Friday, 1 August 2008

Preah Vihear: Cambodians pray for peace in temple standoff

Cambodians attend a Buddhism ceremony called Krong Pealy to pray for peace at Preah Vihaer temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 01 , 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, lights a candle during a Buddhism prayer ceremony for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 1, 2008.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


Monks walk past a soldier to attend a Buddhism ceremony praying for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A soldier stands guard at a Buddhism ceremony praying for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Tep vong (C), the top Cambodian supreme patriarch for Buddhists monks, prays at Cekakiri Svakak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008 The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Monks walk to attend Buddhism ceremony praying for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk through the famed Preah Vihear temple complex near Cambodia-Thai border in Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at the ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Picture From Preah Vihear Temple : 01 August 2008

Cambodian soldiers patrol around a Cambodian Buddhist temple which Thai troop have occupied near the famed temple of Preah Vihear near Cambodia-Thai border in Preah Vihear, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at the ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodians attend a Buddhism ceremony called Krong Pealy to pray for peace at Preah Vihaer temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 01 , 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Soldiers stand guard over a Buddhist ceremony praying for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihaer temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 01 , 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Thai soldier sits during a patrol at the front line near Cekakiri Svarak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008. The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Thai soldier sits during a patrol at the front line near Cekakiri Svarak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008. The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier plays with his son, during a family visit, near Cekakiri Svarak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008. The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Thai soldier (R) talks with Cambodian soldiers and journalists at the front line near Cekakiri Svarak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008 The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

REFILE - CORRECTING TEMPLE NAME Cambodian soldiers stand guard during a Buddhism ceremony calling for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1 , 2008. REUTERS / Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Vechka, 7, stands next to his father during a visit to Cekakiri Svarak pagoda at the Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1, 2008. The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at the 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian military police officers patrol past a famed temple of Preah Vihear near Cambodia-Thai border in Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at an ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks sit on an artillery near a famed Preah Vihear temple near the Cambodia-Thailand border in Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at the ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian military police officers pause during a patrol around the famed temple of Preah Vihear near Cambodia-Thai border, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at the ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

REFILE - CORRECTING TEMPLE NAME Cambodia soldier stands guard next to a Buddhist monk during a Buddhism ceremony praying for peace called "Krong Pealy" at Preah Vihear temple compound at the top of Dang Reak mountain, about 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, August 1 , 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian artist brings works to RI

The Jakarta Post
August 01, 2008

Claudia Seise, Contributor, Yogyakarta

One of Cambodia's few well-known artists, Chhim Sothy, will showcase his work in Yogyakarta for a month.

Sothy, whose works have been collected by several embassies and ministries in Cambodia and selected to be shown in the Beijing Biennale 2008 in China, will display his work at the Tembi House of Culture in Yogyakarta.

Cambodia, compared to Indonesia, cannot show off a young and exciting art scene. Exhibition openings are rare. And modern or contemporary Cambodian art is rare.

Few artists survive. With the help of NGOs and other foreign institutions, young Cambodian artists have started to experiment with traditional painting styles, usually depicting Angkor Wat, the Cambodian landscape of rice fields and palm trees or the famous classical Apsara dancers.

Expressionistic styles have found their way into traditional themes and abstract paintings can be viewed in a few galleries around the capital of Phnom Penh.

However, paintings are mostly found in small commercial galleries that sell artwork as a souvenir for a minimum price.

Within the last year, exhibitions, showing artwork away from handicraft and souvenirs, were launched and young Cambodian artists started showcasing their works.

Chhim Sothy, however, does not belong to this group of young artists.

He is one of the few artists that established their career after the Khmer Rouge. During the Khmer Rouge regime most artists and intellectuals were killed.

Sothy belongs to the generation that experienced the horror of the Khmer Rouge as small children.

Sothy paintings are full with Cambodia's colors of monk orange, flower beige and red. His themes are Cambodian culture and tradition. One can even find the Cambodian version of Rama and Sinta from the Ramayana epic in many of his paintings.

While Sothy preserves the refined motives and gestures of the Cambodian Apsara dancers and Ramayana characters, he is not shy to mix traditional styles, which are usually handed down by monks from Buddhist monasteries, with contemporary styles.

Sothy's style of painting is rare in Cambodia and it is probably for this reason why people stand in line to buy his artwork.

His exhibition at Tembi House of Culture in Yogyakarta belongs to an intercultural exchange project between Indonesia and Cambodia, initiated by Tembi House of Culture and Art Caf‚ Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

Before Sothy was invited to show his work in Indonesia, two young Indonesian artists -- Askanadi and Karina Putri Haryanto -- exhibited their works at the Art Caf‚ in Phnom Penh.

The project's aim is to strengthen cultural relations with the idea that Southeast Asian countries should not only look westwards but see their immediate neighbors as well.

For Sothy, it is his first exhibition and visit to the country.

He was chosen to participate in the project since he is probably one of Cambodia's most active artists. He never rests -- always painting, taking part in international competitions and ready to launch yet another exhibition.

During a recent visit at his studio in Phnom Penh, the amount of paintings and the creative chaos were overwhelming. The love to his tradition and culture make every one of his paintings special.

i-box:

Chhim Sothy Solo exhibition Open Aug. 1 - Sept. 1, 2008 At Tembi House of Culture Yogyakarta Jl. Parangtritis km. 8, 4 Tembi, Timbulharjo, Sewon Bantul Yogyakarta

Cambodia, Thailand military standoff causes water pollution around Preah Vihear Temple

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-01

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- The military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand around the Preah Vihear Temple has caused water pollution there, posing a hazard to monks and civilians living in the area, local newspaper the Cambodia Daily said Friday.

Pheng Nayim, a doctor at the Institute Pasteur du Cambodge in Phnom Penh, told the newspaper that she had tested water that allegedly came from three locations on the mountain and had concluded that the pollution levels were dangerously high.

"The water had an increased level of arsenic and was also polluted by the extra human waste as a result of more military and other people in the area," Pheng Nayim was quoted as saying.

If the monks or the people living there use this water, it could cause them to get illnesses such as typhoid and dysentery, she added.

The Preah Vihear temple straddles the Cambodian-Thai border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

The area has become the focal point of a military standoff between Thai and Cambodian troops in recent weeks after the flare-up of a long-dormant territorial dispute.

Editor: Gao

Post-election report on the media situation in Cambodia

SEAPA
1 August 2008
Source: CAPJ

Two weeks before the elections in Cambodia, unidentified men shot and killed journalist Khim Sambo and his son, Khat Sarin Theada. The twin murders capped the violence, harassment and perceived government manipulation surrounding the 27 July polls, leaving media observers wondering about the fate of press freedom in Cambodia.

Going by how the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is said to have manipulated the conduct of the 27 July elections to achieve a landslide victory, the local media remain uneasy at the prospect of five more years under PM Hun Sen.

SEAPA partner Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) says that even though all 11 political parties had access to the state media such as TVK and the national FM and AM radio stations, the ruling party used government resources like the bureaucracy and security forces to keep the upper hand in mass communications.

This was clearly seen on the allocation of airtime to the political parties. The National Election Committee (NEC) officially granted each party a 10-minute TV slot twice daily to present their respective programs, platforms and achievements. And yet the ruling party in fact enjoyed virtual monopoly over the state-owned media and had influence over nine private TV stations and 38 radio stations, allowing it to enjoy 95% of the total airtime.

Opposition parties were allowed to buy one to two hours of airtime each day from the private media. Even then, the opposition was at a disadvantage. Though they were able to buy airtime from private radio stations like FM 105 Mhz (the most independent radio station), FM 93.5 Mhz, FM 105.25 Mhz in Siem Reap and FM 104 Mhz, private TV stations charged exorbitant prices: CAPJ says private TV operators—who must secure a license to operate from the government—were in truth hesitant to book oppositionists for fear of government reprisal.

Opposition parties also complained that the images of their spots in government-run TVK were blurred.

The government also took blatant moves to silence the opposition. The night before the polls, some 20 armed policemen raided the FM 93.5 radio station, known for its support of the opposition, and closed it down without an order from the court or the Information Ministry.

The order for the closure came out only the next day. It accused the station of defying an NEC rule to stop political broadcasts by July 26, the eve of the elections. The FM station noted, however, that the government had overlooked similar violations by government stations favorable to the administration and the CPP.

The twin killings of journalist Khim Sambo and his son are also believed to be directly related to politics. Sambo was a reporter for the "Moneakseka Khmer (Khmer Conscience)" newspaper, which is known for supporting the SRP. The police are still investigating the case.

Moneakseka Khmer's editor, Dam Sith, had been recently charged for printing allegations that Cambodia's foreign minister had ties to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The charge was later dropped, but CAPJ said that the attack on Khim Sambo came soon after his editor's release.

Despite the ruling party's landslide victory, CAPJ notes that with the CPP's use of the state
apparatus to control the media during the elections, the future of genuine democracy in Cambodia under Hun Sen remains challenged and in doubt.

Thai-Cambodia standoff persists

Hundreds of Thai and Cambodian soldiers continue to be deployed around the temple [Reuters]


Al Jazeera
Friday, August 01, 2008

The standoff around the disputed Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia has shown no signs of easing.

Monks and government officials prayed at the ancient temple on Friday in the shadow of armed troops from both sides as the soldiers continued their standoff from just a few metres apart.

Thong Khon, the Cambodian tourism minister, said the 1,000 or so people had gathered "to pray to the souls of our ancestors asking for peace", referring to Khmer kings who built the temple from the 9th to 11th centuries.

"We also pray for success in our defence of our territory," he added.

Tej Bunnag, the Thai foreign minister, said on Thursday that his government did not have to move its troops because Cambodia had not shown any sign that it would withdraw its troops from the disputed area.

Since Cambodia had "not informed Thailand officially" when it would pull out its troops, it was not necessary for the Thai government to react, Tej said.

Cambodia and Thailand had agreed this week to pull back hundreds of troops from the disputed area to end the weeks-long standoff.

The agreement had come after 12 hours of talks between the foreign ministers from both countries, meeting in the northern Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

The move was to see the withdrawal of some 800 Cambodian and 400 Thai soldiers from the vicinity of Preah Vihear.

Disputed ownership

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 had 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.

But neither side had 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.

Class teaches Vietnamese to Khmer in An Giang

Classes set up to teach Vietnamese to Khmer in Tri Ton, An Giang


01/08/2008

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnamese language classes have been set up for Khmer in Tri Ton District, An Giang province, to help them integrate into society.

A class to teach Vietnamese language in Soc Tuc hamlet, Le Tri commune began 45 days ago and now has 20-25 students.

The makeshift class operates from Monday to Wednesday, but is sometimes extended until Saturday at the students’ request. Learners are of all ages, most of them women. The teachers are local soldiers and government employees.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tran Thai Hoa, deputy head of Team 31 of the An Giang Provincial Military Command, said the class is organized by his unit and the Soc Tuc hamlet authorities.

Agencies in Le Tri commune and Tri Ton district provide notebooks, boards and chalk for the class. During power outages, Team 31 provides generators to the class and covers the cost of generating power.

“There remain some difficulties, but we are very pleased to see the Khmer try to learn Vietnamese,” Lieutenant-Colonel Hoa said. Within a short time, many students could write and read simple words and sentences in Vietnamese, he said.

“Knowing that Soc Tuc are teaching Vietnamese free of charge, many Khmer in Sa Lon want to enjoy the same,” said Chau Kun, the head of Sa Lon hamlet, Luong Phi commune.

So a class was set up at Sa Lon pagoda with 30 learners. The teacher is Chau Nuone, who works without pay. Electricity for the class is provided by the pagoda.

Another class was later opened at Pong Ro pagoda, the Ton Farmers’ Union and the Chau Lang authorities. This 30-student includes seven Buddhist monks, said Tran Van Ut, the Union chairman.

Also in Chau Lang commune, there is a class with all the 30 students being female. Whenever there is a power outage occurs, this class continues on the dim light of candles,” said Thach Thi Phi, the teacher of the class. “We know learning in such conditions is not good, but we have to do so to please the Khmer students.”

“The Khmer are very interested in learning Vietnamese,” said Nguyen Thanh Dan, a member of the Party Committee of Tri Ton District. “To date, Tri Ton has opened eight classes with more than 200 students of all ages. We are planning to set up more classes to serve 1,000 students.”

(Source: SGGP)

Cambodians pray for peace in temple standoff

A soldier stands guard at a Buddhism ceremony praying for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 1, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

The Associated Press
Published: August 1, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: Buddhist monks and government officials held a peace vigil Friday at an ancient temple near disputed border land, lighting incense and praying in the shadow of armed troops from Cambodia and Thailand.

Mist hovered over the mountaintop Preah Vihear temple as some 1,000 people prayed for an end to the tense standoff that started July 15 and has fueled nationalist passions in both countries.

"We are gathering here to pray to the souls of our ancestors asking for peace," said Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon, referring to Khmer kings who built the temple from the 9th to 11th centuries. "We also pray for success in our defense of our territory."

Thailand and Cambodia both have long-standing claims to 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land near the temple. The dispute flared 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 have stationed soldiers near the site.

About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand remain at a pagoda near the temple complex, despite a tentative agreement reached by foreign ministers Monday to redeploy them in an effort to ease tension.

"There is no order to redeploy our troops yet," said Lt. Gen. Chea Saran, a Cambodian deputy commander of the army.

"As long as Thailand is not redeploying its troops, why should we?" he added.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has said his government was ready to go along with a proposed redeployment of Cambodian troops but will not act without Thailand taking the same step. Thailand's government says the matter is being handled by the National Security Council.

Cambodian soldiers stood guard with weapons in their hands during Friday's ceremony, which included 67 Buddhist monks who chanted blessings along the stone path leading to the temple.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear and the land it occupies to Cambodia. The decision still rankles many Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor complex.

Cambodian former king leaves for Beijing

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-01

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian retired king Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Monineath Sihanouk, accompanied by their son King Norodom Sihamoni, left here on Friday for Beijing for routine medical checkup and rest.

They were seen off at the Phnom Penh International Airport by Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, other government officials, royal family members and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

During the stay in China, Sihanouk, his wife and Sihamoni are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on August 8.

Sihamoni will return home in about two weeks, a royal palace official said at the airport, adding that Sihanouk and his wife will stay much longer.

The couple's last trip to China for medical checkup was in April 2008.

The 85-year-old former king suffers from diabetes and has had colon cancer. He abdicated his throne to Sihamoni in October 2004.

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister hospitalised in Cambodia

Former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary was rushed to hospital Friday after he discovered blood in his urine, said a spokesman for Cambodia's UN-backed genocide court.

Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five top regime cadres charged in connection with the Khmer Rouge's bloody rule over Cambodia from 1975-79, when up to two million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

"Doctors informed us that Mister Ieng Sary was taken to the hospital this morning because he had blood in his urine," Khmer Rouge trial spokesman Reach Sambath told AFP.

Ieng Sary was rushed from his jail cell to Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital for treatment by doctors, said the spokesman.

He has been hospitalised several times for a heart condition since he and his wife, former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, were arrested for war crimes and crimes against humanity in November.

Last month Ieng Sary's lawyers argued that he should be released before trial because he was so ill that jail could kill him.

The joint Cambodia-UN tribunal was established two years ago, after nearly a decade of haggling, to bring to justice those responsible for one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

The four other defendants at the tribunal are mostly in their 70s and 80s, and worries for their health have also cast a cloud over the proceedings as critics worry they could die before trials are completed.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. Tribunal officials have said they expect the court's first trial to begin in September with proceedings against Kaing Guek Eav or "Duch," who ran a notorious torture centre in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian PM's wife prays at disputed Hindu temple

Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, lights a candle during a Buddhism prayer ceremony for peace called Krong Pealy at Preah Vihear temple compound atop Dang Reak mountain 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh August 1, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
By Chor Sokunthea

Fri Aug 1, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at a 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.

With Thai troops and artillery dug in only meters away, Bun Rany thanked the soldiers, mostly battle-hardened ex-Khmer Rouge guerrillas, for resisting what Cambodia says is Thai encroachment on a disputed patch of land next to the ruins.

"The first lady called on the ancestral spirits to defend Preah Vihear and chase away the enemy," Min Khin, chairman of the Southeast Asian nation's Festival Committee, told reporters after the ceremony, shrouded in early morning mist.

Preah Vihear sits on top of a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between Thailand and Cambodia, and has been a bone of contention between the two countries for decades.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague awarded the site to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since, although it did not rule on ownership of the 1.8 square miles of scrub at the centre of the latest spat.

The trigger for the latest row came from Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to have the temple listed as a World Heritage site, support that was seized on by nationalist street protesters bent on overthrowing the Thai government.

With a general election campaign underway in Cambodia at the time, it quickly escalated into a serious confrontation, with hundreds of troops and artillery sent to both sides of the border. In some places, the two sides are only a few yards apart.

Both foreign ministers vowed on Monday to resolve the stand-off peacefully and pull back troops, although nothing has changed on the ground, with Bangkok and Phnom Penh reluctant to redeploy in case they are painted as weak.

Bun Rany's high-profile visit, flying in by helicopter and a heavily armed security detail, suggests her husband, a wily former Khmer Rouge soldier who won a landslide victory in Sunday's election, is in no mood to compromise.

A group claiming Preah Vihear for Thailand described the ceremony as a black-magic ritual meant to bring bad luck, one newspaper reported.

Preah Vihear is not the only temple to have hit relations between the two countries.

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

(Additional reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh and Nopporn Wong-Anan in Bangkok; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by David Fogarty)

Cambodia Yet to Act on Military Withdrawal: Thai FM

Yahoo News
Friday August 1

BANGKOK, Aug 1 Asia Pulse - Reiterating that it is up to the Thai government as to when troops might be withdrawn from the disputed Preah Vihear temple site claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia, Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag said Thursday the Cambodian government has "not informed Thailand officially" when it will pull out its troops from the area.

It is not necessary for the Thai government to react because the Cambodian government has not shown any sign that it would withdraw its troops from the disputed area, Mr Tej said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that Cambodian troops were ready to withdraw from the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area adjacent to the 11th century temple. He indicated that the timing of the troop withdrawal is up to Thailand to decide, as far as when the action is taken, as it is not a problem for Cambodia.

Mr Tej said what Mr Hun Sen had relayed could be his personal opinion but that "so far there is no official reaction from Cambodia."

Senior Thai officials on Thursday held a workshop at the National Security Council and one major topic of discussion was expected to focus on the agreements made by foreign ministers of the two countries on Monday in Cambodia's Siem Reap province.

Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers called for the redeployment of troops in and around the new pagoda located in the temple complex, so that a meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission could be held to continue to demarcate the border line, to clear landmines around the ancient temple, and to avoid armed confrontation.

Mr Tej said the Thai military will have to follow the government's instruction and that a troop reduction could not be made at once due to official procedures.

(TNA-OANA)

Misery At A Phnom Penh Cambodia Landfill


A look at the working conditions of 2000 registered workers, including 600 children, at a Cambodian Landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul 31, 2008 – Story abstract: "If you live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, your rubbish is headed to the Stung Meanchey landfill, nicknamed by residents as "Smokey Mountain".

Stung Meanchey opened more than 15 years ago to serve as the city dump and today some 2000 registered workers, including 600 children, work at the site sifting through roughly 700 tons of waste that arrives each day.

An adult who spends 12 hours per day scavenging through this sea of waste may earn as much as $2.50 USD, and workers come to labor at Stung Meanchey to escape the crushing poverty and malnourishment in rural Cambodia.

They pay a price, breathing in heavy air polluted by toxic byproducts from the flaming heaps of garbage."

Covering this issue, John Brown visited the Stung Meanchey Landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to get a closer look. The result is this photo reportage that depicts the shocking circumstances under which the scavengers work.

First-time voters unable to cast ballots

Vandy Rattana; An election worker counts votes following Sunday's parliamentary polls

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Hor Hab
Thursday, 31 July 2008

KAMPOT – First-time voters in Sunday’s election were barred from casting ballots at polling stations in Kampot province because their names were not on voter lists, according to election monitors. But observers and party activists are divided as to whether the omissions were due to deliberate manipulation or simple bureaucratic oversight.

Sam Ath, 24, skipped work to cast his vote at the Wat Kampot polling station in Andoung Khmer commune, only to be told that his name was not on any of the five voter lists.

“I feel sorry because I work far away from here, and I want to vote,” he said. “None of my friends had a problem.”

Another first-time voter, who wished to remain anonymous, traveled from Phnom Penh to vote at Kampong Krong Primary School in Kampong Kandal commune, but was confused when he couldn’t find his name on the list.

“The NEC sent an information letter, but only my brothers received it,” he told the Post, saying he thought he’d done everything he needed to vote.

“There are about 20 people at each polling station who are not on the lists,” said Ma Doll, a Comfrel voting monitor based in Kampot. “Some people have information papers but their names are not on the list. Others claim information papers never reached them.”

However, some voters and election monitors dismissed the concerns, claiming the vote was carried off smoothly compared with past years.

When asked about the absence of some names on the voter lists, In Thon, a commune election committee observer at Son Dakta Primary School in Kampong Kandal commune, said that it was “not a problem.”

“Four names were absent from the station’s voting lists,” In Thon said, but all were “found at another polling station nearby.”

CPP election observer Ouch Somang agreed that everything was above-board. “The election is much better than earlier ones. People know what they’re doing and there’s no more political pressure,” he said.

But Khin Krann, SRP secretary of Kampong Bay commune said voter disenfranchisement had been a major problem. “Many people didn’t get a vote,” he said.

Comfrel’s Ma Doll could not say whether this was the result of a deliberate policy to disenfranchise young voters or an unintentional error.

“This situation shows that it is a difficult issue for [voters] to use their right to choose the nation’s leader. I think it may affect their confidence in the election process,” he said.

Minor party leaders wonder where all their votes went

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 31 July 2008

Minor parties in Sunday’s elections have joined the leading opposition parties in questioning preliminary returns that show the ruling Cambodian People’s Party winning in a landslide.

Khmer Anti-Poverty Party leader Kravanh Daran absolutely rejected the election results, noting that his party had 30,000-40,000 supporters in Phnom Penh alone. So, with the official results showing the party garnering fewer than 300 votes, it seemed strange, he said.

The party finished in last place on Sunday, with only 0.16 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from election observer Comfrel.

He suggested the National Election Committee (NEC) was a tool of the CPP, deleting voter names from registries and using other trickery to boost the CPP’s margin.

Society of Justice Party leader Ban Sophal claimed his party received about 10,000 votes on Sunday but stopped short of rejecting the preliminary results, saying on July 29 that clear evidence was needed before he would claim fraud or call for a re-vote.

“We have no proof,” Ban Sophal said. “I’m also waiting to see if the four major parties offer evidence to reject the results, but for now I’m keeping quiet.”

Although his party finished in ninth place, with only 0.23 percent of the vote, according to Comfrel, Ban Sophal said he would not give up or quit politics. He said he was formulating a new strategy for the next election.

Khmer Republican Party president Lon Rith also said the election could have been fairer but stopped short of rejecting the results.

“Small irregularities can’t be regarded as major problems,” Lon Rith said.

His party finished on Sunday in tenth place, with about 0.20 percent of the vote, according to Comfrel figures.

Lon Rith predicted his party would compete more strongly in future elections now that he has learned some of the tricks politicians use.

Comfrel’s preliminary results showed the ruling CPP finishing nationally with 57.9 percent of the vote, winning 90 seats in the next National Assembly, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party in distant second, at 21.99 percent, good for about 27 seats in the next assembly.

The Human Rights Party edged the Norodom Ranarridh Party for third place, winning 6.29 percent and likely to take three seats in the next parliament.

Foreign ministers forecast gradual temple resolution

Heng Chivoan; A Cambodian soldier sits with his automatic rifle only a few metres of Thai troops at Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 31 July 2008

C ambodia and Thai foreign ministers emerged from epic crisis talks in Siem Reap earlier this week with a recommendation that troops from both countries be withdrawn from disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple in a move that is hoped to end a military stand off that is entering its third week.

Following 12 hours of talks on Monday, the ministers announced an agreement to return to their governments with recommendations for a quick drawdown of their respective troops from Preah Vihear and the nearby disputed 4.8 square kilometres, which encompass a pagoda Thai troops have occupied during the faceoff.

However, they did not state any concrete plans for troop reduction, and Thai and Cambodian military leaders remain uncommitted to withdrawal, saying they had yet to receive orders from above.

The next step: more talks between the two foreign ministers.

“We cannot solve all the problems in one meeting,” Cambodian Foreign Minster Hor Namhong said. “We need to do it step-by-step, but the first and most important issue is redeploying troops away from the temple area.”

His Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag agreed, saying, “I will immediately make a report to send to the [Thai] Council of Ministers.”

Aside from agreeing to recommend military withdrawals and to meet again among themselves, the ministers said they would also request an urgent convention of the Joint Commission on Demarcation of Land Boundary and the establishment of a temporary special task force, not unlike the group assembled to oversee compensation for Thai interests damaged in the 2003 nationalist riots.

They also agreed to recommend that their governments expedite the demining of border areas needing to be surveyed and demarcated.

Hor Namhong said Cambodia would continue to sit on its complaints to the UN Security Council over what Cambodia sees as a Thai incursion into its territory. The complaint was suspended after both sides agreed to Monday’s talks.

“Now that the meeting has moved forward, I understand we should postpone our complaint to the UN for a while,” he said.

In Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen placed the burden of cooperation on the Thai side, claiming Cambodia is ready to resolve the matter.

“We understand the difficulty of our Thai friends, who must ask permission and discuss with their government and other institutions about Thailand’s internal affairs.

“So this problem is about how long the Thais need to ask for a political decision from the Thai government. For our side, it is no problem. The problem is: When will Thailand decide to take action?”

(Additional reporting by Mum Kuntear)

Cambodian military commanders wary of Preah Vihear detente

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sambath Teth
Thursday, 31 July 2008

CAMBODIAN military commanders at Preah Vihear reacted cautiously to news this week that Thai and Cambodian leaders had tentatively agreed to redeploy troops from nearby the historic temple, but said they had yet to receive orders to move from their positions and would remain ready for combat until they were told to stand down.

“I received no order to withdraw troops,” said Lieutenant General Chea Saran, a deputy infantry commander on the de facto front line just hundreds of metres from the 11th-century Hindu ruins where hundreds of Thai and Cambodian soldiers have massed.

“While the meeting results were not yet good, tensions have eased,” he added, referring to Monday’s crisis talks in Siem Reap.

“Cambodia has no problem withdrawing its armed forces – we can do it at any time but the Thai soldiers have to do this as well.”

In the two weeks since the military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand began, soldiers from both sides have battled cold, hunger and boredom while the countries’ leaders traded diplomatic barbs and refused to relinquish any territory around the temple.

Cambodian and Thai troops remained bivouacked within metres of each other Tuesday, sometimes trading jokes or cigarettes.

Relations for the most part have remained cordial during the standoff, with guns being drawn only once last week after dozens of Cambodian monks entered a pagoda where Thai troops had rallied.

The ambiguous ending to Monday’s talks have only added to the uncertainty over how the largest military buildup in years would be resolved.

“Top officials are doing the negotiating with the Thai side but we, the soldiers, are continuing to do our duty and remain on alert ... we are waiting for our orders,” said Nuon Nov, deputy commander of Military Region 4, saying, however, the border demarcation by both Thai and Cambodian soldiers was continuing.

Others said they were excited to hear that talks had moved forward following last week’s breakdown of negotiations and fears that the crisis would erupt into violence amid reports that more troops and heavy equipment, including tanks and artillery, were being deployed on both sides of the border.

“I am excited to hear that both sides have agreed to withdraw their armed forces from the pagoda – it eases tensions at the temple,” said Chan Sokhon, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who said he served alongside Thai troops in the early 1980s during the fight against Vietnamese soldiers.

“War is no good at all. Neither side would benefit if they go to war,” he added.

Post election shakeout

Heng Chivoan; A supporter of the Sam Rainsy Party complains that he was not allowed to vote Sunday during a rally at the opposition party's headquarters.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 31 July 2008

T he ruling Cambodian People’s Party has announced plans to renew its coalition government with the further-fragmenting Funcinpec party, inviting its secretary general, Nhiek Bun Chhay, and his constituents into government but excluding the royalist faction led by party president Keo Puth Rasmey.

The partnership proposal came Wednesday as the Kingdom's opposition parties continued to reject the election results, saying that the vote was "rigged" to favour the CPP by eliminating as many as one million names from voter registration lists. “About one million people who wanted to vote lost their rights because of ‘organised confusion’ before election day,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy said at his party headquarters on Wednesday, where hundreds had assembled to protest the poll results.

Many of those present lacked the tell-tale ink marks on their fingers signifying that they had voted. Pin Sophal, 38, told Post reporters that his name had been removed from the lists in Kien Svay district of Kandal province because of his supposed support for opposition parties.

“My name was removed from the voter lists because [the authorities] found that I don’t support the ruling party. My neighbour knew I once voted SRP, and he told the commune authorities,” he said. Suon Buntoeun, 48, who also attended the rally, said he had voted in previous parliamentary elections, but his name was missing when he went to vote at the Kilometre 6 polling station in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo commune on Sunday. “I voted in 1993, 1998 and 2003, but now I have no name,” he said.

“I received an [NEC] information notice and I had my ID card but I went to the polls and my name wasn’t there. These results are not acceptable.” Preliminary results show the CPP making large gains to capture around 90 National Assembly seats, with the Sam Rainsy Party trailing in second with an estimated 27 seats. The first preliminary results from the National Election Committee are not expected until August 9.

“I do not expect these people would have voted for me, but the National Election Committee (NEC) has to respect the constitution,” Sam Rainsy said of those whose names were omitted from voter rolls. The SRP, Human Rights Party, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party issued a joint statement Monday rejecting the election, which they described as a “sham” and a “façade of democracy” due to the alleged manipulation of voter lists.

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the CPP had also eyed the Human Rights Party led by Kem Sokha as a coalition partner but decided against it due to the party’s ties with the SRP. He also said the Keo Puth Rasmey, who led the Funcinpec drive against the election results, would be relieved of his position as deputy prime minister. Despite the announcement, Keo Puth Rasmey insisted to the Post Wednesday that Funcinpec could not be divided and that the party’s congress must decide whether to enter the coalition. Serey Kosal, deputy secretary general of Funcinpec, told the Post Wednesday he was unaware of the specific terms of the deal but said Funcinpec’s permanent committee would meet Thursday to discuss it.

Garment factories worry about slumping sales

Heng Chivoan; Garment factories employ more than 350,000 workers, most of whom are unionised.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 01 August 2008

T rade officials and economists say the garment sector is threatened with a slowdown over coming months if productivity does not increase.

For the first three months of 2008, garment exports plummeted to US$1 billion from $1.99 billion at this time in 2007 and $1.9 billion in 2006.

“The garment sector is slower than in past years, we fear that additional costs would lead factory owners move to other places,” said Cheat Khemara, senior labour officer for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

“The most valuable [garment] exports and textiles went to China, while Cambodia gained only workers’ salaries and factory rental fees,” he said, adding that factory managers have become increasingly concerned over rising operating costs.

“Once the Ministry of Labour implements the salary tax, factory owners will have to pay US$0.80 for each worker. This is a new cost for garment factory operators,” he said.

“They have suffered with highly electricity costs, low productivity and too many strikes.”

Some 326 factories operate in Cambodia after 10 closed last year, employing 360,000 workers.

A slowdown in the sector would be devastating for countless families depending on the monthly wages of workers.

“I would encourage our workers to work hard to compete with China. In Vietnam and China, people want to work, because they want to make money,” said Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, who blames factory owners for the strikes which have hit hard productivity.

Others, however, blame the numerous unions for falling productivity, and the loss of business to neighbouring countries.

“It would be nice if the ministry allows only three unions,” said Nguon Meng Tech, Director General of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, warning that the sector could collapse if it does not pick up the pace.

“Look at China, there are no unions. People love working hard to make money,” he said.

Economist Sok Sina agreed that better productivity was needed to ward off competition from China and Vietnam, especially since US safeguards against some Chinese textiles are set to expire at the end of the year.

“Buyers need Cambodian goods to arrive at the market on time. If goods do not arrive on time, buyers will stop ordering from Cambodia,” he said.

But he added that imminent collapse was not likely.

“I think our garment sector for first half year of 2008 is not too bad, because besides the US market, we have exports to the EU market as well,” said Sok Sina.

Thon Virak, deputy director general for the Foreign Trade Department at the Ministry of Commerce, told the Post on Wednesday that diversification was key to the garment sector’s survival.

“I think our garment sector is doing fine because we have expanded into the EU and Canadian market,” said Thon Virak. “It is a bit slow, but not too bad.”

But even a slight slowdown could be enough to scare factories out of Cambodia, said GMAC’S Cheat Khemara.

“If production process slows, buyers would stop ordering from factories here, but looking for other places,” he said.

Latest Preah Vihear Meeting in Seam Ream (Khmer & Thai)

Sacravatoons : The Great-Champion "

The Graphic background was designed in 1967,The SAMAKI Operation during the HM Royal Crusade in Battambang against the Vietminh troop.Lon Nol was a person on the right side of HM the King Norodom Sihanouk, at his left was an unknown person.I had won the second prize with this drawing during the national stamp's competition.
Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " Dog for Sale "

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

Sacravatoons :" The 2 Fishes & The Spratlys Island "

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

Richard Marles witnesses Cambodian democracy

INTERNATIONAL WATCH: Corio MP Richard Marles led an Australian delegation observing the recent Cambodian election.

Geelong Advertiser
Danny Lannen
August 1st, 2008

MEMBER for Corio Richard Marles has returned from observing Cambodian general elections confident democracy is moving forward.

Mr Marles said troubling issues remained in the country 15 years on from its first elections but people's pride in the democratic process was clear.

"It's fair to say Cambodia still has a way to go to becoming a fully democratic country," Mr Marles said.

"But having said that, from an optimistic point of view and Australia's point of view, which is important given its investment in the country, they're making progress."

Mr Marles led an Australian delegation including MPs Mark Coulton, Nola Marino and Senator Rachel Siewert.

They were part of a 17,000-strong team of local and international people who monitored the election, won by Prime Minister Hun Sen with a sweeping majority.

International observers said the election process fell short of international standards.

Mr Marles said the Australian Government had pointed to areas of concern.

A journalist who wrote a scathing comment about Hun Sen was murdered a few days later along with his son and, in a separate incident, a newspaper editor was jailed for comment.

"I guess the extent of the use or support of the public service for the ruling party was also a concern, and they are concerns Australia has raised with the Cambodian Government," Mr Marles said.

He said he found the visit emotionally moving as the group spent time at Cambodia's killing fields and noted that trials of Khmer Rouge leaders were still under way.

UTSA professor selected as Fulbright Scholar


UTSA Today
July 31, 2008

By Tim Brownlee
Assistant Director of Public Affairs

(July 31, 2008)--Wayne Wright, UTSA associate professor of bicultural-bilingual studies (effective fall 2008), recently was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to Cambodia for spring 2009. He will go to Cambodia through the Fulbright Intercountry Lecturing Program, which provides U.S. scholars with opportunities to enrich their professional and cultural experience outside the United States.

For more than 60 years, the federally sponsored Fulbright program has provided opportunities to study, conduct research and teach in more than 140 countries. The program awards approximately 1,450 grants annually.

"Congratulations are in order for Dr. Wayne Wright," said Charles Crane, UTSA director of international programs. "His selection as a Fulbright Scholar to Cambodia brings great credit to him, the College of Education and Human Development and UTSA."

Wright received a Fulbright lecture award in educational leadership and administration at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. He will teach courses in the university's new master of education program, which addresses the critical need for training education professionals in Cambodian government and nonprofit organizations. The country continues to rebuild its education system, which was devastated by genocide and civil war during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

In addition to teaching graduate courses, Wright will work to enhance the research capabilities of graduate students and faculty, provide assistance in revising the educational technology curriculum and provide assistance in the development of distance education with the university's English Support Unit.

"Cambodia has made a great deal of progress rebuilding its education system, but much work remains to be done," said Wright. "I am greatly honored by the opportunity this Fulbright award has given me to return to Cambodia to contribute toward efforts to continue developing the education sector through the training of current and future educational leaders at the Royal University of Phnom Penh."

"This award is also very meaningful to my family on a personal level," Wright added. "My wife, Phal, is a native of Cambodia, and we are the parents of three Cambodian American children, Jeffrey, Michael and Catherine. We are thrilled with the opportunity for our children to live in Cambodia where they can develop relationships with their family members there, improve their very limited Khmer language skills, and make deeper connections to their Cambodian heritage and culture."

Proficient in the Khmer (Cambodian) language, Wright has worked with Cambodian refugees in the United States since 1986. He lived and worked in Cambodia from 1993 to 1994 as a volunteer with the Cambodian American National Development Organization (CANDO), a USAID-funded project modeled after the Peace Corps. Additionally, he worked in the human rights and education sectors with local indigenous non-governmental organizations and at the Institute of Economics.

________________
About Wayne Wright

Wayne E. Wright earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies at Arizona State University. At UTSA, he is an associate professor (effective fall 2008) of bilingual studies in the College of Education and Human Development. He is chair of the Graduate Studies Committee and is the graduate adviser of record for the M.A.-Teaching English as a Second Language (MA-TESL) program.

His teaching and research focus on language and education policies, programs and instruction for language minority students. His research has been published in leading academic journals including Education Policy, Language Policy, Educational Policy Analysis Archives, the Bilingual Research Journal, the Heritage Languages Journal and the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, in addition to professional journals including Educational Leadership.

Wright is the founding editor of the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and is the book review editor for the International Multilingual Research Journal.

He also serves as co-director of the Language Policy Research Unit of the Southwest Center for Educational Equity and Language Diversity and as vice president for publications of the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans. Previously, he was a bilingual elementary school teacher and helped establish one of the first Khmer bilingual education programs in California.

________________
About the Fulbright program

The late Sen. J. William Fulbright founded the Fulbright Program of International Education and Cultural Exchange in 1948. Fulbright was an advocate of mutual understanding between cultures and détente long before they were in vogue. He believed that international education would provide a base for the basic understanding and contact necessary for a peaceful world.

Fulbright was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and president of the University of Arkansas at age 34. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at age 35, and at 39 became a U.S. senator. For 16 of his 30 years in the Senate, he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. Politically, he fought hard for peace initiatives and non-military solutions.

Approximately 6,000 new grants are awarded to individuals annually through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Grants are given to American students, teachers and scholars to study, teach, lecture and conduct research in more than 140 countries in the world, and to foreign nationals to engage in similar activities in the United States. Individuals are selected on the basis of academic or professional qualifications, potential, and ability and willingness to share ideas and experiences with people of diverse cultures.

Thai-Cambodian border standoff continues as talks make no progress

pgcitizen.ca
Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Thursday, 31 July 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - 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.

Foreign ministers from the two Southeast Asian countries expressed optimism that their talks would produce a breakthrough in the dispute.

But midway through the talks Monday in Siem Reap, the mood was tense and progress remained elusive, officials said.

"We have discussed many points but we have not reached a solution yet," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters.

A first round of talks July 21 foundered over what maps should be used to demarcate the border. It prompted Cambodia to request a meeting of the United Nations Security Council before agreeing to the second round of talks with Thailand.

The dispute over 4.6 square kilometres of land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple escalated earlier 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 Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application to UNESCO. Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

Hor Namhong said Friday he was hopeful the new talks would end the impasse, but also warned his government would pursue the case at the UN if negotiations failed again.

A French map demarcating the border generally favours Cambodia, and Thailand rejects it, saying it was drawn up by a colonial power to its own advantage.

Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance, but accepts a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in 1962.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner on the elections in Cambodia

7thSpace Interactive
Published on: 2008-07-31

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, underlined the importance of these fourth parliamentary elections since the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in October 1991.

“I congratulate the Cambodian voters for showing their commitment to peaceful elections. In comparison to previous elections important progress has been made including efforts to improve transparency guarantees. However, a number of key international standards for democratic elections, mostly related to the uneven playing field between political parties, have not been met. I call upon all political actors to seize the opportunity to address the problems encountered and to commit to further strengthening democracy in Cambodia. The EU stands ready to accompany these efforts. I also want to thank Chief Observer Martin Callanan, MEP, and the whole observation mission for their hard work and commitment.”

The European Commission deployed an EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) for the 27 July 2008 National Assembly elections in Cambodia led by Mr. Martin Callanan, Member of the European Parliament. The EU EOM is as a further contribution by the European Commission to support democracy in Cambodia. The preliminary statement was presented by the Chief Observer Mr. Martin Callanan together with the Head of the European Parliament delegation, Mr. Glyn Ford, on the 29th of July.

The mission concluded that the conduct of these elections shows improvements to previous elections. Polling and counting were well organized; election authorities established transparency guarantees for corroborating polling station results; also, civil society participated more actively than in past elections. Despite these positive notes, the mission also concluded that the elections fell short of a number of key international standards. Inter alia, there was a lack of confidence in the impartiality of electoral authorities; the campaign period was marked by widespread use of state resources; access to media was difficult for opposition parties; and civic education was assessed as biased in favor of the ruling party.

The EU EOM deployed 130 observers from 25 EU Member States and Norway throughout Cambodia to observe and assess the electoral process in accordance with international standards for election observation and the laws of Cambodia. The EOM will stay on the ground until the end of August to observe the tabulation of results and post-election developments. A final report covering the whole electoral process including recommendations for future elections will be published by the EU EOM in the coming months.

First reshuffle at the government

Cambodge Soir
31-07-2008

The Minister of Information and government spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, declared in a press conference held on Wednesday July 30 in Phnom Penh, that “CPP will maintain the coalition government with Funcinpec...but with Nhiek Bun Chhay’s Funcinpec”.

“The government will soon dismiss Kéo Puth Reaskmey, the Royalist party president, and prince Sisowat Sirirath, advisor to the government” added the Minister.

Prince Sisowat announced on Monday that he was joining the coalition - composed of the SRP, the Human Rights Party and the NRP - challenging the election results.

Prince Sisowat declared to Cambodge Soir Hebdo that he would comment on the government decision once “[I] get confirmation from Prime Minister Hun Sen”.

On the morning of Wednesday July 30, according to a widespread rumour, Kéo Puth Reaskmey wrote to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting the withdrawal of Funcinpenc’s active complaint against Prince Norodom Rannariddh who is in self-imposed exile in Malaysia. The withdrawal could enable the Prince to return to Cambodia. The paper was unable to get confirmation or not from Khéo Puth Reaskmey who could not be reached.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, general secretary of Funcinpec may have been elected in Beanteay Meanchey, according to the temporary election results coming from the CPP.

The government grants $5 bonus for civil servants


Cambodge Soir
31-07-2008

The Cambodian government announced that civil servants and controlling forces would receive a $5 bonus.

According to the government high- ranking civil servants such as under-secretary of state and above ranks will not receive this incentive. “This bonus is to compensate a higher cost of living", stated the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The relevant civil servant will receive this incentive from July until December 2008.

Rong Chhun, chairman of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association challenged this measure. “An increase of $5 per civil servants is not sufficient, prices have increase 200-300%” he regretted.

Confronted with a higher cost of living, the government increased the wages by 15% last year and 20% in 2008. But with the recent price hike, civil servants’ purchasing power decreased sharply. And the ones paying for it are the underprivileged.

Norodom Ranariddh sentence upheld

Cambodge Soir
31-07-2008

The Supreme Court decided on Wednesday July 30 to uphold the Appeals Court’s verdict sentencing, in absentia, Prince Norodom Ranariddh to 18 months in jail. The Prince is also ordered to pay US$ 150,000 in compensation to Nhiek Bunchhay, Funcinpec General Secretary, with regard to the Royalist party’s controversial sale of headquarters case.

“I strongly condemn this decision” reacted the NRP spokesman Muth Chantha. “The plaintiff sent a letter to the Court Tuesday evening to withdraw his complaint but the Court refused to consider this document. It is a political issue”. Following this decision the Prince, who was elected in Kampong Cham, will not be able to take his seat in the new assembly. Norodom Ranariddh decided to withdraw in order to let You Hockry, the general secretary of the party, stand.

Sam Rainsy calls for a re-vote

Cambodge Soir
31-07-2008

Due to the scope of the electoral rigging he has been denouncing since Sunday, the opposition leader is trying to mobilise citizens, starting with those that could not cast their ballots.

The opposition MP has found his hobby horse: rigged elections. This Wednesday, July 30, morning he invited all those who could not vote to come to SRP headquarters to testify. He took the opportunity to announce that SRP MPs filed a complaint to the National election Committee. He also requested a re-vote.

In front of hundreds of people standing in the rain, men and women took the floor next to a seemingly satisfied Sam Rainsy who regularly interjected to denounce the elections. A woman explained that of her family “only two out of the seven old enough to vote were able to do so". A man wearing a blue cap, intimidated by the crowd, expressed his dismay with the ballot which he described as “false’. One of the SRP observers, showing his green badge, explained that his name was not even on the list.

Actions punished by the Law

At the beginning of his speech an eloquent Sam Rainsy, wearing black trousers and white shirt, expressed his surprise that “citizens eligible to vote for the commune elections in 2007 had their names taken off the general elections lists”. He emphasized the lack of respect for international standards during the election and that “the observers did not notice anything, as they stayed in the polling stations”.

In a more threatening tone, he stated that the massive use of form 1018 - the form that enables citizens to vote on behalf of someone else – “by the village chiefs who did so, is punishable by law”.

According to his calculations, the opposition was deprived of one million votes. He went even further: “if these had been fair elections then the SRP would hold 52 seats and the CPP 45”.< The opposition should then be governing.

Soldiers, police and security forces were posted in the surrounding streets and avenues in order to prevent any potential troubles.

SRP MPs call on international observers

Cambodge Soir
1-07-2008

The time of filling urns as an election-rigging technique has passed. According to the opposition, the reigning party has been using much more sophisticated rigging techniques.

A couple of days after the election, SRP MPs are still angry. They now turn their focus on the international observers. The latter could not have been aware of underhanded practices “the day before voting and far from the polling stations”.

According to these MPs, observers present on voting day can only report that the electoral process went well "technically” speaking. The members then summarised the two rigging techniques already denounced by the SRP leader on the evening of the election.

The first started in late 2007 when “15 000 pro-CPP village chiefs located opposition supporters and took them off the electoral lists,” while pretending to finalise them. The SRP representatives claimed that this represents a loss of one million votes for them.

Using the 1018 form, the equivalent of a provisional identification card for individuals waiting for one, the CPP allowed “underage, workers who could not travel back to their homes, as well as unlisted citizens” to vote under the identity of a deceased person, or a person who has moved or is listed twice. The SRP estimates that the CPP gained one million voters with this wangling.

Due to the extent of the rigging, the SRP parliamentary group alleged “to have inventoried countless cases including the real identity of the illegitimate voters, proved by their identification cards, and the false identities they used on the 1018 form which was provided by the CPP. Each document presents the same picture of the same individual”. The members invite observers to come to the party headquarters on Wednesday July 30th to witness the veracity of their allegations.

When Cambodia cries wolf

By The Nation
Published on August 1, 2008

Cambodia knows exactly when and where to hit Thailand to inflict the most pain on its neighbour to the east. Repeated attempts by Phnom Penh to raise the Preah Vihear dispute at the international level in forums such as the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement - which were subsequently withdrawn - shows a lack of sincerity and ill intentions. At a meeting in Singapore, Asean took the unprecedented step of discussing the temple dispute but without any progress.

It was out of Asean goodwill and the good office of the previous chair, Singapore, that both sides were able to discuss the problem against the backdrop of the Asean meeting.

When members have bilateral problems, especially over sensitive issues concerning sovereignty, they should resolve them in an amicable way without being aggressive or using strong diplomatic language.

In Singapore, the Cambodian delegation left its mark with strong words of condemnation for Thailand over the controversy. The Thai delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Banditkul, was calm and mature. Sahas did not respond to the Cambodian tirade. Several Asean members have expressed concerns over the rough way the Cambodian delegate dealt with the issue.

After the end of the Asean meeting, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo wrote a letter to his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, expressing concerns about the creditability of Asean as Cambodia has insisted that it would seek the intervention of the UN Security Council. Since both countries are members of Asean, any dispute between them should be settled bilaterally.

Instead, Cambodia has tried to score points internationally by portraying the country as a victim of intimidation by a bigger and more prosperous neighbour. Asean wants all of its members to discuss and solve problems in the spirit of the grouping.

Cambodia's desire to internationalise the issue helps to show its true intention to tarnish Thailand's reputation. Of course, there is nothing Thailand can do at the moment as its domestic situation in recent years has been rather damning. Cambodia's approach would work if Thailand really were a bully. Look around, Thailand has been reduced to a small and non-significant player since 2001. Our reputation overseas has sunk to its lowest level ever. Instead of helping Thailand to settle the dispute amicably, those in Cambodia's upper echelon have instead decided that now is the best time to teach Thailand a lesson.

Several Asean members and dialogue partners have confided to the Foreign Ministry that they do not support Cambodia's efforts to push the temple dispute to the UN level. A member of the Security Council said that any internationalised issue would impact on Asean as a whole.

For the next 18 months, Thailand will serve as the chair of Asean. Cambodia's attitude will be crucial and should be closely scrutinised, as it will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of Asean.

If Cambodia continues to threaten to use the UN and Non-Aligned Movement forums, it would certainly hamper the effectiveness of the Thai chairmanship of Asean.

Tej's background should let him cool nationalistic fury

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on August 1, 2008

Tej Bunnag has many tasks to come to grips with now he has the reins at the Foreign Ministry, and being thrown in at the deep end of the Preah Vihear dispute could hardly be described as a dream start.

Meeting his Cambodian counterpart in Siem Reap, he was unable to engineer a sustained relaxation in tension at the 900-year-old Hindu temple, as other fundamental elements in relations were not yet firm.

The most sensitive factor in bilateral relations between the two countries is their respective domestic political situations. Recent conflicts between the two neighbours were sparked by bruised nationalism created by political crises on either side.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh would not have been torched in early 2003 if local people had not been agitated by a false statement over Angkor, attributed to a Thai television actress. The statement was completely insignificant, but politicians seized on it for political gain.

Cambodians are very sensitive to anyone claiming their precious historic Hindu temples because these archaeological sites served as the seat of the mighty Khmer civilisation that later became the keystone for the creation of modern Cambodia. Any suggestions, such as those made by some Thai intellectuals, that question modern Cambodians' links to the ancient Khmer empire, epitomised by the Angkor era, do not sit well.

People in Cambodia are proud of their civilisation. A phrase in the Khmer national anthem says "temples are asleep in the forest, remembering the splendour of Moha Nokor (Great Kingdom)."

So it's unsurprising Cambodians get irate when a neighbour, notably Thailand, claims ownership over their Hindu temples. They are Buddhist. It is not a question of religion but nationalism.

The conflict would never have happened had certain groups of Thais not tried to claim rights over the temple despite a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962 that it belongs to Cambodia.

Some Thai nationalists may feel the ICJ ruling is unfair since Preah Vihear geographically could be deemed to be situated on Thai territory. The main access to the ruins is via the Thai side, as Cambodians have to climb stairs up a large cliff. Thus, Thailand should have the right to a joint application for World Heritage status, and later, to jointly manage the temple as an attraction.

However, for Cambodia, such arguments are unfair since Preah Vihear legally belongs to Cambodia. Historically and archeologically, the 11th century temple has never looked like part of Thai civilisation. Over its almost 1,000 years of existence, Thailand "occupied" the site only for 100 years. So, it is unacceptable to stake a joint World Heritage claim.

The World Heritage Committee has already made the decision in favour of Cambodia but nationalists on both sides never reached a compromise on the claims.

Further, boosting troop numbers in the temple's vicinity on July 15 after the World Heritage designation made the problem more complicated. It turned the focus on to the boundary and politicised a routine technical matter, opening the door for nationalists on both sides to play the issue up.

Fortunately, the new Foreign Minister Tej took the job after Cambodia's general election, which went in favour of the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Phnom Penh should now feel more relaxed about handling the dispute. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a full withdrawal of Thai troops from the disputed area but did not seem too dogmatic about it.

However, political tension in Thailand has yet to subside. Attempts to topple Samak Sundaravej's Cabinet remain and the border issue is an easy target to stir ill-feelings toward the government. A unilateral withdrawal of Thai troops from the disputed area is not an option for Samak's government but it is not easy to tell Hun Sen to pull out unilaterally, either.

A difficulty for Tej is how to put the hot issue of the boundary back into a technical arena, as it was before the World Heritage claim.

As the co-chairman of the Thailand-Cambodia Commission on the Promotion of Cultural Cooperation and chairman of the Thailand-Cambodia Cultural Association Committee, Tej has been well versed in ways to cure the unease of people on both sides in certain matters. He should be able to cool nationalistic emotions and pave the way for relations to return to a normal footing.