donations during a live screening of the event on CTN raised $24,047, said television presenter Soy Sopheap.

About $14,000 would go toward the cost of the all-day ceremony and the balance would be used for maintaining security at Preah Vihear, Sopheap said.

Meanwhile, an opposition politician has called on the government to release the updated map of the Preah Vihear site that was included in Cambodia's proposal for world heritage listing.S

am Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay, the chair of the National Assembly commission for foreign affairs, international cooperation, information and media, said a request to see the map had been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 13.

"We will wait one week and if there is no result we will take action based on the law," Chhay told the Post on June 16.

He said the ministry had an obligation to provide a copy of the map to the National Assembly because it needed to provide advice to the government about Preah Vihear temple.

"They insult the National Assembly because they conceal information," Chhay said.

Attempts to seek a reaction from Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 16 were not successful.

NZer appeals Cambodian sentence

NewsTalk ZB
24/06/2008

A New Zealand man is appealing his 10-year sentence for sexually abusing Cambodian boys.
Malcolm Hatfield was convicted of debauchery in 2004 after being convicted of molesting four boys aged 12 to 14. He claims the evidence against him was fabricated by child welfare organisations.

The 62-year-old hid his face behind a plastic bag from reporters as he emerged from a two-hour closed-door hearing at Phnom Penh Appeals Court.

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes since 2003.

No applause for Noppadon

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 24, 2008

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama's favourite song:
There's a hero,
If you look inside your heart,
You don't be afraid of what you are.
(Hero by Mariah Carey.)
His opponents' favourite song:
Every breath you take,
Every move you make,
Every step you take,
I'll be watching you.
(Every Breath You Take by the Police.)

It makes sense why Mr Noppadon and his opponents are singing two different tunes. The minister is humming Mariah Carey's song by himself and wondering why nobody is joining him as a chorus.

Time and again the minister has told the public that he should get credit for the Preah Vihear issue.
That's because he, and of course his working staff, have saved Thailand from losing border territory to Cambodia by successfully convincing Phnom Penh to write a new map on the exact boundary of the Hindu temple ruins by excluding the disputed area of 4.6 square kilometres between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

The new map will be used as part of a proposal to talk the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation into announcing the temple as another World Heritage site.

He is right.

But instead, what he has received is criticism because people suspect a trade-off with Cambodia to benefit former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's future business in the neighbouring country.
People's Alliance for Democracy coordinator Suriyasai Katasila even claimed that the Preah Vihear issue had roused people he'd never known before into joining the PAD rally last Friday, because they were upset about the way the FM had handled this issue.

Mr Noppadon is qualified to sit at the top in the Foreign Ministry, given his educational background. What he is missing is credibility. Even PM Samak Sundaravej said on Sunday that people might not trust what his minister says.

His having worked as a mouthpiece for Mr Thaksin when the former telecoms tycoon was deposed by the armed forces in September 2006, has made people question everything he does now. The lawyer-turned-politician was picked specifically to run the ministry after the People Power party backed by Mr Thaksin came first in the general election last year. Soon after taking office, the minister scored badly by returning the red passport seized after the coup, to Mr Thaksin.

As a former government leader, Mr Thaksin is eligible to carry that prestigious travel document which gives him better access to other countries. But whether it was appropriate to give his former boss the passport while the latter was still fighting court cases against allegations of corruption, is still open to question.

Then came the controversy over the transfer of then director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, Virachai Plasai, to sit by the window last month. The senior ministry official was responsible for translating the documents related to the CTX airport bomb scanner case for the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC).

Thus the transfer order by the minister could not be seen as anything but a move with political motives, although Mr Noppadon strongly denied the connection.

Those two issues were enough to underline suspicion among his opponents outside the ministry that Mr Noppadon was ordered to run the country's foreign affairs with particular mission in mind.

The punishment meted out to Mr Virachai has also isolated Mr Noppadon from many officials within the ministry. But they are keeping their unhappiness to themselves.

It's not difficult to imagine what the mood at the ministry is like when the politician and top civil servants look at things from different directions.

Though the minister has tried to redeem his image by embarking on overseas trips to promote the country, bringing along with him TV crews, he is struggling to overcome suspicions from those closely watching him from the outside.

Thus, when it comes down to crucial issues, like the Preah Vihear temple, nobody trusts what he says. Something from his past continues to haunt him.

Saritdet Marukatat is News Editor, Bangkok Post.

The Last Frontier


FINS BLOG

When you think of muck diving destinations, Sihanoukville, Cambodia probably doesn’t jump to mind.

But according to an email we received from FiNS readers who recently visited and dived the area, there are many undiscovered reefs and and abundance of marine life just a couple of hours offshore.

During an an 80-minute dive at a site called the Corral, they saw: nine Hippocampus kuda seahorses, including two beautiful juveniles; Chaetoderma penicilligera (leafy or weedy filefish); ocellated (spotted) octopuses (which seemed to be in every other clam shell); a pipefish that looked like Acentronura gracilissima (graceful or bastard seahorse); Cephaloscyllium umbratile (30cm juvenile balloon or swell shark, often found in Japan but uncommon in the Indochina Sea); sting rays; dragonets; and a number of nudibranchs: Bornella stellifer, Pteraeolidia ianthina, Thecacera pennigera, and various Chromodoris.

They dived with the Dive Shop, located on the road to Serendipity Beach, right next to the well-known the Monkey Republic Bar, Restaurant and Guesthouse. The Dive Shop’s guides, Bora, Shina and Paul, were on hand to help them spot all the little critters.

If you’re interested in looking further into diving Cambodia, here’s some general information that the divers passed along to us: “Accommodation ranges from 8-15 USD, food costs 2-3 USD per meal (try the Cambodian Lok Lak, it’s tasty!), and Anchor Beer costs 1 USD per bottle in the bar (0.75 cents at happy hour). A day trip for diving runs about 50 USD for two dives. And lastly, there’s plenty to do in the beach town when you’re not diving…cool beach bars, wooden huts with hammocks, music clubs, and even a couple of casinos to keep anyone entertain.”If anyone else heads over there, drop us an email and let us know more.

Where do you draw the line?

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 24, 2008

Demarcation of the Thai-Cambodian border remains a sensitive issue,

write Piyaporn Wongruang and Thanida Tansubhapol

Although Thailand and Cambodia have worked to demarcate their boundaries for more than 100 years, they still have overlapping areas. For example, the disputed maritime area in the Gulf of Thailand alone covers about 26,000 square kilometres.

The latest problem involves the Preah Vihear temple, on the border between Si Sa Ket province in Thailand and Preah Vihear province in Cambodia.

In Cambodia, the affair has been linked to the country's election next month, as securing World Heritage status for the site could boost the government's popularity with voters.

In Thailand, the issue is being stoked by nationalism stirred up by current political conflicts in Thailand.

The dispute has been taken up by the People's Alliance for Democracy as part of its campaign to remove the government from office.

Attempts to define the border between Thailand and Cambodia began when France, which controlled the Indochina region of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, sought to map the area.

According to a report by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled on the dispute over Preah Vihear in 1962, France and Thailand entered an agreement to determine the border for the first time in 1904.

They decided to use the watershed to define the border and, three years later, the two countries signed a boundary delineation agreement. Finally, a series of 11 maps defining most of the border was completed.

But these efforts have periodically triggered arguments, with Preah Vihear being a major site of contention. According to the same ICJ report, the original map did not conform to the watershed line.

The map had marked Cambodia's boundary behind the promontory where Preah Vihear sits.

The court said the map was acknowledged by Thailand without any veto and was in use for several years before Cambodia eventually took the case to the court. That led to the ICJ ruling in favour of Cambodia on the sovereignty of the temple in 1962.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minster Sok An signed a joint statement on June 18 to allow Cambodia to apply for World Heritage status for the temple from Unesco. Given the border dispute, both countries must support a World Heritage bid.

There were reports that Cambodia had attempted to register the temple as a World Heritage site without Thailand's approval in 1991, but a Foreign Ministry source insisted that the first attempt was made in 2006. At that time, the boundary included the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area which had not been demarcated.

Cambodia proposed it to the World Heritage Committee in 2006, but Thailand did not support the bid.

''Thailand categorically rejected it because the Cambodian side had used the old map [drawn in 1904 by France] which claimed the 4.6-square-kilometre area as part of its territory,'' the ministry source said.

Finally, Cambodia drew a new map excluding the area which has not been demarcated and this has been accepted by the Thai government.

But historian M.L. Walwipha Charoonroj, of Thammasat University's Thai Khadi Research Institute, said this agreement will not put an end to the issue.

''Thailand and Cambodia should work together to determine where the boundary line lies. This cannot be done by an administrative agency alone, as any such decision will be made with its nation's interests at heart,'' she said.

A high-level source working on the issue is concerned about the negative impact of the map on the temple.

As the temple is now being proposed separately from its surroundings, this devalues the site in archaeological terms, the source said.

But for the Foreign Ministry, the new map is seen as the best solution, as it covers only the temple, and not the overlapping zone. It means that Thailand does not lose any of its territory, the ministry said.

The demarcation in the new map also conforms to a Thai cabinet resolution in 1962 which ruled the watershed lines are the border line under international law, it added

Cambodia closes Preah Vihear

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 24, 2008

Fears Thai protests will spill over the border

POST REPORTERS

Cambodia closed the Preah Vihear ruins yesterday amid worries Thai protests over Phnom Penh's plan to propose the ancient temple for World Heritage listing will spill across the border.
The issue was a major point raised during yesterday's general debate by senators who attacked Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government for supporting the Cambodian move.
Outside the parliament, opponents plan to ask the Administrative Court today to nullify the cabinet's endorsement of Cambodia's map of Preah Vihear and a joint declaration to be presented to Unesco.

Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn will lead protestors to petition the court.

M.R. Priyanandana Rangsit, deputy chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, will also hand a protest letter to the office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Bangkok. The letter signed by 300 elite and socially recognised people calls on the UN agency not to accept the temple as a World Heritage site.

The government on June 17 approved the new map drawn by Cambodia, which defines the temple's boundary to be proposed to the World Heritage Committee during its meeting in Quebec starting on June 2, placing it inside Cambodia.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama also signed a joint statement with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, supporting the application, soon after Bangkok agreed to the map.
The closure of the temple came after Cambodian officials held talks to assess the situation.

About 200 Thai protesters gathered near the temple yesterday. Many of them had completed a 110-km walk protesting against Phnom Penh's move. The group began the ''Dharma Walk'' in Muang Si Sa Ket and arrived in Kantharalak district, which adjoins the temple, on Sunday.

Their demonstration near Preah Vihear added to the worries of Cambodian officials, who in recent weeks have seen growing protests in Thailand against the listing of the temple.

Cambodian officials said the temple, known as Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, will reopen to tourists when the protest rally ends.

Protest leader Saman Sri-ngam warned the protest would continue ''until we get our Khao Phra Viharn back and expel Cambodian villagers who have encroached on the Thai border.''

They sang the Thai national anthem and a patriotic song Rao Su (We Will Fight) during their rally. Some yelled at Cambodian villagers, demanding they leave the Thai border.

A group of monks, led by Phra Maha Boontueng, also joined the rally. They offered prayers in support of the protesters.

A Thai military source said the army had been informed of the closure of Preah Vihear, but had not contacted Phnom Penh on the issue.

The source said some officers agreed with the protest over the encroachment by Cambodians who built shops and other structures.

''The villagers well know that the area belongs to Thailand, but past governments have done nothing about it,'' the source said.

In the Senate debate, Phetchaburi Senator Sumol Sutawiriyawat roundly criticised the government over its handling of the Preah Vihear issue, including the failure to jointly propose the listing of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site with Cambodia.

In his defence, Mr Samak insisted Thailand will not lose any territory to Cambodia by approving the Cambodian map and the joint statement.

He stressed the temple is inside Cambodia, as a result of the International Court of Justice's ruling in 1962, and criticised those trying to stir up people to try and reclaim it.

Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda has reacted to the Preah Vihear issue in a short reply to a letter sent to him on Thursday calling on the government and civic groups to help protect Thai territory. It was handed to him by chief adviser to the Supreme Command Gen Pathompong Kesornsuk.

The letter said approval of the new map of Preah Vihear would lead to legal complications when Thailand and Cambodia hold talks on the overlapping areas along their border in the future.
In his reply on June 21 Gen Prem replied the move ''is a way to return a favour to the nation''.

Puea Pandin may pull out of govt overtemple issue

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 24, 2008

Proper explanation is needed, says the party

The Puea Pandin party may pull out of the coalition government if the People Power party (PPP) fails during the censure debate today to explain its speedy support of Cambodia's attempt to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site. A source in Puea Pandin said party executives and MPs held a meeting yesterday and party chairman Vatana Asavahame ordered the party to pull out if the PPP could not defend its actions on Preah Vihear because it was an important issue for the nation.

''Ministers of the [Puea Pandin] party admitted to the meeting that there were attempts to rush the issue through the cabinet while no one else was aware of the information and facts concerned.

''The foreign minister claimed it was classified even though it obviously concerns national sovereignty and security under article 190 of the constitution,'' said the source.

The article requires the government to organise public hearings and seek parliamentary approval before signing any international agreements that may affect national sovereignty.

However, last week Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama won cabinet approval to support Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a World heritage site. This came after the armed forces agreed to the new map proposed by Cambodia.

Mr Noppadon categorised the agreement to support the Cambodian side as a joint communique, not an international treaty which requires parliamentary endorsement.

Still, critics note the agreement will revoke Thailand's right to reclaim the ancient temple if new evidence comes to light after the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Cambodia's ownership of the temple in 1962.

Puea Pandin spokesman Chaiyos Jiramethakorn admitted yesterday that the issue concerned his party.

So far, the details of the agreement have not been publicised, although the issue concerns national sovereignty which MPs must join forces and do their best to protect, he said.

''All politicians should prioritise issues that concern national sovereignty. The Puea Pandin party MPs will listen to the government's explanation before making a decision,'' he said, referring to the vote by Puea Pandin MPs after the debate.

Puea Pandin has 24 votes in the House, while the six-party coalition has a total of 316 votes.
The Democrats, the sole opposition party, have 164.

The debate is scheduled to be held from this afternoon until tomorrow.

Banharn Silpa-archa, leader of the coalition Chart Thai party, confirmed yesterday that his party would remain in the coalition with the PPP and stay in the national administration.
Mr Banharn ruled out the possibility of the five other coalition parties defecting to the Democrats to form a new government.

He told reporters that Chart Thai, Puea Pandin, Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, Pracharaj, Matchimathipataya and the Democrats would have a total of only 244 votes, only four more than half the total number of seats in the House of 480, which would not be enough to form a strong government.

With this number of votes, there would be a risk of factions rebelling, said Mr Banharn.

PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang pointed out yesterday that the Democrats were grilling only PPP ministers and it hoped that the five other coalition partners would defect to it. He said the Democrats would be disappointed.

Democrat spokesman Ong-art Klampaibul said yesterday that the censure debate would at least prompt a cabinet reshuffle and possibly radical change.

The Preah Vihear temple, the economic doldrums and the leasing plan for 6,000 new air-conditioned public buses, which has been approved by the cabinet, are among the crucial issues up for debate.

The Democrats will grill Mr Samak, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan, Mr Noppadon, Transport Minister Santi Prompat, Deputy Transport Minister Songsak Thongsri, Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat and Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung

Cambodia's response to inflation: stop releasing figures

BusinessWeek

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on June 23

With Asian governments from Beijing to Manila to Delhi trying to tame the inflationary beast, the Cambodians have come up with a rathern unusual solution of their own. According to the Phnom Penh Post the economic mandarins in Phnom Penh have decided to cease publication of inflation figures to avert the possibility of “disorder and turmoil.” The most recent figures for January showed the CPI was up 18%.

In neighboring Vietnam, where April figures showed inflation raging at 25%, the government is moving towards more, not less disclosure. Hanoi has finally realized that a lack of transparency only fuels speculative behavior and panic. In the face of widening concern about the central bank’s ability to prevent a currency crisis, Hanoi for the first time last week released quarterly data on the balance of payments. That has helped the black market rate drop from over 19000 dong to about 17500 to the dollar now. The official rate is about 16620.

Both the National Assembly and the Senate of Cambodia Consider how to Implement the Legislature Assistance Project Supported by the United Nations

Both the National Assembly and the Senate of Cambodia Consider how to Implement the Legislature Assistance Project Supported by the United Nations Development Program

Posted on 23 June 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 566

“Phnom Penh: The Permanent Committees of the National Assembly and the Senate, and the Board of the Council of the Legislature Assistance Project supported by the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] held a meeting on 20 June 2008 at the Senate to consider the monitoring of the implementation of the Legislature Assistance Project supported by UNDP.

“Samdech Sisowath Chivanmonirak, the First Vice-Chairperson of the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said that now, the Cambodian Senate starts to implement a three-year Legislature Assistance Project (2008 to 2010), which had been agreed upon officially by the Cambodian National Assembly and UNDP on 15 June 2007.

“He said that the Legislature Assistance Project was designed to support the strengthening and the increase of the capacity of nine departments in order to implement their duties more effectively: representation, legislation, and oversight. This project also focuses on strengthening the capacity of the General Secretariats of both parliaments to be able to provide their services more effectively to the members of the two parliamentary bodies.

“Mr. Um Sarith, the Secretary-General of the Senate and the Deputy Secretary-General of the Technical Coordinating Secretariat, said that for the Legislature Assistance Project, both parliaments have mutually agreed to create a Technical Coordinating Secretariat to coordinate the work between the project development partners and the legislative institutions. This secretariat has begun its activities already since January 2008, based on a joint decision of the National Assembly and the Senate, numbered 017 P.R, dated 22 January 2008, and the secretariat is located at the National Assembly.

“Also Mr. Leng Peng Long, the Secretary-General of the National Assembly and the Head of the Technical Coordinating Secretariat, presented an action plan that will be implemented from July to December 2008.

“Mr. Leng Peng Long presented the action plan of the Legislature Assistance Project supported by UNDP for the implementation in the second quarter of 2008, in which he stressed two potential goals which are planed to be implemented: 1. Strengthening and broadening expert committees to fulfill relevant work more efficiently (in drafting laws and in monitoring law enforcement, and the position of representatives), 2. Strengthening the Capacity of officials of the General Secretariats of the parliaments to provide effective services to the parliaments, as well as to develop the Technical Coordinating Program.

“Mr. Nguon Nhel, the First Deputy President of the National Assembly, stated that the National Assembly of Cambodia totally supports the strategic framework of the program and finds that this strategic framework requires support in the technical sector from potential development partners, targeting to promote the capability of drafting legislation, the monitoring of law enforcement by legislative institutions, and also of monitoring the position of representatives, as well as promoting the capability of officials of both General Secretariats through training.”
Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4622, 22-23.6.2008

For Children, Brick-Painting Funds Hope

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 22 June (1.95 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 22 June (1.95 MB) - Listen (MP3)

On a small 1 centimeter by 2 centimeter brick, Chea Veav painted a picture of himself and his mother walking on a small road surrounded by green rice fields and a mountain. For the 10-year-old boy, the painting was an unrealized fantasy, an imaginary trip with a mother who abandoned him two years ago, following the death of his father.

Chea Veav now lives with his grandmother in a Phnom Penh slum, dependant on the collection of morning glory from the riverbank for survival.

But Chea Veav's art and the painted bricks of other children are helping raise money and awareness and acting as therapy for the children, helping them overcome traumas of the past and imagine a better future.

"I feel hurt that I can't live with my mother, but drawing pictures makes me happy," a skinny Chea Veav said, in tears.

About 70 more children have joined in the brick painting, all of them between the ages of 8 and 20, and most of them orphans that live in the capital's poorest communities. Provided sponsorship by Mith Samlan, or Friends, organization, the children spend three hours each morning drawing pictures on their bricks.

Individual sponsors can then pay to "purchase" the bricks, though these are in fact kept by the children. More than 1,000 bricks decorated with schools, flowers, forests, rice fields and cityscapes were used to build a wall at Friends' Phnom Penh center. Proceeds have gone toward payments for the center.

"On a brick, children can draw what happened to them in the past, what they dream in the future, and provide children with creative ideas," said Sem Ratana, cultural programmer for Friends.

Chea Veav said his brick drawing was a representation of a future hope.

"I draw people going to the mountain, representing my mom and I visiting Tamao mountain," he said. "If my mom comes back, I can go to the mountain."