Friday, 25 July 2008

Cambodia goes to the polls on Sunday 27 July



July 22, 2008: Electoral Campaigning in Takeo province

Sam Rainsy addresses SRP supporters in Prey Lvea commune, Prey Kabas district

A Cambodian military police officer, left, traffics during the last day of national elections campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 25, 2008. Cambodia is scheduled to hold its election on July 27.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Supporters of Royalist FUNCINPEC party wave as they hold party logo flags during their last rally in Phnom Penh July 25 , 2008. Cambodia is due to hold a general election on July 27.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Royalist FUNCINPEC party leader Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey, daughter of King Sihanouk, greets her supporters during their last rally in Phnom Penh July 25, 2008. Cambodia is due to hold a general election on July 27.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

The Royalist Funcinpec Party supporters wave the party flags during the last day of national election campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 25, 2008. Cambodians go vote for national election on July 27, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A poster of Sam Rainsy, the outspoken opposition leader who heads his self-named Sam Rainsy Party, is on display near the Royalist Funcinpec Party supporters truck, background, during the last day of national elections campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 25, 2008. Cambodia is scheduled to hold its elections on July 27.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, center, a Royalist Funcinpec Party candidate for prime minister, meets her supporters during the last day of general election campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 25, 2008. Cambodians will go pole in general election July 27, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Supporters of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) rally with a party flag in Siem Reap July 25, 2008. Cambodians will take to the polls on July 27 for the country's general elections.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party gather during the last day of national election campaign in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 25, 2008. Cambodians go vote for national election on July 27, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Supporters of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) rally through Siem Reap July 25, 2008. Cambodians will take to the polls on July 27 for the country's general elections. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Supporters of Cambodian People's Party (CPP) rally through Siem Reap July 25, 2008. Cambodians will take to the polls on July 27 for the country's general elections. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's PM takes credit for Khmer Rouge trials in polls

AFP Photo: Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, seen herem has accused members of Hun Sen's government...

by Rene Slama
AFP

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - As leaders of Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge near trial at a UN-backed court, Prime Minister Hun Sen has claimed much of the credit in voters' eyes ahead of elections Sunday, experts say.

Despite the opposition's efforts to link members of his government to the regime that left up to two million dead, Hun Sen has succeeded in painting the tribunal as a victory for his Cambodian People's Party (CPP), said Youk Chang, an expert on the Khmer Rouge.

Many voters "would see this as one of the CPP's efforts, and see this as one of the issues they have supported," said Youk Chang, who heads the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which compiles evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

With the CPP set to sweep Sunday's general elections, opposition parties have hardly discussed the tribunal in their campaigns, fearing that any mention of the court would just highlight what the public sees as a triumph for Hun Sen, he said.

"By not tackling this issue, they lose major support, because the Khmer Rouge affected everybody," he said. "That's why they lose support from the public."

The court's work is broadly backed by the public, according to a February survey by the US-based International Republican Institute, which found 86 percent of respondents supported trials for top Khmer Rouge leaders.

The Khmer Rouge's blood-soaked rule lasted only from 1975-79, but the ultra-communists endured as a guerrilla movement that only gave up arms a decade ago.

Hun Sen was a Khmer Rouge foot soldier, though he later turned against the movement. His CPP, expected to dominate general elections Sunday, has styled itself as the nation's liberator.
His government asked the United Nations to help create the court, but then repeatedly cut off negotiations during a decade of talks on the tribunal.

Sam Rainsy, the main opposition leader, has accused members of Hun Sen's government of collaborating with the regime -- pointing specifically at Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

Hor Namhong responded with a defamation suit, while Keat Chhon has said he will eventually explain his past.

Diplomats say that while testimony at the trials could produce new revelations, no one in the current government played a high-level role in the ultra-communist regime.

"The faction of the Cambodian Communist Party now in power, which has totally changed its ideology to embrace liberal economics, is the faction that eliminated the Khmer Rouge," one diplomat said.

The first trial is expected to begin by October, and one of the court's top judges, French magistrate Marcel Lemonde, said the tribunal was aware that the hearings could make political waves after the elections.

"Transitional justice after mass violence (is) at the frontier of politics and the judiciary," he said. "The judges cannot ignore the political repercussions."

Five senior Khmer Rouge officials have been detained so far, including so-called "Brother No. 2," Nuon Chea, deputy to the regime's leader Pol Pot, who died before facing justice.

The regime's former head of state Khieu Samphan, as well as the foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith are also being held.

But the first person expected to face trial is Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," who ran the infamous S-21 torture camp in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian officials at the tribunal downplay the possibility of any other Khmer Rouge official facing trial "due to budget constraints."

Lemonde, however, said that ongoing investigations could lead to more arrests.

"The budget is not what determines the number of the accused," he said, but declined to speculate on who other suspects could be.

Senate panels outline temple stance

Fri, July 25, 2008
By THE NATION

The Senate's six committees yesterday issued a five-point statement outlining its stance on the Preah Vihear temple issue.

The statement said:

1. The six committees are of the opinion that there is no overlapping border in the area adjacent to the temple. The area is completely Thai territory as per the 1904 and 1907 Franco-Thai Treaty to demarcate the border.

2. The government must proceed to nullify the June 18 joint communique with Cambodia on grounds that the document was deemed unconstitutional. Otherwise Cambodian authorities might cite the document to claim sovereignty over the temple and its adjacent 4.6-square-kilometre area should the case be argued in the International Court of Justice.

3. The 1964 ruling by the International Court of Justice addressed only Cambodian sovereignty over the temple and did not touch on border demarcation.

4. Since Cambodia proceeded unilaterally to register the temple as a World Heritage site which did not cover the adjacent area, the six committees deem it unjustified for the formation of a six-nation committee to manage the area.

5. Thai authorities should expedite to evict buildings encroached in the 4.6-square-kilometre area.

Senator Rosana Tositrakul said that after Parliament reconvenes, the six committees will push for the formation of an extraordinary Senate panel on the temple.

She voiced suspicion that certain elements within Unesco might have an ulterior motive on the sovereignty issue relating to the temple.

Thailand has accepted the watershed for border demarcation while Cambodia has used the French-drawn map to claim the temple and its adjacent area, she said.

The listing of the temple by the World Heritage Committee is very suspicious because this has happened as if some elements want to force the Thai-Cambodia borders to be redrawn, she added.

Should the French-drawn map be accepted a basis for demarcation, the entire border would shift to impact on the overlapping offshore area in the Gulf of Thailand, she said. The area is a potential site for natural-gas exploration.

Sacravatoons : " Border Talks in the Net "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " Vietnamese Laws "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " The Rat, the Fire and the Forest "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Cambodia-Thaïland: Preah Vihear, temple on the frontline

Drilling Update On Exploration Well In Cambodia

Your Industry News
Friday, Jul 25, 2008

Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (“SPC” or “the Company”) announced today that the Vimean Morodok MahaNorkor-1 exploration well (“the Well”) in Cambodia Block B (“the Block”) was plugged and abandoned at 2,930 metres with non-recoverable oil shows. SPC share of the drilling costs amount to approximately US$3.0 million (about S$4.0 million). This follows the Company’s earlier announcement dated 8 July 2008 (SGX Announcement No. 00051).

Commenting on the drilling results, SPC Vice-President (Exploration & Production), Mr Brian Boslaugh said, “SPC and its partners will continue to work closely to undertake technical works for further evaluation of the Block’s prospects”.

The Well is situated in Block B, offshore Cambodia, east of the Khmer sub-basin, and in water depth of about 75 metres. The well location is approximately 160 kilometres southwest of Sihanoukville, and about 80 kilometres east of the Thai-Cambodian Overlapping Claims Area, in the Gulf of Thailand.

CPP gets lift from strong economy

VANDY RATTANA CPP supporters wave party banners at a campaign rally outside the railway station in Phnom Penh on July 15.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Friday, 25 July 2008

Once sleepy streets in Phnom Penh are crammed with construction sites, crowned by towering cranes building the first skyscrapers in the leafy, low-rise city.

The capital’s building boom is one of the most visible signs of the sweeping changes in one of the world’s poorest countries, which according to some estimates has averaged 11 percent economic growth over the last three years.

It’s also a key reason why voters are expected to hand Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) a victory in general elections on Sunday, analysts say.

“Generally we agree that economic growth in Cambodia is a very good sign” of the country’s progress, said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for the Study and Development of Agriculture, which monitors the effects of the economy on the rural poor.

Thirty years ago Phnom Penh was almost deserted, after the Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated the capital as they plunged the nation into the darkness of the “Killing Fields” that would claim up to two million lives.

They dismantled the economy and even banned the use of currency in a genocidal drive to create a Maoist agrarian utopia.

After the Khmer Rouge were forced from power, they continued to battle the government until 1996, leaving a shattered nation strewn with landmines and a population struggling to survive.

Now that’s slowly changing.

Economic data on Cambodia remains sketchy, but international estimates agree that the country’s growth in recent years has been among the strongest in Southeast Asia. Foreign investment, mainly from other Asian nations, is pouring into hydro-electric dams, property and tourism.

Tourism, which brought in $1.4 billion last year, is expected to grow by at least 20 percent in 2008, according to the government.The garment industry has also thrived, sheltered for years under a unique labor-friendly deal with the United States.

The growth has helped power the construction boom, with realtors estimating that prime pieces of property in the capital can fetch $3,000 a square meter, a six-fold increase from eight years ago.

But the growth also has a dark side. Soaring land values have resulted in mass evictions and land grabs in Phnom Penh.

The garment industry faces tough competition from China and Vietnam, creating fears of job losses in an industry that is the country’s biggest private employer.

Corruption remains rampant, posing a drain especially for small entrepreneurs trying to start up local businesses that could help Cambodia end its dependence on imports for many basic goods, said Yang Saing Koma.

“You have to take a lot of time, and you have to pay extra money to get something done,” he said.

Inflation, driven by high fuel and food prices, hit 18.7 percent in January and prices for staples such as rice have risen by as much as 80 percent. The government has since stopped releasing inflation data, drawing accusations that it’s trying to hide the bad news.

“Income of the poor has to keep up with inflation,” said Chan Sophal, head of the Cambodian Economic Association, warning that poor farmers were struggling to cope with rapidly rising prices.

Some 35 percent of the country’s 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents a day. Those people in desperate poverty spend most of their money on food, but are struggling to keep up with rising prices, he said.

Despite the troubles, Cambodians overall are still pleased with the visible signs of their nation’s recovery – the construction in Phnom Penh and the main tourist areas, as well as new roads and bridges spreading into the countryside, said political analyst Chea Vannath.

“Cambodia needs infrastructure, and that’s what the ruling party provides to the people,” she said. “The CPP gets support from the people for that.”

Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Observe Cambodian National Elections

ISRIA

I am pleased to announce that a four-person Australian Parliamentary delegation will observe the fourth National Assembly elections in Cambodia on 27 July 2008.

The Parliamentary delegation is in response to an invitation from the Cambodian National Election Committee for international observers to monitor the conduct of the elections. The Australian delegation will be part of an international observer presence.

The Government's decision to send an observer delegation reinforces Australia's long-standing commitment to supporting democratic institutions and processes in Cambodia. Australian parliamentary delegations have observed the previous three National Assembly elections in Cambodia.

The delegation is: Mr Richard Marles MP, Ms Nola Marino MP, Mr Mark Coulton MP and Senator Rachel Siewert.

Australia has provided funding support for a three-year United Nations Development Programme to promote democratic development and civic participation in Cambodia.

Australia also provided support for a partnership between Radio Australia and Radio National Kampuchea which developed a talk-back radio program allowing citizens in the lead-up to the elections to interact directly with government officials, representatives of opposition parties and civil society.

I advised the Cambodian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Kao Kim Hourn, of the delegation in our bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministers' Meetings in Singapore.

Silkmakers to spin industry revival

HENG CHIVOAN; Years of civil strife have taken their toll on Cambodia’s silk industry.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lyria Eastley and Mom Kunthear
Friday, 25 July 2008

Three businesses held a ‘Silkworm Social’ on July 17 at the Regents Park Hotel in Phnom Penh to promote silkmaking in Cambodia.

The event – organized by Lotus Pond, Santuk Silks and Beyond Interiors – showcased the processes involved, from silkworms spinning their cocoons to looms weaving fabric.

“Our interest is to help reinvigorate the Khmer golden silk industry,” said Bud Gibbons, who with his wife, Kong Navin, owns Santuk Silk farm in Kampong Thom province. “Khmer silk had a wonderful international reputation in the past. We want to get that back again.”

Cambodian silkworms are known for producing a high quality, naturally yellow-tinted silk.

Gibbons also discussed the relative accessibility of silkmaking as a form of employment. “Silk weaving is an ideal activity for people of all different ages and ability levels because there are so many parts to the whole process.”

Phann Siem, a manager for the Lotus Pond Association, said, “I think Khmer silk is not only popular with many people, the industry also provides a lot of jobs for people. Within my association we can provide work for 150 to 200 people.

“We export about 5,000 to 6,000 silk scarves per year to three countries: the USA, Canada, and Australia,” she said.

“There is a demand for silk within Cambodia. Cambodian people like to use Khmer silk because it is good quality.

“We have to support Khmer domestic industries.”

“Cambodia has many handicraft sectors, such as in brass and silver and woodwork, but silk is another important handicraft, and it is in danger of dying out,” said Sompen Kutranon, a Thai businesswoman who has lived in Phnom Penh for 19 years.

Sompen explained that the silk industry is losing many of its artisans to factory work. “These days, the young people don’t want to work in the village, they want to find a life in the cities. This is why it is important to hold an event like this to show the people who make silk that their work is appreciated.”

“The people present at this event are the team leaders. They will go back with photos from this event to show the silkmakers in their village. It will instill a sense of pride in their work,” she said.

Toun Sophan, 42, belongs to one of about 1,000 families making silk in Takeo province. “I can earn from around $60 to $100 selling silk a month. It helps people in my village to stay home in their families and communities without having to leave home to find another job,” she said.

“If we don’t support our silk we will lose our tradition, and the next generation will never know about Khmer silk.”

Japan gives $750,000 to demine Battambang

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 25 July 2008

The Japanese government has granted $744,052 to Japan Mine Action Service to support community-based demining in Battambang province’s Karieng district, the Japanese embassy said in a press release on July 22.

“Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) received $312,300 of the grant for three small platoons of 90 soldiers for one-year mine clearing in Taseng commune, Kamrieng district, in Battambang province,” said Khem Sophoan, director general of CMAC.

The project will benefit over 5,000 villagers by alleviating the threat of mines in the area and by bringing about community development activities once the mines are cleared, the embassy said.

After decades of civil war, Cambodia remains littered with an estimated 10 million landmines.

“It is anticipated that Cambodia will be cleared of landmines by 2020,” said Khem Sophoan.

“Since 2003, CMAC has cleared about 213 square kilometers of landmines, mostly in western Cambodia and especially in Battambang, one of the most heavily mine affected provinces in Cambodia,” Khem Sophoan said.

“The death rate caused by mines has dropped remarkably from about 1,600 people in 1999 to 352 in 2007 and 170 in the first six months of 2008,” she added.

Temple tensions take toll on tourism

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski and Kay Kimsong
Friday, 25 July 2008

Cambodian travelers are boycotting travel to Thailand following rising tensions between the two nations over the military standoff at Preah Vihear, said Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Ho Vandy.

“Before Thailand invaded Cambodia, hundreds of Cambodians traveled to Thailand for medical treatment, but now they are looking for more choices,” he said.

Cambodians spend millions of dollars a year traveling to Bangkok for medical treatment or go shopping, but with a boycott “Thailand will lose a large amount of this,” said Eurasie Travel managing director Moeung Sonn.

The feeling appears to be mutual. About 1,000 Thais have cancelled their visits to the “famous Angkor Wat ruins,” the Bangkok Post wrote on July 14, since the ownership dispute erupted over territory around Preah Vihear temple.

Diethelm Travel Siem Reap manager Choup Lorn told the Post, “Thai tour guides here in Siem Reap say there are not too many Thai tourists now because of recent developments.”

But Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon was predicting that the current tension between Thailand and Cambodia would have little long-term negative impact on tourism.

Siem Reap tour operators were additionally hopeful that, once the political controversy surrounding Preah Vihear subsides, the temple’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site would open a new tourism frontier for them, via Siem Reap.

Tourism to the temple through Siem Reap was currently negligible, however, admitted Annetta Graf, manager of the Siem Reap office of Destination Asia (Cambodia) Ltd.

“We have maybe three requests a year for people to go there by helicopter,” Graf said. “We do not recommend that our clients go there overland at the moment.”

But if infrastructure were upgraded, the site could be an important add-on to the Siem Reap travel experience, encouraging tourists to extend their stay, she said.

“In the future, there is really big potential for trips to Preah Vihear and other nearby temples,” said Graf.

Sem Fousing, outbound operations supervisor of Exotissimo Travel Cambodia, said Exotissimo was waiting for the politics surrounding the Preah Vihear issue to die down before firming up plans to send tourists to the region.

“We don’t focus on the area at the moment because of the politics... But it is on our proposal for next year and it will be part of our new adventure department so that people can trek as well as visit the temple.”

Jack Sprat: how to eat crickets

Alex Renton
The Times
July 25, 2008

Would you like flies with that? 'Stuffed crickets au champagne' is a highlight of The Cuisine of Cambodia. We try it in Phnom Penh

I began to suspect that the chef, Mr Ry, wasn't entirely familiar with haute cuisine when he tried to open my champagne bottle with a machete. But he was a cook willing to try something new, and that's always good - although his menu at the Stung Sen, the second-best diner in the town of Kompong Thom, central Cambodia, was far from dull. The English version listed some specialities: sour soup, fried water with cauliflower, fried cat with ginger. I'm not certain that the last meant catfish.

When I gave Mr Ry the recipe, he said he'd never heard of it. I was surprised. “Stuffed crickets au champagne” is, after all, a highlight of The Cuisine of Cambodia, the only Khmer cookbook ever translated into English, featuring contributions from no less a chef than King Norodom Sihanouk himself. With its nod to the luxuries of the country's French colonial past and the staples of the famine years, it's real fusion cuisine.

The champagne I had brought from Phnom Penh. The coconut and peanuts for the stuffing came from the Kompong Thom market. The crickets I'd paid some kids 50 pence to find in the rice paddies. Chef Ry topped and tailed them, as is normal, keeping their torsoes and thighs in tact. The latter are hardly bigger than matchsticks, but are said to be the best part.

Into the tiny bellies, Ry painstakingly poked the stuffing. Then he fried them in butter. At the last moment, I tossed the glass of champagne into the wok. The whole kitchen applauded as it went up in steam.

Why Not Eat Insects? is the title of Vincent M.Holt's must-have 1885 cookbook on this important subject. “In entering upon this work,” Holt begins, “I am fully conscious of the difficulty of battling against a long-existing and deep-rooted public prejudice ...”

But why not indeed? As Holt points out - before proceeding to the recipes for slug soup and braised beef with caterpillars - insects are not really so very different from crabs and lobsters.
And with food prices soaring, we must look where we can for protein. Holt wisely remarks:
“What a pleasant change from the labourer's unvarying meal of bread, lard, and bacon, or bread and lard without bacon, or bread without lard or bacon, would be a good dish of fried cockchafers or grasshoppers. [The poor] neglect wholesome foods, from a foolish prejudice which it should be the task of their betters, by their example, to overcome.”

I couldn't agree more. Sadly, though, I'm not sure that crickets in champagne is a dish for the poor or, indeed, anyone. But that may be because Chef Ry wasn't used to butter. He did slightly burn it. I was the only person in the restaurant to eat more than one cricket, and I have to admit that eating prawns with their shells on would have been similar. “So you always eat this dish in your country?” asked one of the waiters politely. But the crickets were miles better than the tarantula fried in garlic that I ate later in a town called Stung. That was very greasy.

“I foresee the day when the slug will be as popular in England as the sea slug is in China, and a dish of grasshoppers fried in butter as much relished by the English peasant as a similarly treated dish of locusts is by an Arab or Hottentot,” concludes the wonderful Mr Holt. I'm not as optimistic. But I was interested to find, in Bee Wilson's brilliant book on food industry fraud, Swindled, that insects are part of most processed food. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges this and limits it quite precisely. For example, by the FDA's rules, up to 30 insect parts are permitted per 100g of peanut butter, and 100g of tomato juice may contain 20 fly eggs or two maggots.

Enthused? You may be able to collect crickets - or grasshoppers - as the Cambodians do, by suspending a bright light outside at night above a deep bucket. I haven't yet tried. But if anyone wants the recipe for crickets au champagne, please e-mail me. There's one for potted red ants' eggs, too.

Thai air traffic control firm called threat to security

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 25 July 2008

A Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker is urging the government to withdraw the nation’s air traffic control contract from Bangkok-based Samart Corporation due to national security concerns over the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

Samart to operate air traffic control services through its local subsidiary, the Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd (CATS), under a build-cooperate-transfer (BCT) contract with the Cambodian government.

“Our nation is in conflict with Thailand and, for national security reasons, the government should control air navigation alone,” National Assembly member Son Chhay told the Post on Sunday. “We must not rely on another country like Thailand to oversee our airspace.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said the government had the right to review any contract with a private company if it were truly a threat to national security.

“In general, the government has to care more for national security than for minor revenue from investment,” Sok Sam Oeun told the Post.

The Cambodian government never wished to break any contract or agreement, added Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap.

“We will be able to control alone after the contract ends,” Cheam Yeap said. “But if the National Assembly learns that any contract violates the constitution, the National Assembly will be able to vote and cancel it.”

According the CATS website, Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) entered into an agreement with Samart in January 2001 giving Samart a 22-year exclusive license to develop and operate the civil air traffic control and navigation system in Cambodia under a BCT arrangement.

Samart established CATS and assigned its rights and obligations under the BCT contract to the new company in April 2001.

CATS began operating air traffic control at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports and at domestic airports in Cambodia in 2002.

It later built a new air traffic control centre with surveillance radar and communication network equipment to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, and the SSCA has issued an acceptance certificate affirming the installations met the conditions of the BCT contract.

Cheam Yeap blasted Son Chhay as “young and inexperienced in politics.” He told Son Chhay, “Don’t throw fuel on the fire.”

New Korean bank enters local market

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovan Nguon
Friday, 25 July 2008

The third Korean commercial bank to set up shop in Cambodia opened July 16, bringing the total number of commercial banks in the Kingdom to 22, according to National Bank of Cambodia governor Chea Chanto.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chea Chanto said that Booyoung Khmer Bank was being established at a time when the Cambodian banking sector was seeing rapid growth.

The new bank also reflected the growing confidence of Korean investors in Cambodia’s banking system, he said.

As the regulatory authority for the banking system, the National Bank supported free competition and reasonable access to credit for borrowers. It encouraged the entry into the market of bankers with entrepreneurial spirit and a high level of professional skills who were able to effectively raise and manage capital and provide credit to more effectively allocate capital resources, Chea Chanto said.

We don’t need simple creditors who merely offer loans, he added.

“I am highly confident that the bank will demonstrate itself as a good operator that complies with rules and regulations while providing financial services, especially to small- and medium-sized enterprises that need long-term loans to expand their business activities,” Chea Chanto said.

“I do hope that the bank will bring real banking professionals to Cambodia to improve business operations, raise management skills, and efficiently allocate financial resources, while respecting the rule of fair competition and market discipline.”

“We wish to build financial credibility among Cambodians and business people in Cambodia,” said Booyoung chairman Lee Joong Keun, who said the launch of his bank grew out of the good ties between Cambodia and South Korea and the stable political situation in Cambodia.

To celebrate the grand opening, Lee announced that Booyoung Khmer Bank was donating 40,000 white boards worth $3 million to Cambodian schools and would provide $7.5 million for the construction of 300 primary school buildings around the Kingdom.

“Booyoung Khmer Bank is the third commercial bank from South Korea after Camko Bank and Shinhan Khmer Bank to open since last year, and its total capital is 100 percent held by Korean shareholders,” said Chea Chanto.

Sitting on a powder keg

Satellite photo of Preah Vihear. IKONOS IMAGE (C) CRISP, NUS/GEOEYE 2004, provided by Aruna Technology Ltd, Cambodia



AFP ; A soldier waits to be sent into action as negotiations continue over the ongoing border dispute at Preah Vihear.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Thet Sambath
Friday, 25 July 2008

Border crisis rhetoric heats up as diplomatic efforts drag on

The military standoff at Preah Vihear continues to escalate, Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, calling the presence of Thai troops on Cambodian territory an “invasion” but adding later that crisis talks with Thailand on the issue would resume next week.

He also said that the government would ask the UN Security Council to postpone any action on Cambodia’s request that it weigh in on the crisis.

“The two sides have decided to hold the complaint to the UN. They have also agreed to have a meeting between Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers,” he told the Post on July 24.

“We show the political will to solve the problem bilaterally,” he said, adding that Thai and Cambodian officials would meet on July 28 in Siem Reap.

“We will not allow the Thais to continue staying on Cambodian soil. We will not tolerate this because Thailand has invaded our land,” he said earlier in the day. “But we have to try legal action first.... There is no ultimatum.”

Thousands of troops from both sides have been deployed to the border in the largest military build-up in years, sparking fears among regional leaders that the standoff could erupt into open warfare.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore, called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

“We are concerned about it and there needs to be a way to resolve it peacefully,” she told reporters. “We’ll continue to consult with the regional states.”

Thailand has rejected a Cambodian request for outside mediation, and ASEAN leaders said earlier in the week that negotiations had failed to ease tensions.

The crisis began on July 15 when dozens of Thai troops crossed the border and took up positions near the temple following Cambodia’s successful bid to have Preah Vihear listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site a week earlier.

At the heart of the row is 4.8 square kilometers around the temple that remains in dispute after the World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia.

Bangkok maintains that its troops are occupying Thai territory located a short distance from the 11th-century temple – a claim that has repeatedly been rejected by Cambodia.

“This is an invasion to take Cambodian land,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We have a lot of weapons, but we do not want to violate ASEAN treaties and we hope that this will not reach the point of conflict.”

Senior military leaders, including Defense Minister Tea Banh and deputy chief-of-staff Kun Kim, visited the site on July 24 as the situation appeared ready to drag on.

“I want to tell all of the armed forces to be patient and not to engage in any violence,” Tea Banh said following a meeting with commanders at Preah Vihear, adding however, “that very little tension has been relieved.”

Cambodia has about 1,700 soldier and police deployed to the temple, while “many thousands” more remain on high alert along the border, said Srey Doek, commander of army Brigade 12.

Cambodian officials, including Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, have accused Thailand of massing troops and equipment along their side of the border.

Along the de facto frontline near the temple this week, troops from both sides continued reinforcing their positions, stringing lines of razor wire and digging trenches within meters of each other.

But amid the preparations for war, a campground atmosphere sometimes prevailed, with soldiers trading jokes across the line, with Cambodian troops telling the Thais that they were not digging their trenches deep enough.

The crisis comes at a crucial time for both countries, with Thailand’s government under fire from the opposition and Cambodia heading into general elections on July 27 that are expected to see the Cambodian People’s Party win total control of government after more than a decade of power-sharing arrangements.

Cambodian opposition parties have accused the CPP of trying to exploit the Preah Vihear standoff for political gain, a charge denied by ruling party officials who say they are merely trying to defuse the situation.

As Cambodia’s leaders seek international efforts to find a diplomatic solution, fear of fighting has spread along the country’s border, with hundreds of families fleeing Anlong Veng.

“I heard rumors say there will be a bloody fighting soon because the negotiations had failed. I decided to leave for home and keep my stuff there until there is calm after the election,” said Um Thavy, a clothing seller at Anlong Veng who left for his home province of Kampong Thom on July 22 along with an estimated 300 other families.

Residents of villages closer to Preah Vihear have also left their homes, or were in the process of building fortifications against possible shell and mortar fire, they said.

(Additional reporting by AFP and Chrann Chamroeun)

Cambodian Homecoming

Davik Teng shows her scar from heart surgery after returning from Long Beach. (Peter Chhun )
Press-Telegram Long Beach
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/24/2008

Davik Teng got one last shiny bauble to put in her memory chest before returning to her tiny village in Cambodia.

The 9-year-old girl, brought to the United States by a Long Beach nonprofit for life-altering heart surgery, met Cambodia's king, Norodom Sihamoni, July 20 in a special audience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The king spent 40 minutes, well beyond the scheduled 15, with Davik, her mother, Sin Chhon, members of Hearts Without Boundaries and others in an 11-person group.
Peter Chhun, president of Hearts Without Boundaries, said the audience was an immense success.

"(The king) praised us for our work to save poor and suffering children," Chhun said. "I promised we'd continue."

The king donated $1,000 to Hearts Without Boundaries and offered future support.
L-R Davik Teng and her sister, Davin Teng, reunited in their village in Cambodia following a successful heart surgery for Davik in California. Photo By Peter Chhun for the Press Telegram

The king also gave Sin and Davik gifts and some money.
According to Chhun, the meeting was big news in the local press and a 15-minute news piece was devoted to it on national television.

Chhun, who returns to Long Beach Saturday, says the trip has been busy as he searches for another child in need of medical treatment.
L-R Sin Chhon, mother and Davik Teng meet the King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni after returning from Long Beach, California following a successful heart surgery for Davik. Photo By Peter Chhun for the Press Telegram

In October, Chhun plans to return with surgeons from UC San Diego and Variety Children's Lifeline. It was during his trip with this group last year that Chhun first met Davik. Variety Children's Lifeline provides medical services to children with treatable, survivable heart ailments in developing countries.

If there is another child in need of more help than they can provide, Chhun hopes to have a deal in place with an American hospital to bring over another child.

Before Chhun could think of the next child, however, he had to close the books with Davik and Sin.

That meant reuniting them with Davik's older sister, Davin Teng, and returning them to their village of Svay Chrom.

Chhun said about 40 to 50 villagers showed up at the family compound to greet the mother and child and the crowd swelled to more than 100.

To celebrate the homecoming, Chhun arranged for local monks to hold a ceremony to bless Davik's "new soul."

Later, Davik obliged villagers by showing her surgical scar.

"The people were stunned," said Chhun.

"I'm so happy to see her back," Chhun says an elder told him. "At one point I thought she'd never come home."
Sin Chhon, mother and Davik Teng Photo by Peter Chhun for the Press Telegram

Davik appeared to take her return to the village in stride and Chhun said soon "it was like she never left.

"After changing clothes she went right away and joined her cousins and played," Chhun said. "I'm sure she had a lot to tell them."

For the mom, the return was not quite so blissful.

Chhun says after tearful greetings, Sin walked slowly to her small bamboo hut. Most of the slats that make up the front wall of the structure had come off in the recent rainy weather exposing the inside and the family's meager belongings.

As Sin placed a suitcase onto the raised area that is the family's floor and sleeping place, Chhun says she whispered "I feel like Davik and I have returned to the wrong place."

Chhun said he reminded her of the purpose of the journey.

Davik was discovered suffering from a heart ailment known as a ventricular septal defect. The quarter-sized hole in her heart caused it to work inefficiently and left her struggling to breathe, weak and unable to attend school.

Although the ailment is routinely repaired in the United States, it requires open heart surgery and use of a heart-lung machine. Sin had failed in attempts to have her daughter operated on in Cambodia and resigned herself to watching her child die young.

Dr. Vaughn Starnes, the surgeon who repaired the heart, said Davik may have survived into her 30s without treatment, although the condition would have progressively worsened.

Now, after the surgery, Davik is expected to live a full life without complications.

"Your journey to find a cure for your daughter has ended with great success," Chhun says he reminded Sin as they stood near her dilapidated hut. "You have been a great and strong mother and I want you to continue to be strong and raise your two daughters. Now you start a new chapter of your life. But you can do it knowing Davik will be healthy."

At that point, Sin's eyes still filled with tears, Chhun says she looked up and said in soft voice, "Thank you so much for your help."

HOW TO HELP

Hearts Without Boundaries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings Cambodian children with life-threatening ailments to the United States for treatment and supports poor and suffering children in Cambodia. The group helped Davik Teng get her heart surgery.

It can be found online at heartswithoutboundaries.org, via e-mail at
or LuckyChhuon@ heartswithoutboundaries.org
or by calling Peter Chhun at 818-640-6191.

Sin Chhon, mother and Davik Teng returned to their village in Cambodia and found the front wall had blown off their hut.

Swedish girl heads home after alleged abduction

Phnom Penh (dpa) - A 6-year-old Swedish girl allegedly abducted by her father was on her way home after Cambodian police detained the man, a family friend said Friday.

Alicia Elfversson had been reported missing on June 4, 2007, after her father, Torgier Nordbo, picked her up for a routine visit to see relatives in Norway, her mother, Maria Elfversson, said in an earlier interview.

Nordbo was later reported as wanted by Interpol for "crimes against children" and kidnapping and tracked to Cambodia. He has extensive business interests in neighbouring Thailand.

Steve Morrish of the anti-trafficking organization Sisha said Friday that mother and daughter had been reunited and immediately left for Sweden.

"The last I heard, her plans were to get straight home as soon as possible," he said.

Nordbo, whom Elfversson has said was Norwegian-born, was awaiting deportation to the child's hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, to face charges, Cambodian anti-trafficking police said.

Both sides ‘to give talks another try’

Today online.com
Friday, July 25, 2008

Dispute should not have been allowed to boil over into a ‘big issue’: Mr Yeo

Teo Xuanwei
xuanwei@mediacorp.com.sg

NOT long after Foreign Minister George Yeo called Cambodia’s move to take its quarrel with Thailand over a disputed border area to the United Nations as “premature”, a report said that the two neighbours had decided to give bilateral talks another chance before turning to the world body.

In his round-up yesterday of four days of “eventful and fruitful” talks between regional and world leaders here, Mr Yeo, in his capacity as host of the meetings, said the Thai-Cambodian border dispute near a historic temple was one of the dominant discussion topics. But he added that it should not be allowed to boil over into a “big issue”.

Mr Yeo said the dispute should not have gone to the UN Security Council.

“It was not a problem, even a few weeks ago. It suddenly became a problem,” Mr Yeo said at a news conference following the Association of South-east Asian Nations’ (Asean) annual security meeting.

Discussions over how to end the crisis — which started earlier this month after Unesco approved Cambodia’s application to mark the ancient temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site — reached a deadlock earlier this week, leading Cambodia to ask the Security Council to intervene.

However, the Associated Press reported last evening that Cambodia had agreed to hold another round of talks with Thailand on Monday. Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also confirmed that his country would “postpone the complaint to the Security Council.”

The border row had threatened to overshadow the Asean Ministerial Meeting and the Asean Regional Forum over the past four days.

SOME PROGRESS ON THE ASEAN FRONT

While Asean’s efforts to help Thailand and Cambodia to solve their dispute did not make much headway during the regional talks, Singapore Institute of International Affairs’ senior research fellow Dr Yeo Lay Hwee felt that the grouping had made some progress.

“That Cambodia wanted Asean to be involved in the mediation is a show of confidence in the regional grouping,” she said.

Several significant meetings held on the sidelines, such as the first ever informal meetings of the foreign ministers of the six-party talks — involving both Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and China — and North Korea’s signing of a non-aggression pact with Asean yesterday afternoon also showed that the grouping is now “taken more seriously by the big powers”.

But Dr Yeo noted that Asean had to heed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s advice closely to show that it could take on a more “proactive and positive role”.

Mr Lee had stressed the importance of Asean cooperation and integration in his opening speech on Monday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yeo said Asean had to bear in mind three Cs as work on the Asean Charter and managing common challenges for the region continues.

Making this point as Singapore handed over the Asean chairmanship to Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Banditkul,Mr Yeo said Asean must earn the first “C” — credibility — by ensuring that words are backed by actions and obligations are fulfilled. The test of Asean’s success is whether it enhances the competitiveness — the second “C” — of each member state, he said. The third “C” is the centrality of Asean. Its members had to make sure that political, economic and security architecture of the region takes into account the interest of Asean.

“We must take an active interest in regional and global affairs,” Mr Yeo said.

While some have asked for his views about whether the quality of Asean’s stewardship will suffer given the “domestic political difficulties” in Thailand, Mr Yeo reiterated the point that Thailand’s ability to remain independent when the rest of South-east Asia was colonialised reflected a strong and established foreign ministry with a “professional core of officers”.

He added: “We have reasons to be confident that the chair of Asean is in good hands.”

Deputy PM to be dispatched to Cambodia on Monday

Fri, July 25, 2008
By The Nation

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will dispatch one of his deputies to Cambodia on Monday to negotiate over the border dispute, Deputy Government Spokesman Natthawut Saikua said Friday.

Natthawut said the new foreign minister could not be appointed in time so a deputy prime minister would be assigned to carry out the task.

He said the ministerial level meeting on Monday would be the first bilateral meeting over the border dispute and the new foreign minister would be appointed in time for the next meeting.

The spokesman said it would not a breach in diplomatic protocol to send a deputy prime minster to conduct the talk because the Cambodian government itself would become a caretaker government when a general election is held in Cambodia on Sunday.

The dispute over an area of 4.6 square kilometers near Preah Vihear ancient temple heated up following Cambodia's success of listing the temple as a world heritage site.

Both countries claim ownership of the tract and deployed soldiers to confront each other near the disputed borderline.

The Nation

Thai-Cambodia crisis underscores Asean's failings

The Straits Times
July 25, 2008

ASEAN'S failure to come to grips with the brewing Thai-Cambodia border conflict at ministerial talks here has underlined the organisation's inability to take action during a crisis, observers say.
Some 4,000 Thai and Cambodian soldiers are facing off over a small patch of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, in one of the most dangerous flare-ups of regional tensions in decades.

The dispute erupted just before foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations convened for annual talks ahead of Asia's top security meeting, the Asean Regional Forum, which embraces their 17 partners including China, the United States and Russia.

Asean held crisis talks on the issue, and extracted an assurance that the neighbours would 'exert utmost efforts' to find a peaceful solution.

But Cambodia's request for the bloc to form a 'contact group' to act as an impartial broker was shot down by Thailand which opposes any intervention.

Asean's long-cherished convention of making decisions by consensus and not interfering in members' internal affairs made it impossible to move forward, and instead Cambodia has asked the United Nations Security Council to act.

'The thing is, Asean is not built to intervene in these kinds of disputes except to urge restraint,' said a former secretary-general of the group, Mr Rodolfo Severino.

'Asean has no armed force, it has no powers of coercion. So it's just the moral weight of the association that's being brought to bear,' he said.

Asean took a dim view of Cambodia's decision to go over its head and appeal to the UN, which some saw as an unwelcome internationalisation of the conflict.

'There is a view that this may be a little premature,' Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said on Thursday at the close of the Asean Regional Forum, whose members called for 'restraint, a speedy resolution and to maintain the status quo'.

Mr Tim Huxley from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore said the mild response showed Asean was 'still underdeveloped as a security grouping'.

'For many years Asean has talked about doing more in the security sphere,' he said. 'If it's going to maintain its relevance it's going to have to try a bit harder.'

'The issue has now gone to the UN Security Council and I think it's an illustration of how far South-east Asian countries still have to go in developing a security community.'

The same shortcomings have vexed Asean's attempts to rein in member state Myanmar, which has earned widespread condemnation for its human rights abuses and refusal to shift towards democracy.

Myanmar came to this week's talks in the bad books for extending opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest for another year, and refusing to quickly open its doors to a foreign-led relief effort after a catastrophic cyclone in May.

But it escaped with effectively a slap on the wrist. Ministers said after an informal dinner on Sunday that they were 'deeply disappointed' with the action against Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, but in the formal communique the words were omitted.

Mr Huxley said the bloc has set itself lofty standards, including a goal to establish a political and security community by 2015.

But in a grouping that includes authoritarian states, democracies and semi-democracies, a military dictatorship, and an absolute monarchy, that kind of cohesiveness will be difficult to achieve.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, himself a former Thai foreign minister, defended the bloc's failure to achieve a breakthrough in the crisis with Cambodia.

'I think the entry point has to be very carefully chosen,' he said.

On this issue, intervention would have to wait until 'both sides are more ready and emotions calm down a little bit', he said. -- AFP

Cambodia at the Ballot Box

Fan base: Hun Sen supporters at an election rally in Phnom Penh.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By RODERICK BRAZIER
July 25, 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party will win a thumping victory in the July 27 national parliamentary elections, the fourth held since 1993. Outside one-party states, rarely can an election result be foretold with such confidence, but in Cambodia, the CPP's continuing -- indeed strengthening -- grip on power is assured. At elections that observers expect to be broadly free and fair, the CPP will easily win enough seats to stay in power for the next five years.

That's not to say the election process is perfect: There have been several deaths this campaign season resulting from local political disputes, but this is dramatically less than the first couple of elections when hundreds would die in centrally directed attacks from the political parties. Vote buying, while it exists, is modest compared to previous campaigns and certainly no worse than in neighboring democracies.

The CPP's upbeat electoral prospects might puzzle Western audiences. After all, the CPP, under a different name, was Cambodia's ruling party during the gloomy and isolated 1980s, following the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Today, under CPP rule, land-grabbing and impunity are rampant. So why is the CPP so popular? Simple: After decades of war and misery, the country is stable and Cambodians are today more confident about the future than they have been in almost 40 years.

Many voters attribute Cambodia's stability and newfound economic vigor to the CPP. Earlier this year, a public opinion survey by the International Republican Institute revealed that 77% of Cambodians feel that Cambodia is generally heading in the right direction. The economy is in robust health, with growth roaring at around 10%, and employment opportunities are more plentiful than ever before. Infrastructure improvements, especially sealed roads, are hugely popular and closely identified with Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP. Many new roads, schools and parks are even named after the prime minister and other senior ministers.

It also helps that the CPP holds tight reins on the media, especially television, limiting negative coverage of itself. Newspapers are not controlled, so they can print very critical articles, but only a tiny proportion of the population reads them -- compared to the more than 70% of the population that watches television. Opposition political parties thus have few avenues for reaching broad audiences of voters.

The CPP also benefits from the weakened state of its main competitors: the royalist Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Funcinpec is a shambles, reeling from self-inflicted wounds and the Machiavellian maneuvers of the shrewd CPP. A senior party official recently admitted that Funcinpec's prospects were so dismal that it might be dissolved following the elections. The SRP is in better shape, largely because of its strong support in Phnom Penh. But in rural areas scores of SRP members have defected to the CPP, perhaps anticipating the CPP's victory and vying for the lucrative positions in government that will be doled out after the election. In short, Funcinpec, the SRP, and the many other tiny parties are in no position to challenge the CPP's ascendancy.

In policy terms, not much will change with the CPP victory. Economic growth and infrastructure development will preoccupy the government, while political freedoms and justice will take a back seat. If the economy continues to grow quickly, more and more Cambodians will have a chance of breaking free from poverty, and other indicators of human welfare will probably continue to improve.

The CPP appears to have mellowed somewhat with regard to dissent -- probably owing to the absence of serious threats to its supremacy and a craving for international respectability -- but will resist governance reforms that could weaken its control. In other words, Cambodia looks likely to settle on a trajectory to economic prosperity, coupled with an intolerance of dissent and political challenge.

Mr. Brazier is Cambodia country representative for the Asia Foundation in Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy guilty of insulting the CPP

Cambodge Soir
25-07-2008

The National election Committee (NEC), during a public Audience held on Wednesday July 23, fined Sam Rainsy ten million riel, following a complaint filed by the Cambodian People’s Party from Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces. Im Sousdey, the NEC president, stated that the opposition leader insulted the three leaders of the Cambodian People's Party, Chea Sim, Heng Samrin and Hun Sen during the campaign naming them “the thieves of the Nation”. The CPP won the case by claiming that Parliamentary elections Law had been violated, as it stipulates that each running party must respect its competitors.

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) considers this verdict unfair. The party indicated in a press release that its leader only quoted an extract from a sentence from the Global Witness NGO that mentioned “the family of the thieves of the nation”, adding that no law prevented him from saying so. The SRP will appeal to the Constitutional Council.

The first one illegally drove an army vehicle to organise a CPP parade in Kampot. The second rode a civil servant’s motorbike in Preah Vihear province. This money will go into the coffers of the State.

Preah Vihear: Cambodia takes a firmer stance

Cambodge Soir
25-07-2008

“It is not an invasion anymore it is a settlement!” Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information did not mince his words on Thursday morning during a press conference. Thai and Cambodian troops have been staring each other down at the foot of Preah Vihear temple for ten days.

The Hun Sen Government has started to show its irritation and the message is being relayed: the government “does not accept” the evolution of the row. According to Khieu Kanharith, who is also the government spokesman, the Thai soldiers’ strategy is clear: “ they will camp on their position on the Danrek mountain. They will then declare to be in the free zone whereas this is clearly our National territory.” Khieu then referred to the 1908 map locating the famous Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda “ in Cambodian territory”.

Several press agencies reported that Thailand had strengthened its positions by digging trenches and beefing up its troop numbers.

Once this point was highlighted the Minister tried to analyse the Thai Prime Minister’s behaviour. According to him, Samak Sundaravej is under pressure from the opposition. So, in order to stop the critics “and not be accused of being a traitor, he needs to remain firm”.
Confronted with this attitude, “Cambodia does not want its toes to be trodden on”. Khieu Kanharith warned that “Thailand is a friendly country but if it does not change its position we will have to take action”.

The Ministers estimated that around 4 000 soldiers are stationed on both sides. His Defence counterpart is, on Thursday July 24, in Preah Vihear to inspect the troops. Contrary to what Samak stated in the Thai press Phnom Penh does not believe “that the pressure will loosen after the Cambodian Parliamentary elections on July 27”. “ To say so is to fool the people, as the Temple is not at the centre of the electoral debate”, added the slightly agitated spokesman. He then went on to explain that the inscription of the temple on the World Heritage List had been delayed by Thai protests, meaning that whatever happens Bangkok is still opposing to Cambodia regarding Preah Vihear.

The only softer tone in a rather lively intervention concerned a request from the Minister to his compatriots not to buy any Thai products, as Cambodian goods would also be subjected to a boycott in Thailand.

“ Such behaviour can only have negative impacts on both economies” added Khieu Kanharith. As far as he is concerned, the Thai attitude is only caused by a “small group of individuals”.

Leang Delux

Ultimate recommendations before the elections

Alain Ney


Cambodge Soir
25-07-2008

Following the prohibition of alcohol consumption and sales on July 26 and 27 in order to prevent any violence or other offences, the National Election Commission (NEC) called on radio and television directors not to broadcast any political parties’ programmes this weekend, to help in guaranteeing a smooth electoral process.

Mam Sodando, director of Beehive radio which broadcast hours of programming for different parties including the SRP, NRP, Funcinpec, HRP and the League for Democracy Party, promised to entirely comply with the NEC request. Sin Sophat a manager at TV5 television and FM 98 Radio station also stated that popular programmes will be cancelled Sunday so that voters can cast their votes. “Some voters would not go to the polls if we were to broadcast our normal popular scheduled programmes on election day”, he explained. Sin Sophat also mentioned that TV5 will broadcast this Sunday at 3:00 pm, during the news, a report on the political parties’ activities.

According to a letter sent by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, all mobile operators will send an SMS to subscribers registered on the electoral lists inviting them to vote between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Ung Chamroeun

Cambodia : wacky drivers


Alain Ney

Cambodge Soir
25-07-2008

2007’s road accident figures have been revealed. The number of accidents have doubled within five years.

Cambodia holds a sad record “with the highest rate of all Asean countries”, 27,403 traffic accidents said General Ouk Kim Lek, the deputy commissioner of the general commissariat of the National Police. This was the introduction for the annual report jointly published by Handicap international Belgium and the Ministries of the Interior, Health, Public Works and Transportation. Those figures should be put in context with the timing of new traffic regulations which came to force last year.

A total of 1,545 individuals (of which 971 were riding motorbikes) were killed in those accidents, an average of 4.2 per day. This is a 20% increase from 2006. Most victims were aged from 20 to 30. The numbers for 2008’s first two months indicate an increase of individuals killed, now averaging almost 5 per day. In Phnom Penh only, the number of deaths increased by 54% between 2006 and 2007, affecting all districts. The National Road between Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham is the country’s most dangerous road, followed by the one linking the Capital to Sihanoukville.

Speed is to be blamed for half of the accidents and alcohol abuse for 20% of them. Half of the drivers (cars, lorries or buses) involved in accidents did not hold a driving license. 73% of the individuals driving or riding during an accident are men although they only represent 49% of the population. Most often crashes involve a motorbike and a car (35%) or occur between motorbikes (15%).

With regard to the use of safety equipment: in 96% of the cases, the passengers or the car drivers who were injured in an accident did not fasten their seat belts. The recent obligation to wear a helmet and its efficiency raises problems. The authorities should look into the quality of the articles for sale in the country. The figures revealed that 17% of the riders involved in an accident and not wearing a helmet suffered from head injuries, whereas for those wearing a helmet the percentage is 13%, a difference of only four percent.

The existing impunity on the roads needs to be eradicated. The future government will have to come to grips with the present road chaos. “The new code will be enforced in 2009, once the elections are over”, warned Preap Chanvibol, deputy director of the land Transportation Office of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

Alain Ney

Cambodian FM optimistic about talks with Thailand over border issue

Thai soldiers greet Cambodian soldiers near the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda of the Preah Vihear temple, about 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 24, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
2008-07-25

PHNOM PENH, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Foreign ministers' meeting between Cambodia and Thailand held on Monday at Siem Reap province is expected to produce positive result to break the 10-day military stalemate at the border area, said a senior official hereon Friday.

"I strongly hope that the foreign minister-level meeting at Siem Reap will score positive outcome," said Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, after meeting with the ambassadors of the five member countries of the UN Security Council.

"I just officially informed the ambassadors about the latest events in regard with the dispute near the Preah Vihear Temple," he said.

While talking with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej through telephone on Thursday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed to hold a foreign minister-level meeting to solve the problem with peaceful means. This is a new manifestation of Cambodia's goodwill, he said.

"However, if the bilateral talks fail, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) can't hammer out any deal and the Thai troops still stay on Cambodian soil, we will go to the UN Security Council again, which should fulfill its obligation to find peaceful resolution for us," he said.

Meanwhile, as Thailand is to take the rotating chair of ASEAN, Cambodia is also ready to welcome special envoys from Vietnam and Indonesia to help find the resolution at regional level, he said, adding "anyway, armed confrontation is not what we want."

On July 21, bilateral defense minister-level talks in Thailand didn't reach any agreement to end the military face-off.

The Cambodian government then wrote to ASEAN, UNESCO and the UN Security Council for higher level intervention.

On July 15, three Thai protesters trespassed border to reclaim the Preah Vihear Temple, but were immediately arrested. Thai troops then came in to fetch them, thus triggering standoff with Cambodian soldiers there.

Bilateral military force was then built up on daily basis until the current scale around one thousand at least.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

The politics of Preah Vihear and Phra Viharn

The Bangkok Post
Friday July 25, 2008

THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK

While the military build-up between opposing Thai and Cambodian armed forces over the Preah Vihear temple controversy has reached a standstill following inclusive talks between the two sides, Phnom Penh's diplomatic offensive is well under way. After its unsuccessful bid to put the issue for regional discussion among Asean members, Cambodia is now seeking a multilateral solution to this longstanding bilateral territorial dispute, threatening to put the United Nations Security Council on the spot.

It has become a foreboding tussle between Cambodia's legal merits and Thailand's historical claims that has far-reaching repercussions. Although the narrative of what Cambodians have referred to as Preah Vihear and Thais as Phra Viharn is complicated and technical, the main points of contention are not difficult to discern.

Phnom Penh insists that the 4.6 square kilometres adjoining the temple complex has been under Cambodia's territorial sovereignty since the International Court of Justice's landmark adjudication in 1962. In its 9-to-3 verdict, the ICJ ruled that Cambodia's submitted map, drawn up by French surveyors during 1904-07, put the temple area in Cambodia proper because Thailand (then known as Siam until 1939) did not object. Without Siam's visible and vigorous objections during the interim, the ICJ ruled that Cambodia's map carried the day.

Sensing an opportunity during the hearings in 1962, Cambodia further requested the ICJ's adjudication over the adjacent land area but the judges placed their jurisdiction only over the temple as per Cambodia's original case submission.

This French-made map thus became the core of contention because it defied and manipulated natural geographic divisions. Siam then did not, as Thailand now does not, accept the French-made and Cambodian-peddled map over ''Phra Viharn'' because it contravenes the Franco-Siamese agreement of 1904, which stipulated that the map was to be demarcated along a watershed line separating the two countries.

French mapping also took place just a decade after Siam ceded a clutch of territories to France. It was a period when France lorded it over Indochina as a colonial master and when Thailand was compelled to trade off a host of unequal treaties with European powers for its independence.
Unsurprisingly, none of the judges in 1962 said that the French map was fair and just. Their point was that the absence of Siam's explicit rejection of the map was tantamount to an implicit acceptance. A dissenting judge from Australia, Sir Percy Spender, in fact stipulated in his opinion that the temple area was in Thai territory due to the watershed line.

Over the past century of Preah Vihear controversy, Thailand has never recognised this map but it did accept the ICJ ruling on the temple complex itself. Cambodia's ongoing manoeuvres to claim the adjacent 4.6 square kilometres of territory to be under its sovereignty, are ironically intended to benefit from the fruits of French imperialism, from which the country itself suffered for decades.

Yet the Cambodians are unlikely to cease their claims. Phnom Penh knows it has the upper hand both on the legal merits and on the domestic divisions in Thailand.

Bangkok is still without a foreign minister after the incumbent Noppadon Pattama resigned in disgrace following the Thai Constitution Court's ruling against the joint communique between Bangkok and Phnom Penh agreeing to let Cambodia unilaterally register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand is also deeply polarised, stuck in a protracted political crisis. Another Cambodian submission to the ICJ to rule on the sovereignty over the 4.6 square kilometres, based on the 1962 precedent, would be a blow to Bangkok.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his embattled government have suggested that the controversy will dissipate after Cambodia's general election this Sunday.

This is a misplaced assumption.

Cambodia 's bid for the temple's designation as a World Heritage Site goes back to 1992 and actively took hold well before the Thai political crisis and Cambodia's elections. Phnom Penh's claim is thus likely to continue after Sunday.

If Cambodia fails at the UNSC due to Thailand's staunch and longstanding friendships with the majority of the Permanent Five, it will still press the case on a bilateral basis.

What Mr Samak must do now is to de-politicise the Preah Vihear controversy by appointing an autonomous team of diplomats and relevant officials and experts who are insulated from the cut-and-thrust of the Thai political crisis, to mount Thailand's case.

If the new foreign minister must come from the patronage party quota system, then a deputy or equivalent should appointed who should be a respected outsider.

He then should be given a green light and full support to direct Thailand's legal and diplomatic efforts.

Equally important, the People's Alliance for Democracy and other anti-government groups bent on overthrowing Mr Samak's government, must lay off the Preah Vihear issue. If they continue to exploit this matter to bring down the government, it would play into Cambodia's advantage.

Preah Vihear should be off-limits to both the PAD and Prime Minister Samak's lieutenants and other proxies of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Indeed, the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the adjacent land should be jointly developed, supervised and managed. While legality gives Cambodia an edge, geography is firmly on Thailand's side.

The status quo of joint use by both Thais and Cambodians has worked well until recent weeks. It should be restored.

The writer is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.

Cambodian parties make final push for votes

AFP Friday July 25, 2008

Cambodian politicians began their final push for votes on the last day of campaigning Friday for an election Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party is expected to dominate.

Soaring nationalist sentiments have powered the campaigns, fueled by a 10-day military standoff with neighbouring Thailand over a small patch of disputed land near the ruins of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

The most frenetic campaigning took place in Kampong Cham province, home to one million of Cambodia's eight million voters.

Just after dawn Friday, thousands of opposition supporters waved flags and rode through the town of Kampong Cham on the backs of trucks and motorcycles, blaring party policies from speakers.

"Sam Rainsy! Sam Rainsy!" chanted several hundred people calling the name of the opposition leader, while wearing white shirts and caps bearing the party's candle logo.

But few expect voters to oust the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has ruled since the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge nearly three decades ago.

Hun Sen has held the top job for 23 years, and voters are widely expected to hand him another five-year term.

His party loudly touts recent economic growth in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries, which has averaged 11 percent over the last three years, according to some estimates.

The controversy over Preah Vihear has only enhanced his standing, helping CPP portray itself as the defender of the nation.

"The voters realise we did a lot -- building roads, schools, health care, and especially the economy. Preah Vihear is the latest thing," Phnom Penh's provincial governor Kep Chuktema told an early CPP rally in the capital.

"We saved the lives of Cambodian people from the genocide. We gave people lives. From zero in 1979, Phnom Penh now has everything. From ghost city, now Phnom is a very good city," he said, with music blaring as CPP supporters filled a riverside boulevard with a carnival atmosphere.

Although it appears assured of victory, the CPP has mounted a massive campaign, parading in shiny new vehicles while covering the country with posters and the airwaves with promises of further development.

"The CPP campaigns are much fancier than those of other parties...The CPP outsmarts other political parties because those parties haven't achieved much at all," said Neang Sovath of the election monitoring group Comfrel.

More than eight million people are registered to vote at 15,000 polling stations, under the eyes of more than 13,000 domestic and international observers, including a team from the European Union.

The campaign has seen fewer irregularities than in the past, monitors say, partly because the nation is more stable, with double-digit economic growth from garment exports and tourism helping pull Cambodia from the ashes of civil war.

Hun Sen's CPP expects to expand its control over parliament, hoping to add eight seats to the 73 it already holds, which would cement Hun Sen's ruthless drive to secure his grip on power.

He lost Cambodia's first elections, backed by the United Nations in 1993, but bargained his way into a power-sharing deal and then reasserted total control in a 1997 coup.

Hundreds of people were killed in the run-up to elections the following year. Protests against the CPP victory were put down violently.

The last national election in 2003 was less violent but plunged the kingdom into a year of political stalemate that resulted in a coalition with the royalist Funcinpec.

The royalists have since imploded over internal scandals, while Sam Rainsy is expected to win few votes outside the capital.

Most election monitors say defeating the CPP is nearly impossible since the party controls virtually all broadcast media while maintaining a vast network across rural Cambodia, where most voters live.