Friday, 17 October 2008

Pictures from Preah Vihear

Cambodian women, who reside on the Thai-Cambodian border, sit on the crest of the Chuor Phnom Dangkrek Mountain, the site of the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 16, 2008. Nearly 200 Cambodian residents living near the temple have taken refuge on its grounds, after recent fighting killed 2 Cambodian soldiers, a local Cambodian newspaper reported. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the court failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) Hindu ruins, a ruling that has rankled with Thais ever since. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA) Reuters/ADREES LATIF

A Cambodian woman looks past curtains covering the halls of the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple October 16, 2008. Nearly 200 Cambodian residents living near the temple have taken refuge on its grounds, after recent fighting killed two Cambodian soldiers, a local Cambodian newspaper reported. The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the court failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) Hindu ruins, a ruling that has rankled with Thais ever since. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA) Reuters/ADREES LATIF

Cambodia's Commander of the Armed Forces Koe Kimyan speaks to to the media after a meeting at the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, about 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 17, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday this week's border clashes with Thailand around the temple would not escalate into a wider and more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia solders carries an artillery shell near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 17, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday this week's border clashes with Thailand around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple would not escalate into a wider and more serious conflict. "People should understand that there won't be any large-scale war taking place," he told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting, adding people living near the border need not worry.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Foreign and local tourists look on from the Thai side into Cambodia near the Thai-Cambodian border in Surin province, northeastern Thailand Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand agreed to hold joint patrols along a disputed section of their border to defuse tensions after a deadly clash near a historic temple raised fears of outright war.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A Thai farmer walks behind herd of buffalos near the Thai-Cambodia border, in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok, October 17, 2008.(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Thai soldier listens to the radio at the jungle in the Cambodia-Thailand border near the famed Preah Vihear temple in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Malaysia is considering a mediation role in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that has killed two soldiers and led to fears of outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers stand guard at the jungle in the Cambodia-Thailand border near the famed Preah Vihear temple in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Malaysia is considering a mediation role in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that has killed two soldiers and led to fears of outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier walks next to an artillery gun near the Thai-Cambodian border, in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok, October 17, 2008. Thai and Cambodian army commanders ended five hours of talks on Thursday with no agreement to withdraw their forces after heavy fighting near a disputed 900-year-old temple killed two Cambodian soldiers.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

A Thai soldier sits in the back of a truck close to the border with Cambodia. Cambodian and Thai military officials have met to prevent more fighting as their governments sought to quell tensions after a border row boiled over into a deadly shoot-out.(AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

Thai soldiers prepare an artillery gun near the Thai-Cambodian border, in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok October 17, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military commanders held talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

Thai soldiers survey the ground near the Thai-Cambodian border, in the disputed border area with Cambodia, near the Preah Vihear temple, in Si Sa Ket province, northeast of Bangkok, October 17, 2008. Thai and Cambodian army commanders ended five hours of talks on Thursday with no agreement to withdraw their forces after heavy fighting near a disputed 900-year-old temple killed two Cambodian soldiers.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

Vietnam-Cambodia business club aims to increase trade

Nhan Dan
October 17, 2008

The Vietnam-Cambodia business club, with representatives from 67 businesses across the country, made its debut in Hanoi on October 16.

Deputy Foreign Minister Dao Viet Trung, President of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association Vu Mao and the Cambodian Ambassador to Vietnam Vann Phall attended the event.

Truong Huu Chi, President of the Institute of Machinery and Industrial Equipment (IMI Holding) and President of the club, said that the club, established by the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association, will provide Vietnamese businesses and businesses run by overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia with information regarding investment policies in the two countries and investment opportunities in Cambodia. It will also provide consultancy services for projects implemented by Vietnamese and overseas Vietnamese living in Cambodia.

Ambassador Vann Phall congratulated the club on its establishment and praised its aims to strengthen and develop the two countries’ friendship and economic co-operation. He said that Vietnam has contributed markedly to Cambodia’s development through co-operation in many areas.

Cambodia will create favourable conditions for Vietnamese businesses to invest in Cambodia, particularly in the areas of industrial crops, rice and coffee growing, animal feed processing, tourism, mining, education and irrigation, the ambassador said.

The two countries’ two-way trade value has increased by 30% year-on-year, reaching US$1.1 billion in 2007. The two governments have agreed to raise this figure to US$2 billion by 2010.

(VNA)

Cambodia seeks more talks with Thais after clash

Cambodian villagers walk through the famed Preah Vihear temple in the Preah Vihear province in Cambodia, near Thai border, on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Malaysia is considering a mediation role in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that has killed two soldiers and led to fears of outright war. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian soldiers stand guard at the famed Preah Vihear temple in the Preah Vihear province, near the Cambodia-Thailand border, Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Malaysia is considering a mediation role in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that has killed two soldiers and led to fears of outright war. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers display various kinds of land mines that were digged out on Thai soil near near the Thai-Cambodian border in Sisaket province, northeastern Thailand Friday, Oct. 17, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand agreed to hold joint patrols along a disputed section of their border to defuse tensions after a deadly clash near a historic temple raised fears of outright war. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

By SOPHENG CHEANG

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister called Friday for more talks with Thailand after a deadly armed clash raised fears the two neighbors were headed for a full-scale war over a patch of disputed land along their border.

"We can still talk to each other and are not yet enemies unwilling to talk to each other at all," Hun Sen said after a Cabinet meeting in the capital.

On Wednesday, a gun and rocket battle near the 11th-century Preah Vihear border temple killed two Cambodian soldiers and wounded three others. Seven Thai troops were also injured.

The fighting lasted about an hour, with each side accusing the other of firing first.

Hun Sen used much more heated rhetoric the day before the fighting, when he warned Thai troops to stop trespassing on Cambodian land, calling the contested territory a "life-and-death battle zone."

Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd said military officials from the two sides agreed Thursday to hold joint patrols to reduce tension and the chances of another clash.

But on Friday, Gen. Ke Kim Yan, commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, denied any deal for joint patrols had been reached.

He said the two countries had only agreed to maintain their current troop deployments in the disputed area and inform each other about any troop movements to prevent further misunderstanding.

"The situation has now returned to normal, but the border problems must be solved by negotiations," Ke Kim Yan told reporters at Preah Vihear temple, where he and other top military brass visited Cambodian soldiers.

However, the situation remained tense, with troops from the two sides still in close proximity to each other.

"We have the same standing order to remain calm but on alert," said Men Li, a Cambodian army major based near the temple.

Hun Sen, seeking to reassure thousands of Cambodian villagers who have fled their homes near the conflict area, said, "There is no large-scale war occurring."

"I would not call it a war. This was just a minor armed clash," said Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla fighter.

Hun Sen opened the Cabinet meeting in Phnom Penh by leading his ministers in a minute of silence for the soldiers killed during Wednesday's clash. A third Cambodian soldier died Thursday, apparently from inhaling too much smoke from firing B-40 rockets.

The fighting was the latest flare-up in a decades-old dispute over a stretch of jungle near the temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Resurgent Thai nationalism, promoted by a protest group that is seeking to topple the current Thai government, has put authorities in Bangkok under political pressure to aggressively pursue claims to the land.

Associated Press writer Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh contributed to this report.

After an Armed Dispute, Cambodian Troops Still Control the Veal Intry Field

Posted on 17 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 582

“Preah Vihear: Armed clashed occurred at 2:45 p.m. at the Veal Intry field, and then spread to other border areas and to the front of the Preah Vihear Temple market.

Note:

In a situation of conflict, it is important to see the opinion of both sides. We will therefore quote here, marked as Notes, some texts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand and from other sources, as a contribution to foster mutual understanding, in the hope that negotiations, not violence, will lead to peace.

Thailand’s Reaction to Remarks by Cambodian Prime Minister
October 16, 2008

In response to questions from the media, Mr. Tharit Charungvat, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesman, said that Thailand is surprised by the remarks by the Prime Minister of Cambodia issuing an ultimatum to Thailand to move its military personnel out of the area adjacent to the Temple of Phra Viharn and threatening the use of force, which runs counter to the spirit of neighborliness and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), especially between fellow ASEAN member countries. This is also contradictory to international norms of settling bilateral issues through peaceful means as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

Thailand has always tried to resolve its boundary issues with Cambodia peacefully through bilateral negotiations which have achieved satisfactory progress thus far. In this connection, the military of both sides have agreed to convene a special meeting of the Regional Border Committee (RBC) on 21 October 2008, which will be preceded by a meeting at the working level of the RBC on 15 October 2008.

In the meantime, in accordance with its obligations under the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, Thailand has had to undertake de-mining efforts in the area adjacent to the Temple of Phra Viharn – an area which will be surveyed and demarcated by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC), set up under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in the year 2000. De-mining there is a necessary and urgent issue so as to ensure the safety of people and military personnel who pass through the area. The urgency of this issue was again underscored when two Thai para-military rangers lost their legs after stepping on landmines in the area on 6 October 2008 in the Thai territory in accordance with Siam-France Treaty of 1904. We are now also conducting investigations to verify whether the landmines in the area are old mines or recently deployed in violation of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention.

If Cambodia does resort to the use of force in accordance with its so-called ultimatum, Thailand will have to exercise its right of self-defense as provided for under the Charter of the United Nations, in order to protect our de-mining personnel and Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Thailand has always called for and remains committed to resolving its boundary issues with Cambodia peacefully through bilateral consultations under the many frameworks already in place. Indeed, as agreed upon by the Foreign Ministers of both Thailand and Cambodia at their meetings in Siem Reap and Cha-am on 28 July 2008 and 19 August 2008, respectively, both countries have committed themselves to exercise utmost restraint to avoid the possibility of armed confrontation. This was reiterated by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat to the Cambodian side during his visit there on 13 October 2008. Thailand has strictly observed our said commitments and expects Cambodia to do the same.

“The sound of both light and heavy explosions echoed strongly in the jungle at Veal Intry, caused by hundreds of Thai para troopers who were sent to control the Veal Intry area and the Our Chak Chraeng point which are in Khmer territory.

“A Cambodian army commander said that at 9:30 a.m. on 15 October 2008, 380 Siamese [Thai] para-military troopers rushed through the Phnom Trop region and through the Veal Intry field; then they crossed the Our Chak Chraeng channel nearby. Siamese troops were impudent when they sent troops to the area; they started to fight the Cambodian troops to control the whole Veal Intry filed. That motivated Cambodian troops to fight back from the Phnom Trop point to the Veal Intry field, and the fighting spread to the front of the Preah Vihear Temple market.

“The fighting lasted two hours before it calmed, after the Siamese troops had asked to stop the fire for negotiations.
Reason of the Armed Developments
“If the Siamese troops would not have been sent again, the war at Veal Intry would not have happened. Previously over 80 Siamese black clad soldiers [special border protection unit] had withdrawn from Veal Intry after the negotiations on 14 October 2008. But on 15 October 2008, because of endless greedy ambitions of the Siamese there was armed conflict. This is because they look down on Cambodia, thinking that Cambodia would not dare to fight.

Note:
Thailand protests intrusion into Thai territory and shooting of Thai soldiers by Cambodian soldiers

October 16, 2008, 8:48 pm

Regarding the clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers on Thai territory on 15 October 2008, the Royal Thai Government lodged another protest with the Royal Government of Cambodia through an additional Aide-Memoire on 16 October 2008, the gist of which can be summarized as follow:

1. Regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand’s Aide-Memoire of 15 October 2008, protesting against the shootings carried out by Cambodian soldiers on Thai soldiers who were peacefully patrolling along the Thai - Cambodian border within the Thai territory near Phu Ma Khua on 15 October 2008, a related incident took place in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng between 14:25 - 15:00 hours on 15 October 2008, in which Cambodian soldiers intruded into Thai territory and opened fire, using recoilless guns, RPG, mortars, and rifles, on Thai soldiers who were positioned in the said area.

2. Exercising their inherent right to self-defense as provided for by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, the Thai soldiers returned fire. This hostile action by the Cambodian soldiers resulted in further injury, bringing the total number of Thai casualties to seven persons.

3. With reference to Cambodia’s accusation that Thai troops launched heavy armed attacks upon Cambodian troops stationed in three different locations in the area of Phra Viharn Temple, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand wishes to state that between 14.25 - 15.00 hours on 15 October 2008, there were two shooting incidents between Cambodian soldiers and Thai soldiers at only two locations. The first incident occurred at the coordinate of VA 644933 in the north of Khan Ma Pass, 900 meters from the Thai - Cambodian boundary line. The other incident took place at the coordinate of VA 655917, 400 meters from the boundary line. Both shooting incidents therefore did not happen at the locations indicated by Cambodia.

4. The Royal Thai Government strongly protests against these acts of aggression committed in Thailand’s territory by Cambodian soldiers, in blatant violation of international law; and to condemn such constant intrusion and violation of Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Types of Weapons Used During the Clash at the Front Line
“Officials of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces at the battle filed reported that the fighting erupted first at Veal Intry, and the weapons mostly used were AK47, M16, M79, B40 and the rocket launchers DK75 and DK72, and explosives.
Numbers of Injuries and Deaths
“According to unofficial information from the troops at the front lines, during more than two hours of fighting, 20 Siamese soldiers were killed, 36 soldiers were injured, and 28 were arrested. As for Cambodia, there was one death and two injured soldiers. The heaviest fighting was at Veal Intry and at Phnom Trop

Note:

All other media known to us speak of two Cambodian people having lost their lives – Thai media say that no Thai persons lost their lives, and there are no reports of Thai prisoners of war..

10 Siamese Soldiers in the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda Put Down Their Weapons Instead of Fighting
“As soon as the sound of armed conflict was heard strongly from the front line, the Siamese soldiers stationed at the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda put down their weapons and raised up their hands so that the Cambodians did not shoot them. These ten soldiers did not resist, they just wanted to survive. Now, they are being held arrested as prisoners of war, together with 18 other soldiers arrested at the Phnom Trop point and at Veal Intry. As for twenty other Siamese soldiers who had been at the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda, they ran back into their territory, leaving their weapons behind. Now there is no presence of Siamese soldiers at the front line after this armed conflict.

Note:

The presence of a small group of Thai soldiers at the region of the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda had been negotiated and agreed upon some weeks ago. The Thai side seem to consider the remaining persons not to be under detention – and the Cambodian statement, that they are free to leave (though they preferred to stay) seems to confirm their special status.

Armed Conflict Occurred at Three Points [Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda, Phnom Trop point, and Veal Intry]


Fighting Was Stopped at 4:00 p.m. after a Request from Siam to Negotiate
“At 4:00 p.m., armed conflict calmed down after Siam had asked for a suspension, in order to find a solution through negotiations. The Cambodian side agreed to negotiate with a Siamese front line commander. Major General Srey Dek met with a Siamese army commander with five stripes as a sign of his rank, to discuss the armed conflict and to shift to negotiations. However, the content of their discussion was not disclosed.

Armed Conflict Finished, but Siam Continues to Sent More Modern Weapons
“Although the armed conflict at the Preah Vihear Temple region finished, according to information from front line soldiers, Siamese solders armed with modern weapons are sent from behind the front. The present Siamese activities are not the sign of an intention to stop the war.

The Situation at the Ta Moan and the Ta Krabei Temples Is Quiet


Siam Asks their Citizens to Leave the Border Area
“When the clash began, Siamese troops started to remove their citizens away from the border. Moreover, Siam called on all Siamese people in Cambodia to be prepared to leave.

At the Poipet Border Crossing, Citizens Are Surprised
“Officials of the Banteay Meanchey municipal cabinet concerned, and Khmer vendors at the Rong Kluea market [in Thailand] transport their belongings from the market worriedly after they had received the information that war had erupted at Veal Intry. Citizens at Poipet are still afraid and do not dare to do their business at the Rong Kluea market, because Siamese troops arrived at the market. Although there was turmoil, the Poipet border crossing point is not closed, because Siamese and Cambodian businesspeople still exchange goods as normal, except for vendors at the Rong Kluea market, that had closed their stalls very quickly.

The Situation at Pailin Is Normal


There Is No Armed Conflict at the Koh Kong Border Crossing Point, but Troops Are Built Up


Siamese Army Commander Anupong Paochinda Announces to Prepare to Fight
“Mr. Anupong Paochinda (อนุพงษ์ เผ่าจินดา], the Siamese Army Commander-in-Chief, had announced to be prepared to fight against Cambodia. This army commander told the Siamese cabinet ministers that their troops are prepared to fight, if they receive an order from the government. However, this army commander said that they will not start fighting as long as Cambodia does not begin, only then they will fight in self-defense.

“High ranking officials of Cambodia raised the question who protects oneself, because Siam initiated the event by sending troops to invade Cambodian territory. On 15 October 2008, Siamese soldiers were sent to the Preah Vihear region. Is it known in Siam whether or not there was a Siamese troop presence before 15 October 2008 in the Preah Vihear region? It is Siam that did violate the territorial integrity of Cambodia. Although there were many negotiations, Siam always finds tricks to violate the right of Cambodia.

Note:

On 18 June 2008, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers So An had signed a Joint Communique with Thailand and UNESCO, for the Royal Government of Cambodia, that “the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple,” and that a map appended “supersedes the maps… as well as all the graphic references… of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file” previously presented to UNESCO, where maps dating back to 1962 and 1907 had been appended.

This 18 June 2008 Joint Communique [the file size of this PDF document, the text and the map, is 1.3 MB PDF], signed for the Royal Government of Cambodia – together with a representative of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO - to leave the question of ownership of the areas to the north and west of the temples undefined until further negotiations, is rarely, if ever, reported in the press in Cambodia. However, it is well known in Thailand.

Siamese Troops Left in Cambodia Are Not Allowed to Be Armed
“Cambodian military officials said that the Siamese soldiers that are arrested as prisoners of war in a place on Khmer territory are not allowed to be armed, but if they want to leave, we allow them, but they are not allowed to take food like before, but Cambodia cooks rice for them.

Siamese and Cambodian Regional Commanders Will Negotiate This Morning
“Officials of the Ministry of Defense said that General Chea Man and the Siamese regional commander will meet urgently at the red house point in front of the Preah Vihear Temple on Siamese territory. The meeting by both sides will discuss the armed conflict, and how to mutually arrange to stop any such armed conflict in future. But the Cambodian side said already that Cambodia did not initiate it, it is Siam that always causes endless problems. Cambodia told the Siamese side already that if the negotiation fails, we should take the problem to the United Nations, together with Thailand, but Siam broke its promise given to Cambodia, but in contrast, they continue to send troops steadily into Khmer territory.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1769, 16.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 16 October 2008

Small gains made in crisis talks over border violence

Photo by: AFP
Cambodian General Chea Morn (left) listens to his Thai counterpart Vibonsak Niphan (right) during a meeting near Preah Vihear temple on Thursday.

THE PHNOM PENH POST

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 17 October 2008

Generals agree to measures they hope will keep the peace in disputed areas after Wednesday's fighting; Cambodia says it has released 13 captured Thais

PREAH VIHEAR

CAMBODIAN military commanders agreed Thursday to release 13 Thai troops captured during fighting near Preah Vihear the day before in talks on the border with their Thai counterparts.

The two sides also said they would not increase troop numbers along the disputed frontier, where growing tensions over territory claimed by both flared Wednesday in a clash that killed at least two Cambodians.

A third Cambodian soldier died overnight, apparently from inhaling the exhaust from his B-40 rocket launcher, military officers said.

"The result of the meeting was good. It did a lot to reduce the problem here," said General Chea Morn, commander for Military Region 4, who attended the talks.

Troops on the front line woke to a tense calm following the worst outbreak of violence since the military standoff at border flash points began in July.

Standing amid tattered tent covers and bullet-pocked tree trunks, Cambodian soldier Nuth Dara described how Thai soldiers dropped their weapons and fled Wednesday's eruption of rocket- and gunfire.

"We should not allow them to come back and collect their weapons," he said, adding that the two sides, who had been camping together for weeks, had never wanted to fight each other.

"We all hope the top leaders of government find a solution as soon as possible to end this problem," he said.

Military leaders from both sides held separate talks Thursday in Thailand, agreeing to introduce joint border patrols.

"We will introduce the joint patrol to avoid this kind of incident happening again," said Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, Thailand's northeastern army commander.

But Wiboonsak said little headway was made on withdrawing troops from a number of disputed border areas. "The meeting has not made much progress, but the two sides agreed to stay where they are," he said, adding that Thailand had no plans to remove any of its heavy weaponry along the border.

Wiboonsak said senior military officials would meet Tuesday in Siem Reap, but cautioned that more fighting was possible."Thailand keeps our promise, but if Cambodia does not it may happen again." he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Calm returns to border battle zone

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Cambodian soldier Mom Kiri (right) greets a Thai trooper who came back to the scene of fighting Thursday to collect his belongings.

Refugees and robbers cause chaos on flight from war

Wednesday's violent clashes near Preah Vihear between Cambodian and Thai troops have caused chaos along the border, villagers say, with people fleeing their homes and the roadways becoming hunting grounds in some places for highwaymen preying on refugees. “Robbers are taking motorbikes from people – last night four or five bikes were taken,” said the owner of the China Guesthouse, who gave her name as Kosal, in the border town O’Smach. “O’Smach is very quiet now, even the market is closed,” she said Thursday. “I am very scared to live here, but I have to remain because I am also afraid that someone will break into my house and steal my belongings,” she added. The roads between Preah Vihear and Siem Reap are full of people fleeing – often packed with what belongings they could carry on the back of motorbikes and in cars. According to Kosal, taxi drivers are taking advantage of the panic by more than tripling normal fares to as much as 100,000 riels (US$25) per seat. In Sa Em town, near Preah Vihear, one villager watched the flow of people saying, “They are so afraid of war.”

REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA AND SAM RITH

THE PHNOM PENH POST

Written by Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton
Friday, 17 October 2008

International community expresses alarm over violent clash on the Thai-Cambodian border, but troops on the ground manage a tenuous peace less than a day after trying to kill one another
Preah Vihear

IF not for the splintered tree trunks and bullet holes torn through plastic tent covers, it would have been hard to tell that this patch of scrub forest near Preah Vihear was just a day earlier the scene of the worst violence in the three-month standoff between Cambodian and Thai soldiers over disputed border territory.

Thai troops, who less than 24 hours earlier were engaged in a deadly exchange of rocket and automatic rifle fire with Cambodian adversaries, slowly trickled back into the camps the two sides have been sharing for weeks to ask, somewhat sheepishly, for their weapons and belongings back.

"We didn't touch anything," Cambodian soldiers Mom Kiri told the Post after chatting with a Thai trooper who wanted to retrieve a bedroll. "We left it here for them."

The Thai, smiling, said, "They are our Cambodian brothers."

But while an uneasy quiet returns to the front line, which has seen the largest recent buildup of military personnel and equipment, concern is rising internationally.

Numerous world powers have turned their attention to this tiny border spat, calling for the border dispute to be resolved by talks rather than bullets.

Rising alarm

UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern about the exchange of gunfire, urging both sides to show restraint.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned about the exchange of gunfire [Wednesday] along the Cambodia-Thailand border and the reported casualties," said a statement issued by his spokeswoman Michele Montas.

"He calls on both parties to exercise utmost restraint and urges them to expedite bilateral talks so that their differences can be resolved peacefully," it added.

The United States and Britain also weighed in.

"We've noticed an uptick over the past couple of days in the tensions on both sides of the borders," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

"We would urge restraint on both sides, to refrain from any use of violence or any provocation to the other side, and to resolve what are clear differences over a border area," McCormack said.China - Cambodia's largest foreign donor - said it was alarmed over the fighting, which left at least two Cambodian soldiers dead and several other troops from both sides wounded.

"We express concern about the conflict between Cambodia and Thailand," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

"We hope the two countries will maintain restraint and resolve the conflict properly through dialogue."

" WE HOPE THE TWO COUNTRIES WILL MAINTAIN RESTRAINT AND RESOLVE THE CONFLICT. "

Fleeing back home

More than 400 Thais have fled Cambodia after Wednesday's clash, a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

No official evacuation plan is in place, but the ministry has urged all Thais not on urgent business to come home. Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said that 432 of about 1,500 Thais in Phnom Penh have so far heeded the warning.

"We have convinced them to return," Tharit said.

Military transport planes remain on standby in case an evacuation plan needs to be implemented, he added.

Thai nationals were last evacuated from Cambodia in 2003 during the anti-Thai riots, when the Thai embassy was burned.

Land mine denial

Amid ongoing finger-pointing over who sparked off the most recent border violence, Cambodia denied that it has recently laid land mines along the disputed border.

"Cambodia strongly reaffirms the fact that land mines in this border area are the remnants of almost three decades of war," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Thursday.

Two Thai soldiers were wounded after stepping on mines near the Cambodian front lines earlier this month, sparking accusations that Cambodia had mined the border.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Cambodian exchange to open in '09: official

Photo by: VANDY RATTANA
Officials announced at a seminar Thursday that the launch of Cambodia’s stock exchange will go ahead as planned.

$1.3m
spent annually on the stock exchangeThe Korea International Cooperation Agency, which is working to establish a Cambodian securities market, says risks are necessary.


THE PHNOM PENH POST

Written by Hor Hab and George Mcleod
Friday, 17 October 2008

Despite fears of greater collapse in world markets, Cambodian officials say they are on track, with South Korean assistance, to begin trading next year

CAMBODIA will move forward with plans to establish a stock exchange in 2009 despite concerns over the global market crisis and suggestions that it would be delayed until 2010, Finance Minister Keat Chhon announced at a seminar on the bourse Thursday.

"We will not rush to establish the stock exchange in Cambodia, but we will build a strong base, including hard and soft infrastructure," Keat Chhon said at the InterContinental hotel.

The country is in the process of finalising securities rules and has broken ground on the exchange building, he said.

He added that the Council of Ministers has begun drafting subdecrees to implement new laws about an initial public offering."The establishment of a stock market will help Cambodia develop additional sources of finance currently buried in various places, and it will boost economic growth," Keat Chhon said.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the stock market will progress according to the government's long-term financial vision for the country and is not vulnerable to the global crisis.

"We hope the stock exchange will provide longer-term finance compared to what we have relied on in the past, such as banks, national budgets, foreign aid and foreign investment," Hang Chuon Naron told the Post Thursday.

"I think in five or 10 years, the stock exchange will play a key role in strengthening Cambodia's financial sector, but we must proceed carefully to build trust from our people and investors," he said.

" We will not rush to establish the new stock exchange in Cambodia. "

"Cambodia currently depends on about US$2.5 billion from banks and $600 million in ODA [Official Development Aid], with an additional $1.5 billion from the national budget and $867 million in foreign direct investment," he said.

Sung Hee Hong, executive director of global business development at the Korea Exchange (KRX), said Cambodian companies are being trained in stock market fundamentals.

"We expect to provide experience, criteria and requirements for companies to be listed on the [Cambodian] exchange, but it is critical to have good companies," he said. "Now is the time to identify good companies to be listed."

Bretton Sciaroni, a Partner in the law firm Sciaroni & Associates, welcomed the announcement. "It's the most detailed program we have heard so far."

He said the exchange launch should go ahead, despite the international crisis.

"When we get back to business, [ the stock exchange] will be a good thing."

Market training


The KRX and Cambodia's Ministry of Economy will collaborate to introduce prospective investors to the principles of market trading, he said.

"The target date of 2009 for Cambodia's stock market will not change, even though the recent downturn in global markets and drops in stock prices worldwide have raised concerns," Sung Hee Hong said.

He added that world markets were expected to rebound by the time Cambodia's market went online.

Son Sungil, deputy representative of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) in Cambodia, said he hopes to see movement on the project by next year.

"Koica has spent on average $1.3 million per year for the establishment of a Cambodian securities market," he told the Post Thursday.

"You have to take risks. Without risks, nothing would happen," he said.

Jacob Montross, business finance manager at the Royal Group of Companies, said the stock market was an important step in Cambodia's long-term development.

"Cambodia is not really ready for it, but it's better to push forward than to wait. Otherwise, you could be waiting a very long time," he said.

"It is possible for Cambodia [to succeed] but it is ambitious and they need to work very hard," he said.

The country is ready because it needs alternative engines for investment opportunities, he said, adding that most people would still invest in land if they had the money.

"In every country that has one, a stock exchange fluctuates. It goes up, and it comes down," he said.

"It will always go up and come down. There is nothing the government can do to ensure that it will only rise," he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHUN SOPHAL

Joint Thai-Cambodian border patrols rejected by Phnom Penh

SI SA KET, Oct 17 (TNA) – The Thai-Cambodian joint border patrol agreement reached during Thursday's meeting of the two sides' army commanders failed to be put in action however villagers along the border feel relieved a little on the current situation.

One day after the working level meeting of Thai and Cambodian commanders, joint border patrol operation between soldiers of the two countries, believed to be a solution to a temporary cease-fire, failed to begin Friday.

Thai and Cambodian soldiers remained stationed at their bases and the situation is has returned more or less to normal, but the Cambodian service of Radio Free Asia aired in Phnom Penh Thursday morning quoted an official Cambodian source as saying that the Cambodian government did not agree with the joint border patrol concept, despite the idea being agreed by both sides' soldiers.

Meanwhile, demining operations continued in the area, but not on Phumakhua hill itself, one of three locations that skirmishes occurred on Wednesday. It is believed that there are more new landmines elsewhere on Phumakhua, after two Thai soldiers stepped on mines there on October 6.

Meanwhile, local residents in Si Sa Ket hoped the next round of negotiations at the policy level of the two countries on Tuesday would produce progress, enabling them to harvest crops around the Preah Vihear temple for selling. Some local residents started to unpack, believing the situation in the next phase would not be so serious that they had to evacuate.

While residents and media are still not allowed to go in the ancient temple, only soldiers are permitted to rotate their force in the premises. There was, nonetheless, no reinforcement of deployment in the area.

Despite a seemingly relieved situation, a community head still warned Kantharalak residents to remain on alert for possible evacuation.

Meanwhile, Cambodians living along the border of Thailand's Chanthaburi province feared possible robberies and banditry might occur after the firefight thus have already evacuated to Cambodia's Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap provinces. (TNA)

Cambodian PM assures of no escalation of clash with Thailand

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-17

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Wednesday's weapon clash with Thailand at the border area has come to its end and will not escalate into more serious military confrontation, said Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Friday after concluding a regular cabinet meeting.

"Large-scale war won't take place and people living at the border needn't worry," he told reporters.

They don't have to stockpile food and other living materials, he said, adding that "the tension has been eased now at the border area."

Meanwhile, he turned down the idea that other countries or international institutions mediate between Cambodia and Thailand to help resolve their border dispute.

"It isn't time yet," he said.

Both foreign ministers had talked on phone and decided to accomplish the job by ourselves with the existing mechanism, he said.

The premier dismissed the necessity to raise the issue in the international community, too.

After the armed conflict on Wednesday killed two and wounded another two Cambodian soldiers, Malaysia has offered to be mediator for the two sides and Indonesia proposed to put the issue on the agenda of the upcoming ASEM Summit in Beijing.

In addition at the cabinet meeting, Hun Sen submitted to increase the government's military budget by large margin and discuss draft law to list national defense as priority consideration, according to official source.

"We must consider to raise our military spending," he told the cabinet.

Prior to the meeting, all members observed minutes of silence to commemorate the victims of the battle, where only light weapons were used.

Wednesday's battle lasted for about two hours at the border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple and caused casualties on both troops. Each side later alleged passive fight-back for itself.

On Thursday, both military commanders agreed at a meeting held in Thailand to cease fire and conduct joint patrol at the border area.

Meanwhile, current troops and artillery will remain there, but can't move or redeploy unilaterally.

In July, tensions ran high after the ancient Preah Vihear Temple was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

The tension later turned into a military stalemate, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Bilateral talks to discuss withdrawing troops from around the temple were postponed late August amid political turmoil in Thailand.

In early October, at least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded during sporadic exchange of gunfire and two other Thai soldiers were seriously injured after stepping on a landmine at the border area.

Editor: Du Guodong

Cambodian PM Rejects Mediators In Thai Border Spat

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday rejected the help of mediators or international organizations to resolve a border dispute with Thailand which erupted in deadly clashes this week.

"I think that it is not time yet (for mediated talks) because Cambodia and Thailand agreed to resume negotiations within existing mechanisms," Hun Sen told reporters after meeting with his cabinet.

"The other (countries) should not try to raise the issue in the international community," he added.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Thursday his country was ready to mediate between Thailand and Cambodia over the border dispute.

However Thai and Cambodian commanders met earlier in the day and agreed to introduce joint patrols in the area to prevent any further violence.

The premier's remarks favoring bilateral talks were a reversal of his earlier calls to resolve the territorial dispute in international courts.

Cambodia also sought to raise the dispute at the United Nations Security Council earlier this year but Thailand has steadfastly rejected any third-party involvement.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thai troops injured in clashes along their common border Wednesday over disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian PM: Thai border clash won't get worse

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday this week's border clashes with Thailand around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple would not escalate into a more serious, wider conflict.

World Bulletin
Friday, 17 October 2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday this week's border clashes with Thailand around the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple would not escalate into a more serious, wider conflict.

"People should understand that there won't be any large-scale war taking place," he told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting, adding that people living near the border need not worry.

Reuters

Thailand protests intrusion into Thai territory and shooting of Thai soldiers by Cambodian soldiers

ISRIA

Regarding the clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers on Thai territory on 15 October 2008, the Royal Thai Government lodged another protest with the Royal Government of Cambodia through an additional Aide-Memoire on 16 October 2008, the gist of which can be summarized as follow:

Regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand's Aide-Memoire of 15 October 2008, protesting against the shootings carried out by Cambodian soldiers on Thai soldiers who were peacefully patrolling along the Thai - Cambodian border within the Thai territory near Phu Ma Khua on 15 October 2008, a related incident took place in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng between 14:25 - 15:00 hours on 15 October 2008, in which Cambodian soldiers intruded into Thai territory and opened fire, using recoilless guns, RPG, mortars, and rifles, on Thai soldiers who were positioned in the said area.

Exercising their inherent right to self-defence as provided for by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, the Thai soldiers returned fire. This hostile action by the Cambodian soldiers resulted in further injury, bringing the total number of Thai casualties to seven persons.

With reference to Cambodia's accusation that Thai troops launched heavy armed attacks upon Cambodian troops stationed in three different locations in the area of Phra Viharn Temple, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand wishes to state that between 14.25 - 15.00 hours on 15 October 2008, there were two shooting incidents between Cambodian soldiers and Thai soldiers at only two locations. The first incident occurred at the coordinate of VA 644933 in the north of Khan Ma Pass, 900 meters from the Thai - Cambodian boundary line. The other incident took place at the coordinate of VA 655917, 400 meters from the boundary line. Both shooting incidents therefore did not happen at the locations indicated by Cambodia.

The Royal Thai Government strongly protests against these acts of aggression committed in Thailand's territory by Cambodian soldiers, in blatant violation of international law; and to condemn such constant intrusion and violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Royal Thai Government reaffirms its strong commitment to cooperate with the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia within the existing bilateral framework of the Thai - Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) to peacefully resolve the current border disputes. The Royal Thai Government also demands that the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia withdraw its troops from Thailand's territory and ensure that the similar incident will not recur again in the future

Impact the skirmish will have on Asean

By The Nation
Published on October 17, 2008

One can only hope both sides keep their cool during the scheduled meeting on Tuesday

A theme has been set for Thai-Cambodian relations: from now on their long-standing border disputes will be firmly on the front burner, which could impact Asean as a whole, especially during Thailand's chairmanship. Never before has the regional grouping faced the dilemma of dealing with battling members. Asean has always been proud that its members have never gone to war since it was established in 1967. Now, sporadic border skirmishes between the two countries are becoming a regular occurrence.

It was regrettable that two Cambodian soldiers were killed during the brief scuffle near Si Sa Ket. The men from both sides are like brothers. They shared the same beds and rice cookers. But it was unfortunate that their leaders ordered them to turn their guns against each other. Such myopic plans are bound to backfire.

Since tensions began, it was obvious that Cambodia was taking a rather assertive stance towards Thailand, knowing full well the Kingdom's vulnerability. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong played his cards skilfully - criticising Thailand after Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum on Thai troop withdrawal the other day. He threatened to use force to push out Thai troops, an action that contravenes the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Indeed, Hun Sen's leadership style is very mysterious to us all. He was bit erratic when he met Thai leaders for discussions early in the week. During the talks he was nice and exchanged pleasantries, but after that he went on the warpath.

As the grouping's longest-serving premier, Hun Sen is making his presence felt within the region. His electoral victory would continue to strengthen his grip on power in this young democracy. In weeks to come, one can expect lots more vitriol against Thailand. Cambodia would also like to seek international arbitration for the current dispute.

After some earlier recalcitrance, the Thai Foreign Ministry is now expressing readiness to deal with any jurisprudence Cambodia wants to associate with. Phnom Penh again might want to have the issue discussed within Asean, to test Thailand's leadership. After all, it failed to put the dispute over Preah Vihear temple forward at the Asean foreign ministerial meeting in July.

Of course, as chair, Thailand has a lot to answer for if the issue is raised. Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra angrily threatened to boycott the Asean summit in Vientiane in 2004 if Malaysia raised the issue of conflicts in the South of Thailand. Now, Thailand's stake is much higher because it has multiple roles to play as Asean chair and deal with a volatile political situation at home.

At the Foreign Ministry's briefing with Bangkok-based diplomats yesterday, Thailand's position was clear - the current dispute is a bilateral issue, which should be addressed through dialogue and negotiations. In fact, bilateral talks have been proceeding well even though there were no tangible results. The fact that both sides were talking should be welcomed. Yesterday, both sides agreed to halt hostile moves during four-hour talks between regional army commanders. They also agreed to cease fighting and go for joint Thai-Cambodian patrols over the disputed areas.

Judging from their body language yesterday, they were friendly. So, both sides should allow their government and military experts to work together and find a common solution.

Meanwhile, the Thai military uncovered fresh landmines planted by Cambodia, which has raised concerns over Phnom Penh's commitment to the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Treaty. Thailand is fully committed to the treaty and has been removing mines from the porous border. Now Cambodia will have to explain why these dangerous landmines were there in the first place. Haven't they suffered enough during the 1970s civil war?

Thailand and Cambodia will hold the scheduled border talks in Siem Reap on Tuesday. This time around, it is hoped that both sides will maintain their cool and continue persevering, because any solution acceptable to both sides would require time and extraordinary amounts of understanding and compromise - something both sides are refusing to give at this time.

Thaksin not behind border flare-up: Anupong

By The Nation
Published on October 17, 2008

Army chief General Anupong Phaochinda yesterday described the rumour that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra was behind the recent flare-up of violence along the Thai-Cambodian border unfathomable.

"It's an issue too deep to speculate about. Even if it were true, it would be impossible to confirm," Anupong said.

Speaking on TV Channel 3, Anupong and commanders of all of the armed forces, including the police chief, declined to speculate as to why Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had given Thailand an ultimatum to withdraw its troops from the overlapping claims.

Thai armed-forces commander General Songkitti Jakkabatra suggested Hun Sen might have been misinformed about the situation along the border.

Meanwhile, Thai and Cambodian troops along the overlapping claims near the ancient Preah Vihear Temple grinned nervously as their respective commanders announced the two sides would conduct joint patrols but hold their ground.

Lt-General Wiboonsak Neeparn, commander of the Second Army Area, told reporters after his meeting with Cambodian officials that joint patrol should "prevent this kind of incident from happening again".

He said artillery and heavy weaponry would remain in place and not be pulled back for the time being.

"Thailand keeps its promises, but if Cambodia does not, [violence] could happen again," he said after the five-hour meeting.

He said talks would resume next Tuesday in Siem Reap but cautioned that more fighting was possible.

While most soldiers along the border were tight-lipped, a group of Thai paramilitary rangers near Pha Moh I-Daeng cliff said joint patrols were not exactly progress.

"We already ate from the same rice pot with the Khmer soldiers and conducted joint patrols with them in the disputed territory. But one bad day, politicians decided the two sides should fight," said one ranger, who asked not to be identified.

"It's bad enough to be working in this mine-infested area. We don't need any more of this," said another.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thai troops injured on Wednesday when tensions spilled over into a shoot-out.

Immediately after the two-hour clash, political leaders from both sides worked hard to discredit each other's claims about who fired the first shot and who captured whom.

Major-General Srey Deok, commander of Cambodian troops in the disputed border area, said his men had released 10 captured Thai rangers and handed back their weapons. Thailand, however, insists that none of its troops was captured.

Thailand to raise Cambodian mines issue

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on October 17, 2008

Thailand plans to launch a diplomatic strike against Cambodia by seeking clarification on Phnom Penh's compliance with the United Nations' Ottawa Mine Ban Convention over anti-personnel landmines found in the disputed area of Phu Ma Khua.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday alleged that Cambodia had recently planted PMN-2 type landmines, which seriously injured two Thai paramilitary rangers who lost their leg on October 6.

The ministry briefed 64 Bangkok-based diplomats yesterday on the issue and the border skirmish, which killed two Cambodian soldiers.

A Cambodian diplomat was also invited but did not show up for the meeting. The ministry launched another protest yesterday over the clash at Pha Mor I Daeng on Wednesday that raised the total number of Thai soldiers injured to seven.

The PMN-2 type, manufactured in Russia, was never used by Thai armed forces, said Lt-General Tumrongsak Deemongkul, Director of Thailand Mine Action Centre.

"The area of Phu Ma Khua has been cleared and the anti-personnel mines we found are new," he said.

Thailand and Cambodia, as signatories to the Ottawa Convention, are obligated not to use anti-personnel mines.

The Foreign Ministry is collecting evidence to submit its request through the UN secretary-general seeking clarification from Cambodia over the mines found in Phu Ma Khua, said Chakarin Chayabongse, deputy director-general of the International Organisation Department.

In accordance with the Ottawa Convention's article eight, Cambodia must clarify within 28 days.
If Thailand does not obtain a satisfactory clarification, it has the right to take the matter, through the UN secretary-general, to the meeting of 122 member states.

The Ottawa Convention has no sanctions clause but state parties are obligated to comply, said Virachai Plasai, Director of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department.

Seeking enforcement of the Ottawa Convention was the latest move from the ministry after the border dispute with Cambodia developed into military clashes.

Thailand is insisting on using bilateral mechanisms to end the conflict peacefully. But using such mechanisms will take time since the procedure required by the Thai Constitution is quite long, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern about the exchange of gunfire along the Thai-Cambodian border.

"He calls on both parties to exercise utmost restraint and urges them to expedite bilateral talks so that their differences can be resolved peacefully," Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell expressed his concern and urged both sides to exercise restraint and take immediate steps to ease tension and find a peaceful solution to this dispute through bilateral discussions.

bilateral trade could take big hit

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Nation
Published on October 17, 2008

Trade between Thailand

Trade between Thailand and Cambodia could take a hit as a result of a protracted military conflict between the two countries, according to the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC).

Economic and business opportunity losses could amount to Bt10 billion, as bilateral trade is forecast to plunge from Bt60 billion to just Bt50 billion for this year.

Last year's two-way trade value was Bt48.4 billion, with the balance hugely in Thailand's favour.

Thai exports totalled Bt47 billion, while Cambodian exports to Thailand were only about Bt1.3 billion.

Niyom Waiyawatchapanich, chairman of the TCC's Neighbouring Countries Trade Promotion Committee, said the ongoing conflict had especially hurt Thai exporters.

"On average, we could lose Bt100 million per day in trade value if gateways for cross-border trade were shut down," said Niyom, adding that 70 per cent of the bilateral trade is currently generated by cross-border merchants.

Niyom said Thai businessmen hoped the conflict would end soon to avoid serious impact on trade and investment.

So far, bilateral cooperation has also been delayed by the conflict, with plans for a five-year joint tourism development programme and single visas for visitors to both Thai and Cambodian destinations put on hold.

Moreover, Thai investors, who have contract farming businesses in Cambodia, have lost Bt300 million-Bt400 million in revenue due to the military conflict as they cannot transport farm output to Thailand.

Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, is optimistic that the border situation should return to normal soon.

He said Cambodia relied on imports of several essential products from Thailand, including refined petroleum products, construction materials, food and beverages, sugar, and consumer goods.

The TCC, meanwhile, will also hold a meeting with representatives of the business community in five border provinces on Monday to assess economic and business impacts resulting from the military conflict.

Cambodian PM vows to improve defence as troops face Thais

AFP/File – A Cambodian walks past the disputed temple in Preah Vihear. Cambodia's premier vowed Friday to improve …

by Suy Se – Fri Oct 17,2008

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) – Cambodia's premier vowed Friday to improve national defence as his troops prepared to begin joint patrols with Thai soldiers at their disputed border to avoid another deadly firefight.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made the pledge at a cabinet meeting that included a moment of silence for the three Cambodian soldiers who died this week after gunfights with Thai troops on disputed land.

"Today our cabinet, with the pride we received from protecting our territory, will discuss draft laws (to put the) national defence sector on top," Hun Sen said, without elaborating on specific steps.

While Thailand has a 300,000-strong armed forces and a well-equipped air force, Cambodia's much smaller military is badly equipped, badly trained and disorganised, according to a Western military official in Bangkok.

The prime minister made his remarks as Thai and Cambodian soldiers faced off along the border, awaiting joint patrols which senior military officials agreed to in a Thursday meeting.

The agreement was aimed at preventing a repeat of Wednesday's clashes on disputed land near the Preah Vihear temple, a UN heritage site on Cambodian territory and the focus of months of tensions.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thais injured by gun and rocket fire, and a third Cambodian soldier died Thursday of smoke inhalation from repeatedly firing his rocket-launcher.

"Today we received the order to be well-prepared. The joint patrols have not yet been put in practice," said Cambodian Major Menly, who oversees more than 100 troops at the frontlines of the disputed border.

It was not clear when the joint patrols would begin, but Thai and Cambodian soldiers appeared more relaxed Friday, with some even stashing way their rifles and rocket launchers.

"The situation is less tense," Thai border task force commander Major General Kanok Netrakavaesana said.

The eruption of violence this week came after talks on Monday about the border dispute ended in failure, with Hun Sen warning of armed conflict and the Thai army saying it was prepared for a confrontation.

Troops began massing on both sides of the border, while Thailand sent tanks and heavy weaponry to the area and put fighter jets on stand-by.

After the clash, the United Nations, United States and European Union heaped pressure on Thailand and Cambodia to exercise restraint, and leaders in both nations said they were committed to avoiding further conflict.

But the neighbours have blamed each other for starting the violence, and a war of words over who owns the patches of disputed land continues.

Thailand has also accused Cambodia of planting the landmines which injured two Thai troops on the border earlier this month, breaching the international treaty banning the use of landmines, which Thailand and Cambodia have signed.

Officials in Cambodia, however, deny that they were fresh mines, and said they were the remnants of their three-decade long civil war.

The current standoff first flared in July after Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering some Thai nationalists who claim ownership of the site.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Cambodia on Thursday denied it had recently planted mines in the area near Preah Vihear, with the foreign ministry insisting Phnom Penh adheres to international treaties banning landmines.

Fears Thai-Cambodian Border Dispute To Hit Business Ties

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--A tense border spat that left two soldiers dead this week threatens burgeoning economic ties between Cambodia and Thailand, business leaders and government officials fear.

Shortly after gunfights broke out between troops from the two countries on Wednesday, businessmen were among the several hundred Thais who fled the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for home, risking booming trade and investment.

"The conflict needs to be resolved urgently. If it continues or expands further, it will bring a huge (economic) loss to both sides," Niyom Wairatpanij, chairman of Thailand's Chamber of Commerce said.

"People from both countries are already afraid to conduct their business near the borders. Thai businessmen are concerned," Niyom said.

The chamber was lowering trade growth targets for this year between the two nations by THB8 billion ($233.5 million) to THB52 billion, he said, in the wake of the dispute which shows few signs of a quick resolution.

The standoff flared in July after Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage status by the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, angering some Thai nationalists who claim ownership of the site.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1, 000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

Tensions boiled over after Monday's talks aimed at cooling the standoff failed.

In the first eight months of this year, Thailand exported THB47.04 billion worth of goods to its neighbor - mostly sugar, fuel, metals, auto parts, and other industrial goods - which was nearly equal to total trade between the two countries in 2007, the Thailand's Foreign Trade Department says.

Cambodian exports to Thailand which include fruits, vegetables, steel and clothing were worth over $61 million in the first eight months this year - already nearly $1.2 million more than exports for all of last year.

But the Cambodian government said the hostilities had already started to affect investment.

"Many Thai big investors fear that if anything wrong happened they would find it hard to withdraw their shares or collect payment," said Mao Thora, secretary of state at Cambodia's commerce ministry.

"Only small or medium-sized (Thai) enterprises are still continuing their business in Cambodia." Cambodia also stands to suffer a loss of tourism revenue as Thais shy away from visiting ancient temples and border casinos.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported Friday that after this week's clash Thai gamblers are taking their business to casinos in Myanmar.

Although relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been amicable for decades, Thais have good reason to be nervous as the border dispute has heightened nationalism on both sides.

The Thai embassy and some dozen other Thai businesses in Phnom Penh were looted and burned in the 2003 anti-Thai riots after false reports that a Thai actress insulted Cambodia.

After this week's fighting, Cambodian police were posted in front of the Thai embassy and undercover agents were assigned to protect Thai interests in the country, said Cambodian interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Malaysia considers mediating in neighbors' dispute

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: October 17, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia is considering a mediation role in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that has killed two soldiers and led to fears of outright war.

Foreign Minister Rais Yatim will try to get Cabinet approval Friday to visit Cambodia and Thailand, where fighting erupted between the Southeast Asian neighbors over land surrounding the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple, said Rais' aide, who declined to be named citing policy.

"As a friendly neighbor to both countries, we must do all we can to prevent the situation from getting out of hand," Rais was quoted as saying Thursday by the national news agency Bernama.

His aide confirmed the comments. He said Rais had talked to Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to offer Malaysia's help.

Rais reportedly said Surin also had asked one or two other countries to help resolve the conflict.

Cambodian and Thai army commanders met Thursday in Thailand and agreed to hold joint-border patrols but said they will not withdraw their troops.

In a separate development, Rais said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon had asked Malaysia to consider discussions with Myanmar on human rights, in particular the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 19 years, Bernama reported.

Vietnam concerned over Cambodia-Thailand border tension

Foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung.

17/10/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam voiced concern about new tensions arising on the Cambodia-Thailand border.

“We follow and are concerned about new tensions in the border area between Cambodia and Thailand,” foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung told reporters on Oct. 16.

“Vietnam wants both Cambodia and Thailand to maintain restraint, avoid the use of force and solve their existing issues peacefully in the spirit of friendship and solidarity of ASEAN, for the sake of their common interest, and for peace, stability and development in the region,” Dung added.

(Source: VNA)

Cambodian gov't pins aid hopes on China

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-17

Special Report:
Global Financial Crisis 

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government will turn to China to make up for any shortfall in foreign aid as the global financial crisis forces Western donors to rethink their assistance to developing countries, national media reported Friday.

"We expect to get 600 million U.S. dollars (in aid) next year as usual because the new (top) donor nation is China," Keat Chhon, Cambodian Minister of Economy and Finance, was quoted by the PhnomPenh Post as saying.

Aid from China last year, at 601 million U.S. dollars, eclipsed the combined pledges from the rest of Cambodia's donors, the Post said.

And as nations struggle to keep their own economies afloat, aid budgets are being slashed, raising alarm in many aid-dependent countries.

They can't spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue share markets and then forget a poor country like Cambodia, Keat Chhon said.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said if the amount of official development aid were to plummet, it would not adversely affect the Cambodian economy.

"We hope we will weather this difficult time. This is a chance for Cambodia," he said, citing the Kingdom's low-end garment exports as a cushion against a global financial slowdown.

Editor: An

Cambodian PM seeks bigger army budget after clash

17 Oct 2008

Source: Reuters

PHNOM PENH, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for an increase in military spending on Friday, the first since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in 1998, two days after fighting erupted on the border with Thailand.

"We must look to increase the military budget," he said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in Phnom Penh. His comments were recorded by a local newspaper reporter and replayed to Reuters. The wily former Khmer Rouge soldier, who won an election landslide in July to extend his two decades in power, called for a minute's silence at the start of the meeting for three Cambodian soldiers killed in Wednesday's clash.

"They sacrificed their lives to defend our nation in response to a foreign invasion," he said.

Seven Thai soldiers and two Cambodians were also wounded in the 40-minute exchange of rocket and gun-fire along the disputed stretch of border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, a source of tension between the two countries for decades.

Thai and Cambodian army commanders agreed on Thursday to conduct joint patrols of the disputed border, but they failed to reach a deal on reducing their forces around the temple.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson)

In pictures: Thai-Cambodia strife

BBC NEWS
Thursday, 16 October 2008
On the cloud-shrouded Thai-Cambodian border looms an ancient temple, Preah Vihear. But instead of peace and prayer, the temple has lately been host to gunfire and bloodshed.

The two countries have long disputed the ownership of the land around the temple, and the tensions erupted into violence on Wednesday.

At least two Cambodian soldiers died in the clash, while soldiers on both sides were injured. Images of casualties have further inflamed nationalist tensions in both nations.

The dispute goes back decades. A 1962 international court ruling awarded the temple to Cambodia, but the division of the surrounding land remains undecided.

On Thursday joint patrols were agreed in a bid to ease the tension. But there has been little progress on the core issue of how to divide the territory - which could offer lucrative tourist revenues.

Meanwhile, the friction has seen thousands of scared local villagers - mainly Cambodians - flee the area.

Despite ceremonies for peace like this one, correspondents say governments on either side of the divide have an interest in keeping nationalist feeling alive, and the risk of fresh clashes remains.

For the time being, despite the serene surroundings, the tensions look set to continue.

UN asks Thailand, Cambodia to expedite peace talks

THE HINDU NEWS

Friday, October 17, 2008

United Nations (PTI): Expressing concern over the exchange of fire along the Thai-Cambodian border, the United Nations has asked both the neighbours to expedite talks to resolve differences.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed "deep concern" over Wednesday's gunfire between the soldiers of the two countries near a disputed ancient temple.

"He calls on both parties to exercise utmost restraint and urges them to expedite bilateral talks so that their differences can be resolved peacefully," Ban's spokesperson said.

Media reports say two people were killed during the exchange of fire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near the Preah Vihear Temple, which was enlisted among the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in July.

Since then the military forces have been build-up from both sides along the border. Ban had called for restraint earlier also.

The 11th century temple was recognised by the World Heritage Committee for "its natural situation on a promontory, with sheer cliffs overlooking a vast plain and mountain range; the quality of its architecture adapted to natural environment and religious function of the temple and finally the exceptional quality of the carved stone ornamentation of the temple."

Thailand, Cambodia agree to joint border patrols

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-16

BANGKOK, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Thailand and Cambodia agreed Thursday to conduct joint military patrols on disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple, Thailand's Second Army commander Lt-Gen Wibulsak Neepal said Thursday.

The decision of the Joint Border Committee came a day after fighting broke out on Wednesday's afternoon between soldiers of both countries near the ancient Preah Vihear temple which left two Cambodian soldiers killed and five Thai soldiers wounded, according to the Thai News agency.
Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (R) and his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Mon, meet near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 16, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Meanwhile, Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the two sides agreed that joint patrols could "reduce chances of a misunderstanding that could lead to another clash."

However, forces and heavy weapons will remain along the border, Wibulsak said.

The Joint Border Committee will meet again on Oct. 21 to discuss about the matter further

Cambodian soldiers are silhouetted at dusk while standing on the crest of the Chuor Phnom Dangkrek Mountain, the site of the 900-year-old disputed Preah Vihear temple October 16, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Modern conflict near ancient ruins

Both historic rivalries and recent frictions are driving this confrontation
BBC NEWS

A long-running border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has just escalated, with soldiers exchanging gunfire. The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head looks at what caused tensions to erupt.

At the end of a day when two Cambodian soldiers were killed, several wounded on both sides, and 10 Thai soldiers reportedly taken prisoner, the language cooled down.

Instead of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's threat of all-out war, to turn the area around the disputed Preah Vihear temple into a "zone of death", there was a statement from Foreign Minister Hor Namhong describing the shootout as "an incident between soldiers, not an invasion", a problem that could be solved.

And from the Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat: "Cambodia is a good neighbour. We will use peaceful means".

So perhaps a war over a tiny sliver of scrubby hillside can be avoided after all.

It would surely be in no-one's interests to let the conflict get out of hand.

Thailand and Cambodia share a common culture, an 800km (500 mile) border, trade and investment worth billions of dollars and membership of Asean, the Association of South East Asian Nations that prides itself on harmonious relations among its member states.

Cliff-top temple

But why have relations fallen this far?
Both Thailand and Cambodia claim territory that surrounds the temple

The spark was Cambodia's successful bid to have Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage site in July.

The 900-year-old Hindu temple had been judged to be on the Cambodian side of the border in 1962 by the International Court of Justice, a decision that has always rankled with Thailand.

It sits at the top of a cliff, and is still only easily accessible from the Thai side.

But the decades of conflict in Cambodia delayed any practical decisions on the temple, which for years was a stronghold of Khmer Rouge guerrillas and littered with landmines.

As peace returned to Cambodia in the 1990s, the government in Phnom Penh started to focus on restoring the country's rich Hindu-Buddhist heritage, and its potential to attract tourists.
The magnificent temple complex of Angkor Wat won World Heritage status in 1992.

But repeated attempts to get the same status for Preah Vihear were blocked, apparently by Thailand.

The Thais argued that while the ICJ had awarded the temple to Cambodia, it had not ruled on the surrounding land, which also contains a number of important archaeological sites connected to the temple.

Only a joint Thai-Cambodian World Heritage site made sense, it argued.

Thailand dropped its objection this year, a decision that enraged Thai nationalists.

They accused the government of changing its stance to accommodate the extensive Cambodian business interests of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose party dominated the cabinet.

The foreign minister who negotiated a joint agreement with Cambodia, Noppadol Pattama, had once been Mr Thaksin's lawyer. He was forced to resign in July.

But the damage had been done. A hard-line anti-government movement, the People's Alliance for Democracy, used the issue to mobilise mass demonstrations, contributing to the political upheavals that are still shaking Thailand today.

Khmer legacy

But what about Cambodia? Why is it so strident on the issue?

In part it is driven by historic rivalry between the two countries, in part by more recent friction.
The ancient Khmer civilisation that built Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear dominated this region for five centuries.
Thais used the issue in anti-government protests

It profoundly influenced Thai culture - there are many famous Khmer-style temples in Thailand. And it is a source of immense pride to modern-day Cambodia, which is recovering from decades of national trauma.

Nationalism is an easily inflamed emotion, in a country which has little to be proud of in its recent history.

Thais are often surprisingly ignorant of the role they have played in wounding Cambodia's national pride.

In the Cambodian view, successive Thai invasions helped destroy the once mighty Khmer empires, and rendered the country defenceless against French colonial conquest in the 19th Century.

Thailand then took advantage of the chaos during World War II to occupy large chunks of western Cambodia, including the ruins of Angkor Wat - it was forced to hand them back when the war ended.

The Thai military often treated Cambodian refugees who fled the civil wars of the 1970s and 80s very harshly - and Thailand backed the remnants of the Khmer Rouge in their struggle against the Vietnamese occupation, so helping prolong the civil war.

Storm of condemnation

There is of course a very different Thai perspective on these events. But they have left a deep pool of resentment in its smaller and much poorer neighbour that is easily exploited by its leaders.

And Hun Sen has proved very ready to do just that. Five years ago anti-Thai riots broke out in Phnom Penh after a Thai actress was misquoted as saying Angkor Wat should rightly belong to Thailand.

Hun Sen was widely blamed for stirring up nationalist sentiments then. He seems to be doing the same now.

On the Thai side, whatever the current government's real inclinations, it cannot afford to be seen to back down.

Somchai Wongsawat is already battling a storm of condemnation over the way the police dealt with anti-government protests earlier this month.

As Thaksin Shinawatra's brother-in-law, any concessions he makes to Cambodia will arouse suspicions that he is serving the interests of his family before those of the country.

It is hard to see this conflict being settled quickly.