Thursday, 17 July 2008

Troop build-up at hill-top temple

About 1,200 troops are now stationed near Preah Vihear temple

BBC News
Thursday, 17 July 2008

Cambodia and Thailand moved more troops into an ancient border temple, as a stand-off triggered by a territorial dispute entered its third day.

Four hundred Thai troops and 800 Cambodian soldiers are now stationed at Preah Vihear temple, a Cambodian military chief said.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen urged his Thai counterpart, Samak Sundaravej, to withdraw his troops in a letter.

The two sides have agreed to hold talks on the issue early next week.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962, but areas around it remain the subject of rival territorial claims.

Two weeks ago Unesco listed the temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site, reigniting nationalist tensions, particularly in Thailand.

Opposition forces there have been using the issue to attack the government - which initially backed the heritage listing.

'Very bad for relations'

Military leaders from both sides say troops have been ordered not to use force unless attacked.

Government officials, meanwhile, have confirmed that defence ministers from the two countries will discuss the dispute on Monday.

In a letter to the Thai prime minister, Hun Sen called for the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops and protesters from the area.

He said the row was "very bad for relations between our two countries", reported Reuters news agency.

The stand-off began on Tuesday, when Cambodian guards arrested three Thai protesters.
Thai troops then began crossing the border, Cambodia said. Thai military officials say their troops are deployed in Thai territory.

Fearful local residents are reported to have vacated the site.

So far, however, the only casualty of the stand-off is a Thai soldier injured by a landmine - probably left over from when the Khmer Rouge occupied the site.

And in a sign of divisions within Thailand over the issue, several hundred local villagers blocked a group of protesters from marching to the temple on Thursday morning.

A villager gestures at a convoy of anti-government protesters heading to the 900-year-old Hindu temple, in Kantaralak district

17 Jul 2008
Source: Reuters

A villager gestures at a convoy of anti-government protesters heading to the disputed 900-year-old Hindu temple, in Kantaralak district, 600 km northeast of Bangkok July 17, 2008. Thai police and angry villagers blocked nationalist protesters on Thursday from rallying at an ancient temple at the centre of a diplomatic row with neighbouring Cambodia. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND) REUTERS/SUKREE SUKPLANG

Cambodia PM says Thai border row getting worse

PM Hun Sen
By Ek Madra
Reuters
Published: July 17, 2008

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday a border row with Thailand was "worsening" and he urged the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops from a disputed ancient temple.

In a letter to Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, Hun Sen said the stand-off at the Preah Vihear temple was "very bad" for relations, but he still hoped to "resolve the problem through negotiations."

"The situation is worsening due to a continuing increase in the numbers of Thai military" and the presence of Thai protesters, Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who faces a general election next week, said.

A political uproar in Thailand over Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site has been stoked by groups seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's shaky ruling coalition.

It has raised fears the border spat could escalate, five years after a dispute over another Cambodian temple, Angkor Wat, saw a nationalist mob torch the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Several hundred Thai nationalists were blocked from protesting at the temple on Thursday by Thai police and local villagers angry at the loss of cross-border trade.

"Go home, go home, you troublemakers!," one woman shouted at members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is leading a nearly 2-month old street campaign against Samak, whom they accuse of being a proxy for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ousted in a 2006 coup.

TEMPLE TANTRUMS

The 900-year-old temple has been a source of tension for decades since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, a ruling that still rankles Thais.

The latest flare-up -- which has seen a buildup of troops on both sides of the border -- was sparked by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO listing, which the PAD said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama quit last week after a Thai court ruled the joint communique he signed backing Preah Vihear's listing was illegal because it was an international treaty that required parliament's approval.

The case has left Thai diplomacy in limbo, with Samak saying this week his cabinet ministers were afraid to sign any statements after a bilateral meeting.

The PAD seized on the court ruling, vowing to go after the rest of Samak's cabinet and step up a street campaign that has worried investors. The main stock index has dropped 23 percent since the protests began on May 25.

"Political temperatures will rise inexorably, and Thailand will become increasingly ungovernable, in the interim," Chulaongkorn University professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak wrote.

Thailand and Cambodia have accused each other of border violations and sent more troops since the stand-off began on Tuesday when three Thai activists were briefly detained on the Cambodian side for trying to plant a Thai flag there.

Despite the aggressive rhetoric from both sides, diplomatic efforts also appear to be underway to end the stand-off.

A joint border committee, set up years ago to resolve disputes between the fractious southeast Asian nations, will meet on Monday "so that both sides can discuss issues together in a spirit of neighbourliness," the Thai Foreign Ministry said.

Hun Sen's diplomatic juggling act

Asia Times Online
Jul 18, 2008

By Geoffrey Cain

PHNOM PENH - More than any other Southeast Asian country, Cambodia finds itself caught in the middle of competing United States and Chinese diplomatic overtures. With Washington offering bilateral strategic initiatives and Beijing rich financial assistance, Prime Minister Hun Sen has deftly balanced the country's diplomacy between the two superpowers to his government's political advantage.

In 2006, the US opened a massive new embassy in Phnom Penh, underscoring Washington's new diplomatic commitment to the country. The facility includes office space for fighting global terrorism, including a large US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) presence and a new joint National Counterterrorism Committee, established in 2007.

FBI director Robert Mueller pointed to the fact that Jemaah Islamiyah operative Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, had taken refuge in a Cambodian Muslim school before his capture in Thailand in 2003 as one reason for setting up the new counterterrorism agency. US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli chimed in that unnamed radical Muslim groups were bidding to impose with funding a stricter interpretation of Islam on the local Muslim Cham community.

China, on the other hand, has deployed commercial resources to win influence. Since 2005, Beijing has offered up around US$600 million in annual economic aid, with funds earmarked for roads, bridges and dams. Unlike the previous aid received from Western donors - which in recent years accounted for over half of the country's national budget - Chinese money comes with no pre-conditions that Hun Sen’s government fight graft or move towards more democracy.

In February this year, the Chinese government promised to help electrify Cambodia's power-starved countryside, including a $1 billion commitment for two major dam projects. Those projects will alleviate chronic power shortages, which the World Bank says have led to the world's highest energy costs.

The projects will also help power operations of the more than 3,000 Chinese companies now situated in Cambodia and which in 2007 produced US$1.56 billion in revenues, accounting for 7% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to Economic Institute of Cambodia statistics. China now employs a sizable proportion of the national workforce, supplanting the mostly Western non-governmental organizations and garment factories which dominated the local economy in the 1990s, when the country first emerged from decades of war.

Cambodia's economy is expanding at double digit growth rates and China's economic interest in the country has intensified since 2005, when US oil company Chevron discovered what some have projected are large stores of oil and gas off the country's southern coast. Those growing commercial ties were witnessed in the establishment in February of a special economic zone at the coastal town of Sihanoukville, from which goods will be produced for export duty free to China.

At least six Chinese companies have so far signed contracts with the zone's two Chinese and Cambodian developers. Once a second phase of construction is completed in 2011, the Sihanoukville zone will have the capacity to accommodate 150 companies and 40,000 workers. The Chinese developers hope the zone will export $2 billion worth of products per year by 2015, according a joint press release.

Hun Sen attended the SEZ's launch and noted after signing an official agreement with the project's developers that the new facility would stoke growth in the Cambodian economy and strengthen bilateral ties with China. Beijing has donated nine patrol boats to the Royal Khmer Navy to help secure the new facility against piracy and trafficking.

While China's economic influence grows, that of the US is on the wane. In recent years the US has given around $150 million in annual economic aid, a small fraction of China's commercial patronage. At the same time US-Cambodian trade ties have fallen off, seen in the 30% year-on-year decline in garment exports to the US in 2007. The US has long been the primary importer of Cambodian textiles, which is still the country's largest export item.

By offering more aid through strategic initiatives, the US policy towards Cambodia has apparently shifted after emphasizing throughout the 1990s the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. That frequently put the two sides at diplomatic loggerheads, notably over an FBI investigation into a March 1997 bomb attack against a rally held by opposition politician Sam Rainsy in the capital Phnom Penh which killed at least 16 and injured 150 people, including a US citizen.

According to a Washington Post story from June 1997, which quoted four US government sources with access to classified material, the FBI had tentatively pinned responsibility for the blasts and subsequent interference in their investigations on Hun Sen's personal Brigade 70 bodyguard unit. The US has never publicly released the investigation's findings, although US-based Human Rights Watch earlier this year called upon Washington to re-open its long-stalled investigations. "Instead of trying to protect US relations with Cambodia, it should now finish what it started," the rights group said in a statement.

Terror tiesInstead, the US State Department claimed in a recent report on trafficking in people that the human rights situation in Cambodia is improving under Hun Sen's watch. It praised in particular his government's efforts to combat human trafficking. More controversially, the FBI in April last year invited national police chief Hok Lundy to Las Vegas for discussions on counterterrorism, even though Lundy has been implicated in a number of serious human rights abuses.

According to Human Rights Watch, which said it has presented its own evidence to the US government, Lundy was part of the conspiracy that carried out the 1997 grenade attack, an act the FBI had previously classified as a "terrorist act". He also commanded battalions loyal to Hun Sen that carried out the July 1997 coup that ousted co-prime minister Norodom Ranariddh, where some opposition party members and supporters were killed in extrajudicial fashion and many more fled into exile.

Last week's murder of a Sam Rainsy Party-aligned journalist, Khem Sambo, also raises questions about possible government actions in the run-up to general elections scheduled for July 27. Former co-prime minister and now the leader of a political party under his own name, Norodom Rannaridh, recently sought refuge in Malaysia after the government leveled defamation charges against him.

The US's upbeat assessment of Cambodia's human rights record may be seen as a diplomatic response to China's more unconditional and commercial approach to bilateral relations. There is also the historical guilt factor, shared by both the US and China, and a major complication in winning over Hun Sen's trust. Beijing famously backed the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, both while the radical Maoists were in power from 1975-79 and after they were overthrown by Vietnamese forces in 1979 and took up guerilla arms around the Thai border.

The genocidal regime is now held responsible for the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians, including ethnic Chinese businessmen. Meanwhile, the US is estimated to have killed over 500,000 Cambodians during its secret bombing campaign from 1969 to 1970, which intensified the country's civil war. The US also backed the 1970 Lon Nol-led coup which deposed Prince Norodom Sihanouk as head of state.

Some estimate China now has the upper hand over the US in terms of relations with Cambodia. While Hun Sen welcomes US counterterrorism initiatives, which will likely go a long way in improving the government's surveillance capabilities, the premier's statements about the actual risk of terrorism to Cambodia have been conflicting.

After a foiled bomb attack of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in July 2007 by a group of local radicals, Hun Sen asserted his government's will to combat terrorism. But by February 2008, he apparently flip-flopped his position by saying that there were no terrorists in Cambodia.

More clearly, Hun Sen's cooperation on US counterterrorism initiatives is subordinated to his government's drive to promote more Chinese trade and investment. Foreign investment approvals from China amounted to $763 million in 2006, nearly double the 2005 figure, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia. Those figures were expected to be even higher last year with the various deals signed by the two sides.

While the US tries to deflect China's commercial diplomacy, Beijing has simultaneously landed on ways to unite economically and culturally with Cambodia, including through outreach to politically influential ethnic-Chinese entrepreneurs. It's also apparent, some say, in the fading popularity of the English language over Mandarin Chinese, also known as Putonghua, in local schools. Cambodia is now home to the largest Chinese school in Southeast Asia, Duan Hua, which currently enrolls over 8,000 students. The most popular Chinese courses are specifically geared towards business, with students reasoning that English language capability may help to land jobs with international aid organizations, while Mandarin, which is taught across mainland China as the official language, will catapult them into more lucrative positions in business.

Another indication that China is winning the struggle for hearts and minds came in January, when Cambodian police halted and threatened to deport US activist actress Mia Farrow for attempting to stage a protest against China's commercial relationship with Sudan's murderous regime. Farrow said she picked Cambodia as a symbolic place for her protest, given both Sudan's and Cambodia's genocidal experiences while receiving Chinese assistance. Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said at the time that authorities banned the protest because it had "a political agenda against China", a stance Hun Sen's government clearly doesn't share.

Geoffrey Cain is a Cambodia-based journalist. He may be reached at
geoffrey.cain@gmail.com

Cambodia, Thailand border row escalates

Cambodian soldiers stand guard near Preah Vihear temple, close to the Thai border.

(CNN) -- Thailand and Cambodia have called for dialogue as tensions continued to escalate over an ancient border temple on disputed land.
The countries agreed to meet Monday even as each side deployed more troops to the site of the Preah Vihear temple, the national Thai News Agency reported Thursday.

Both Cambodia and Thailand lay claim to the 11th century temple, which sits atop a cliff on Cambodian soil but has its most accessible entrance on the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the 1.8 square mile (4.6 sq. km) area around it was never fully demarcated.

Last week, the United Nations approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site -- places the U.N. says have outstanding universal value.

The decision re-ignited tensions, with some in Thailand fearing it will make it difficult for their country to lay claim to disputed land around the temple.

Opposition parties in Thailand used the issue to attack the government, which initially backed the heritage listing. Watch Thai villagers block anti-government demonstrators »

A Thai court overturned the pact, prompting the resignation of Thailand's foreign minister, Noppadon Pattama. He had endorsed the application.

Cambodia, meanwhile, is preparing for general elections on July 27. And Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since the mid-1980s, has portrayed the U.N. recognition as a national triumph.

The current flare-up began Tuesday, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area. Once they were let go, the trio refused to leave the territory, the Thai News Agency said.

The Cambodian state-run news agency, AKP, said that Thailand sent troops to retrieve the men and gradually built up their numbers.

Thailand denies the charge, saying its troops are deployed in Thai territory.
The standoff continued Thursday, with each side asking troops to withhold fire unless they are fired upon, the news agencies said.

Thailand has put its Air Force on standby to evacuate its nationals from Cambodia if tensions worsen, TNA said.
So far, the only casualty has been a Thai soldier who was injured Tuesday by a landmine -- possibly left over from the time the Khmer Rouge occupied the area.

The Khmer Rouge, a radical communist movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, won power through a guerrilla war. It is remembered for the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Cambodians.

Thai Air Force set to evacuate Thais in Cambodia if tensions escalate

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-17

BANGKOK, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The Royal Thai Air Force aircraft are ready and standby to fly out Thai nationals living in Cambodiaif tensions flare over the disputed Thai-Cambodian border at the ancient Preah Vihear temple, Thai Air Chief Chalit Phukbhasuk said Thursday.

"If the situation worsens, the Air Force can assist on a 24-hour basis and can lift out Thai nationals to repatriate them within one hour. Officials are now well prepared for the operation," Chalit was quoted by the state-run Thai News Agency as saying.

He said concerned Thai security officials -- including Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who also serves as defense minister, military commanders, the supreme commander and the permanent secretary for defense -- have conducted an ongoing discussion on ways to defuse the tensions.

He said Thais should refrain from intruding into the disputed area because it is dangerous.

ACM Chalit's remarks were made following reports that both Thailand and Cambodia had reinforced their troops at and near the competing claims to the approaches to the historic Preah Vihear temple, listed by UNESCO earlier this month as a World Heritage Site.

Both countries historically laid claim to the 11th century temple, which now sits on Cambodian soil following the action of the International Court of Justice which awarded the ancient temple to Cambodia in 1962. However, the temple can practicably only be accessed from Thailand.

However, the exact demarcation of the border around the ruins remains in contention.

The security situation around the temple deteriorated after three Thais, including a Buddhist monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian soldiers after surreptitiously crossing into the disputed border area on Tuesday. The trio were released the same day but refused to leave the 4.6 square kilometer disputed area adjoining the temple complex.

Thailand first issued a warning that travel to the vicinity of the temple be avoided, but later closed off access altogether within 10 kilometers of the temple.

Editor: An lu

PM blames protesters for Cambodia border tension

The Nation
Thu, July 17, 2008

By The Nation

Prime Minister Samak calls them crazy people

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej blames three Thai protesters who illegally crossed a Cambodian borderpoint for a military standoff between the two countries.

"They are crazy three people who crossed the border sparked the border problem. They nearly achieved their aim by causing the military on each side to face one another," Samak told reporters on Thursday.

Hundreds of Thai troops and Cambodian soldiers are locked in a stand-off on the disputed border by the ruins of an ancient temple after the three crossed the closed checkpoint on Tuesday.

The three -- a man, a woman and a Buddhist monk -- climbed over the border fence to an overlapping areas near the Preah Vihear Temple. Cambodia said the areas were on its territory.

Rising skyline

BK Asia In a design conception, the proposed Pharos Mekong Towers sit along the Tonle Sap, opposite downtown Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Chu Lap Yin
Thursday, 17 July 2008

South Korea’s BK Global Co, Ltd, will invest $400 million to build five 25-storey residential towers on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva Peninsula, BK president and CEO Park Sung In told the Post on July 14.

“Many Korean investors see Cambodia as a place for potential investment,” said Park. “Cambodia is a land of opportunity.”The so-called Pharos Mekong Towers, situated on a five-hectare site near the Four Faces Rivers project, would be slated for completion within 96 months, Park said, with the first phase of construction to begin in October and complete in about 32 months.

A model home would be opened in September, he said, with prices for condominiums set at $300-350,000. The target market would include foreign investors, overseas Cambodians and the growing domestic upper class.

“The unique location of Chroy Changva should attract many wealthy people to live there,” said Park.

“If you stay here, you can see the Royal Place, the Naga, getting fresh air and luxury accomodations along the Bassac River.” said BK Asia director Park Dong Chool.

“This will be a unique project for Cambodia,” added Park, with the development to include 1.5 hectares of open space, a healthcare centre, a spa, an international school, recreation areas, commercial and office space, restaurants and parking.

“We have designed it like Angkor Wat,” said Park.

Russei Keo district governor Khlaing Huot told the Post on July 15 that the company had already sought approvals for the construction from the district authority.

The development would not have a negative impact on current residents of Chroy Changva, Khlaing Huot said. “We have no plan to move anyone out,” he said.

South Korean embassy officials declined to comment on the project.

“Most Korean-invested real estate development projects succeed,” said Khlaing Huot.

Alleged invasion plotters sentenced

Sebastian Strangio; Ny Kosal and Tul Mann (foreground), sit outside the Pursat Provincial Court on Tuesday after being acquitted of involvement in a plot to raise an army to attack Thailand and Vietnam.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

T wo accused conspirators in the so-called Angkor Empire Movement, an alleged plot to launch armed attacks on Thailand and Vietnam from Cambodian soil, were convicted and sentenced to prison on Tuesday by the Pursat Provincial Court.

In a short hearing, presiding judge Pol Yorn found Thab The and Chan Dara, also known as Veasna, guilty of the illegal use of armed force, sentencing them to six and five years in jail, respectively, while two other alleged plotters, Ny Kosal and Tul Mann, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The verdicts arrived amidst accusations of secrecy and political meddling in the trial process, after Prime Minister Hun Sen remarked last month that the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) should be investigated for links to the plotters, according to information supplied by SRP defectors.

“I think there is political involvement with this trial,” said Ouk Vandeth, Chan Dara’s defence counsel. “The court felt threatened so they accused my client of creating a movement against the government. He’s not involved with this movement.”

Thab The’s son Chan Sothea said that he was “very disappointed with the court’s verdict” but that his father “was not involved with any armed forces or plots against the government.”

Am Sam Ath, a human rights monitor for local rights group Licadho, said that the independence of the court’s verdict was suspect.

“The court did not have enough evidence to find Chan Dara and Thab The guilty of the charges,” he said. “With [the case's] links to the ruling party, the suspect always receives an unfair trial and pressure was clearly placed on the court by powerful officials.”

The case looks likely to resume after the July 27 polls, with Thab The and Chan Dara both planning to appeal and prosecutors promising further investigation into a figure known as Chan Muthara, said to be the ringleader of the shadowy movement and whose true identity and whereabouts remain unknown.

Thab The’s wife Chan Ream rejected the verdicts and said her husband would fight his case to the end.

“He is not guilty. He has no weapons, no military clothes and he has participated in no activities against the government,” she said. “The ruling party wants to make problems for my husband… I will appeal this verdict.”

San Soudalen, a Licadho lawyer representing Ny Kosal and Tul Mann, applauded the decision to acquit them, claiming that they were unaware of any illegal activities.

“I am happy today because my two clients were released. I think it has been a fair trial for my clients because they had no connections to the movement,” she said after the hearing.

The original trial of the four alleged plotters was suspended in April after judges decided more investigation was necessary.

Investigation recommenced in June following statements from SRP defector Lek Bunnhean, who implicated the opposition party in a number of anti-government plots, including the rocket attack on the prime minister in 1998 and the Angkor Empire Movement.

SRP president Sam Rainsy called the accusations “unbelievable,” claiming the government was trying to stem his party’s popularity in the run-up to this month’s national election.

The four suspects were arrested in May 2007 on suspicion of involvement with the Angkor Empire Movement which, authorities allege, planned to raise an army of 400 to seize the province of Surin from Thailand, as well as Kampuchea Krom and the old kingdom of Champa, both now in Vietnam. Authorities said no weapons were recovered from the conspirators.

Evacuation

Heng Chivoan A soldier rests near Preah Vihear temple earlier this month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Thursday, 17 July 2008

Vendors and residents near Preah Vihear temple were fleeing the area Thursday as a standoff between Cambodian and Thai soldiers entered its third day, witnesses said, adding that more troops from both sides have been deployed to the disputed border area.

"People are leaving the area because they are scared," said Keo Vannak, a resident of Sa Em town near the base of the mountain on which the 11th-century ruins sit.

Sa Em has seen an influx of people coming off the mountain on trucks piled with their belongings, Keo Vannak said Thursday.

"I'm worried there will be a clash and it will destroy all of my belongings," said vendor Chim Nang. "I'm moving my stuff to another village for safety," he added, standing near a truck packed with household goods.

“Now I move my material to another village for safety because I’m worried there will be a clash and it will destroy all my belongings.” He had his most important household items packed with him in the truck.

Added Srey Leap, who works at Preah Vihear temple: "I will return to my hometown in Siem Reap province ... I cannot work here until there is security and this dispute is over.”

More than 600 heavily armed Cambodian soldiers have been deployed to the temple since Tuesday, when Thai troops first allegedly crossed the border following the arrest of three Thai demonstrators who jumped an international checkpoint to enter the temple.

Cambodia claims that at least 400 Thai soldiers continue to occupy Cambodian territory, while Bangkok insists that they are stationed on the Thai side of the border to conduct demining operations.

An area of 4.8 square kilometers around the temple remains in dispute after the World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. The temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 7 after years of resistance from Bangkok to the inscription, further inflaming Thai nationalism.

On July 10, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama stepped down after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had acted illegally in signing an agreement supporting Cambodia’s bid to have Preah Vihear temple listed as a World Heritage Site without the permission of parliament.

Cambodian officials on Wednesday called for calm as tensions along the border escalated with the Thais's refusal to withdraw, but military officers on the ground say that more troops could be deployed to counter Thai reinforcements.

“We sent more soldiers to the temple yesterday to stop the Thai troops from moving even further into the temple complex," said Kem Oun, deputy commander of RCAF Brigade 43, which was brought in as the crisis grew.

"Now, they are on our land, in our pagoda and violating our sovereignty, even after the threats of Cambodian soldiers," he told the Post on Thursday.

"But our orders are to be patient and avoid fighting unless they start it first," he said, adding that Thai military officers had asked the Cambodians to meet with them later Thursday.Thai soldiers have gathered at a Buddhist pagoda built on a slope about 200 meters from the temple, and slept Wednesday night next to Cambodian troopers, said Him Chan, deputy commander of the border police battalion 795.

“They are occupying our land and last night they slept just a few meters away from us to show their aggression and provoke trouble," he said. "We’ve tried to push them away but they won't leave.... This is Cambodian land.

"Cambodian officials have agreed to hold crisis talks with their Thai counterparts on Monday in a bid to defuse the standoff, but soldiers on the mountain say they remain at the ready if the situation worsens.

"I haven't used it in 10 years and it's gotten a bit rusty," said Srun Mao, soldier with Brigade 795, tapping his AK-47 rifle. "But I'm ready and I'm thirsty," the former Khmer Rouge fighter added.

Cyclo drivers in security guard smackdown

TRACEY SHELTON; Cyclo drivers claim they are being bullied and denied a right to earn a living by security guards around Sorya Shopping Centre and Central Market.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

P hnom Penh’s cyclo drivers say security guards around the city’s markets are chasing them off and making it increasingly difficult for them to earn a living, says Cyclo Center coordinator Nouv Sarany.

According to a center survey, there are now 1,282 cyclo drivers pedaling their ways through the streets of Phnom Penh.

Many were giving up the job, however, because they could no longer endure conflicts with market security guards, Nouv Sarany said.

“About half of all of cyclo drivers have faced problems with market security guards, usually asking them for money,” she said, adding that guards at Phsar Thmei (Central Market) and the Sorya Shopping Center were the leading cause of headaches.

Ouk Rey, 42, came to the city from Prey Veng province in 1993 to work as a cyclo driver and said he has had problems with the market security guards numerous times.

“I want to kill them, I get so angry when they try to make trouble for me,” Ouk Rey said. “They ask me for money, and when I don’t give it to them, they grab the seat cushion or kick my cyclo to try to damage it.”

He said it was hard to argue with them because he was poor and powerless against them“I want to the government to help us from being looked down on and mistreated,” he said.

“I have slept in front of other people’s houses since 1984 because I don’t have the money to rent a house,” said cyclo driver Sok Vanna, 47. “How can I afford to give money to market security guards everyday? I start to work at 7 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. around the Central Market, and I can earn about 7,000 or 8,000 riel [about $2] a day, and I have to buy food and send money to my family in Takeo province.”

“I know the market security guards need cyclo drivers to give them money, and if they don’t they will not allow them to park and will start fights or try to damage the cyclos,” said Nouv Sarany. “But the drivers who give them money will be allowed to park and do business around the market with no problem. It’s not right for the market security guards to do that to the cyclo drivers, even though they have power.”

Go home, you troublemakers!


Police and villagers block a convoy of nationalist protesters from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country's border with Cambodia, 700 km (435 miles) northeast of Bangkok July 17, 2008. A political uproar in Thailand over Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site has been stoked by anti-government groups seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's shaky ruling coalition.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)
Photo Tools
iol.co.za
July 17 2008

By Nopporn Wong-AnanKantaralak, Thailand - Thai police and angry villagers blocked nationalist protesters on Thursday from rallying at an ancient temple at the centre of a diplomatic row with neighbouring Cambodia.

A political uproar in Thailand against Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site has been stoked by anti-government groups seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's shaky ruling coalition.

The issue has also raised fears the spat could escalate, five years after a dispute against another Cambodian temple, Angkor Wat, saw a nationalist mob torch the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

"Go home, go home, you troublemakers!," one woman shouted at members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is leading a nearly 2-month old street campaign against Samak, whom they accuse of being a proxy for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ousted in a 2006 coup.

The 900-year-old temple has been a source of tension for decades since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, a ruling that still rankles Thais.

The latest flare-up - which has seen a buildup of troops on both sides of the border - was sparked by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO listing, which the PAD said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama quit last week after a Thai court ruled the joint communique he signed backing Preah Vihear's listing was illegal because it was an international treaty that required parliament's approval.

The case has left Thai diplomacy in limbo, with Samak saying this week his cabinet ministers were afraid to sign any statements after a bilateral meeting.

The PAD seized on the court ruling, vowing to go after the rest of Samak's cabinet and step up a street campaign that has worried investors. The main stock index has dropped 23 percent since the protests began on May 25.

"Political temperatures will rise inexorably, and Thailand will become increasingly ungovernable, in the interim," Chulaongkorn University professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak wrote.

Hundreds of riot police and villagers blocked the PAD convoy 11 kms from the temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between the two nations.

"These people have been mobilised by local businessmen who have interests in Cambodia," PAD leader Veera Somkwamkit said.

Prasert Aramsrivorapong, chief of the Kantaralak district where the villagers live, said the PAD had no right to stir up trouble on the border.

"Soldiers are dealing with the problem at the temple. We don't want these people to cause any trouble," Prasert said.

Thailand and Cambodia have accused each other of border violations and sent more troops since the stand-off began on Tuesday when three Thai activists were briefly detained on the Cambodian side for trying to plant a Thai flag there.

Despite the aggressive rhetoric from both sides, diplomatic efforts appear to be underway to end the stand-off.

A joint border committee, set up years ago to resolve disputes between the fractious southeast Asian nations, will meet on Monday "so that both sides can discuss issues together in a spirit of neighbourliness," the Thai Foreign Ministry said.

In Phnom Penh, government spokesperson Khieu Kanharith said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Samak had spoken on Wednesday night and agreed to send their defence ministers to Monday's meeting.

"This meeting is not about technical issues, but about easing tensions on the border. We hope the problem will be solved next week," he said.

Cambodia will wait

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 17, 2008

SA KAEO :Cambodian authorities will wait for the Supreme Court's verdict on the charge of corruption against veteran politician Vatana Asavahame before considering whether to take action and send him back to Thailand.

The charge involves Mr Vatana's role in the Klong Dan wastewater treatment project.

Their decision was unveiled by deputy police chief Pol Gen Jongrak Juthanont after a three-hour meeting yesterday with Nest Serey, a Cambodian envoy in Sa Kaeo, and Col Tum Saret, deputy chief of the Cambodian-Thai coordination office.

Thailand needs to request Cambodia to send back Mr Vatana, who was reportedly last seen there, because the two countries have no joint extradition treaty. He is required to appear before the judge, who will read the verdict on August 18.

Mr Vatana owns two casinos in the Cambodian border town of Poi Pet, opposite Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo.

Cambodia in talks to ease tensions

The Press Association

Cambodia says it has agreed with Thailand to meet early next week to defuse tensions in a border dispute.

Thailand did not immediately confirm the planned meeting next Monday.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the two countries' prime ministers had a "cordial" phone conversation, and that their defence ministers would meet on Monday in Thailand to discuss the latest flare-up over competing claims to land around Preah Vihear temple.

The temple was given World Heritage Site status last week, providing new fodder to the long-standing conflict.

As tensions rose, Cambodia accused Thai troops of crossing the border - a charge Thailand has publicly denied. The border between the two countries near the temple has never been fully demarcated.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Sundaravej also agreed that "both sides should do the utmost to prevent anything from happening", Khieu Kanharith said.

Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia would not "use force unless attacked" and that the "situation was stable".

Thai army commander General Anupong Paojindasaid likewise said he has ordered his troops to refrain from using force.

Thai officials have publicly denied that their troops crossed the border, saying the soldiers are in Thai territory to protect its sovereignty.

However, a senior Thai military source acknowledged on Wednesday that about 200 Thai troops were inside "disputed border territory".

Cambodia, Thailand deploy more troops

Hundreds of Cambodian soldiers have been deployed to the site of the ancient ruin [AFP]


AP foreign , Thursday July 17 2008

By SOPHENG CHEANG

Associated Press Writer

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near a historic border temple despite their agreement to hold talks next week to defuse the tensions, a Cambodian general said.

Cambodian Brig Gen. Chea Keo said the Thais now have more than 400 troops near the Preah Vihear temple, up from about 200 the day before, and Cambodia has about 800 troops there, up from 380 the day before.

Cambodia claims the Thai troops crossed the border into Cambodian territory on Tuesday in renewed tensions over land near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple. Thailand maintains it is protecting its sovereignty and ensuring that any protests among Thais near the temple remain orderly, although a Thai military source has acknowledged the troops are on ``disputed'' ground.
The border around Preah Vihear has never been fully demarcated.

Despite the potential for a flare-up among the hundreds of armed troops, both sides gave assurances that conflict would be avoided and the atmosphere around the temple appeared relaxed.

Cambodian soldiers snapped photographs of their opponents just yards (meters) away and some tourists, including one American women, visited the spectacular site.

The long-standing conflict over the territory near was revived by Thai anti-government protesters in recent weeks, coming to a head after Cambodia's application for World Heritage Site status for the temple was granted last week with the endorsement of Thailand's government.

Both countries claim 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) around thetemple, and the activists have revived nationalist sentiment over the issue, fearing the temple's new status will jeopardize claims to the land nearby.

However, Thais living just across the border sought to calm the situation.

Hundreds of villagers in Sisaket province blocked a group of Thai anti-government protesters from marching to Preah Vihear on Thursday. Some shouted at the protesters to ``go home'' and stop fomenting trouble as police stood by a barricade blocking the road to the temple.

``We are Thais. We should be able to talk about this'' to settle any differences, villager Ubondej Panthep said.

One protest leader, Pramoj Hoimook, said Cambodians have settled on Thai soil ``and we want to correct that.''

On Wednesday night, Cambodia said it agreed with Thailand to hold defense minister talks next Monday to ease tensions. On Thursday, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat confirmed the meeting.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia would not ``use force unless attacked'' and that the ``situation was stable.''

Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paojindasaid likewise said he has ordered his troops not to use force.

Tharit said that Thai troops were atop the 1,722-foot (525-meter) cliff on which the temple is located, but that they were on Thai-claimed territory, not inside Cambodia. However, a senior Thai military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, acknowledged Wednesday that Thai troops were inside ``disputed border territory.''

Thai troops gathered in groups or slept in hammocks near the temple. Many took up positions inside the compound of a Cambodian Buddhist pagoda about 220 yards (200 meters) west of the 11th century Hindu Preah Vihear temple.

Six Cambodian monks remain, surviving on alms from Cambodian soldiers who continue to visit them despite the Thai occupation.

To block Thai troops from advancing further, Cambodian soldiers, some carrying B-40 rocket launchers, remained only a few yards (meters) away from the alleged trespassers. Some snapped pictures with their mobile phones.

Most of the 900 Cambodian villagers living nearby fled their homes when the confrontation began Tuesday. However, some Cambodian and foreign tourists risked possible harm Thursday by visiting the temple. One of them was 39-year-old Liz Shura from New York City.

``It's a little frightening for me, but I don't think I am actually in danger,'' Shura told an Associated Press reporter, discounting the possibility of violence. ``The temple is extraordinary. It's really amazing.''

---

Associated Press writers Sutin Wannabovorn and Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok and Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh contributed to this report.

Preah Vihear - 17.07.2008

Pictures From Preah Vihear Temple

Cambodian soldiers patrol the Preah Vihear temple compound, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 16, 2008. Thailand and Cambodia moved on Wednesday to ratchet down tensions on their border where hundreds of troops face each other over a disputed ancient temple. Senior Thai and Cambodian officials were trying to negotiate an end to the stand-off, triggered by Thai protests against the the listing of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site earlier this month, Thailand's Supreme Commander, Boonsrang Niumpradit, told Reuters.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier patrols at Preah Vihaer temple, 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 17, 2008. Thai police and angry local villagers blocked a convoy of nationalist Thai protesters on Thursday from reaching the disputed ancient temple on the country's border with Cambodia. The latest flare-up -- which has seen a buildup of troops on both sides of the border -- was triggered by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO listing, which government critics said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers are deployed in the Preah Vihaer temple compound, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 16, 2008. Thailand and Cambodia moved on Wednesday to ratchet down tensions on their border where hundreds of troops face each other over a disputed ancient temple. Senior Thai and Cambodian officials were trying to negotiate an end to the stand-off, triggered by Thai protests against the the listing of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site earlier this month, Thailand's Supreme Commander, Boonsrang Niumpradit, told Reuters.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian (L) and Thai (R) soldiers stand face-to-face to each other as they guard Cekakiri Svarak pagoda in the compounds of Preah Vihaer temple, 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 17, 2008. Thai police and angry local villagers blocked a convoy of nationalist Thai protesters on Thursday from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country's border with Cambodia. The latest flare-up -- which has seen a buildup of troops on both sides of the border -- was triggered by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO listing, which government critics said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier (front) stands next to Thai troops near the disputed Preah Vihear temple. Thailand has boosted its military forces on disputed land at the Cambodian border, after two days of simmering tensions over an ancient Hindu temple.(AFP/Str)

Cambodian soldiers patrol around Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian soldiers walk in the foggy morning as they patrol around Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier guards a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Soldiers from Thailand guard at Cekakiri Svarak pagoda in the compounds of Preah Vihaer temple, 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 17, 2008. Thai police and angry local villagers blocked a convoy of nationalist Thai protesters on Thursday from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country's border with Cambodia. The latest flare-up -- which has seen a buildup of troops on both sides of the border -- was triggered by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO listing, which government critics said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Thai soldier guards a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers rest near the Preah Vihear temple close to the border with Cambodia. Cambodian and Thai soldiers held their positions on the border near an ancient temple Thursday as a standoff over a territorial dispute entered its third day.(AFP)

Thai soldiers guard a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers guard a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

FACTBOX-Disputes between Thailand and Cambodia

Source: Reuters

(For related story see CAMBODIA-THAILAND/TEMPLE or [ID:nBKK227238])

July 17 (Reuters) - Thai police and angry villagers blocked nationalist Thai protesters on Thursday from reaching a disputed ancient temple on the country's border with Cambodia.
The 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple has been a source of tension for decades since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia.

The latest flare-up was triggered by Bangkok's support for the UNESCO heritage listing which anti-government groups said was tantamount to selling out Thailand's heritage.

Here are some facts on relations and historical disputes between the two neighbours.

* Cultural links date back to at least the 9th century when Mon and Khmer people from south China migrated to the central plains and northern highlands of modern Thailand.

Cambodia's ancient Khmer Empire, the dominant power at the time, ruled over modern Thailand from its Angkor Wat complex.

* Thai generals rebelled in the 13th century, triggering a series of wars. Angkor was attacked by Thai forces around 1431 and abandoned. For the next three centuries the Khmer state alternated between brief periods of independence and paying tribute to Thai and Vietnamese kings as a vassal state.

* In 1863, Thai-educated Cambodian King Norodom accepted the protection of France, which was then pushing into south Vietnam. Norodom ceded suzerainty, gaining the return of two northern provinces, Battambang and Siem Reap, that had been incorporated into Thailand. They were returned to Cambodia in 1907.

* France ruled Cambodia as a colony along with Laos and Vietnam, keeping relatively cordial relations with Thailand, until Phnom Penh gained independence by 1954. The 800-km (500 mile) Thai-Cambodia border, where Preah Vihear lies, was set by French colonial rulers.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, a decision that rankles with most Thais to this day.

* Simmering grievances have sometimes flared into violence. A Cambodian mob torched the Thai embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh in 2003 after a false report in a Khmer newspaper quoted a Thai TV star as saying Angkor belonged to Thailand.

Sources: Reuters; A Political Chronology of South-East Asia and Oceania.

(Writing by Gillian Murdoch, Beijing Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

Cambodia-Thai Temple Military Standoff Enters Third Day

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodian and Thai soldiers held their positions on the border near an ancient temple Thursday as a standoff over a territorial dispute entered its third day.

More than 400 Thai troops and more than 800 Cambodian soldiers stood stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Brig. Chea Keo, commander in chief of the army at Preah Vihear, warned reporters that the situation could worsen if the Thais continued to swell their ranks.

"If the Thais keep adding more troops, the situation will escalate, but we try to be patient," Keo said.

"They want us to do something first, but we try to remain calm," he added.

Groups of Cambodian soldiers based at the foot of the mountain were redeployed to the temple at the top, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket launchers.

Thai soldiers were all stationed inside the pagoda compound, around the wooden structure that has a corrugated metal roof.

The brigadier acknowledged that the Thai army had superior weapons but said that the Cambodians were in a better position at the top of the mountain.

Cambodian officials claim soldiers began crossing the border Tuesday after three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the temple.

Thailand denies the trespass and insists the soldiers were patrolling its side of the border but Cambodian troops on the scene say the Thai soldiers have crossed more than 100 meters outside their territory.

An area of 4.6 square kilometers on the border remains in dispute between the two countries after the World Court in 1962 determined the Preah Vihear ruins belong to Cambodia, but its most accessible entrance lies in Thailand.

A Thai soldier was injured by a landmine in the area Tuesday but the Thai military says the landmine was planted on Thai soil, possibly a remnant from the decades of war that once plagued the border.

About 70% of Cambodians who live in the area have left their homes during the confrontation, Keo said.

The incident comes amid heightened political tensions in both countries after the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage status earlier this month.

Cambodia is preparing for general elections July 27, when Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to extend his decades-long grip on power.

He has portrayed the U.N. recognition of the ruins as a national triumph, organizing huge public celebrations.

In Thailand, critics of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej - already the target of street protests - have stoked the temple controversy to fire up nationalist sentiment.

Samak's government had originally signed a deal supporting Cambodia's bid to make the ruins a World Heritage site, but a court overturned the pact, forcing the resignation of foreign minister Noppadon Pattama.

The parliamentary opposition is now mulling impeachment motions against the entire cabinet.

Cambodia: Cambodia, Thailand Continue Troop Buildup At Disputed Border, Cambodian General Says

Thai soldiers guard a Cambodian Buddhist temple near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday at disputed territory near the historic Preah Vihear border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Cambodian Army soldiers patrol near the Preah Vihear temple, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Wednesday, 16 July 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


My Sinchew.com
2008-07-17

PREAH VIHEAR, CAMBODIA: Cambodia and Thailand escalated their troop buildup Thursday (17 July) at disputed territory near a historic border temple despite moves to hold talks next week to defuse the flare-up in tensions, a Cambodian general said.

Cambodian Brig Gen. Chea Keo said the Thais now have more than 400 troops near the Preah Vihear temple, up from about 200 the day before, and Cambodia has about 800 troops there, up from 380 the day before.

Cambodia claims the Thai troops have crossed the border into Cambodian territory in renewed tensions over land near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple, while Thailand maintains it is protecting its own sovereignty. However, a Thai military source has acknowledged that the troops are in "disputed" territory.

The border in the area around Preah Vihear has never been fully demarcated.

"They have entered (Cambodian territory) with an intention to provoke us, but we are being extremely patient to prevent weapons from firing," Chea Keo said.

On Wednesday (16 July) night, Cambodia said it agreed with Thailand to hold talks next Monday (21 July) aimed at easing tensions early next week. Thailand did not immediately confirm the plans.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the two countries' prime ministers had a "cordial" phone conversation, and that their defense ministers would meet Monday in Thailand to discuss the flare-up in tensions.

Cambodia's application for World Heritage Site status for the temple was granted last week, providing new fodder to the long-standing conflict.

Both countries claim 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land around the Preah Vihear temple, and Thai anti-government activists have revived nationalist sentiment over the issue.

The activists and some government officials fear that the temple's new status will jeopardize their country's claims to land adjacent to the site.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Sundaravej also agreed that "both sides should do the utmost to prevent anything from happening," Khieu Kanharith told The Associated Press.

Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia would not "use force unless attacked" and that the "situation was stable."

Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paojindasaid likewise said he has ordered his troops to refrain from using force.

"The problem has been there for a long time because there has been no demarcation of the border yet," Anupong told reporters.

Thai officials have publicly denied that their troops crossed the border, saying the soldiers are in Thai territory to protect its sovereignty.

However, a senior Thai military source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation acknowledged Wednesday that Thai troops were inside "disputed border territory."

Thai troops in combat gear and armed with rifles sat in small groups Wednesday in the jungle on Preah Vihear mountain, while Cambodian troops paced only a few yards (meters) away, some of them carrying B-40 rocket launchers.

Cambodian troop reinforcements also were on the road Wednesday.

"I have received an order from our commander to back up our forces over there," Ouch Borith, an army captain, told The Associated Press at a Cambodian village several miles (kilometers) from the Preah Vihear mountain.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles many Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor complex in northwestern Cambodia. (By SOPHENG CHEANG/ AP)

Cambodia: Thai troops still in country

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) Cambodia assembled its troops near the Thai border Wednesday in the second day of alleged incursions by Thai soldiers amid tensions over disputed border land near a historic temple. Cambodian officials said more Thai troops crossed into their country's territory Wednesday while Thai officials have denied any incursion, saying the troops were deployed on what was clearly Thai territory to protect their country's sovereignty.

Bruised nationalism stirring bad feelings between Thais, Cambodians

The Nation
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Published on July 17, 2008

There is a whiff of undesirable difficulty building up in relations between Thailand and Cambodia in the aftermath of the World Heritage listing for the controversial Preah Vihear temple.

It is arising from the obligations forced upon the Samak Sundaravej government and the Foreign Ministry by the ongoing People's Alliance for Democracy street protest, the stance of the opposition Democrat Party and the actions of some senators and nationalist academics.

Bruised nationalism is stimulating feelings of hatred between Thais and Cambodians. Anti-Cambodian sentiment is growing stronger as Thais - who consider themselves superior to their southeastern neighbours - feel they have lost face because Cambodia managed to have the Hindu temple listed as a World Heritage site.

The listing of anyplace as a World Heritage site is not a matter of gain or loss. But many Thais are convinced of loss, because they've been told repeatedly that the listing means Thailand has lost sovereignty over Preah Vihear. So, as Cambodia celebrated last week's World Heritage listing, many Thais felt bitter.

Legal misinterpretation by intellectuals has confused the powerful Thai sense of ownership. The entire world is aware that in 1962, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Preah Vihear was "situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia".

As a member of the United Nations, Thailand had to accept the ruling and hand the temple over to Cambodia. In the decades since then, there has been no legal bid to reclaim the site. Some legal experts intentionally misinterpreted Article 60 of the ICJ's rules by saying it reserved the right to reclaim the temple.

In fact, the article merely says that "in the event of a dispute as to the meaning or scope of judgement", the court will construe such matters upon the request of any party.

Therefore, in the language of the law, de facto and de jure, the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia.

For the past 46 years, the Thai authorities have never dared use Article 60 to ask the ICJ for clarification of the meaning or scope of its ruling. Such action may have caused further loss of territory, because in making its original decision, the court referred to a French-made map that swallowed up a large swathe of so-called "overlapping" area in Cambodia's favour. The whole mountain where the temple stands may now be under Cambodian sovereignty.

Many Cambodians have been quoted in their local media as saying Thailand's unlimited greed would end up bringing the country shame. One Cambodia woman at the temple told The Phnom Penh Post she was increasingly worried that the dispute would turn ugly.

"We are concerned that the Thais have come here to create trouble," she said, referring to hundreds of Thai protesters who gathered near the temple a few weeks ago.

The group threatened to storm it. On Tuesday, three of their number carried out the threat and were arrested by Cambodian authorities and held for several hours. This kind of emotion will likely destroy the fundamentally good relations between the two countries in the short-term future if both sides allow feelings to get out of hand.

Then there is a technical problem. Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to emphasise Thai concerns linking the heritage listing with sovereignty before the World Heritage Committee in Quebec, Canada. That stance could become a powerful argument for Cambodia to use in opposing Thailand's forthcoming application for World Heritage listing of the adjoining area downhill from the temple within two years.

The World Heritage Committee pointed out its regulations stipulate that the listing of any World Heritage site has nothing to do with sovereignty. However, the Thai team arguing against the listing insisted the committee recognise the domestic political sensitivity of the Preah Vihear site.
Phnom Penh may now be able to turn the tables on Bangkok, since Cambodia also claims sovereignty over territory containing many archaeological sites along the border, including the area downhill from Preah Vihear.

It is difficult to imagine what may happen in the future if Thailand is forced to cut "overlapping" areas off of the sites it proposes for listing. In fact, Thailand may ultimately be left with no sites along the border for which to apply for World Heritage listing.

Cambodia, Thailand call for calm over temple dispute

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia have escalated over the Preah Vihear temple's listing as a World Heritage site. [Reuters]

Radio Australia

Senior Cambodian and Thai officials have called for calm, a day after more Thai soldiers crossed the border near the Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand and Cambodia have called a special General Border Committee meeting for next Monday to try to defuse tension over the newly listed World Heritage Site.

The meeting follows the release of three Thai protestors detained by Cambodia for illegally entering the disputed area, adjacent to the 11th century Hindu temple.

Thailand has reportedly ordered 140 elite soldiers to the border.

The countries are in dispute over a 4.6-square-kilometre area near the temple that is home to a small Cambodian village.

Thailand is angry that Cambodia has allowed its people to build a village in the disputed area and wants a demarcation of the border.

Cambodia Electioneering Turn Violent as U.S. Offers FBI Help

Luke Hunt
15 Jul 2008
World Politics Review Exclusive

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The United States has joined a chorus of international condemnation and offered FBI assistance after a prominent Cambodian journalist was shot dead just two weeks ahead of national elections.

Khim Sambo, 47, and his 21-year-old son Khat Sarinpheata were riding on a motorbike near Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium when gunmen opened fire, ending a period of unusual calm amid the electioneering.

Campaigning had focused on the economy and a border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand that involved possession of the Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia's remote northwest. The temple was recently listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

Phnom Penh won the diplomatic battle with Bangkok, but it was the absence of campaign violence that was winning Cambodia some rare praise for its fledgling democracy until the July 11 slayings.

Human rights groups have been quick to claim the killing was politically motivated and designed to silence critics of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) ahead of the July 27 poll.

Khim Sambo had extensively covered election irregularities, illegal logging and fishing, and land grabbing for the local newspaper Moneaseka Khmer, which is affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

The paper's editor, Dam Sith, was recently charged with libeling Cambodian foreign minister and senior CPP member Hor Namhong.

However, the violence has not been restricted to opposition parties.

Ngor Srun, a CPP secretary of state, survived an acid attack Sunday morning as preparations were being made for the cremation of Khim Sambo.

The U.S. embassy said it was saddened by the attacks.

"The FBI, through the U.S. embassy, stands ready to provide assistance, if requested by the Cambodian government, in investigating the case," it said in a short statement.

Paris-based Reporters without Borders also urged authorities to act quickly, warning that such murders would impact on the election if they went unpunished.

Cambodian elections, which were restored by a United Nations-sponsored poll in 1993, have often turned nasty in recent years as this country struggles with a notorious culture of impunity. Election monitors Comfrel said the increase in pre-election violence followed familiar patterns established in 1998 and 2003.

But determining whether killings are politically motivated -- and from whence the orders to carry out violence are issued -- has always proved tricky and investigations rarely result in a prosecution.

Officials also claim election campaigns have been used as an opportunity to settle old scores. Tempers fray, guns are common and the traumas associated with decades of war, which ruined this country, still persist.

"If this pattern continues, more violence will happen in election campaigning," Koul Panha, Comfrel executive director, said.

Human rights advocate Theary Seng agreed, saying the double killing would have a chilling impact on the election.

"It was politically designed to send a message of fear," she said.

Khim Sambo was the 12th journalist slain in 15 years.

The election is being contested by 11 political parties, but the CPP, enjoying the benefits of a buzzing economy and with Prime Minister Hun Sen at the helm, is expected to win and govern outright for the first time.

Previously, the constitution had demanded a party must win a two-thirds majority in parliament before being able to govern on its own. This often resulted in messy and uncomfortable coalitions.

However, a constitutional amendment has reduced the mandated number of parliamentary seats to 51 percent, making it easier for Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest serving leader, to extend his 23-year tenure.

This longevity, coupled with the violence meted out among rivals has won him comparisons with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

"He's like Mugabe, he wants to stay in power forever," SRP chief Sam Rainsy recently quipped.

Luke Hunt is an Australian journalist based in Hong Kong, and a frequent World Politics Review contributor.

Troop build-up at border

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 17, 2008

Incursion claims, two sides to meet Monday

BANGKOK POST AND AGENCIES

Thailand and Cambodia will hold an urgent meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) on Monday to defuse the growing tension over the listing of the old Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

The decision comes as both countries are sending troop reinforcements to the sensitive border area.

Lt-Gen Sujit Sithiprapa, commander of the Second Army in charge of the northeastern region, has closed Khao Phra Viharn national park in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket and sealed access to the border in the area, banning visitors from seeing the temple ruins from the Thai side.

The road is now closed from the forestry district office, which is 8km from the borderline at Pha Mor E-Daeng.

The closure means members of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy will be unable to go to the border today as planned.

Si Sa Ket governor Sanee Jittakasem suggested they stage a protest in the district town instead.
About 900 Cambodians living on the mountain where the temple is located have fled their homes for a safer spot lower down, according to Cambodian border unit commander Seng Vuthy.
Three Thai protesters remained in the disputed area to meditate at Wat Phra Viharn, about 200m from the stone staircases leading to the temple. They were released on Tuesday after being detained, but refused to leave the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area.

The GBC, set up by the two countries to solve border issues, will meet for talks in Sa Kaeo province, the Foreign Ministry said.

The committee is co-chaired by the defence ministers of both countries. But it was unclear whether Defence Minister Samak Sundaravej and his Cambodian counterpart Gen Teah Banh will attend the talks or send representatives. The meeting was set for next month. The decision to bring it forward underlines the worry felt by both governments over the growing tension.

Thailand started reinforcing its troops yesterday after army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda ordered the First Special Warfare Unit to stand by at their base in Lop Buri province, and be ready for an airlift to the border in case of an emergency, an army source said.

Troops from the Artillery Regiment and the Third Infantry Division were already on their way to stations close to the border. The reinforcements from the three units would number about 800. Some 150 paramilitary rangers are already in the disputed area.

Air force chief ACM Chalit Phukpasuk assigned F-16 jets to patrol the border in Si Sa Ket yesterday and questioned the detention of three protesters by Cambodian soldiers in the overlapping zone.

''Ownership of the overlapping area is still open. As the boundary has not yet been established, does Cambodia have any right to arrest us if we enter the area?'' he said.

Pol Capt Soy Burin of the Cambodian border patrol unit said more Cambodian troops had been sent to guard the ruins.

Phnom Penh has 380 soldiers stationed at the temple, according to Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

Despite the presence of more troops at the border, Gen Anupong instructed soldiers to avoid a clash with Cambodian soldiers.

Lt-Gen Sujit insisted on the presence of Thai troops in the disputed area unless Cambodia moves its soldiers out.

''If Cambodia does not withdraw its soldiers, we won't either, because it is the overlapping area,'' he said.

Mr Khieu Kanharith backed off his assertion on Tuesday that Thai troops had been captured in Cambodia, saying it was a misunderstanding.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told the public to remain calm and not to ''inflame [the situation] or add fuel to the fire''

China donates gymnastics equipment to Cambodia

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-16

PHNOM PENH, July 16 (Xinhua) -- China Wednesday donated a batch of gymnastics equipment worth around 14,000 U.S. dollars to Cambodia for its gymnastics federation to carry out daily training of national athletes.

The equipment included balance beam, low balance beam, spring board, crash mats and landing mats, according to the relevant certificates signed by Cambodian Tourism Minister and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) Thong Khon and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

While delivering his speech for the donation ceremony, Thong Khon wished that the upcoming Beijing Olympics and the current series of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries would score success.

Zhang Jinfeng said that China would mobilize all its resources to guarantee high-quality Olympic Games for the world.

In addition, she expressed appreciation for the participation of the games by Cambodia and the scheduled attendance of its opening ceremony by King Norodom Sihamoni, former king Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Norodom Monireth.

Both of them also expected more professional exchanges to bring about new achievements in the sport field of the two countries.

At the donation ceremony, members of the national gymnastics team of Cambodia performed their programs.

According to NOCC, the national gymnastics team of Cambodia was established in 1983. It is now coached by a Canadian and its youngest member only ages nine.

There are currently 10 gymnastics clubs in Cambodia and they are based in eight provinces or municipalities, said NOCC files.

Editor: An Lu

Thailand reinforces border over temple row

REUTERS
Wed Jul 16, 2008

(Recasts with Thai reinforcement, changes dateline)

By Sukree Sukplang

KANTARALAK, Thailand, July 16 (Reuters) - Thailand sent extra troops to its disputed border with Cambodia on Wednesday, an army official said on the second day of a flare-up over a disputed temple.

Thai Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niumpradit said earlier Thai and Cambodian officials were negotiating to end the impasse, which was triggered by Thai protests at the listing of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

But while talks continued, a senior army official said more troops would be sent to the border area, which has been a source of tension between the southeast Asian nations for decades.

"If the Cambodians can send their people to the disputed area, we can send our troops to that area too," the official, who declined to the named, said.

They included soldiers from artillery and special forces units, he said, without giving further details.

At the temple, 140 Thai soldiers and 380 Cambodian troops faced off a day after three Thai protesters were held for several hours after trying to plant a Thai flag on the site.

Cambodian officials say Thai troops are occupying a patch of land on the border that belongs to Phnom Penh. The Thais deny this, and have accused the Cambodians of allowing illegal settlements on disputed territory.

Nevertheless, both sides have said they are seeking to negotiate an end to the stand-off.

"Please be calm and patient. We are talking with the senior people in Cambodia and we hope the situation will ease up in a few days," Boonsrang said.

In Phnom Penh, government spokesman Khieu Khanarith said the Thais should withdraw to their old positions. He also said Prime Minister Hun Sen had appealed for calm and urged the media not to inflame the issue.

On the Thai side of the border, activists planned to rally on Thursday "to protect our sovereignty," a protest leader said.

DECADES-OLD DISPUTE

The only casualty so far has been a Thai paramilitary ranger who lost part of his leg on Tuesday after stepping on a landmine in an area littered with the devices after decades of war.

Perched on top of a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between Cambodia and Thailand, Preah Vihear was off-limits for much of the 1970s to 1990s when it was a jungle outpost for Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

Built by Khmer kings in the 11th century, it has been a source of tension since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais.

Thailand's initial support for the temple's heritage listing has been used by anti-government groups to stoke nationalist fervour and protests against the government in Bangkok.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition of royalists, activists and businessmen which has led a nearly two-month campaign against the government, called a rally for Thursday on the Thai side of the border.

"We want to tell the Cambodian government to withdraw trespassers on Thai territory or we will exercise our rights under the constitution to protect our sovereignty," PAD leader Veera Somkwamkit told Reuters.

Groups opposed to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, have accused the new pro-Thaksin government of selling out Thailand's heritage to help his business interests in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh and Thaksin have denied the charge. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Bangkok, Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Jon Boyle)