Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Child sex trade soars in Cambodia

Al Jazeera's investigation found underage girls working in brothel's around Phnom Penh

Al Jazeera
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thousands of children are bought and sold for sex every day in Cambodia and while the industry is often shown as serving predatory foreign tourists, the majority of its customers are Cambodian men.

Girls as young as 14 work in brothels' around Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, an investigation by Al Jazeera, broadcast on Tuesday, found.

Al Jazeera filmed secretly at several brothels, and in each case found much the same thing - rooms full of young women in their early twenties, as well as teenagers.

"For my virginity they gave me $200," Ya Da, a 16-year-old former prostitute, told Al Jazeera.
Ya Da worked in a brothel for two years before she ran away. Now, she lives in a safe house with other former prostitutes and abused children.

"There were just a few foreign customers [at the brothel]," she said. "I never slept with any, I slept only with Cambodian men."

'Local customers'

Mu Sochua, a politician with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and a former minister for women's affairs, told Al Jazeera that most of Cambodia's sex industry was supported "by local customers". "And some of these local customers are high-ranking officials. You have the military, the police and civil servants. you have rich businessmen who have lots of money," she said.

Last year, the Cambodian police arrested only 21 people for committing sex crimes with children - eight of those arrested were foreigners and 13 were Cambodians.

The police admit that the brothels they shut down in high-profile raids often reopen a few weeks later.

"It is easier to catch a foreigner and also the government wants to have showcases to make itself look good - that Cambodia is actually taking care of this problem of human trafficking, which is really not the truth," Mu Sochua said.

But General Bith Kim Hong, from the Cambodian national police force, rejected allegations that the officials focused their efforts to curb prostitution almost exclusively on foreigners.

"The national police are concerned about anyone who commits a crime, who has sex with children, whether they are foreigners or Cambodian," he told Al Jazeera.

"We have a very high commitment to prevent child prostitution."

Floating village threatened

Photo by: RICK VALENZUELA
Young residents of Kampong Luong village in Pursat enjoy the boating life on Monday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Local officials are trying to get rid of Pursat's floating community, but residents say they will simply float further out onto the lake to avoid eviction

Pursat Province

KAMPONG Luong Village is different from other places. It has no fixed address, it is prone to rapid fluctuations in altitude and it floats upon water. Here the daily sounds are of splashing oars and the smells are a distinct mix of water weed, wet wood and family life - all played out on the surface of the great Tonle Sap.

But this unique commune of 1,000 residents, located just 42km from Pursat town, is steadily moving further from land as it seeks to escape a government decree ordering its closure and forced eviction.

"I would rather die than move," said Ros Sareum, 43, a life-long inhabitant of Kampong Luong.

"We have no businesses to run elsewhere so how can we move? Here ... at least we have fish to feed ourselves," she said.

"If the plan goes through and the authorities come to force me, I will move out to the centre of the lake."

Ros Sareum is not alone in her rebellious plans, and many in the village are preparing to oppose the forced eviction.

"Fishing sustains our life," said 31-year-old Song Lisro. "If we are forced to move, our lives will deteriorate because we don't know how else to earn money other than by fishing."

If the plan goes through... I will move out to the centre of the lake.

Krakor district Governor Ly Ponn was unclear as to why the village needed to be dismantled, but said not all of those living there will be moved. Only those living closest to the road during the rainy season, their houses half in and out of the water, needed to leave.

"For the people who live on the lake, we will still allow them to live there. People who live along both sides of the road we will move; we don't know when," he said, adding that only about 250 people will be subject to eviction.

"Their houses are too small, too old and at risk of floods.... Concerning their health, we have provided a clean water tank, but if they choose not to use it, that is their decision," he said.

Despite their reluctance to leave, life is hard for the families at Kampong Leung.

While the village boasts facilities such as a medical center, restaurants, schools, karaoke bars and three places of worship, there is no high school in the area and children are only educated to the fifth grade, leaving class at 11 years old.

Residents - particularly children - regularly fall sick with cold, flu and diarrhoea, as well as more severe illnesses such as dysentery from contaminated water. Not all families boil the water they collect from the lake, which is used by everyone for cooking, washing and going to the toilet.

Koe Sovanareth, chief of Kampong Luong commune, said the mixed population of 50 percent Vietnamese and 50 percent Cambodian has lived peacefully together for years and is united in opposing possible eviction.

"We don't know the details of the government's plan, but if they want them to move, they should provide them business options and farm land," he said.

"I don't know why they are moving them. Maybe they want to protect fish stocks."

Drug trafficking at Phnom Penh airport raises concerns

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Officials speaking at a drug conference with the Australian Federal Police say that airport drug smuggling is on the rise in Cambodia

THE National Authority for Combating Drugs says drug traffickers are changing tactics and increasingly using Cambodian airports for smuggling rather than employing overland routes to bring narcotics into the country.

In October alone, authorities seized three kilograms of cocaine at Phnom Penh International Airport, said Lour Ramin, secretary general of the NACD.

He was speaking at a drug investigation training seminar Monday being held with the Australian Federal Police.

"In a recent situation this year, there was [increased] drug trafficking to Cambodia via the airport," he told the Post following the seminar.

"We will strengthen our security at all the border checkpoints and airports," he added.

Dozens of drugs traffickers have been seized trying to enter or leave Cambodia in the last few years, many of them Taiwanese nationals who were caught trying to board flights from Phnom Penh with large quantities of heroin hidden in their clothing.

Margaret Adamson, Australia's ambassador to Cambodia, said she admired the Cambodian government's effort to combat drug trafficking.

But she warned that there was still more work to be done.

"Cambodian authorities must continue to monitor, investigate and prosecute those responsible for the manufacture, supply and trafficking of precursor chemicals used in the production of drugs," she said.

Thai border trade rebounds

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A casino in Poipet, across from Thailand. Casino operators report that Thais are returning following last week’s border shootout.

500 daily Thai visits to Poipet
Most Thai nationals cross the Poipet border to gamble at the town's massive casinos. The number of visits temporarily plummeted with the border clashes at Preah Vihear.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara and Thet Sambath
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

After plummeting in the aftermath of last week's border skirmish, officials and businesses on the Thai frontier say casino goers and traders are returning

THAI border trade and casino visits are largely returning to normal after plummeting following last week's border skirmishes.

"Four or five hundred Thais have crossed the Poipet international checkpoint to go to the casino every day since since a couple of days after the dispute erupted," said Sao Bunrith, deputy chief of immigration police at Poipet, on Monday.

"Visits decreased immediately after the clash, and have [since] returned to normal," Sao Bunrith added.

Three Cambodian soldiers died and an unknown number of Thai casualties were inflicted last Wednesday when rockets and small arms fire were exchanged between soldiers stationed on disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The fighting was the worst eruption of violence in the three-month standoff over the border. Crisis talks between commanders have since resumed.

Before last week's clash, about 500 Thais crossed into Cambodia each day, while thousands of Cambodian day labourers crossed into Thailand, Sao Bunrith said.

Officials and businesses near the border also say trade and cross-border visits have almost returned to normal.

"We have no problem here. Cambodian and Thai authorities have cooperated. The clash at Preah Vihear is a dispute between soldiers," Sao Bunrith said.

"Cambodian and Thai goods are exchanged at the checkpoint, and Cambodian people have returned to sell at the market in Thailand," Sao Bunrith added.

"The businessmen are not like tourists. When they get worried, they stop business, but it is only for a short period of time," he said.

Business as usual

Kong Bunly, the director of business management in Banteay Meanchey province, said Sunday that businessmen are returning to the province.

"Now they have returned to make their business. It is not quiet like before," Kong Bunly said.

"We hope both governments will try to find a solution to make the situation normal and to make people confident," Kong Bunly added.

Kong Bunly said there are five casinos being operated in Banteay Meanchey province, bringing in millions of dollars to the area.

Overall, the gaming sector has become a major industry in Cambodia as strict anti-gambling laws in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam attract large numbers of visitors to the Kingdom.

Thai punters, especially, gamble huge sums of cash, but even the slightest ripple in relations can see house takes drop significantly.

But Phu Kok An, the owner of the Crown Casino at Poipet, said Sunday that even gambling visits from Malaysia and Singapore had decreased.

"Trade and tourism decreased a little bit because the Thai government is being very vocal [about the recent unrest] and no foreign tourists dared visit Thailand", Phu Kok An said.

"Now more Thais and Cambodians from along the border are flocking into casinos to gamble," Phu Kok An said.

Elsewhere, the situation has appeared not to have completely recovered.

In Koh Kong province, Saing Sakhun, chief of Chom Yeam International Checkpoint, said that since the clash last week, the number of Thai tourists has dropped and has yet to recover.

Before there were around 100 Thais crossing into Koh Kong to visit and gamble, but that is down to about 30 per day, he told the Post.

UN action needed for border row, groups say

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

CIVIL society groups on Monday criticised the government for not appealing to the United Nations for help in its ongoing standoff with Thailand over disputed territory along the border.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union (FTU), said that if the government had complained to the UN earlier and stuck to their complaint, there would not have been any Cambodians killed over the issue.

At least thee Cambodian soldiers are dead after clashes last week with Thai troops on the border near Preah Vihear temple.

"Despite the fact that both sides sustained injuries of a similar magnitude, we are still filled with regret for the loss of our soldiers," he said.

"If the government had used the UN to solve this problem, there would be no dead soldiers," Chea Mony added.

An unknown number of Thai casualties were also inflicted.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Center for Development and Peace, said Monday the government's efforts to resolve the dispute were muddled.

"At one moment, they say they want to complain to the UN. At the next, they don't," he said. Early on in the three-month standoff, Cambodia threatened to file a formal complaint with the UN Security Council, but quickly backed down.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Monday that the UN and several "big countries" had encouraged Cambodia to choose negotiations.

"We have already written to the UN and sent information to Asean and Unesco. If these measures don't work, we will find another way," he said.

Military budget to be hiked

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Border clashes with Thailand highlight need for better army

THE government has proposed a massive increase in military spending in next year's budget, as conflict on the border with Thailand raises fears over the Kingdom's readiness to do battle with a better-equipped foe.

"I think national defence will be one of the top priorities for the government from now on," Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker with the Cambodian People's Party, told the Post Monday.

The Council of Ministers on Friday announced it would increase defense spending by more than US$200 million from its 2007 levels. The final 2008 budget figures were not available.

Previous National Assembly budgets had been reducing national defense funding by two to four percent annually in line with the government's spending priorities.

But the shift was warranted, said Cheam Yeap,

"Even if the National Assembly approves a $500 million annual budget [for defence], it will still not be enough because our current army equipment is so out of date" Cheam Yeap said.

"Our armed forces need proper military bases, good wages, healthcare, uniforms and professional army training," he added.

However, opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Cheam Channy expressed fears that corrupt army officials would use the sizable increase in spending as an excuse to pocket more of the national budget.

"Our country has a border conflict with Thailand, so it is necessary to increase the defense budget," said Cheam Channy, adding however, that he suspected little of the increased funding would make it to the areas where it was most needed.

Ok Socheat, an advisor to the government's coalition partner Funcinpec, welcomed the surge in funding.

But he expressed hope that, were a peaceful solution to the current standoff found, the Kingdom could once again reduce defence spending.

"Every country, once they go to war, will see their economic growth become weak," he said. "I think finding a win-win strategy is the only solution for Cambodia and Thailand."

Border talks pushed back, troops dig in

Photo by: AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY
Cambodian soldiers stand guard during a meeting at the top of a mountain near the disputed Preah Vihear temple Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 20 October 2008

Negotiations to be held Friday as soldiers from both sides prepare for a protracted standoff over disputed border territories

BORDER talks between Cambodian and Thai military commanders have been pushed back to the end of the week, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has moved to defuse tensions with Thailand following last week's fighting near Preah Vihear temple, but troops from both sides are digging themselves in for a protracted conflict.

"The regional border meeting scheduled on October 21 was postponed as the two countries are not yet ready," said Colonel Taweesak Boonrakchart, spokesman for Thailand's northeastern army division."On the Thai side, we have to get approval from parliament before the government can sign any pacts."

Speaking to reporters following a cabinet meeting Friday, Hun Sen said last week's hostilities at Veal Antri, which saw three Cambodian soldiers killed and an unconfirmed number of Thai casualties inflicted, had ended and called on Cambodians living along the border to remain calm ahead of the next round of talks.

"The clash was very small, and Cambodia will not use its large-scale armed forces. Neither side has yet to use heavy artillery that can reach long distances, so it means the two sides are willing to solve the matter."

Hun Sen added that the dispute was quickly contained and rejected suggestions Cambodia might need international mediators to solve the crisis.

Hun Sen made no mention of his October 13 ultimatum to the Thai government to remove their troops from the area of Veal Antri or risk "full-scale conflict", saying instead that the two countries would use the "existing mechanism of bilateral negotiation" to resolve the border dispute.

Colonel Som Naroth, military commander for Preah Vihear province, said both sides were taking action to avoid a repeat of last week's fighting.

"We cannot predict the tricks of the Thai soldiers, but at the frontline near Preah Vihear temple things are normal," he said.

"Both sides have regular meetings to ease the situation until the government can solve the problem through diplomacy."

Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, confirmed bilateral talks are scheduled for Friday, saying the location was yet to be determined.

" They are on alert and the number of troops is increasing on each side. "

Digging in

But Muong Sokha, a soldier stationed at the border, told the Post that troops from both sides were digging trenches and bringing in reinforcements in anticipation of a protracted standoff. "The situation is normal, but they are on alert and the number of troops is increasing on each side," he said.

"Commanders from both sides told the troops to fill up the trenches, but they have kept digging."Tensions between the neighbours have simmered since July, when Unesco approved the listing of the 11th-century temple as a World Heritage site, prompting an angry response from Thai nationalists who claim the ruins as their own. Thai troops soon occupied disputed land nearby.

Border talks likely in China

Photo by: CHEY PHUMPUL
Prime Minister Hun Sen (with flowers) leaves for Beijing, where he is expected to meet his Thai counterpart.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

PRIME Minister Hun Sen left Monday for Beijing, where he is expected to meet his Thai counterpart, Somchai Wongsawat, for the highest-level border crisis talks since last week's deadly shootout near Preah Vihear.

"I think that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of Foreign Affairs [Hor Namhong] will meet with their Thai counterparts over very important issues of the border dispute," said Koy Kuong, undersecretary of state at the Foreign Ministry.

Somchai told reporters in Bangkok that no specific meeting had been arranged with Hun Sen, but confirmed that he would be in China from Thursday and was open to talks

."The Cambodia issue needs to be discussed between the two countries," he said. "[Talks] depend on whether there is an appropriate atmosphere and an appropriate time is available."

Cambodian and Thai military commanders are still expected to meet in Siem Reap later this week over the three-month-old border dispute, which has twice now erupted in violence as hundreds of soldiers from both sides face off over contested territory.

Despite an apparent desire for diplomacy, both sides continue to reinforce their troops on the border.

Last week's fighting, which left at least three soldiers dead and an unknown number wounded, has raised concern among the international community, with Malaysia on Monday urging the two sides to restart peace talks to resolve their conflict.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said he would carry a peace message from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Thailand this week.

"I am going there with a message from Prime Minister Abdullah and also with a specific request from me (to the two countries) to de-escalate and return to the conference table," he told reporters.

Hun Sen will also hold talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao as he attends the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that begins Friday.

He said last week that he would not raise the border issue at the ASEM meeting, while also dismissing the need for foreign mediation.

"I think that it is not the right time yet, because Cambodia and Thailand agreed to resume talks," Hun Sen said.

"We do not need others to come and intervene."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

The press on Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Aaron Leverton
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Dear Editor,

While I join the general wish that Cambodia and Thailand find a peaceful solution to the border standoff as soon as possible, I was surprised and more than a little disappointed to see the international news media, in particular 24-hour news channels BBC World Service and Channel News Asia, continue to propagate certain errors of reportage and give credence to one of the falsehoods central to the current dispute.

It was with particular dismay that I listened to the BBC's correspondent refer to Preah Vihear as "a Hindu temple". Describing Preah Vihear as "a Hindu temple" affects the international impression of the temple, the origins of the dispute and its current character, obscuring, as it does, the origin of the temple. Preah Vihear is not a Hindu temple. It was not built by ethnic Hindus, but by ethnic Khmers, making it a Khmer temple. Just as Angkor Wat is not a Hindu temple, but a Khmer temple.

However, more serious than this was the BBC's continued use of phrases including "disputed territory surrounding the temple" and the idea that the border has never been settled. Anyone who has read the judgement of the International Court of Justice will know that the border was most definitely settled as being that shown on the Annex 1 map. That map was drawn by the French authorities in 1907 and subsequently used by both French Indo-China and Siam. These facts were and are integral to the judgement of the ICJ, and that judgement most clearly states that not only does Preah Vihear stand on sovereign Cambodian soil (as begrudgingly accepted by Thailand) as shown by the Annex 1 map, but that simultaneously, and as a direct consequence, the border between the two countries is that shown on the Annex 1 map and not the bare extremities of the temple, as claimed by successive Thai regimes.

The government of Thailand is lying to itself and its people with its continued insistence that the border has never been settled. The border was settled by the ICJ. The BBC is perpetuating this lie by giving credence to it. The border was legally settled in 1962, and since that time Thailand has been in contravention of international law by its continued occupation of sovereign Cambodian soil in the area it refers to as Kao Phra Viharn National Park.

Cambodia's patient endurance of this national insult for 46 years has only emboldened the Thais to the point where they think they can dictate to a third party how that third party will deal with Cambodia over issues of management of a national monument on sovereign soil.

That the BBC, among others, continues to express these half-truths without explaining all the facts is disappointing. Disappointing that they have skipped on their professional duties to portray all the facts, and worrying that the world at large is learning only these half-truths. Armed clashes between nations are serious, surely they deserve serious reportage.

Aaron Leverton
Phnom Penh

In Brief: High-ranking official dies

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sin Pinsen, a 62-year-old newly elected secretary of state of the Ministry of Interior, died of stomach disease in Calmette Hospital Monday. Sin Pinsen, also known as Sin Sen, participated in the coup to set up an autonomous zone near the Mekong River just one year after Untac sponsored national elections in 1993. Khieu Kanharith, information minister and government spokesman, expressed sympathy over the death. "Sin Pinsen was not only a man that opposed Pol Pot but also knew real stories of Cambodia, so his death is a huge loss for the nation," he said.

On the edge

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Cambodian soldiers stand on the edge of a sheer precipice at Preah Vihear temple in the morning fog on Saturday, three days after violent clashes over disputed territory near the 11th-century ruins erupted.

Outlook uncertain as Thai army commanders call Hun Sen's bluff

AFP, A Cambodian military commander (left) talks to a Thai counterpart (right) during a meeting near Preah Vihear temple on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Sam Rith
Monday, 20 October 2008

Analysts say that domestic turmoil will adversely affect the bargaining position of the new Thai PM, but urge the Cambodian govt to make a more measured response to the crisis

EVEN opponents of the government agree that Prime Minister Hun Sen had a right to take a firm stand against Thai border incursions near Preah Vihear temple. But with troops from both sides now digging in after last week's fighting, political analysts are divided on how his tough rhetoric will impact the resolution of the three-month-old military stand-off.

After Wednesday's border clashes, in which three Cambodian soldiers were killed and nearly a dozen Thais wounded, Hun Sen downplayed the threat of war, saying that the situation along the border was "under control".

"Cambodia is poor and will not show its muscles," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting Friday. "There will be no big war because the two countries are still patient."

His comments came on the heels of his October 13 ultimatum to Thailand that it should withdraw its forces from Cambodian territory at Veal Antri, warning of a "full-scale conflict" if Bangkok did not comply.

Although local politicians agreed the Cambodian government holds the moral high ground on the border dispute, some questioned the wisdom of bluffing beleaguered Thai politicians with threats of open war.

"[The bluff] was a response to the continuing violations of the Thais. The Thais have been playing games with him, and I think he lost patience," said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Son Chhay, adding that the government should welcome the mediation of the international community.

"I think [the threat] was a mistake. We advised him to deal with it through international organisations, to approach the UN or the co-chairs of the Paris Peace Agreements," he said.

" There will be no big war because the two countries are still patient. "

With officials from both sides due to meet in Siem Reap for another round of talks Friday, independent analyst Chea Vannath said Hun Sen's comments might have been misjudged, but did not think it would impact the "very slow process" of the border negotiations.

"[Hun Sen] was trying to project the image that he is serious about protecting our territory," she said.

"It's not a big issue. It's more an issue of pride."

Koy Kuong, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, endorsed the remarks made by the prime minister Friday, but would not comment on last week's ultimatum in light of the bloodshed on the border.

"A peaceful solution is the best solution," he said. "Cambodia has experience with war and found that it doesn't offer any benefit besides destroying assets and people's lives."

Thai upheavals

However, some analysts are pessimistic that negotiations will do anything to resolve the conflict until a resolution of the political crisis within Thailand.

"Talking doesn't mean anything or affect anything," said Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian rights group Adhoc. "In Thailand, the current government is very weak, especially on the problem of the Thai-Cambodian border. If they agree with the Cambodian government on something, the political opposition takes the opportunity to accuse them of being traitors."

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst based at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said Thailand's domestic crisis, which has seen the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) keep up street protests in an attempt to force the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, had hampered the temple negotiations.

"The turmoil and confrontation in Bangkok is going to adversely affect Prime Minister Somchai's negotiating and bargaining position because he is being hounded and undermined," he said.

"He is essentially being overthrown by the PAD... and the PAD has used the [Preah Vihear] issue to accuse the Somchai government...of selling out."

Given the situation in Bangkok, Thun Saray said the likelihood of holding effective talks was low and questioned the control of Thailand's civilian leadership over the Thai troops at the border.

"Normally, when two parties are in conflict, they agree to talk. The Thais said they wanted a peaceful solution, but at the same time they moved their troops further into Cambodian territory," he said.

In this context, heated rhetoric from the Cambodian side could be like a red flag to a bull. "In Cambodia, the government can prevent violence like the anti-Thai violence of 2003, but in Thailand I don't know," he said. "If the opposition politicians took power now and tried to push more troops into Cambodia, it could escalate."

However, Chea Vannath said her main fear was the scores of heavily-armed soldiers biding their time in foxholes at the border. "I am pleased at what the Cambodian government is trying to do," she said.

"My concern is that you have two armed forces facing each other. It's so easy for something to happen."

Thai court will rule Tuesday whether ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra abused his powers

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (R)and his wife Potjaman Shinawatra wade through an army of photographers at the criminal court in Bangkok July 31, 2008.(Sukree Sukplang/Reuters)

Anti-government protesters hold batons during a demonstration in Bangkok on October 20. A Thai court will rule Tuesday whether ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra abused his powers to obtain a land deal for his wife, in the first judgment due on the exiled multi-millionaire.(AFP/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Club to enhance bilateral trade with Vietnam

October 21, 2008 (Cambodia)
Vietnam and Cambodia are neighbours sharing a common border extending to 1,137 kms. Now in order to further strength the relationship, a club has been formed between the two countries,

The club which is an offshoot of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association is expected to provide enterprises in both the countries, information on existing investment policies and opportunities in both the countries.

Bilateral relations between Cambodia and Vietnam were long strained due to the Cambodian-Vietnamese war. But now both nations have since taken steps to establish friendly

ties.Since the 1990s, relations between both nations have begun to improve. Both Vietnam and Cambodia are members of multilateral regional organizations such as ASEAN and the Mekong - Ganga Cooperation.

Both nations have opened and developed cross-border trade and sought to relax visa regulations to that end. Both governments have set official targets of increasing bilateral trade by 27% to US $2.3 billion by 2010 and to USD 6.5 billion by 2015.

Vietnam exported $ 1.2 billion worth of goods to Cambodia in 2007. While Cambodia is the 16th largest importer of Vietnamese goods, Vietnam is Cambodia's third-largest export market.

Cambodia is Country of Honour at 5th CAEXPO

Exhibitors and members of the media waiting for their passes to be issued. - YUSRIN JUNAIDI
Decorative artworks outside the venue of the expo. - SONIA K

A security personnel is seen patrolling outside the venue. - YUSRIN JUNAIDI

The pavillion of the Cities of Charm. - YUSRIN JUNAIDI

Borneo Bulletin
Tuesday October 21, 200

By Sonia K in Nanning

Cambodia will be this year's Country of Honour for the 5th China-Asean Exposition (CAEXPO). This mechanism was introduced last year during the 4th CAEXPO, where Brunei Darussalam was the first country to be showcased.

For each expo, an Asean country will act as the CAEXPO Country of Honour, whose state leader is invited to the event with the delegation to ensure that each CAEXPO will have the attendance of Asean state leaders, thus to maintain CAEXPO's influences in political and diplomatic arenas.

According to a consensus reached by CAEXPO Co-organisers in China and the 10 Asean countries, one Asean country is invited to be the Country of Honour in accordance with the English alphabetical order.

This year, programmes tailored for Cambodia will be arranged, including Cambodia-China Trade and Investment Promotion Conference and art performances by Cambodian art groups and such.

In addition to that, Brunei has chosen Bandar Seri Begawan as its City of Charm for the CAEXPO. Introduced during the second CAEXPO, the Pavillion of Cities of Charm was introduced to help enrich China's cooperation with Asean and to extend the current country-to-country cooperation.

China and the 10 Asean countries have to select one of its cities as their own City of Charm for the year, to comprehensively exhibit its development and business opportunities in trade, investment, science and technology, culture and tourism.

This year's chosen cities are Suzhou (China), Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Bandung (Indonesia), Vientiane (Lao PDR), Cyberjaya (Malaysia), Yatanabon (Myanmar), City of Singapore, Phuket (Thailand) and Hue (Viet Nam).

Ranger wounded in clash with Cambodia dies

Oct 21, 2008

(BangkokPost.com) - Volunteer ranger Bunyarit Kantee, a field army who was critically wounded during the armed clash with Cambodian troops on Oct 15, died Tuesday morning after brain surgery, according to chief of public relations of the second army region Col Thaweesak Boonrakchart.

Bunyarit was admitted to a hospital in Ubon Ratchathani province after the the clash.

His family would take his body for a funeral in Si Saket province.

Bunyarit is the first Thai soldier who was killed in the clash on disputed area near Preah Vihear ancient temple. Two Cambodian soldiers were killed that day.

Thai-Cambodia row a slap in the face of ASEAN Charter

The Jaharta Post

Rizal Sukma, Jakarta
October 21, 2008

Only a few days after all 10 members of ASEAN finally ratified the ASEAN Charter, Thailand and Cambodia gave the group a glimpse of what lies ahead. For months, the two members of ASEAN have been locked in a dispute over the ownership of an ancient temple, Preah Vihear, in the border area between the two countries.

Last week, troops from both sides were engaged in a gun battle, leaving two soldiers dead and several others injured. For the ASEAN Charter, the ratification of which is planned to be celebrated in Bangkok later this year, this conflict is a slap in the face. The charter's principle of resolving conflict through peaceful means could not prevent the two armies from attacking each other.

This feud between Thailand and Cambodia, which has the potential to turn into an open military clash between the two countries, is indeed the kind of problem that Indonesia had anticipated in 2003 when we proposed that ASEAN be transformed into an ASEAN Security Community (ASC).

Indonesia insisted at the time that ASEAN should have a platform that would make Southeast Asia a region characterized by the absence not only of war, but also of the prospect of war. We want to see an ASEAN where member states no longer view force as a viable instrument for resolving conflict. However, the rhetoric of war displayed by Thai and Cambodian military leaders over the past few weeks reminds us that such an ASEAN is still far from reality.

Indonesia believes that even within an ASC, disputes and conflict are still possible. But the key element of an ASEAN Security Community would be the avoidance of force as an instrument of conflict resolution. That is why Indonesia's original ASC Plan of Action (ASCPA) focused on a series of concrete measures that ASEAN states needed to undertake, in a collective manner, to resolve conflict peacefully; hence, the conflict resolution element of the ASC.

ASEAN member states, however, have always had many difficulties when it comes to the imperative of cooperating on real political and security issues through tangible measures. An agreement on concrete political and security cooperation is a rare occasion in ASEAN. Therefore, the final version of the ASCPA adopted by ASEAN leaders in Vientiane in November 2004 looks more like a collection of normative measures rather than a set of concrete actions aimed at creating an ASC.

As demonstrated in the experience of negotiating the ASC, ASEAN could only agree on principles but fell short of the ability and willingness to undertake concrete measures to produce real progress. Indonesia was perfectly aware of the limitations of ASEAN in this regard.

The current tension in Thai-Cambodia relations is only one such problem within Southeast Asia. Indonesia-Malaysia relations also often fall victim to the problem of territorial dispute, where the attempt to search for a peaceful solution has also been marred by use of the language of violence.

Of course, one can always argue that it will take time before ASEAN members finally renounce the use of force in managing their intra-mural relations. ASEAN's apologists tell us that as the habit of cooperation evolves, mutual trust will follow. They also argue that when this mutual trust is established, then member states will no longer need to resort to the use of force to resolve their differences.

It is precisely here that ASEAN's apologists make a categorical mistake. The problem with ASEAN is not that it lacks "process" but that it has too much "process" at the expense of "structure". ASEAN's biggest problem can be found in its hesitation to move toward greater institutionalization, toward a more legalized way of doing things and resolving problems, toward a greater commitment to enforce compliance.

Initially, we hoped the ASEAN Charter would be able to address those defects in the way ASEAN conducts its affairs. By adopting a flawed charter, ASEAN governments once again managed to frustrate those who wish to see ASEAN become a more progressive and effective organization. The charter, in its current form, will never be able to contribute to the realization of an ASC.

Therefore, ASEAN must realize that the charter will not be useful in creating an ASEAN community "at peace with itself and the world". If the charter cannot even force member countries to subscribe to the principles embodied in the charter itself, then there is no alternative for ASEAN but to return to the original spirit behind the ASC idea.

The opportunity is still there. Member states are now drafting the ASC Blueprint, to be submitted at the summit in Thailand by the end of the year. It is absolutely imperative that the ASC Blueprint does not suffer the same fate as the charter.

The drafters of the blueprint must realize that if they want to prevent conflicts among member states, such as the current row between Thailand and Cambodia, then the blueprint should recapture the spirit embodied in Indonesia's original concept of about the ASC: Bold and practical, but at the same time realistic.

The writer is the deputy executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Thai villagers training to defend their homeland

MCOT English News
21 October 2008

In the wake of the Thai-Cambodian border skirmish near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, village defence volunteers in Thailand’s border province of Si Sa Ket have undergone basic military training to help guard their villages.

These men in Phumsarol, a small village in Kantharak district, are practicing their basic military lessons, to provide security for their village following the October 15 firefight on the Thai-Cambodian border.

These defence volunteers have been trained by Thai Second Region Army officials.

They learn how to use weapons, to patrol around the disputed area, and to report the latest situation to the military.

"We are backed up by these extra teams of volunteers. We give them advice. If there is something unusual, they will immediately inform us,"said Chief of Public Relations at the Second Region Army, Second Lieutenant Chainarong Prayoonkam.

This is not the first time these residents in Phumsarol village, bordering Cambodia, have taken on defensive action to protect their community and sovereignty.

Back in the 1960s, some were trained during the Communist insurgency in Thailand and also the fighting among Khmer Rouge and other factions in Cambodia more than 20 years ago.

One volunteer involved in this mission expressed his feelings toward the latest military confrontation. "I think the ferocity of violence on Oct 15 was less severe than the fighting in the period of the Cambodia Civil War in the 1970s and the stream of communism in Thailand. The villagers are panicking less," said Pling Mathong, village defence volunteer at Phumsarol village.

Although the latest skirmish along the border of the neighbouring countries seems less violent compared to the past, the people of the two countries still hope their leaders can find a peaceful solution to end the dispute soon.

Thai and Cambodian prime ministers want Beijing talks

Tue 21 Oct 2008

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat plans to meet his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, in Beijing this week for talks on recent clashes along a disputed stretch of their border, the foreign minister said Tuesday. Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said the two sides were trying to fix a meeting for Friday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit in the Chinese capital.

"We are working on a time slot for the two leaders to discuss what we should do next," Sompong told reporters before a cabinet meeting.

Cambodian officials also say a bilateral meeting is planned.

A Thai soldier died Tuesday from wounds sustained on October 15 in a 40-minute firefight near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both countries. Three Cambodian soldiers were also killed.

It was the most serious border clash in years but tensions have now eased and both sides have said they do not expect any escalation in the conflict.

Some analysts link the eruption of fighting on the border to the political instability that has roiled Thailand for the past three years, and which appears to be reaching another climax.

The Thai army has been under pressure from an anti-government street campaign to oust Somchai in a coup and some analysts suggest the clashes could be a way to divert public attention to the border from domestic politics.

Hun Sen said last week there was no need for outsiders such as the United Nations or the Association of South East Asian Nations to get involved in the dispute.

Somchai said he was looking forward to meeting Hun Sen in China. "It will be nice to have a talk with him," he said before a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

The hilltop Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since, but it failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the Hindu ruins.

(Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Foreign Minister: PM wants border talks at Asem

Bangkok Post
Oct 21, 2008

(BangkokPost.com) - Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sompong Amornvivat said Prime Minister and Defence Minister Somchai Wongsawat would like to discuss the progress of Thailand and Cambodia to settle the border dispute with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen at the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem), which will be held from Thursday to Saturday in Beijing, China.

According to Mr Sompong, if there is enough time and opportunity at Asem, the Thai prime minister would like to hold informal talks with Cambodia even though the Cambodian premier may turn down the opportunity.

In addition, Mr Sompong said he will propose Vasin Teeravechyan, the former ambassador to South Korea, to chair the Joint Border Committee (JBC) between Thailand and Cambodia at the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Somchai expressed interest to hold informal talks with the Cambodian counterpart at Asem, if the chance arises.

Mr Somchai believed the border tension should ease, if bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen take place.

Is Cambodia ready for its own stock market?

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
The Asia File
by Ben Bland
Oct 20, 2008
Capital markets can be vital tools of development, helping the better companies in poorer countries to get access to the money they need to grow, creating wealth and employment in the process.

However, given the fragile nature of stock markets, it is important that countries don't run before they can walk. Which is why Cambodia's decision to press ahead with the launch of its own stock exchange next year is slightly concerning.

After all, this is a country where business and personal disputes are still routinely settled with a late night shoot-out in the capital, Phnom Penh. Is Cambodia really ready for the wild fluctuations, the speculators and the scams that typically dominate new equity markets in developing economies?

Whatever you think, you have to commend the Cambodian government's resilience in sticking to its plans for a 2009 launch, despite the ongoing global turbulence.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of Cambodia's Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the Phnom Penh Post that he hopes a stock market will provide a more long-term source of finance than the foreign aid (around $600m annually) that the country is currently reliant upon.

"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," he said. "I think in five or ten 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."

But while he's right about the long-term benefits of a stock market as a cheap place to raise capital, the problem across the developing markets of Southeast Asia is the pre-dominance of short-term speculators, chancers and crooks.

This article in today's Bangkok Post sums up the dodgy share trading scene over the disputed border in Thailand rather nicely.

"On any given day, investor cliques can join hands, even sometimes with company management and major shareholders, to push share prices one way or the other," the article notes. "For these investors, fundamentals are meaningless - indeed, the larger and more prominent the company, the less attractive it is for speculators, due to the greater difficulty in manipulating prices for large-cap stocks." While Southeast Asia's comparatively inexperienced and poorly funded regulators do their best to get on top of these types of market abuse, they are generally fighting a losing battle against the better-funded and more powerful crooks.

But trading scams on illiquid markets are not just the preserve of Asia. When I covered London's Aim market for The Telegraph, I would get a complaint at least once a week from an investor concerned about alleged insider trading or ramping/deramping. And, on more than one occasion, I shared lunch or a drink with small-cap executives and brokers who showed a well-hardened disdain for market rules and minority shareholders.

Hun Sen advocates bilateral dialogue

Preah Vihear. ©DR

Cambodge Soir

21-10-2008

The Prime Minister declared that Cambodia and Thailand could still solve the row themselves as Hun Sen tries not to implicate Asean.

On Friday 17 after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Hun Sen declared to journalists that he hopes that Cambodia and Thailand continue a bilateral dialogue on the Preah Vihear conflict.

“I would like to thank Indonesia for proposing mediation on behalf of Asean but it is not the right time", declared Hun Sen, adding that both countries had at their disposal the relevant mechanism to solve the border issue.

The Prime Minister added that in the temple area the situation was back to normal this morning as meetings between both parties eased the tension.

On October 22-23, Hun Sen flies to Nanning, China, as Cambodia is the honorary guest of this year China-Asean exhibition. He will then travel to Beijing for the 7th Asean-European Union summit on October 24-25.

When asked about Thailand flexing its muscles, Hun Sen was not impressed: “we know their weapons very well as we were victims of them".

Regarding Thai media accusations that Cambodia was assisted “by other States” during the skirmishes, Hun Sen that this was “despising Cambodian people”: “Whatever is said, I think that what happened is just an engagement and not a conflict” he added.

Thailand also accused Cambodia of mining the area along the border trod by two Thai soldiers—deminers according to Thai sources—on October 6, leaving then seriously injured. “Cambodia signed the Ottawa Convention on the use of landmines and still pays a hard tribute to mines” stated the Prime Minister to prove his good faith. "These mines are soviet made and have been there since the 1980s.” According to the Thai government, the area where the landmines exploded had been previously demined.

As for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it judged that by conducting unilateral demining operations, Thailand had violated the 2002, 2006 and 2008 Khmer-Thai agreements. The official death toll of the skirmishes remains at three dead on the Cambodian side. The five dead mentioned by Cambodian soldiers were still not confirmed late Friday October 17 in Bangkok.

Poipet: back to business

Cambodge Soir

21-10-2008

A meeting between Cambodia and Thailand was organised on Thursday October 16 while all Cambodian shops remained closed.

At the same time as the October 16 meeting between the army commanders of Thailand and Cambodia in Preah Vihear, commanders of the Poipet region also met for two hours. They agreed on “normalising the situation and commercial exchanges between the two countries”.

According to Poipet commune chief San Sean Hour, it was about time: “99% of the population earn their living by trading with Thailand". He estimated that if the situation continues the population might be rapidly facing financial difficulties.

For example, goods carriers are only earning an average 5,000 riel per day when they used to earn 20,000. The population also faces issue regarding food. Most of the small restaurants and markets on the Cambodian side are closed as many civilians have left the area, whereas on the Thai side business continues as usual.

The King of Cambodia advocate Francophonie

Norodom Sihamoni. ©DR

Cambodge Soir

Norodom Sihamoni arrived in Quebec on October 15. The following day, he had a meeting with the Prime Minister, Jean Charest, and gave on the morning of the 18 a long speech during the opening ceremony of the XIIth Francophonie (World French Speaking countries) summit.

The four hundred year-old town of Quebec is bustling. More than 4,000 police have been deployed in the town, most of them around the Parliament and the conference centre, with helicopters patrolling the sky. For the summit 700 journalists were accredited, with 350 volunteers, 130 official vehicles and 400 limousines to ferry the participants to the XII th Francophonie summit, which lasts until October 19. Nonetheless, 68 Heads of State and governments came to take part in the biggest summit ever organised in North America. There are no vacancies in hotels for kilometres around Quebec. Entire neighbourhoods have been sealed and a new traffic scheme has been implemented in the town centre to by-pass the surrounding areas of the convention centre and of some of the major hotels, which are hosting 6,000 delegates.

During his opening speech on October 18, King Norodom Sihamoni recalled the “deep ties that Cambodia always expressed to Francophonie. A movement created by the founding fathers: President Léopold Senghor, President Habib Bourguiba, President Hamani Diori and His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk [my] father, who asked me to convey His warmest regards, His deepest friendship and reiterates His unfailing support to the great French-speaking family.

The young Monarch also took the opportunity to list all the fields where French language is prevailing in the Kingdom: “The Royal Academic of Legal Professions, the Law and economics University but also the Ecole Royale d’Administration (administrative college), are examples where French is used to teach, as a vector to strengthen exchanges to enable developing countries to improve the quality of their educational systems. It is the same with the use of French in technical training, such as at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia and at the University for Health Sciences which not only upheld the use of French for the Cambodian elite but also gave back to French the place it should have in the scientific and research communities. Culturally, the French language kept a privileged stance in particular with the presence for one hundred years of the Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient (French School of Asian Studies) on the Angkor site. Finally, the artistic/creative fields, the cinema, audiovisual, music and dance give our francophonic community horizons to conquer which could strengthen exchanges between their members, creating employment and therefore development”.

At the same time in the City Hall gardens, a few blocks away, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, the Association québécoise des organismes de développement international (AQOCI, Quebecer association of International Development Bodies) and Carrefour tiers-monde, held a forum with the agenda: “do human rights increase development?” »

Through their activities these organisations would like to raise awareness that “many countries belonging to Francophonie do not respect basic human rights". Several state members are identified by Amnesty International: Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam among others in a report published for the forum listing the main violations to human rights.

“Cambodia is a member state of Francophonie and does not respect international obligations to guarantee decent housing to all its citizens. Large development programmes threaten with eviction around 15,000 Cambodians. They have to leave their homes and to relocate to sites with no basic infrastructures. Health services are limited, in particular for children due to a lack of medical staff, lack of health centres in rural areas and the high costs of health", stated the report which is available online.

Echoing this parallel forum, King Norodom Sihamoni in his speech touched upon this subject: “French is the language for democracy and the Rule of Law, for the prevention and resolution of conflict, for the promotion and awareness of Human Rights! Cambodia sticks strongly to these values, pivotal for a modern humanism advocated by our large community. Cambodia for example, is proud to have abolished capital punishment. And even though we still have a long way to go, free press, large numbers of Non-Governmental Organisations and political parties are witness to the committed efforts and the progress that we have accomplished for the past fifteen years in promoting sustainable development universally based on Human Rights”.

F.A.

Council of Ministers Adopts Financial Draft Laws for 2009 - Monday, 20.10.2008

Posted on 21 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 583

“Phnom Penh: During a plenary session on the morning of 17 October 2008, led by Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, a draft law ‘Management of the Budget in 2009,’ was adopted that had been prepared by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

“Financial legislation, what is called in this case the national budget for 2009, had been prepared on the basis of the national development strategy, and particularly to encourage the implementation of the Rectangular Strategy in a second step, to increase the equity and efficiency of the work, and to achieve the policy goal of alleviating poverty and of promoting the citizens’ livelihood.

“According to an announcement by the Council of Minister, in order to implement the policies and strategies of the Royal Government as mentioned above, especially to achieve national development strategies, as well as the second step of the implementation of the Rectangular Strategies of the Royal Government in 2009, the royal government needs to spend all together Riel 7,551,516,000,000 [approx US$1,870 million] in total. The budget in 2009 increases by 29.6%, compared to the finance for 2008.

“In this package budget, the total expense is Riel 7,256,566,700,000 [US$17,984,056] by which it increases by 28%, compared to the budgetary legislation for 2008. As for the expense at province and cities levels, it is Riel 291,950,000,000 [approx. US$72,350,000], increasing by 92% compared to the financial legislation for 2008. As for the total expense (without calculating their distribution), it is Riel 4,541,905,700,000 [approx. US$1,126 million]..

“The draft laws about finance for 2009 have five chapters and twelve articles.

“During the plenary session of the Council of Ministers on the morning of 17 October 2008, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,, the Council of Ministers also agreed to adopt the draft laws about the general settling of accounts of the budget of the state for the year 2007, depending on the results of cooperation of income and expense of pubic investment projects by foreign financing.

“The announcement of the Council of Ministers stated that although the start had been optimistic, the situation was challenging because the garment export quotas had come to an end, and with some negative natural events, the economic growth of Cambodian could still grow fairly high to 10.2%…

“Before closing the plenary session, the Council of Ministers also agreed to adopt draft laws about the general settling of the accounts of the budget of the state for 2006.

“These daft laws will be sent to the National Assembly to ask for ratification by the legislative institution.

“It should be noted that, while the Royal Government adopted national budget plans for 2009, the chairperson of the Commission of Economy, Finance, Banking, and Audits of the National Assembly, Mr. Cheam Yeap, also plans to send a request to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, to check and increase the budget for the military field and for national defense.

According to Mr. Cheam Yeap, during this fourth term, he will request the provision of the right to Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen to use the national budget in the military field. The total budget for the military field during the third term National Assembly was around US$200 million to US$300 million.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #121, 19-20.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 20 October 2008

Fighting Renews Fears, Memories of War

Cambodian soldiers stand watch at Preah Vihear temple, following fighting that renewed fears of war Wednesday.

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 20 October 2008 (1.97 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 20 October 2008 (1.97 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Since the clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops along the border last week, in markets, cafes, schools and even betting parlors in Phnom Penh, Cambodians have been reminded of war.

War lingers the memories of those who fought in the decades of strife Cambodia is emerging from or in the fears of younger people to whom it is just an idea.

Even before the fighting, which claimed three Cambodian lives and led to an entrenching of soldiers along the border near Preah Vihear temple and other sites, there were reports of near-violence, of the movement of troops, tanks and artillery, of flyovers by Thai jets and helicopters, and of other shows of force.

Rhetoric by Cambodian government officials, that increased provocation by Thailand could lead to full scale conflict, worried Cambodians even more, despite remarks by Prime Minister Hun Sen Friday that the two sides were committed to resolving the border dispute amicably.

In recent interviews those who survived Cambodia's wars were more afraid of the possibility of war's resurgence than the younger generation.

Demobilized soldiers were reluctant to return to war, while students and other youths said they were willing to volunteer if full-scale war broke out with Thailand.

Luon Rith, 49, a former officer who demobilized from Kratie province's Military Region 2 in 1997, said soldiers had asked him to come back since the beginning of a military build-up on the border, in July.

"Information came to me that they wanted me back," he said one recent morning, as he ate a bowl of noodles in a Phnom Penh market. "They asked me, 'Do you want to come back?' I said I didn't. I don't feel the desire to go back…. I feel it would be difficult to fight the struggle again. I am fed up, after seven or eight years of war. War is hard and must be avoided."

Chheung Panha, a second-year student at the Phnom Penh International University, said he would volunteer to join the army if the border conflict turned bad enough to close schools. He doubted full-scale war would come, however.

"If the conflict became serious and I could not study, I would volunteer to join the army, too," he said. "Hopefully not, because it is not serious. We should be defending ourselves while seeking a judicial solution."

Meanwhile, he said, he felt sorry for soldiers stuck on the border, with the public show of support through food and other supplies dwindling.

"We are inferior to Thailand in all fields—economically and militarily," he said. "They have more modern and stronger weapons. We have little, old weapons."

Sath Savuth, another student at the university, said the government must work to maintain the morale of Cambodian soldiers.

"Another important thing is that the present leadership, the government, should pay attention to take care of the temples along the border," he said. "And especially [find] volunteers to fight with the Thais. I don't think a war could take place."

At a Cambosix betting parlor in Phnom Penh, four young men who declined to be named said they would volunteer to join a war, though they seemed to be enjoying peace and making bets.

Luon Rith, the former officer, said he appreciated the spirit of the volunteering youths. A modern war, he said, might be different from his generation, when battles claimed the legs, arms and lied of fighters, who battled without food or water.

But Cambodia's new soldiers need more experience and training, he said. Were he to join a fight, he would be in danger himself, having forgotten how to read battlefields and mine fields, he said.

"We are now different from the old days," he said. "During the State of Cambodia [in the 1980s and early 1990s] people were arrested and forcibly recruited into the army. Now it is difficult to look for volunteer soldiers. I support them."

Yon Seun, a demobilized soldier who used to carry a B-40 grenade launcher and overheard Luon Roth, stopped to have his own noodles.

Nowadays, he said, Cambodia would not be able to defend against a full attack by Thailand, even if Thai soldiers are inexperienced, he said. Their planes would bomb the front lines and cut off the supplies to the Cambodian troops, he said.

The two demobilized soldiers said they felt lucky they were not seriously injured or killed in their own wars, though they had seen dozens of the comrades suffer these fates. Their own families had worried about whether they had died, spending money to travel and find them, or news of them.

Such times are foreign to young men like Chin Pech, 19, who earns about 30,000 riel per month pulling a trash-collection cart in Phnom Penh.

"Seeing other youths join the army, I support them," he said. "Being a Cambodian child, I feel hurt to hear that [the Thais] invade us. But I probably cannot go. I am the only son with my mother."

Former soldier Dy Chetr, 49, who lost one leg to a landmine and recently started selling books from a basket to tourists, said war had many costs.

"Before I lost my leg, I felt to myself, 'If I lose my leg, I will shoot myself dead,'" he said. "But when I lost my leg, I could do nothing. I only worried too much. I had everlasting thoughts, from one thing to another. What will happen to my children? My wife? I worried with tears. But a long time has past, and I became used to it."

He was lucky in at least one regard, he said. Where many injured or disabled men lost their wives, his had not gone. "My wife is my relative," he said. "We are cousins."

As to the threat of war today, Dy Chetr agreed with four other disabled soldiers touting on Phnom Penh's waterfront: "War is too strong to face. It is not a like a battle of knives or axes. These weapons are too strong, and you cannot see them."

Police Receive Australian Help in Drug Fight

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 October 2008

Cambodian and Australian officials began training in Phnom Penh Monday to improve the detection of chemicals used in the production of illegal drugs.

Cambodia is increasingly becoming a source of drug production, including methamphetamines, and is facing a rise in the use of cocaine and heroin, officials said.

“We are committed to supporting our neighbors and to building close regional cooperation in the fight against transnational crime,” Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson said at the opening of the course.

In April 2007, Cambodian police made a massive raid on a drug-production facility in Kampong Speu province, finding tons of precursor chemicals for making methamphetamines. This year, police have made several seizures of sassafras oil, which is used to make the drug Ecstasy.

The raids highlighted the need for increased vigilance by Cambodian authorities to stop the manufacture, supply and trafficking of precursor chemicals, Adamson said.

“These seizures demonstrate that Cambodia faces the challenges of suppressing drug production for regional export, as well as challenges faced as a transit center for regional and international drug markets,” she said. “Cambodia also faces rapidly growing illicit drug use in the country.”

Lt. Gen. Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Cambodia was threatened by the increase of illicit drug trafficking, due to its weak legal system, inadequate human resources among citizens and geographic location near the Golden Triangle.

“Our legal system has some weaknesses compared to the countries surrounding us,” he said. “We have no law to execute [drug traffickers].”

Cambodian police and customs officials will receive training through Wednesday in the detection and identification of hazardous materials used in drug production.

Sihanouk Gives Money for Border Casualties

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 17 October 2008 (756 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 17 October 2008 (756 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 18 October 2008 (832 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 18 October 2008 (832 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Former king Norodom Sihanouk will send donations to the families of the three Cambodians killed in combat with Thai soldiers last week, as well as families of the injured, an official said.

Families of the three men killed will each receive $1,000 and of those injured $500, said Royal Palace cabinet member Oum Daravuth.

Fighting between Cambodian and Thai units near Preah Vihear temple broke out at three separate sites Wednesday led to the deaths of three soldiers and an increase in tension in an ongoing border standoff.

Defense Minister Tea Banh said he had received information from the Royal Palace and was now giving money to the families.

“There is the donation from the king father, and the government has also helped a lot with the families,” he said.

City Lake Fillings Heighten Health Concerns

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
20 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 17 October 2008 (847 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 17 October 2008 (847 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Development projects in Phnom Penh that require lakes to be filled could endanger the city’s drainage system and the health of residents, a local organization warned last week.

Filling in lakes for housing and other projects can destroy waterways and cause sewage systems to back up, creating unsanitary conditions, according to Resource Development International Cambodia.

“I am really afraid that some toxins could flow into the Tonle Bassac, so now we are setting up a program to measure water quality,” said Mickey Sampson, RDIC’s country director. “We know now they grow a lot of morning glory there. I went to check and test the quality of those vegetables, and we saw some arsenic in them. I think this could very much affect the health of people and animals.”

The government must make steps to ensure the lakes and drainage are not blocked up, which could raise the level of toxins, viruses and parasites, especially after heavy rains and flooding, Sampson said.

Some of the cities main lakes, including Pong Peay, Sayap, Kob Sroy, Cheung Ek and now Boeung Kak, have been filled or are being filled in, following a development boom in the city.

Meanwhile, people living on the water can also raise the toxicity, Sampson said, citing 20,000 residents in Kampong Chhnang alone as an example.

Minister of Water Resources Lim Kien Hor said the government has already issued a subdecree to prevent the illegal filling of lakes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has “vowed to take action, to crack down on anyone who violates the law,” Lim Kien Hor said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said subdecrees were not necessary, but the government should abide by a 2001 land law.

Pen Rainsey, a project officer for NGO Forum, said he worried the filled lakes in Phnom Penh could create more serious flooding.

“Normally, when they fill the natural lake like that, then there won’t be any place to block or store the water, so I am very worried that if they fill so many lakes, it could flood all over the city.”

One-Man Organization Benefits Thousands in Cambodia

telluridewatch.com
by Martinique Davis
Oct 20, 2008

Doug Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund Supports Firefighters

MONTROSE – Not long ago, firefighters in the Cambodian city of Battambang could only hope that they would be able to hear each other at the scene of a fire because they didn’t have radios.

Today, the station’s 14 firefighters are able to communicate more effectively thanks to the Doug Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Montrose. Mendel is currently in Cambodia where last week he hand-delivered three brand new Motorola radios to the Battambang fire station, adding to the six he had donated on previous humanitarian trips.

Mendel started the Doug Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund in 2003 – at the time he was a volunteer firefighter for Summit County’s Lake Dillon Fire Department – when he delivered three boxes of donated supplies to a fire station in the small town of Sihanoukville. Nearly six years, 12 trips and more than three tons of donated gear later, Mendel has become a familiar face at fire stations across Cambodia.

“A box – or 15 – makes a huge difference in the lives of the firefighters here,” Mendel wrote in an email last week. Since 2003, Mendel has delivered over 100 boxes of supplies and gear for fire stations in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Battambang, Siem Reap, and Ratanakiri Province.

Much of the gear donated for this trip, including 28 bunker coats, 37 bunker pants and 20 helmets, went to the fire station in Phnom Penh, the capital city with a population of 1.4 million but home to only one fire station employing just 89 firefighters and operating nine fire trucks.

“Since the fire stations receive very little assistance, [the donations] have made a huge difference for the firefighters as they now can fight fires more safely and efficiently with the donated gear,” Mendel said. Without Mendel’s support, many Cambodian firefighters would still be responding to fires wearing shorts and sandals.

Along with the three new radios for the station in Battambang, Mendel also was able to purchase a telephone for the fire station; the phone number has been painted on their fire trucks and represents the first time the community has had a specialized number they can call to report a fire. “It is an amazing feeling to start or improve a city’s communication needs for the cost of about $1,000,” Mendel said.

“In America, we almost take for granted the communication system for the emergency services in cities and towns.”

During this trip, Mendel says he hopes to lay some significant groundwork toward the Cambodian Relief Fund’s next major project of helping finance the construction of one or more fire stations in the country. Last week he wrote that he has plans to meet with various people in Cambodia interested in helping spearhead the constructing project, which represents a new direction for the homegrown, grassroots organization currently based out of Mendel’s home in Montrose.

The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund has expanded to include other humanitarian missions as well. He has helped equip rangers at two national parks with digital cameras, GPS units and camera traps to keep tabs on threatened species. Mendel’s organization also provides clothing, stuffed animals, vitamins, dental supplies, mannequins for CPR training, radios, digital cameras, and camcorders for the children and staff at two Cambodian organizations that assist disadvantaged street children and disabled citizens.

Mendel’s grassroots approach to humanitarianism is funded in part by the Cambodian people themselves. During each trip to Cambodia Mendel collects and brings back handmade crafts, mostly silk purses and scarves, that he sells at various venues. All proceeds go toward the purchase of gear and supplies. He said he hopes to bring some of his Cambodian wares to Telluride this winter, and is currently seeking a venue.

Mendel also raises money for the nonprofit through individual donations collected at his website, www.dougmendel.com.

Thai soldier injured in Cambodia border clash dies: doctor

Thai soldiers secure the entrance of a temporary military base close to the border with Cambodia

ANGKOK (AFP) — A Thai soldier who sustained shrapnel wounds to the head during a firefight with Cambodian troops along their disputed border died on Tuesday, the doctor treating him said.

Boonyarit Khanti, 40, had been in a coma since October 15, when gunfire erupted on patches of disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, a UN heritage site at the centre of long-standing bilateral tensions.

"He died (Tuesday morning) from sudden kidney failure, which was one of the complications," said Monchai Wiwatanasithipong, a doctor at Suppasithiprasong Hospital in northeast Ubon Ratchathani province.

Two Cambodian soldiers died during the shoot-out, while a third died a day later of smoke inhalation and illness which authorities said was linked to the clashes.

Six Thai soldiers were also injured.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling long-simmering tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Interview with PM Hun Sen

Preah Vihear 01



Preah Vihear 02

Cambodia Tourism Grows

Focus on Travel News, Turkey
Published by Ozgur Tore
Monday, 20 October 2008

Cambodia reported visitor arrivals from January to August 2008 jumped 10.1% over the same period of 2007 to 1,398,557.

Siem Reap Angkor arrivals climbed to 722,944 visitors, with a 51.7% share, while Phnom Penh and other destinations brought in 675,613 visitors for a 48.3% share.


Foreign arrivals to Cambodia by all mean of transportations in August 2008 reached 156,098, an increase of 3% over last year. This included flights scheduled through the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports and all international border check points.

Phnom Penh International Airport visitor arrivals slipped 1.9% to 43,793 in August, representing a 30.4% share of the total, while Siem Reap International Airport welcomed 39,449 visitor arrivals for a 27.4% share.

Travellers arriving via land and waterways, which made up about one-third of the total number of arrivals, soared 34.6% to 61,292. Visitors arriving by land comprised 56,637 for a 36.3% share, while the number arriving by waterways jumped 36.3% to 4,655 visitors.

South Korea maintained its position at the top of the charts with 14.4% of the market from January top August 2008. Other key markets included Vietnam with a 10.0% share, Japan (7.5%), the United States (7.0%) and China (6.2%).

Most of the top long-haul suppliers showed gains including Thailand (+34.6%), France (+12.2%), the UK (+14.8%) and Australia (+23.9%). Taiwan fell 22.2%.

Cuban Five Cause Supported in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Oct 20 (Prensa Latina) Cambodians and Cubans met Monday at the Cuban Embassy to Phnom Penb to express their support to the freedom cause of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban Five.

Cuban Ambassador in Cambodia, Gilda Lopez, gave the most recent details on the unfair judicial process to which the Cuban Five have been submitted.

Lopez made a synthesis in which she highlighted the importance of solidarity to get the release of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Rene Gonzalez.

The Cuban Five penetrated terrorist groups from the counter-revolutionary exile based in Florida, US, to frustrate their complots and attacks against Cuba.

The Association of Cambodian Students Graduated in Cuba, the Committee for the Liberation of the Cuban Five, officials and relatives of students in Cuba, joined to the members of the Cuban Embassy in a demonstration that closed the activity for solidarity with the Cuban Five.
ef tac sus

Cambodia on track to become refugee model for Southeast Asia

20 Oct 2008
Source: UNHCR

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, October 20 (UNHCR) – Many foreigners seeking to be officially designated refugees in Cambodia are having their cases heard these days in a brand new Cambodian Refugee Office at the immigration department, rather than at the UN refugee agency's office as over the past 14 years.

The decision on whether or not to grant refugee status still rests with UNHCR officers, in consultation with Cambodian officials, but the change of location is an important move – symbolic of this country's determination to take on new responsibilities in protecting refugees' human rights.

Cambodia is one of only two Southeast Asian nations to have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, and expects within the next two weeks to formalize the legal framework for establishing its own refugee status determination (RSD) procedures – although the timetable for legal adoption of the measure is not yet clear.

"The transformation has started," said Thamrongsak Meechubot, UNHCR's representative in Cambodia. "Things are moving since the government agreed in June that it was prepared to take responsibility for refugee status determination itself."

"It is a big challenge for us," agreed Police Major General Thong Lim, director of the Cambodian Immigration Department. "We really need UNHCR's full support."

As in many countries that have not signed the 1951 Convention, or have signed it but not enacted legislation to bring it to life, UNHCR conducts RSD interviews in Cambodia jointly with government officials.

Maj. Gen. Thong said the government is finalizing a draft that will be sent to legal experts and the Cambodian cabinet for discussion before being presented to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval as a sub-decree with legal force.

The new refugee office already has a structure in place under the immigration department, with 40 officers to be deployed at border points around the country as well as in the capital, Phnom Penh. Of crucial importance, Maj. Gen. Thong stressed, will be training in refugee law so that Cambodia can live up to international standards.

Even after Cambodia takes over responsibility for RSD, the UN refugee agency will continue to give technical advice to officials and ensure that international norms are upheld.

Maj. Gen. Thong said Cambodia was embarking on a whole new set of issues – how to tell people with fake claims from genuine refugees, and how to weed out terrorists and those fleeing justice from people genuinely in need of international protection.

Still, he thinks it is an important step in Cambodia's maturity following the conflict and upheaval it experienced from 1970 until 1993, and a way of honouring the refuge that so many Cambodians received in other countries during this period.

The government has given signals that the sub-decree could be signed before the end of the year, and Thamrongsak said, "We don't expect legal complications. We expect a system that has flexibility. We don't want to burden the Cambodian bureaucracy. We want to reinforce the Cambodian bureaucracy to meet international legal standards."

Cambodia, which signed the 1951 Convention along with a raft of other international treaties when it was under UN transitional authority in the early 1990s, can be a trailblazer for much of Asia in this field.

Says Thamrongsak: "UNHCR hopes Cambodia can be a model for the region," along with the Philippines, which acceded to the Convention in 1980 and has both a legal framework and administrative regulations to implement it.

By Kitty McKinsey
in Phnom Penh, Cambodia