Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Picture From Preah Vihear Temple

Cambodian soldiers hold rocket launchers while camped near the grounds of the Preah Vihear temple, about 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh. Cambodians voted on Sunday in an election likely to bestow another five-year term on long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose standing has been boosted by a nationalist spat with Thailand over a 900-year-old temple. The ruins themselves are claimed by both countries but were awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier carries rockets near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, in the disputed area between Cambodia and Thailand. Thailand said Tuesday that it may be weeks before it can withdraw troops from a disputed border zone with Cambodia, after high-level talks which officials said had eased the military standoff.(AFP/File)

Cambodian soldiers gather at a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, in the disputed area between Cambodia and Thailand. Foreign ministers from Cambodia and Thailand opened a new round of talks Monday on a nearly two-week military standoff over an ancient temple that has raised tensions in the region.(AFP/AFP)

Thai soldiers sit in a trench along the Thai and Cambodian border near Preah Vihear temple, in the disputed area between the two countries. Thailand said Tuesday that it may be weeks before it can withdraw troops from a disputed border zone with Cambodia, after high-level talks which officials said had eased the military standoff.(AFP/File)

Cambodian soldiers sit at the Preah Vihear temple in the Cambodian Preah Vihear province. Cambodia and Thailand have both signalled their willingness to stand down troops amassed along their disputed border, but neither showed any immediate signs of making the first move.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thai soldiers sit near a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple near Thai border in Preah Vihear province. Cambodia and Thailand have both signalled their willingness to stand down troops amassed along their disputed border, but neither showed any immediate signs of making the first move.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia and Thailand agreed Monday to pull back 1,200 troops stationed near an ancient temple

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (L) shakes hands with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong after their bilateral in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers held talks on Monday to try to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong tries to get past journalists between meetings with Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag at a hotel in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. Thailand's new foreign minister held talks with his Cambodian counterpart on Monday to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Journalists wait for Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag to hold a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. Thailand's new foreign minister held talks with his Cambodian counterpart on Monday to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, left, and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong talk while having lunch during a break of their meeting at a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia Monday, July 28, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand struggled Monday to settle a standoff over disputed border territory near an ancient Hindu temple that prompted both countries to deploy thousands of troops to the area.(AP Photo)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (L) shakes hands with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong after their bilateral in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers held talks on Monday to try to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (L) shakes hands with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong after their bilateral in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers held talks on Monday to try to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A delegation of Thailand's foreign ministry (L) hold a bilateral meeting with their Cambodian counterparts at a hotel in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers held talks on Monday to try to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (C) is seen with his delegation during their bilateral with Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap July 28, 2008. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers held talks on Monday to try to defuse a row over a 900-year-old temple that has raised fears of a military clash between the southeast Asian neighbours.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Democrat backs pack on troop withdrawal

Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday voiced support for the initial agreement reached by Thailand and Cambodia for a gradual withdrawal of troops from the disputed area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

"It is the right move," Mr Abhisit, "that can help ease the risk and tension from the current military standoff, but the troop withdrawals must be made by both sides," he said.

He viewed the plan to hold further talks and set up a joint Thai-Cambodian border committee should be seen as a good sign because it means that both sides wanted to solve their conflicts through negotiations.

He said the objective of the talks is to see both sides withdraw their troops from the disputed area and respect rights of each other.

Then, a further meeting of officials concerned should be held to discuss what obstructs their cooperation to manage the area.

However, he said the Thai side must not allow any development of the disputed area unless the difference in opinions over rights over the territory is settled. (TNA)

Son forgives mum's killer

New Zealoand
By EMILY WATT
The Dominion Post
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A woman who fatally stabbed her Cambodian neighbour 150 times because she refused to babysit has been freed from prison - and her victim's son says he has forgiven her.

Janine Rongonui was initially jailed for life for murdering Pheap Im, a mother of two, in her home in Miramar, Wellington, in June 1998.

Mrs Im, 34, who had survived the killing fields of Cambodia and thought she had found safety in New Zealand as a refugee, was tortured for her bankcard details before being stabbed.
Rongonui, now 43, finished the attack by kicking the body to check she was dead.

Mrs Im's children, aged 14 and 12 at the time, came home from school to find the house ransacked and their mother dead, covered in blood.

Rongonui, whose murder conviction was reduced to 10½ years for manslaughter on appeal, was first eligible for release three years ago.

But the Parole Board used special powers to keep her in jail on the grounds that there was a risk of her reoffending. However, she had to be freed by September.

She was let out earlier this month into the care of a mental health service provider under strict conditions.

Mrs Im's son, who asked not to be identified, said the family had done their best to ensure that Rongonui served her full jail sentence, but he had forgiven his mother's killer.

"I have, because part of me and part of what I believe is you have to forgive. It's sometimes hard, but as a Christian you want to forgive people's mistakes."

He said life had been difficult for him and his sister, who were brought up by their father after the killing.

"Especially for [my sister] being the first one to walk in on [the scene] by herself."

He still thinks of his mother regularly. "She's in our hearts."

Mrs Im's nephew said 10 years was not enough punishment for his aunt's death and he felt let down by the justice system.

He said it never got easier, and he had sympathy for his cousins, who had grown up without a mother. "Everything broke apart, everyone scattered like ashes. Someone has broken us apart."

Rongonui's release was "like someone punching you", he said. "It's a reminder of what she did to my aunty. It's like a fresh punch."

The family had asked that she not be freed into the same city as them, and the nephew feared she would reoffend.

At the time of the killing, Rongonui was found to have severe depression and to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She suffered brain damage from physical abuse and functioned at the intelligence level of a child.
She has been freed under residential restrictions, formerly known as home detention, for the next three months and must remain at the same address at all times. After that, she must stay at the same address and will be subject to a weekend curfew.

The Parole Board was told that Rongonui had "complex mental health problems", but her health was stable and a lot of effort had gone into providing her with support.

"We are satisfied that everything possible has been done to ensure that, on release, a structured community support network is in place to maintain Ms Rongonui's mental wellbeing, thereby reducing her risks to herself and the public," the board said.

Thailand says troop drawdown may take weeks

Thai soldiers sit in a trench along the Thai and Cambodian border

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand said Tuesday that it may be weeks before it can withdraw troops from a disputed border zone with Cambodia, after high-level talks which officials said had eased the military standoff.

The foreign ministers of Thailand and Cambodia agreed at talks Monday to ask their governments to redeploy the thousands of troops stationed around a small patch of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

However, no firm steps were taken and a Thai foreign ministry official said the government in Bangkok may ask parliament for approval first, which could delay the process by several weeks.

"Both countries need to pass their domestic legitimacy processes," ministry spokesman Tharit Charunvat told AFP.

The Thai army commander responsible for the border area confirmed that any withdrawal could be delayed.

"The redeployment process takes time and it needs to pass a high-level process first," Major General Kanok Netrakasana told AFP.

Still, both countries agreed that the 12-hour talks in Cambodia's Siem Reap had served to defuse tension surrounding the border issue.

"The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand will help relieve tension and improve the situation," army chief Anupong Paojinda said.

"Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first," he told AFP by phone.

"The situation is now a little bit better than in past days. Soldiers keep their weapons in one place and are walking around," said Major General Srey Dik, commander of Cambodian forces in the disputed area.

"We hope that soon the troops from both sides will withdraw from the area," he said.

The secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council, Suraphon Pheunaiyakan, said he had also spoken to Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who told him he was happy with the outcome of the talks.

The ruins of the Khmer temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the jungle, belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.

Both sides claim some of the surrounding territory and say a full resolution of the decades-long dispute is likely to involve protracted negotiations.

The latest conflict has enflamed nationalist sentiment in both countries. In Cambodia, holding a strong stance on the temple helped Prime Minister Hun Sen win general elections on Sunday.

In Thailand, embattled premier Samak is threatened by nationalist protesters who have made the temple a core issue in calling for his resignation.

Secretary to Thai Ambassador in Cambodia said talks tensed over border issues

Thaindian News
July 29th, 2008
by Amrit Rashmisrisethi

First Secretary to the Thai Ambassador in Phnom Penh Chaturont Chaiykam (จตุรงค์ ไชยะคำ) revealed yesterday that the bilateral meeting between Thailand and Cambodia to remedy conflicts over the Phear Vihear National Park registration went into informal talks for over 6 hours while awaiting an official statement from new Foreign Affairs Minister Tej Bunnag (เตช บุนนาค).

Mr. Chaturont stated that the talks took a pause during the earlier afternoon as Mr. Tej called on his team for an aside. Most reports pointed to border issues as the main reasons for extended talks.

Temple spat may delay oil riches

Asia Times Online
Southeast Asia
Jul 30, 2008

By Andrew Symon

SINGAPORE - A face-off between troops from Thailand and Cambodia over contested territory immediately surrounding an ancient temple on their mutual border threatens to delay even longer the resolution of a more economically significant border dispute between the two sides.

Tension over the temple complex, known in Thailand as Preah Vihear, escalated this month when it was listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization national heritage site.

To the south, a 27,000 square kilometer area in the northern Gulf of Thailand known as the Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) and potentially rich in fossil fuel reserves has long been contested by the two countries. Moves to resolve the problem now risk becoming unraveled in the deteriorating political climate at a time both countries' economies desperately need new domestic sources of fuel.

Issues related to national prestige and contested histories have long prevented any binding resolution to the maritime dispute and energy analysts and executives worry the recent temple row could complicate dealings over the OCA, where multinational energy companies have been granted overlapping concessions. The economic stakes surrounding the competing claims have grown as global oil prices have surged.

Thailand is proportionally one of Asia's largest oil importers, with the bill for oil imports accounting for 12% of its gross domestic product (GDP), and it now faces a growing gap between indigenous fuel supplies and surging demand for power generation. Cost-push inflation, driven by rising global oil prices, is starting to weigh on the country's economic growth, which is expected to slow dramatically over the next year.

For underdeveloped Cambodia, revenue from petroleum production would be enormously beneficial to its economy, while gas supplies could help to reduce its current over-reliance on expensive diesel and oil for power generation. High global oil prices are also taking an inflationary toll on Cambodia's recent strong growth, with headline inflation up to 18.7% in January, the last time the government released official figures.

Previous speculation that Cambodia might be on the verge of an oil-and-gas bonanza, related to a find (outside the disputed area)made by US energy giant Chevron and announced in January 2005, has been tempered by the company's reluctance to provide hard estimates or to commit to a production start-up date. Chevron has said it is "working hard to find a solution to develop the complex reservoir" that is "scattered over small dispersed fields" rather than "one core area".

Companies that have explored other offshore Cambodian blocks have yet to report positive results, leading many geologists to believe that the OCA's concentrated resources are the maritime area's main prize.

One Singapore-based international lawyer working with petroleum companies in the region told Asia Times Online that "negotiating joint development areas is a politically sensitive activity at the best of times. Governments run the risk of being seen by some as compromising sovereignty and giving away the nation's riches."

"In light of the recent developments around [Preah Vihear] and the tensions [that the temple dispute] has caused between Thailand and Cambodia and domestically, it might be a difficult time for any progress to be made on the OCA."

The two countries share a conflicted past. Despite their shared cultural links through Theravada Buddhism, Cambodia has long viewed Thailand as a threat, dating to when marauding Siamese troops destroyed the Angkor kingdom in the 14th century and in later times when it took control of large swathes of what is currently west and north-western Cambodia.

The unresolved OCA dispute, as with the row over Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Hindu temple, has its origins in borders set over a century ago between Thailand and France, then the colonial ruler of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Thai objections to those boundaries, including claims in the northern areas of the OCA drawn perpendicular to each other, have prevented any exploration in the contested waters since 1974.

Unexplored acreage

Nonetheless, geologists with knowledge of the field say that there are good prospects of it holding both oil and gas, with one describing it as "the best unexplored acreage left in Southeast Asia". The area represents a continuation of geological structures in adjacent Thai waters that have produced large volumes of oil and gas for several years.

The OCA lies in relatively shallow waters less than 80 meters deep, with oil and gas deposits believed to be mainly in the north, while the south is thought to be more gas and condensate prone. Broad estimates of the energy prize from various sources in the petroleum industry have ranged from anywhere between 8 trillion to 15 trillion cubic feet of gas and 400 million to 1,000 million barrels of liquid fuels, including oil and condensates.

These figures are highly speculative in the absence of detailed explorations that neither Thailand nor Cambodia has allowed. Efforts to resolve the dispute made some headway in 2001 when the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing that a joint development regime could be established over the southern two-thirds of the OCA, while the northern third could be developed once the maritime border was delineated.

Subsequent Thai demands that the northern OCA border must be agreed on before any joint development activities take place in the south have stalled negotiations. Thai negotiators have proposed that the disputed area be divided into three strips running north to south with the revenue from the central area shared equally. The share from the outer areas would be weighted in favor of the country adjacent to that area.

Because the most fuel-rich areas are believed to be in the OCA's western region, such an arrangement would favor Thailand. For its part, Cambodia has proposed dividing the area vertically down the middle and then six times horizontally to create 14 blocks from which revenues would be shared equally. Along those lines, each country would be responsible for managing seven of the 14 blocks, which would be allocated checkerboard style.

Thailand has refused to accept equal division and has openly argued for a greater share of the OCA's fiscal benefits. According to a study by United Kingdom-based petroleum industry consultants Wood MacKenzie, 85% of the OCA's overall economic benefits would likely accrue to Thailand under a joint production agreement, based on the assumption gas would flow into that country's existing comprehensive pipeline system in the Gulf.

Over the years, both sides have awarded exploration blocks over the same areas to multinational energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Chevron, both US-based, British Gas, Australia's BHP Billiton and Japan's Idemitsu, Inpex and Moeco.

None of these companies has relinquished those overlapping claims, pointing to the potential strength of the OCA's production prospects, analysts say.

Chevron holds "a working interest in several blocks in the Thailand-Cambodia Overlapping Claim Area", according to a notice on the company's website dated May this year. "As of early 2008, these areas were inactive pending resolution of border issues between the two countries," the notice said.

The ultimate legal position of companies allocated blocks is unclear, with the Thais making the majority of their awards under a royalty tax system in the late 1970s and Cambodia its competing concessions under a production-sharing system in the late 1990s.

Officials from both sides have met several times a year under the terms of the 2001 MOU. Under former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was known to have close ties with his counterpart Hun Sen, there were signs of a possible breakthrough, but overall little or no progress was made.

Discussions broke off following a breakdown in Thai-Cambodian diplomatic relations in early 2003 after mobs, angered by reports that a Thai actress said Cambodia's revered Angkor Wat temple should be part of Thailand, attacked the Thai embassy and Thai-owned businesses in Phnom Penh.

Bilateral relations were eventually repaired and negotiations resumed, but the September 2006 military coup in Thailand cast a new cloud of uncertainty over the talks. The energy minister in the successor Thai interim government did acknowledge the importance of finding a way to overcome the impasse.

Prospects of resolving the temple clash may have improved with the appointment last week of a retired career diplomat, Tej Bunnag, as Thailand's foreign minister following the resignation of Noppadon Pattama, forced to quit over his handling of the Preah Vihear issue. Noppadon was a former lawyer for Thaksin. On Monday, Tej led Thai negotiators at a meeting with their Cambodian counterparts at Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat.

Considering that each country's Foreign rather than Energy Ministry is mainly responsible for the OCA negotiations, nationalistic notions of prestige and sovereignty have taken precedence over economic imperatives. That will continue to be the case as long as the Preah Vihear temple controversy is unresolved - to both countries' growing economic detriment.

Cambodian, Thai armies still on border despite withdrawal agreement

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: July 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday he was ready to pull troops back from the Thai border but was leaving the timing up to Thailand, a day after officials agreed to ease a tense two-week armed standoff near a disputed ancient temple.

As of Tuesday afternoon, neither army had budged from their positions near Preah Vihear temple on the border.

Foreign ministers from both countries met Monday for more than 12 hours in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap. They failed to resolve the central issue over rights to a strip of land near the temple, but agreed in principle to move the 800 Cambodian troops and 400 Thais stationed nearby.

It remained unclear, however, when the troops would move or where they would be sent.
"For our side, there is no problem at all," Hun Sen told reporters in the capital, Phnom Penh. "The issue is up to Thailand to decide when to act. For us, anytime."

The standoff has stoked nationalist sentiment in both countries and helped strengthen Hun Sen's popularity ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections. His ruling party appears to have won a landslide victory.

"We still have a standing order to remain calm and exercise restraint," said Cambodian Maj. Gen. Srey Doek, contacted by telephone at the border. "Thai troops are keeping the same position, and so are we. But both sides do not want to wage war and only desire to live in peace with each other."

Thai army commander Gen. Anuphong Paochinda said his troops also had no immediate plan to budge.
"Thai soldiers will pull out from the area only after we receive an order from the government," Anupong told reporters in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

The dispute over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land near the 11th century temple escalated earlier this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage site. Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed the bid, sparking anti-government demonstrations near the temple.

Both sides stationed soldiers near the temple July 15. A first round of talks on July 21 foundered over which map should be used to demarcate the border, prompting Cambodia to request a meeting of the United Nations Security Council before agreeing to a second round of talks.

Monday's talks ended with both foreign ministers agreeing further talks were needed to resolve the larger border dispute.

"We cannot solve all problems at one meeting. We need to take gradual steps," said Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. "The immediate task is to avoid clashes through the redeployment of troops."

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag agreed that "the meeting would help reduce tension at the border."

A joint statement said "both countries should exercise utmost restraint to avoid the possibility of armed confrontation."

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.

The decision was based on a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favors Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

Army chief optimistic successful talks help ease border tension

BANGKOK, July 29 (TNA) – Thailand's Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda on Tuesday expressed optimism that the successful Thai and Cambodian foreign ministerial talks could help ease the border tension in the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his newly appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag announced in a joint press conference after talks held in Cambodia's Siem Reap province on Monday that both countries would adjust their troop deployments stationed inside and around the temple complex.

Speaking before his departure for an inspection in the restive South, Gen. Anupong said an initial agreement made by foreign ministers of both countries for a redeployment of troops in the dispute area would serve as a channel to help reduce the border tension.

The military would wait for the government's instruction before making any redeployment, he said.

The army chief conceded he was worried about a possible resort to violent means by some groups of people against other groups with opposing views in different areas of the country.

He said the use of violence could not solve the conflicts. Instead, it would worsen the rifts. The problem could be solved if all conflicting parties talked to each other reasonably and respected their different views.

"The army is not in a position to get involved in solving the confrontation because no law warrants its action. Still, the military police stationed in every corner of the country can help local police deal with the situation if requested because they are well-trained for it," he said. (TNA)

Troops to pull back in temple row

The row over the temple has raised nationalist sentiment on both sides [AFP]


The two foreign ministers said they would hold further talks to ease the row [Reuters]

Al Jazeera
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to pull back hundreds of troops from disputed land near an ancient temple but are still far from resolving the issue of boundaries that could end the two-week standoff.

The agreement follows some 12 hours of talks between the foreign ministers from both countries, meeting in the nothern Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

The move will see the withdrawal of some 800 Cambodian and 400 Thai soldiers from the vicinity of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand claim ownership to the territory surrounding the Khmer-era temple and the deployment of troops in the region had raised worries of a military confrontation.
Both sides have pledged to resolve the dispute "bilaterally and peacefully".

Hor Namhong, the Cambodian foreign minister, said they had "agreed to ask our governments to redeploy the troops" with details to be discussed later.

"We cannot resolve this problem at one meeting. It will require more meetings," he said. "We will exercise maximum restraint and avoid the use of armed force."

"The redeployment will only take place once the Thai government approves," Tej Bunnag, Thailand's foreign minister, said.

Forward proposals

Neither side has set any firm deadline for the troop withdrawal from area around the temple, or a date for the next meeting.

During Monday's talks the two countries also proposed a series of steps to end the conflict including a scheme to remove landmines that litter the area so that the border can be properly demarcated.

Cambodian and Thai officials said the meeting was the first step in what is likely to be protracted negotiations to end a dispute that has simmered for decades.

A first round of talks in Bangkok failed last week after Thai and Cambodian defence ministers could not agree on which maps to use to demarcate the border.

Cambodia had sought help from the United Nations but suspended its request pending the outcome of talks with Thailand.

The current conflict focuses on an area about 5 sq km of scrubland surrounding the 11th century temple which was recently awarded World Heritage listing by Unesco, the UN cultural organisation.

Cambodia, Thailand pull troops

San Francisco Chronicle
Sopheng Cheang, Associated Press
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cambodia and Thailand agreed Monday to pull back 1,200 troops stationed near an ancient temple, but failed to end the long-running border dispute that has stirred nationalist anger on both sides.

Foreign ministers from the two nations agreed to hold further meetings on how to demarcate a slice of land near the 11th century Hindu temple (prasat) in Preah Vihear province, but no date was set for the next one.

About 800 Cambodian troops and 400 from Thailand deployed inside and around a pagoda near the temple complex will be pulled back. It is unclear, however, where and when those troops will be moved.

"We cannot solve all problems at one meeting. We need to take gradual steps," said Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. "The immediate task is to avoid clashes through the redeployment of troops."

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag agreed "the meeting would help reduce tension at the border."

Moving troops from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda is considered significant, because that is where Thai troops first deployed this month. Soon after, Cambodia moved troops into the area and the two sides engaged in an armed confrontation on July 17, when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate a Buddhist holiday in the pagoda.

The Cambodians eventually pulled back and the two sides have since managed to repress tensions.

The dispute over 1.8 square miles of land near Prasat Preah Vihear intensified this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators criticized Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundarave for supporting Cambodia's application. Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

The first talks on July 21 fizzled over what maps should be used to demarcate the border.

Cambodia favors a French colonial map; Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American help.

The disagreement prompted Cambodia to request a meeting of the U.N. Security Council before agreeing to a second round of talks with Thailand. Hor Namhong said he was hopeful new talks would end the impasse, but also warned that his government would pursue the case at the United Nations if talks failed again.

Cambodian PM claims electoral clean sweep

The Canberra Times

BY SUY SE IN PHNOM PENH
29/07/2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's party has claimed a sweeping victory in national polls, positioning him to extend his 23-year rule after a vote overshadowed by a military stand-off with Thailand.

''We won the election,'' party spokesman Khieu Kanharith said yesterday, citing tallies by the party's own supporters. ''We have more than a two-thirds majority now.''

He said the Cambodian People's Party had won at least 91 of the 123 seats in Parliament, although ballots were still being counted.

Election officers said the official initial vote count showed the party had garnered at least 62 per cent of the vote in five of the nation's 24 provinces,

Final official results are not expected until next month.

Mr Hun Sen had been widely tipped to win, thanks to a booming economy that has improved the quality of life in one of the world's poorest nations, and to nationalist sentiment sparked by the border feud with Thailand.

Winning two-thirds of the seats in Parliament would mean the leader's party had siphoned votes away from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and royalist Funcinpec, and hugely increased its existing majority. It held 73 seats in the last Parliament.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called for renewed balloting in Phnom Penh, where his party is strong, alleging that 200,000 people in the capital could not vote yesterday after their names had gone missing from registration lists.

''Neither party won more than two-thirds of the seats,'' he said, estimating on the basis of a tally by his supporters that no party had won more than 70 seats. But election monitors dismissed his accusation of vote-rigging and said voting had proceeded smoothly overall.

Voters in the capital started lining up at dawn to cast ballots, with many saying their overriding concern was the territorial dispute with Thailand, centred on the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Businessman Lam Chanvanda, 56, said as he stood in a long queue of voters, ''I will vote for those who can solve the issue of Preah Vihear temple immediately after they take power.

''Before I was never interested in the border, but now it is in my heart.''

Thousands of soldiers from both sides are facing off near the 11th-century Khmer temple.
Foreign ministers from the two nations were set to meet yesterday in hopes of resolving the issue.

Analysts had long predicted Mr Hun Sen's victory because of Cambodia's strong economy, which has enabled the building of new roads, bridges and other improvements to infrastructure.

A former UN envoy to Cambodia, Benny Widyono, said, ''This [victory] is the result of economic development, which has been spectacular, as well as strong campaigning.''

About 17,000 domestic and international observers monitored the voting at more than 15,000 polling stations.

More than eight million people were registered to vote.

US-based Human Rights Watch has complained that the ruling party's near monopoly on broadcast media has undermined the opposition's efforts to woo voters, especially in rural parts of the country.

One radio station was shut down late on Sunday after it broadcast a book reading by Mr Sam Rainsy, which, according to Mr Kanharith, violated rules against campaigning on the eve of the vote.

Mr Hun Sen has a reputation for trampling on human rights to secure power.

Since becoming prime minister in 1985, the former Khmer Rouge guerrilla has ruthlessly cemented his grip on power. AFP

Cambodian PM: Problems of border dispute on Thai side

2008-07-29

PHNOM PENH, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The current problem about the settlement of the two-week-long Cambodian-Thai border dispute is what, when and how the political decision will be take by the Thai government, said Prime Minister Hun Sen here Tuesday.

"For our side, we have no problem. The problem is with the Thai side. We understand their difficulty. They need discussion and approval of the cabinet," he told reporters at the foreign ministry after meeting with Japanese visitors.

Monday after 12 hours of intensive talks in Siem Reap province, foreign ministers of Cambodian and Thailand agreed to consider withdrawing troops from a pivotal pagoda situated on the only way leading to the Preah Vihear Temple and the areas around it to avoid military tension.

Thai foreign minister said that he needed to report it to the government for final decision and the Cambodian side said that the two countries could open a new meeting later.

Talks between Thailand's armed forces chief General Boonsrang Niumpradit and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh ended one week ago without resolution. ASEAN intervention also failed the next day.

Over 1,000 soldiers have deployed near the temple since July 15in manifestation of either sides' claim of one piece of 4.6 square km land at the border area.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains in dispute.

Editor: Pliny Han

Cambodia,Thailand loath to blink first over temple

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, July 29 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday he would not withdraw troops and artillery from a disputed 900-year-old temple on the Thai border until Bangkok started to pull back its forces.

"It is a matter of when the Thais remove their troops," Hun Sen, who won another five years in power with a landslide election victory at the weekend, told reporters at Phnom Penh's Foreign Ministry.

The two southeast Asian nations' foreign ministers agreed on Monday to resolve the spat peacefully and scale back a two-week military build-up around the Preah Vihear ruins, awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

However, Thailand's cabinet, which is reeling from court decisions against several ministers and a long-running street campaign to remove it from power, issued no directives to the military after a weekly meeting on Tuesday.

Army chief Anupong Paochinda told reporters he was waiting for a government order to pull out the troops after both sides agreed to "redeploy" out of the disputed area on the jungle-clad escarpment that forms the natural border.

"When the government says withdraw, we will immediately do so," Anupong said.

Hun Sen's election victory means he does not have to pander to a nationalist clamour to tough it out with Cambodia's larger neighbour, although the wily former Khmer Rouge guerrilla has little to gain by being seen as the first to blink.

The Thai government faces similar nationalist pressures and is in a considerably weaker position at home than Hun Sen.

The spat first started when anti-government protesters in Thailand seized on Bangkok's backing for Cambodia's bid to have Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage site, whipping up a nationalist fervour in Thailand.

Monday's 12 hours of talks in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap helped assuage fears of the imbroglio evolving into a full-blown military clash between the two sides, which have been locked in a standoff since July 15.

"If they pull out, we will do, too," Cambodia's military commander on the scene, Chea Mon, told Reuters by telephone. "But this is our pagoda. We should not move far from this area.

"Even if they manage to avoid direct conflict, the saga is unlikely to die down quickly as ancient temples are among the most potent symbols of national pride in both countries.

In 2003, a Cambodian mob torched the Thai embassy and several Thai businesses in Phnom Penh after erroneously reported comments from a Thai soap opera star suggested Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat actually belonged to Thailand.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Bangkok) (Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould and Valerie Lee) ((ek.madra@thomsonreuters.com; +855 23 216977; Reuters Messaging ek.madra.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Cambodia, Thailand vow peaceful solution to border dispute

english.eastday.com
29/7/2008

Cambodia and Thailand said that they were committed to a peaceful solution to the nearly two-week bilateral military standoff in the border area near the Preah Vihear Temple, after foreign ministers of the two countries ended their one-day meeting here on Monday evening without any resolution.

The meeting is a new step towards peaceful resolution of the issue, Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told reporters after meeting with his newly appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag.

Both sides agreed to consider withdrawing troops from the pagoda near the Preah Vihear Temple and areas around it to avoid military tension, he said, adding that it is a victory step.

However, the Thai Foreign Minister said that he will report it to his government for final decision.

Cambodia and Thailand will open a new meeting later, Hor said, adding that the time has not been set yet.

In addition, Hor Namhong said that the two countries do not need special envoy from regional level.

The two sides began their talks around 10:20 am (0320 GMT). The meeting was scheduled to end around 4:30 pm (0920 GMT), but dragged on until around 10:00 pm (1500GMT).

Talks between Thailand's armed forces chief General Boonsrang Niumpradit and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh ended a week ago without resolution.
ASEAN intervention also failed the next day.

At least 1,000 soldiers have deployed since July 15 in manifestation of either sides' claim of the 4.6 square km land at the border area.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains in dispute.

Breakthrough reached in Thai-Cambodia border dispute

ABC News

Cambodia and Thailand say troops will be withdrawn from a small area of land near the newly listed World Heritage site, Preah Vihear temple.

The border dispute had threatened to escalate into armed conflict.

The ministers agreed that both countries were committed to finding what they called a peaceful and amicable solution to the border dispute.

As a first step troops would be withdrawn from their positions near Preah Vihear temple where the opposing sides have been stationed within metres of each other.

But the cause of the argument remains the same.

Cambodia's century-old map of the border lays claim to much of the area surrounding Preah Vihear temple while Thailand's more recent version all but isolates the temple.

The ministers did not give details of how that difference of interpretation would be resolved.

Troops to withdraw from disputed area

Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, left, speaks with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong over lunch at a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. They held talks yesterday to defuse a row over the area near Preah Vihear temple that has raised fears of a military clash.


The Bangkok Post
Tuesday July 29, 2008


THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL


SIEM REAP : Thailand and Cambodia will soon withdraw their troops from the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple to end the border row which erupted after the temple was listed as a World Heritage site, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday.

After 12 hours of talks involving the Cambodian foreign minister and his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag, the two countries agreed to take steps to ease the tension on the border.

The two countries will set up a committee to decide the size of the military deployment in the 4.6 square kilometre area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear, a source in the meeting said.

But Mr Hor Namhong expected there would soon be no troops from either sides in the area.

"The military withdrawal will take place soon," he said through his interpreter. "The meeting was successful. It was the first meeting and it definitely will not be the last," he added.

Other issues discussed by the two countries included a plan to have the Joint Boundary Commission resume talks on the land border demarcation, a joint attempt to clear landmines in the area near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple and a promise not to use force.

Other problems not resolved yesterday will be tabled in the next round of talks between the two ministers. The date for the next meeting has not been set.

The Cambodian minister cautioned that the settlement of border issues would take time.

A Thai source also ruled out the possibility of resolving the problem overnight. "I don't believe that it will be solved in one meeting. But at least this meeting is a step toward the solution," the source said.

Mr Tej will report on the outcome of the meeting to Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his cabinet today.

He said the atmosphere at the meeting was good because he knew the Cambodian officials taking part.

Mr Tej and Mr Hor Namhong were once the representatives of their countries to the United Nations in Geneva.

The troops adjustment at Preah Vihear Temple hinges on gov't instruction

Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said on Tuesday that the military will proceed to adjust the border deployment at Preah Vihear Temple after the government has issued the instruction on the matter.

Anupong said he was duty-bound to await the instruction rather than rush to effect changes. He was referring to the Monday's agreement between Thailand and Cambodia to reposition troops so as to ease tensions.

The Cabinet is expected to debate later today on the outcome of the Monday's talks between Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers.

The Nation

Cambodia's Forgotten Temples Fall Prey to Looters

The three freshly dug holes under the two arching palm trees measured a metre by about half a meter, and about half a meter deep. A few fragments of what appeared to be centuries-old clay pots were scattered around the excavation site, seemingly discarded as worthless in the hunt for more valuable treasure.

"We find new holes every week," said Ndson Hun, a farmer living in the nearby village of Phoum Snay. "The demand [for artefacts] is as great as ever, so people keep digging."

No one knows the extent of the riches at Phoum Snay, an unremarkable Cambodian village about 40 miles north-west of Angkor Wat, the complex of 100 9th to 15th-century Buddhist temples seen as among the world's architectural wonders. But, unlike at Angkor Wat, there are no heritage police here, no Unesco staff, and no local authorities to guard the site.

As the latest holes testify, anyone wishing to pillage the remaining hidden riches will encounter few obstacles. Experts fear the decades-long looting for artefacts across Cambodia is now so rampant there will soon be little left outside the splendours of the Unesco world heritage site at Angkor.

"Almost all sites of antiquity and temples far from towns are being destroyed," said Michel Trenet, the undersecretary of state at Cambodia's culture and fine arts ministry. "Naturally, the priority for us is to protect the Angkor sites and then think about the others. But we don't have enough guards and people are not motivated to protect their heritage. Cambodia is becoming a cultural desert."

Phoum Snay is a classic example. On its discovery, almost three years ago, the site was thought to have been a mass grave for victims of the Khmer Rouge, the communists who ruled from 1975-79 and under whose regime some 1.7 million people were executed or died from disease and starvation.

Then, when iron-age artifacts, including weapons, jewelery, pots and trinkets, started appearing, the site was reassessed as the burial ground of an ancient army. The researchers moved in, and digging started. Thousands of items were found.

Yet little was done to secure the area and antiques traders - people mainly from neighboring Thailand, say villagers, and seeking to sell Khmer treasures abroad - now have virtual free rein.

Their success is shown by the regularity with which Khmer artifacts appear at auction around the world. At any one time, dozens of Khmer "treasures" are on offer on the eBay auction website.

Poverty and greed are considered the two main motivations behind the looting. Monks living in a temple half a mile from Phoum Snay believe the villagers are involved in the illicit digging, despite protestations by Ndson Hun and his friends.

"The villagers are doing it because they are so poor," said Moy Sau, clad in his traditional saffron-coloured robes. "They don't respect their heritage because they can't afford to turn down an offer of a few dollars for a night's work."

Chea Vannath, president of the Centre for Social Development, says that the average annual income in Cambodia is about £155 a year - much lower in rural areas. "Protecting our cultural heritage is a luxury," she said. "People are fighting to survive so they don't know better."

Moy Sau does not dare warn the authorities about the looting: "As a monk I cannot do anything because I rely on the villagers for my food."

Preservation

Even if he raised the alarm, that might not ensure the artifacts' preservation since government officials and members of the security forces are also involved in the trade, widespread reports suggest.

A stone carver based a few miles away, in Phumi Rohal, who was too afraid to give his name, said some provincial government officials last month asked him to build a base for a "half Buddha" that one of their bosses had acquired.

"I was suspicious even though they had lots of letters and said it would be kept in a temple," he said. "But I did it because I'm afraid of the authorities. Us little people can do nothing against them."

With the country's legal system being so corrupt, the "dark forces", Mr Trenet says, are too powerful, even for him.

A tour of Toul Ta Puon, known as the Russian market, in the capital, Phnom Penh, proves his point, with shops packed with tall cabinets full of artifacts. Bronze-age axe heads and rings sell for less than £15. One intricately carved 11th-century, long-necked water jar was £30.

The shopkeepers appear motivated only by money and refuse to lower their prices, even for Mr Trenet, though most recognise him.

"I would like to buy all [the artifacts] for the museum. But my salary is only [£155] a month so what can I do?" he says.

By Guardian Unlimited
Guardian Newspapers
7/28/2008

Tej's time to shine

Tue, July 29, 2008
The Nation

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag made headlines in local newspapers yesterday.

Naewna reported on how His Majesty the King wished Tej well on his mission to negotiate with his Cambodian counterpart over the Preah Vihear dispute. Matichon also led with the same story on its front page yesterday.

In a related story, the results of the vote in Cambodia in which Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party was projected to have won a majority on Sunday was also prominently featured in Thai-language dailies. The picture of Hun Sen raising a finger after voting appeared in local papers yesterday.

Krungthep Turakij said in its editorial that Tej's mission is to restore the country's integrity. Tej's first task was to meet with the Cambodian foreign minister yesterday to to sort out the dispute over Preah Vihear. The paper outlined Tej's solid credentials. His final position was as the permanent secretary to the Foreign Ministry.

The paper said that the Foreign Ministry's integrity under Noppadon Pattama was diminished to its lowest point ever. Noppadon was seen as lacking experience and credibility. Moreover, Noppadon was seen as having failed to act independently; he was unable to get rid of the public perception of him as Thaksin's lawyer. Regardless of his efforts to erase this image, Noppadon failed to earn the public's trust.

The last straw was his support for Cambodia's bid to nominate Preah Vihear as a world heritage site. Noppadon was accused of acting in favour of the Cambodian side to facilitate Thaksin's plan to invest in Cambodia's Koh Kong and explore the natural gas reservoir in the joint-development area between Thailand and Cambodia.

The mistrust that arose subsequently led to Noppadon's resignation and the sprouting up of conflicts all over, especially after Unesco agreed to register Preah Vihear as a world heritage site according to the request from Cambodia.

Krungthep Turakij said although Tej is a minister in the lame-duck government of Samak, he is the "only hope" for the country. Tej will have to negotiate and avoid putting Thailand at a disadvantage against Cambodia in the negotiations. The paper said that Tej has the burden of carrying the hopes of the country to restore Thailand's integrity in the eyes of the international community. Besides, he would have to avoid the perception that he is influenced by anyone, to avoid a repetition of the allegations that brought Noppadon, who was accused of acting on behalf of Thaksin, down.

Cambodia, Thailand agree to pull back some troops

The Associated Press

SIEM REAP, Cambodia Cambodia and Thailand agreed Monday to pull back 1,200 troops stationed near a historic temple but failed to end the long-running border dispute that has stirred up nationalist anger.

Foreign ministers from the two Southeast Asian neighbors agreed to hold further meetings on how to demarcate a slice of land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, but no date was set for the next meeting.

About 800 Cambodian troops and 400 from Thailand stationed inside and around a pagoda near the temple complex will be pulled back. Unclear, however, was where those troops would be moved and when it would take place.

“We cannot solve all problems at one meeting. We need to take gradual steps,” Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. “The immediate task is to avoid clashes through the redeployment of troops.”

Moving troops from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda is considered significant, since that is where Thai troops first deployed earlier this month. Soon after, Cambodia moved troops into the area, and the two sides engaged in a tense armed confrontation on July 17 when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate Buddhist lent there.

The Cambodians eventually pulled back from the standoff, and the two sides have since have managed to keep a lid on tensions.

Thai army chief welcomes Cambodia talks on temple feud

A Cambodian soldier carries rockets near the Preah Vihear temple


Thai soldiers sit in a trench along the Thai and Cambodian border


BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand's army chief welcomed Tuesday talks with Cambodia to resolve a two-week tense military standoff, but refused to commit to withdrawing troops from their border.

Cambodia and Thailand agreed during talks on Monday to consider pulling troops out of disputed land near an ancient temple, but did not commit to any firm steps to end the standoff.

"The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand will help relieve tension and improve the situation," General Anupong Paojinda said.

"Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first," he told AFP by phone.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP that "we hope that the situation will be eased" following the 12-hours of talks in the Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap.

Foreign ministers from both countries emerged from the talks late Monday promising to ask their governments to redeploy the thousands of soldiers stationed around a small pagoda near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

The ruins of the Khmer temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the jungle, belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.

Both sides claim some of the surrounding territory and say a full resolution of the decades-long dispute is likely

to involve protracted negotiations.

The latest conflict has enflamed nationalist sentiment in both countries. In Cambodia, holding a strong stance on the temple helped Prime Minister Hun Sen win general elections on Sunday.

In Thailand, embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is threatened by nationalist protesters who have made the temple a core issue in calling for his resignation.

Landslide poll victory for Cambodia's ruling party

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
IRISHTIMES.com

FERGAL QUINN in Phnom Penh

CAMBODIA: PRELIMINARY RESULTS from Cambodia's national assembly elections yesterday suggest that the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has won an overwhelming victory.

The party's projected win of 90 seats out of 123 - a gain of 17 from the 2003 election - exceeded expectations and will give Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for the past 23 years, an even tighter grip on power.

The broad consensus from international monitors was that election conditions on Sunday had improved from previous years.

But opposition parties yesterday urged the international community not to recognise the election, claiming it had been manipulated and rigged by the CPP.

However, the scale of the victory suggested that it had more to do with economic stability and steady improvement in basic infrastructure in a war-weary and poverty-stricken country, especially in rural areas, where the opposition made little progress in the election.

The scene at a polling station in Mepring commune, Kompong Cham province, on Sunday morning demonstrated the ruthless efficiency of the CPP political machine in hard-to-reach places.

As bored-looking monitors from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec and the Human Rights Party sat together twiddling their thumbs, CPP monitor Suon Sokhoeun, immaculate in a crisp white shirt, sat apart, staring intently at each voter as they passed by him to cast their ballot, before scribbling notes in a copybook.

"What's your name?" he barked at a woman as she got her finger marked with ink. Startled, the woman told him immediately.

"There is no problem at this polling station," Suon Sokhoeun said smoothly when there was a lull in voting activity. "I am just checking names to see who has voted and who has not."

Outside, Chuop Thek (50), a CPP supporter, said: "I based my decision on who had done the most to help this area."

Analysts are divided as to the possible effects on the poll of the escalating border dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple site in the north, which has inflamed nationalist sentiment in recent weeks.

While some speculated that it would cause people to fear upsetting the status quo, others insisted that people voted along party lines regardless.

Although the election outcome was not unexpected, the poor result for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has led some to worry that it might lead to a less representative democracy in Cambodia.

The party won three more seats than the 23 it achieved in 2003, a disappointing showing after its surge in support in 2003 and in the 2007 local elections. It also failed to capitalise on the collapse in support of the royalist Funcinpec party, whose seats mainly went to the CPP.

Kek Galabru of rights group Licadho said the result meant there would be less to check and balance the CPP.

The party has been regularly criticised by the international donor community, which still contributes 50 per cent of the national budget, over persistent allegations of human rights abuses, state-facilitated land-grabbing and corruption.

Military Police Protecting Illegally Cut Wood Calls a Journalist into Their Fortress and Hit Him as a Warning

Posted on 29 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 571

“Sihanoukville: A journalist was slapped in Stung Hav, Sihanoukville, by a military police officer who protects illegally cut wood in their fortress, and he warned the journalist not to use his camera, because he had already published a report clearly mentioning their names, together with their previous and current scandals, relating to colluding to protect illegally cut wood.

“The military police hit the journalist at 1:30 p.m. on 25 July 2008 at the Stung Hav administration post of Sihanoukville.

“It was reported that the victim, the journalist who was caught and hit by a military military police officer in their fortress, is Mr. Ruos Phina, aged 39; the offender is Mr. Nget Vutha, called Kim, a military police officer with the rank of captain of Stung Hav, Sihanoukville, and he is a former soldier who had just been included into the military police some months ago.

“Mr. Ruos Phina, the victim, reported to Kampuchea Thmey that on that day, he and another person, Vin Suon, also a reporter in Sihanoukville, were called by the military police official Nget Vutha into the Stung Hav administration post, to tell them to write a more positive report about their scandal, regarding the protection of illegally cut wood, because he had written already in a newspaper before. Mr. Ruos Phina agreed to meet them, and he went with another person, Vin Suon.

“Mr. Ruos Phina continued that after he arrived in the Stung Hav military police administration office, Nget Vutha immediately, without saying a word, hit him strongly in the face, knocking him down to the ground, where he was with serious pain. He hit him in front of many other military police, but they did not help to intervene, and let the offender Nget Vutha hit and insult him strongly in front of all of them.

“This shows clearly that violence was used to intimidate him, which seriously abuses his rights as a journalist, so he cannot stay still; he has to lodge a complaint to the law enforcement institutions so that they help to find justice for him. Especially, he will lodge a complaint to the commander of the Sihanoukville military police, Mr. Heang Rin, in order that he takes actions to solve the problem according to the law; and he hopes that Mr. Heang Rin will deal with this case fairly and not by being partisan, and if he does not solve it fairly for him, the journalist will not end it at this time.

“Regarding the bad activities mentioned above, citizens in Sihanoukville, who knew what had happened, criticized also that normally military police, who should enforce and uphold the law, collude with each other to protect illegally cut wood. Moreover, they even dared to distort the truth by calling the journalist in, to hit him at their fortress. Committing such evil activities, how can they uphold and implement the law and be respected by the people?

“The criticism continues to say that journalists are neutral publishers of information and are not partisan; if they see good activities, they write good things, and if they see evil activities, they write openly about these bad things, in order to contribute to develop society, to eliminate corruption and crimes which destroy society. Journalists are those who publicly criticize what is wrong to correct it, and to change from wrong to right. If members of the military police, like Mr. Nget Vutha, thinks that what a journalist had published is not true, he should clarify it, but he must not use violence by hitting and insulting the journalist, because this is against the law, and it is being hated by society very much.

“Mr. Heang Rin, the commander of the Sihanoukville military police, should check everything again, so that it does not disgrace other members of the military police.

“It should be remembered that previously, Mr. Ruos Phina had written about some scandals committed by Nget Vutha, like protecting illegally cut wood for a merchant who is a boss of a wood processing house behind the Phsar Leu market’s car station.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1704, 27-28.7.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Monday, 28 July 2008

Four Main Parties Reject 'Sham' Election

The four main non-ruling parties said Sunday's elections were seriously flawed with a number of voting irregularities.
By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 July 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (997 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (997 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Representatives from four non-ruling parties gathered at opposition headquarters Monday to reject Sunday's national election as "a sham," after the ruling Cambodian People's Party appeared to have won enough seats to form a single-party government.

Top officials of the Sam Rainsy, Human Rights, Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec parties signed a letter calling on "Cambodian public opinion and the international community not to recognize the results of the July 27, 2008, elections, which were manipulated and rigged by the ruling Cambodian People's Party."

There have not been five separate parties elected to the National Assembly since the 1993 Untac elections, and the joining together of four against one is unprecedented.

In 1998, the Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec parties joined together to protest election results in the wake of the 1997 coup.

That three-month crisis of government led to mass demonstrations in the capital and a brutal crackdown by government forces, where scores of demonstrators were disappeared and presumed killed.

In 2003, the government was deadlocked for 11 months, due to an alliance between Funcinpec and SRP that prevented a coalition government.

"We have already strengthened together to deny the results of the election, and also for the voters," opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a large crowd gathered at his headquarters Monday afternoon. "We need to revote across Cambodia."

"We appeal to the EU and the international community to deny the results, because there are so many irregularities during the election," Human Rights Party Presdient Kem Sokha told the same cheering crowd.

The parties "hope in the future will have an alliance together" and have the same goals, he said.
The main point for the alliance would be to send a message to the people "who love justice" to come to work together.

The four parties condemned "illegal and fraudulent practices" in Sunday's polls, including "deletion of countless legitimate voters' names and [an] artificial increase in the CPP voters to cast their ballots for the CPP."

The parties also condemned "the tricks and maneuvers of the National Election Committee, which is only a tool for the CPP to organize a sham election and present a façade of democracy."

"I'm not surprised about this information," NEC Chairman Im Sousdey told reporters Monday.
"We always see after the election Cambodian political parties doing the same thing."

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday unofficial results now showed the CPP with 90 seats, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party with 26, Human Rights Party with three, Norodom Ranariddh with two, and Funcinpec with two.

Khieu Thai Sarakmony, a 57-year-old from Phnom Penh who joined the crowd at SRP headquarters Monday, said he supported the cooperation of the four parties for the people.

"But it should have been earlier," he said, "before the election."

'No Checks and Balances' Now: Monitor

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 July 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (988 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (988 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A wide margin of victory for the Cambodian People's Party could mean the erosion of legislative measures of influence between parties in the National Assembly, an independent election monitor warned Monday.

"The CPP controls every state institution, including the police, army, civil administration and courts," Thun Saray, chief of the board of directors for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, told reporters. "The reason why we are concerned is that there are [now] no checks and balances in the National Assembly."

The ruling party claimed to have won enough seats Sunday to form a government and pass important legislation, including constitutional amendments, on its own.

The overwhelming majority of seats could mean the country will be ruled by "the mood and feelings of our leader," said Thun Saray, who is also the director of the rights group Adhoc. "How can we continue to protect the poor victims of human rights violations?"

A single-party government ruled by the CPP was reason for worry, he said, "and we will need to discuss more among us how to work in this new condition and new environment."

The CPP would need 82 seats for a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, eliminating the ability of other parties to block certain legislation or boycott quorums without help from individual CPP members.

The National Election Committee received 30 complaints total related to "quick" vote counting that could lead to inaccuracies, NEC Chairman Im Sousdey said Monday. "These complaints are normal, but we will resolve all the complaints at the level of NEC."

Party Frustrations Reflected in Complaints

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Cambodia
28 July 2008

Khmer audio by Seng Ratana in Kandal (597 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio by Seng Ratana in Kandal (597 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio by Thida Win in Svay Rieng (1.22 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio by Thida Win in Svay Rieng (1.22 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio by Chiep Mony in Kampot (925 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio by Chiep Mony in Kampot (925 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio by Pich Samnang in Kampong Cham (1.35 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio by Pich Samnang in Kampong Cham (1.35 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Non-ruling party officials lodged a number of complaints across Cambodia Monday that reflected a variety of irregularities in Sunday's polls.

In at least five provinces, the complaints included voter intimidation, vote-buying and the omission of names from voting registries.

Parties had until 11:30 am Monday to file Election Day complaints.

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that despite the complaints, the number of irregularities had declined from past elections.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party filed three complaints to commune election officials in Kandal province Monday, claiming irregularities in Sunday's election.

The first complaint was made for Kohdach commune, Mul Kampul district, where village chiefs allegedly intimidated voters by claiming "those who have taken money from the CPP must vote CPP," said Chan Cheng, SRP lawmaker for Kandal province.

The opposition party filed two more complaints for Chey Thom and Ta Ek communes, Kasek Kandal district, where SRP observers saw CPP village chiefs providing a 1018 form to CPP supporters whose names were on the registry but who did not have identification to vote, Chan Cheng said.

The 1018 is a standard administrative form used to identify residents of villages who have lost their ID cards, but the National Election Committee has said they are not a valid form of identification for voting.

Officials from at least four different parties across five other provinces complained of similar irregularities, and in some cases they declared the vote count was invalid.

In Kampong Cham, Sam Rainsy, Norodom Ranardiddh, Human Rights and Funcinpec parties rejected the election results due to numerous regularities.

In Svay Rieng, the Sam Rainsy, Human Rights and Norodom Ranariddh parties refused to recognize the vote count, saying irregularities had marred the process. The Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party, meanwhile, endorsed the Svay Rieng result.

The Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties filed complaints with commune election committees over the omission of voter names in Kampot province, where the Norodom Ranariddh Party filed a complaint against a provincial election committee official who allowed supporters wearing CPP shirts to vote and the Sam Rainsy Party filed a complaint against irregularities in O'Chouk district.

In Pailin, a commune election committee denied receipt of complaints from the Sam Rainsy Party, saying party members had missed the deadline. Officials said they would file to provincial officials.

Low Turnout, Faulty Lists Sully Election

Many voters were unable to find their names on registries at local ballot stations Sunday, election monitors say.

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Cambodia
27 July 2008


Khmer audio aired 27 July 2008 (8.13 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 27 July 2008 (8.13 MB) - Listen (MP3)


Low voter turnout and the absence of many names from registries darkened a quiet day of voting Sunday, as millions of Cambodians sought to elect members of the National Assembly and a government that will rule for the next five years.

Unofficial results showed the ruling Cambodian People's Party with enough seats to form a government by itself, as well as pass constitutional amendments and quorum without cooperation from other parties.

As polling wrapped up Sunday, unofficial results showed the CPP leading with an estimated 91 seats, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party with 26, Human Rights Party with three, and Norodom Ranariddh Party with two. Only one seat was reported late Sunday for the government's coalition partner, Funcinpec.

These results would mean the National Assembly would have five parties for the first time since the 1993 Untac election. Official results for the election are not expected for at least a month.

A new law this election requires the holding of 50-percent-plus-one seats, or 63 seats, to form a ruling government. It also requires a two-thirds majority, or 82 seats, for constitutional amendment and quorum.

In Phnom Penh, many shops were shuttered and the normally bustling boulevards were relatively still, while on neighborhood side streets, Cambodians in ones and twos strolled to and from polling sites.

Across the country, voters reported an inability to cast their ballots, as names of individuals or entire families were missing from local registries at polling places.

More than 8.1 million voters had registered for the national election, but monitors feared only around 70 percent participated, following similarly low turnout in the 2007 commune election.
More than 83 percent of registered voters took part in 2003's general election.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections said late Sunday the day had "serious problems," including the loss of names to voter lists and confusion over polling station locations.

Some parties had transported voters in vehicles on Saturday and distributed gifts to voters, violations of election regulations, Comfrel said.

Military police were seen using vehicles to transport voters in Battambang province, where disputes between opposition and ruling party activists erupted.

In Svay Rieng province, voters lined up inside CPP headquarters in order to receive receipts from a party official. Voters said later they would be reimbursed with gifts for the receipts, an allegation the CPP denied. Svay Rieng results showed nearly 100 percent of seats going to the CPP.

Hun Sen claims Cambodia vote win

The ruling party claimed it had won 91 of 123 parliamentary seats [AFP]

MWC News
28/07/08
By Agencies

Cambodia's ruling party has claimed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held at the weekend.

Hours after polling stations closed on Sunday, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), led by the prime minister, Hun Sen, appeared to be "leading everywhere", a party spokesman said.

Estimates from party agents nationwide indicated the CPP had won 91 seats in the 123-seat lower house compared with 26 for the main opposition, Khieu Kanharith told reporters.

"We can claim a landslide victory - it is certain," he said, adding that vote counting had been completed in most constituencies.

Official results were expected later in the week.

Thun Saray, head of the Cambodian election monitoring group Comfrel, said it was "early to declare victory, but the trend shows that CPP is winning".

However, Sam Rainsy, the main opposition leader, dismissed the claims and called for a re-run of the polls in districts around the capital Phnom Penh.

"Neither party won more than two-thirds of the seats," he told reporters, estimating that no party received more than 70 seats, according to a tally by his supporters.

Missing names

He also said that 200,000 of Phnom Penh's 722,000 voters had not been able to cast ballots because their names were missing from the electoral lists.

"We don't accept the result in Phnom Penh," Sam Rainsy, whose party held 24 seats in the last parliament, said. "I demand a re-run of the election in Phnom Penh to bring justice to voters." "I call for a demonstration in Phnom Penh. I appeal to all people whose names were unfairly deleted - please hold a huge protest in Phnom Penh."

Election observers reported a number of cases of voters' names being removed from the lists, but they said they doubted the problem was as widespread as Sam Rainsy claimed.

"The atmosphere for the election day is better than past elections. But the most prominent point is that the turnout was low and a lot of names disappeared," Hang Puthea, head of the Nicfec group of election monitors, said.

But he added: "I can't believe that as many as 200,000 names went missing. I could believe the number is maybe 20,000."

About 17,000 domestic and international observers monitored the voting at more than 15,000 polling stations.

Previous polls held in Cambodia were marred by violence. Scores of people - mainly opposition supporters and activists - were killed or beaten in the run-up to elections in 1998.

Election monitors said political violence had diminished greatly but unequal access to the media was still a problem.

More than eight million people were registered to vote and 11 parties competed in Sunday's poll, the fourth since the end of the civil war.

Border dispute

Analysts had expected the vote to usher in a new term for Hun Sen, who has held control of the country for 23 years.

The former Khmer Rouge soldier's popularity at the polls was buoyed by a surge of nationalism amid a tense border dispute with neighbouring Thailand.

Voters appeared to rally around the 57-year-old who has a reputation for being a strong leader.

He had been expected to win the vote even before the military standoff escalated earlier this month, but patriotic passions over the Preah Vihear temple and Hun Sen's firm stance against Thailand swayed many undecided voters in his favour, analysts say.

Many voters said their overriding concern was the territorial dispute with Thailand.

"I will vote for those who can solve the issue of Preah Vihear temple immediately after they take power," Lam Chanvanda, a 56-year-old businessman, said as he stood in a long queue of voters.

"Before I was never interested in the border, but now it is in my heart." Thousands of soldiers from both sides are facing off near the 11th-century Khmer temple. Foreign ministers from the two nations are set to meet on Monday in hopes of resolving the conflict.

"Everybody now supports the government because this is a national issue," Kek Galabru, a prominent Cambodian human rights activist and election monitor, said.

Ministers meet over temple row

Tej, right, was optimistic about the second round of talks with Cambodia [AFP]

28/07/08
Global
By Agencies

Foreign ministers from Thailand and Cambodia have begun talks aimed at resolving an increasingly tense stand-off between the two countries over disputed border territory near to the ruins of an ancient Khmer temple.

Officials at the talks on Monday hope the meeting in the northern Cambodian city of Siem Reap will end the stalemate between the two neighbours.

Last week a meeting between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers held in Bangkok foundered on what maps should be used to demarcate the border.

The move comes as thousands of soldiers from both sides face off near the Preah Vihear temple which sits on a cliff along the mountainous Thai-Cambodia border.

"I hope that the result of the talks will be positive," Tej Bunnag, Thailand's newly-appointed foreign minister, said ahead of Monday's meeting.

Thai and Cambodian officials say neither side expected a quick resolution but hoped to lay out a plan for tackling unresolved border issues.

UN help

Following the failed first meeting in Bangkok Cambodia sought help from the United Nations Security Council, but later agreed to a second meeting with Thailand.

Hor Namhong, Cambodia's foreign minister, said he hoped the fresh round of dialogue would end the impasse but warned that his government will pursue the case at the UN if talks failed again.

Negotiations last week quickly ended in an argument over which map drawn up over the last 100 years should be used to settle ownership of the temple and the surrounding area.

Despite the long-standing conflict, Thailand accepted a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962.

But ties turned hostile again recently after Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, listed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

The current conflict focuses on an area about 5 sq km of scrubland surrounding the 11th century Khmer-era temple.

Concerns over Preah Vihear also helped boost the victory of Cambodia's ruling party in Sunday's general elections.