Thursday, 23 October 2008

Thailand and Cambodia resume border talks at Siem Reap


SIEM REAP, Oct 23 (TNA) - Thai army and government officials arrived at Cambodia's Siem Reap to attend a Thai-Cambodian Regional Border Committee (RBC) meeting set for Thursday and Friday, aimed at seeking peaceful solutions to the ongoing border row between the two countries. The historic town of Siem Reap is close to Angkor Wat, the former seat of the ancient Khmer empire, which once extended over much of present-day Thailand.

The Thai representatives are led by Second Army Region commander Lt-Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn while the Cambodian counterpart team is headed by Fourth Army commander, Gen. Chea Mon.

The previous border committee meeting was held October 16 after several clashes near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on ther previous day.

One Thai and two Cambodian soldiers died and a number of Thai and Khmer troops were wounded during the three skirmishes which took place in the disputed zone which both countries claim on October 15. On Thursday, an informal meeting would be held between the representatives of both sides, with the official talks scheduled to take place on Friday.

It was expected that the talks would mainly cover measures to ease the border dispute, but would also deal with the problems of immigrant workers, health care and border trade between the two countries.

The Thai cabinet earlier this week approved Vasin Teeravechyan, the kingdom's former ambassador to South Korea and formerly Director-General of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs as new chairman of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) for Thailand.

Meawhile, Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat expected to have informal bilateral talks with his Cambodian counterpart Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss the two countries' ongoing border dispute on the sidelines of the Asia and Europe Meeting (ASEM) leaders summit that opens in Beijing on Friday. (TNA)

Thailand, Cambodia meet on border dispute


SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — Thai and Cambodian military officials met Thursday in an attempt to defuse tensions over a border dispute that briefly erupted into deadly clashes last week.

The meeting between the mid-level officials in Cambodia's northwestern tourist hub Siem Reap is meant to pave the way for talks between senior military commanders on Friday.

The talks are aimed at calming a simmering territorial dispute over land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which broke into a firefight that killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers on October 15.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Premier Somchai Wongsawat are also scheduled to hold talks in Beijing on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting between leaders of Asian and European nations.

Shots were exchanged last week between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols the day after the clashes, although Cambodian commanders have since reneged on the deal, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

After the clashes, a familiar calm returns to a contentious border

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A soldier walks through the ruins of Preah Vihear temple carrying a B-40 rocket last Saturday. The atmosphere remains tense but calm following last week’s fighting.

Thai soldiers reluctant to take posts

Some 20 Thai troops stationed at the scene of last week’s Thai-Cambodian firefight, which kicked off near the Keo Sekha Kirisvara pagoda, are refusing to return to their posts. “They dare not come back because it is a dangerous place,” Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander of Preah Vihear province, told the Post Wednesday. After a meeting between Thai Colonel Chayan Huay-Soongnern and Cambodian commander of Brigade 12, Srey Doek, a day after the clash occurred, an agreement was reached that 20 Thai troops would be allowed to return to their camp some 200 metres east of the pagoda while 10 Thai troops would be permitted to stay at the pagoda itself. Since then, the military leaders have met regularly in a bid to prevent the tense situation from escalating to open conflict again. At least one Thai soldier has died of wounds sustained during the brief firefight, and a number were injured but the seriousness of their wounds is unclear. Three Cambodian soldiers have died and a number more were wounded during the fighting. CHEANG SOKHA

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Cambodian and Thai soldiers on the front line at Preah Vihear say they are slowly resuming friendships struck up over the three-month standoff, but they claim they are still ready to fight

PREAH VIHEAR

AS the sun rose over the border front line camp in Veal Antri last week, the mood was strangely calm. Thai soldiers began filtering back to their tents to collect possessions they had left behind when they fled the area after an hourlong shootout the day before.

Cambodian soldiers crossed into the Thai camp to share cigarettes. Another group of Thai and Cambodian soldiers greeted each other warmly, with those originating from border regions being fluent in both Khmer and Thai.

But there was also an underlying tension, with many soldiers hanging back and looking on with suspicion as they held their weapons at the ready.

"We [Thai and Cambodian soldiers] are friends. Our commanders are friends. But when we get the order to fight, it is not difficult," 37-year-old Suwaphorn Chunkathamphak, a major in the Thai army, told the Post on Saturday during a lunch he shared with his commander, the opposing Cambodian commander and lieutenants from both sides of the conflict.

"We live together on the front line. We do not want to open fire on these soldiers, but we are well-trained. We know what we have to do."

Suwaphorn, who joined the Thai army 12 years ago, explained the conflict that flared up in July in simple terms.

"Cambodian and Thai maps overlap. This is the problem," he said wryly.

To him, no one is right and no one is wrong. Both sides have a strong case and both are convinced that the territory in dispute is rightfully theirs.

Suwaphorn said he felt there would be no further battles, but could not estimate how long the standoff would last. After three months camping on the front line, he said that life is not difficult and he is happy to stay until the problem is resolved.

Chupith has been a soldier in the Thai army for 30 of his 48 years, and grew up in a village close to the Cambodian border. He spoke of his Cambodian counterparts with fondness.

"Sometimes we play cards together - Thai against Khmer. Sometimes we eat together," he said, pointing to a large table located between the two camps pierced with bullet holes from the recent fighting.

As is the case with most Thai soldiers who engaged in the brief battle on October 15, the fighting that left three Cambodians and one Thai dead was Suwaphorn and Chupith's first experience with combat.

Across the conflict zone, 45-year-old Mom Kiri is no stranger to the battlefield. Like many at the Cambodian front line, he is an ex-Khmer Rouge cadre and has been fighting in the jungle since the age of 12. He said fighting has been his life - he doesn't have to think about it.

"It's like a game," he said with a smile, as he held three B-40 shells and a rocket launcher over his shoulder.

Standing by with ageing, rusty AK-47s, a group of three experienced ex-Khmer Rouge fighters added that although their weapons may not look as new as the Thais', they were more practical for jungle fighting. And they knew how to use them very well.

Fear and uncertainty was more palpable among the local civilian population, many of whom had continued living in the Preah Vihear market at the foot of the temple complex despite the army presence.

After heavy gunfire erupted in the area the previous day, many were packing their bags to leave, while others quickly hustled their families and possessions behind the protective stone walls of the temple.

The ancient ruins, once swarming with tourists, are now cluttered with cooking pots, TVs and household goods. In the days following the gunfight, the complex transformed into a hub of activity as meals were prepared, children played and clothes were washed and hung on the temple walls to dry.

Siv Oun, district chief of the area that includes the Preah Vihear market, explained that he was showering when the blasts began to sound around him. "I was still putting on my pants as I ran out the door," he said with a laugh as he imitated the difficult run for the temple he had made with his trousers around his angles.

"[The market stall holders] left everything open and just ran for cover in the temple. Now everyone is preparing to leave. It's not safe," he said, as his family busily packed their belongings to leave that afternoon.

Yock Bun Thoeun, border police commander for Battalion 795 that covers the market area, said the Thai soldiers where firing right into the village where many civilians were fleeing. He pointed to the spot where a rocket hit and a nearby table was split apart.

At the base of the mountain, around four kilometres downhill from the front line, 12-year-old Srey Pek and family cowered in their home behind locked doors during the fighting, until the sounds of gunfire died down.

"I was very scared. It was so loud. There were a lot of explosions. We hid under the bed inside and locked the doors," she said.

Her family still runs a modest restaurant at the foot of the mountain, which is now only frequented by soldiers and journalists.

When asked why they have not fled like so many others in the town, Srey Pek answered, "This is our home. This is our business. Why would we leave?"

Cambodian and Thai military units agree to cooperate on border

BORDER BLASTS
People near the Thai border in Pursat province mistakenly believed that Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire on Tuesday after land mines were destroyed by the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, a border police commander said.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Officers from both sides meet to ease tension in Pursat ahead of high-ranking talks today as the two countries seek to defuse hostilities

AHEAD of border crisis talks expected this week between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, military commanders from both sides are working to ease tensions on the ground with the latest detente occurring in Pursat's Veal Veng district.

"I talked with Thai military commanders in order to ease tensions since the clash at Preah Vihear," Bun Seng, commander of Military Region 5 after negotiations Monday.

"We always have meetings together if we have any potential problems along the border," he added.

"There have been no serious problems along the Thai-Cambodian border under the control of the Cambodian military in Region 5. We have to talk to each other to prevent any incidents or clashes from happening."

Cambodian military commanders are to hold talks with Thai army leaders today in Siem Reap ahead of Friday's meeting in China between Hun Sen and Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat as the two sides try to mend fences following last week's clashes near Preah Vihear that have so far claimed at least four lives.

" It is in our territory so we have no reason to remove this fence. "

Cambodian and Thai soldiers have faced off at several flash points along the border since mid-July, when Cambodia accused Thai troops of entering the Preah Vihear temple complex, shortly after the 11th-century Cambodian ruins, which some Thais still claim as their own, were declared a Unesco world monument.

In Veal Veng, Military Region 5 Deputy Commander Ek Sam On said commanders from both sides have agreed to allow a fence constructed on the Cambodian side of the border to remain in place, despite earlier demands by Thai troops that it be taken down.

"I told Thai navy military commanders Tuesday not to move their armed forces and not to request that we destroy a fence made by Cambodian soldiers more than 10 years ago," Ek Sam On said.

"It is in our territory so we have no reason to remove it.... Thai military officers say they have agreed to my request," he said.

"But their soldiers still demand that our soldiers remove it. We want them to respect an agreement from 2000."Earlier, Thai troops demanded the Cambodians remove a border fence and retreat deeper into Cambodian territory.

Golf diplomacy to ease Thai-Camobdia border dispute

Hot News Turkey

Cambodia’s defense minister teed off with Thai military officials Thursday in a spot of golf diplomacy ahead of talks aimed at resolving a fierce border dispute.

A meeting of mid-level officials in Cambodia’s northwest tourist hub Siem Reap was meant to pave the way for substantive talks on Friday between senior commanders on tensions that erupted into deadly clashes last week.

While their juniors met, Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh arrived a day early for a round of golf with Thai military men.

"The discussion today has resolved a lot of problems," Tea Banh told AFP on his way to the links.

"The meeting (Friday) will clearly ease the situation more because we will discuss ways to make it better."

The talks are aimed at resolving a simmering territorial dispute over land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which broke into a firefight a week ago that left one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

General Neang Phat, secretary of state at Cambodia’s defense ministry, told reporters earlier Thursday that he thought commanders would reach an agreement to reduce the number of soldiers deployed in disputed territory.

"We will also talk about how to avoid military confrontation and to continue re-deploying the troops," he said.

Separately, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai opposite number Somchai Wongsawat are scheduled to meet Friday in Beijing on the margins of a summit between leaders of Asian and European nations.

Somchai told reporters Thursday that he wanted peace restored between the neighbors "as soon as possible."

"My meeting with Hun Sen is on the basis that we are close neighboring countries that can never separate," Somchai said.

"We will have a good and amicable relationship with each other. If there is a problem, we will solve it with peaceful measures... If something needs to be done, we must do it to bring peace and order back as soon as possible."

Governors of four Cambodian and four Thai provinces affected by the border dispute also met Thursday in Siem Reap to discuss how to help local interests during the military standoff.

"The meeting (of governors) focused on cooperation of all sectors including trade and tourism," Siem Reap governor Sou Phirin told reporters.

"We want people on both sides to believe there is no armed conflict."

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last weeks clashes between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

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

'Bigger and better' Independence Day

Photo by: VANDY RATTANA
The rehearsal for the Independence Day celebrations passes the Royal Palace on Wednesday.

The Bangkok Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana and Mom Kunthear
Thursday, 23 October 2008

A REHEARSAL was held Wednesday for the march that will commemorate the Kingdom's 55th Independence Day next month.

More than 30 institutions with 8,052 members and 29 cars took part in the rehearsal, which took place in front of the Royal Palace.

Kong Sam Ol, minister of the Royal Palace, said that Independence Day this year would be bigger and better than previous years.

"Cambodia has become more prosperous, so we want to make this event bigger and happier than ever before," he told the Post Wednesday.

Neang Sareth, an instructor at the technical school for medical care at the Ministry of Health, said it was important to remember the country's independence in order to promote peace.

"I think that Cambodia is peaceful now and it is very good that we can celebrate the Independence Day," he said Wednesday.

"I don't want to have war [with Thailand] anymore."

Neang Sareth said that he was now working towards the real march, which will be held November 9.

"I am happy that I have the chance to participate in the march," he said. "I have started to train and will train every day until Independence Day."

Promoting freedom

Chan Phal, chief art official at Phnom Penh's Municipal Cultural Department of Fine Arts, said that he is proud his nation can celebrate Independence Day because it shows the world Cambodia has freedom and prosperity.

"We have organised five big teams of cars that will all carry large pictures of the Independence Monument and white doves," he said.

"Many institutions, such as the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Information, will be participating on the day " he added.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he was participating in the ceremony out of his dedication to tradition.

"As Khmer people we all have to participate in this ceremony because it is our history," he said. But he warned that the finances of the ceremony, which were expected to be large this year, should be monitored against corruption.

"It is normal to spend a lot on a ceremony, but I think that we have to think carefully about where the money goes," he said."We do not want to have corruption marking a day like this."

Past Post: UN inches forward to Khmer Rouge trial

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY Vol. 7, No. 2316-29 October, 1998

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by BETH MOORTHY
Thursday, 23 October 2008

THE first concrete step towards possible accountability for Khmer Rouge leaders will be taken in November, with the arrival of three international law experts under the auspices of the United Nations.

Led by Australian jurist Sir Ninian Stephen, the commission will arrive on November 14 for at least a week's work. Its mandate is to "evaluate the existing evidence [against KR leaders] and propose further measures", according to the General Assembly resolution of November 26, 1997.

According to the Assembly's recommendation, the experts will examine evidence pertaining only to the KR period of 1975-79, and only to the top leaders. This mandate would likely exclude investigation of current government leaders such as Prime Minister-elect Hun Sen who were lower-ranking members of the Khmer Rouge, or of acts committed after January 7, 1979.

The UN action is unrelated to the United States House of Representatives' Resolution 533, which is merely a domestic, non- binding resolution calling for an "international judicial tribunal" for Hun Sen and his associates.

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who sponsored Resolution 533, said on the House floor: "We must not permit legislative action in Cambodia... to focus exclusively on a handful of geriatric Khmer Rouge leaders," according to the Congressional Record.

However, UN rights envoy for Cambodia Thomas Hammarberg has called the UN action a "breakthrough". He was the force driving the world body to at last take action on the Khmer Rouge question 19 years after the regime's overthrow. The Assembly resolution, which condemns the crimes of the KR for the first time, was passed in response to Hammarberg's 1997 report to the Assembly.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has also repeatedly expressed its support for such an undertaking; in June 1997 the two Prime Ministers [Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh] wrote to the UN asking for assistance in bringing the KR to justice.

The commission convened in New York in September, meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, other UN officials and key diplomats, Hammarberg said by email. He plans to arrive in Cambodia October 23, and his visit will overlap with that of the experts.

During their visit, the commission will examine Khmer Rouge-era archives at the Documentation Center of Cambodia and the former Tuol Sleng prison, and meet with government officials.

Cambodia, Thailand start annual regional border meeting

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-23

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Officials of the regional border committees of Cambodia and Thailand on Thursday held their annual meeting to solve bilateral differences and seek for development over border issues.

Thursday's agenda includes talks on trade, security, economy and social order along the border, said Siem Reap governor Sou Pheasin.

"Tomorrow we will talk about overall issues," he added.

Meanwhile, Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Cambodian National Defense Ministry, told reporters that it is the 11th annual meeting for both committees and will last two days.

Just on Oct. 15, a gunfire exchange occurred at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, killing two Cambodians soldiers and wounding over a dozen Thais.

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

In July, the ancient Preah Vihear Temple of Cambodia was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO, which angered the nationalists in Thailand who still claimed ownership of the site.

In effect, a military stalemate had haunted the region, and up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off there for several weeks.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Thailand, Cambodia meet on border dispute

Thai soldiers stand along the disputed Cambodia-Thailand border near the Preah Vihear temple


Cambodian major general Chea Morn (left) shakes hands with his Thai counterpart Wiboonsak Neeparn

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — Thai and Cambodian military officials met Thursday in an attempt to defuse tensions over a border dispute that briefly erupted into deadly clashes last week.

The meeting between the mid-level officials in Cambodia's northwestern tourist hub Siem Reap is meant to pave the way for talks between senior military commanders on Friday.

The talks are aimed at calming a simmering territorial dispute over land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which broke into a firefight that killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers on October 15.

General Neang Phat, secretary of state at Cambodia's defence ministry, told reporters that he thought commanders would reach an agreement to reduce the number of soldiers deployed in disputed territory.

"We will also talk about how to avoid military confrontation and to continue redeploying the troops," he said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Premier Somchai Wongsawat are also scheduled to hold talks in Beijing on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting between leaders of Asian and European nations.

Somchai told reporters on Thursday that peace should be restored between the neighbours "as soon as possible".

"My meeting with Hun Sen is on the basis that we are close neighbouring countries that can never separate. We will have a good and amicable relationship with each other," Somchai said.

"If there is a problem, we will solve it with peaceful measures... If something needs to be done, we must do it to bring peace and order back as soon as possible," he added.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols the day after last week's clashes between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

But Cambodian commanders have since reneged on the deal, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

OSK to offer Islamic banking

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
OSK bank’s first location in Cambodia was opened this week. Even with analysts divided on the impact that the global financial crisis will have on the local banking system, OSK says it has sufficient resources to expand in the local

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 23 October 2008

The newest Malaysian bank to open its doors in the Kingdom hopes to tap into Cambodia's close-knit Muslim community with Islamic banking services

MALAYSIA'S OSK Indochina Bank, the newest entrant into Cambodia's banking sector, hopes to tap into the Kingdom's Muslim community by offering the Kingdom's first Islamic banking services within a year, its chief operating officer and country head, Lim Loong Seng, said Wednesday.

"We are definitely looking into this market and hope to introduce [Islamic banking] services in one year," said Lim.

Islamic banking is a banking system that conforms with the principle of Shariah law, including a prohibition on interest-based loans, and has seen growing interest in Islamic countries.

Othsman Hassan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said OSK's plans would offers Muslims in Cambodia an opportunity to obtain loans and to capitalise on the Kingdom's rapid economic growth.

Most of Cambodia's Cham Muslims live outside of Phnom Penh and have little experience with the traditional banking sector.

"I hope that the bank will give an opportunity for Islamic people to obtain loans in order to improve their businesses and standards of living, and to benefit from the growing local economy," Othsman Hassan said.

" The banking system in malaysia is resilient.... we are confident. "

Chan Sophal, president the Cambodian Economic Association, also said that OSK's Islamic banking would bring Cham Muslims further into the mainstream economy, as well as benefit Cambodians working in Malaysia and other Islamic countries.

Troubled times

With global finances in tatters and Cambodia's economic boom running out of steam, evidenced by expectations of slowing growth over the next two years, OSK is entering Cambodia in troubled times.

Once one of the darlings of local investors, Cambodia's banks are now threatened by declining foreign capital, increased restrictions on local lending and falling consumer spending.

But the OSK CEO Nik Mohamed Din Bin Datuk Nik Yosoff said the long-term growth projections for banks remain intact.

"Although the global financial crisis is spreading and Cambodia is confronting the border issue with Thailand, we are looking for long-term investment," Nik Mohamed said.

Most of Cambodia's banks rely on foreign capital to stay afloat, but OSK says its Malaysian ties are strong.

OSK, a 40-year-old company, is 100 percent owned by OSK Holding Berhad, which is listed in Malaysia.

"The banking system in Malaysia is resilient.... We are confident that our partner has sufficient resources," Lim said, adding that the company plans to soon expand.

According to Nik Mohamed, OSK "will expand to more branches in a few months to draw more customers".

"We also plan to list on the stock market when it launches," he added.

"The double-digit GDP growth in Cambodia means that all sectors are in need of financing - there are many opportunities for banks."

Diversified sector

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said OSK is the third Malaysian bank to open in Cambodia after Cambodian Public bank and May Bank.

"OSK Indochina reflects the increasing confidence among local and foreign investors in the Cambodian banking system," she said.

"I hope that OSK will cooperate with other banks and financial institutions to assure the prosperity of business operations in Cambodia."

Nik Mohamed told the Post that OSK would offer a full range of services, including saving accounts, fixed accounts, current accounts, money transfers, 24-hour ATMs and electronic cheque deposits.

Its general loan products include housing loans, individual loans, commercial loans, and car loans.

"The bank is here to grow with the country and with people's growing need for financial services and products," he said.

The bank currently employs 29 staff in Cambodia, but will likely increase, officials said.

The total paid-up capital is US$13 million.

In Malaysia, OSK operates 2,500 stalls at 50 locations, according to news reports.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGE MCLEOD

Court says Khmer Rouge leaders fit to stand trial

Ieng Sary (L)


PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has denied requests for tests on two former Khmer Rouge leaders to examine if they were fit for trial, according to court documents obtained by AFP Thursday.

Lawyers for Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary asked for medical experts to determine whether the men were mentally competent to face trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea, the former Khmer Rouge ideologue, complained his brain was "not normal" and his "thinking is generally unclear," while former foreign minister Ieng Sary was in "a state of weak physical and mental capacity," according to documents requesting the tests.

However judges denied the appeals this week, saying there was no evidence the two men, both over 80 years old, were unfit to stand trial.

They are among five former Khmer Rouge leaders due to be tried for crimes committed under the murderous 1975-79 regime, which oversaw one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the regime, as it dismantled modern Cambodian society in an effort to forge a Communist utopia.

Cities were emptied and their populations exiled to vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination.

Cambodia recrruting militias on border with Thailand

Xinhua News Agency http://www.chinaview.cn/
302012
2008-10-23

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian provincial and military officials said they are recruiting militias along the border with Thailand to protect frontier villages if hostilities erupt again amid a territory dispute between the two countries, national media reported Thursday.

Some 2,400 Cambodians have already volunteered to serve in the paramilitary units in Oddar Meanchey province alone, Deputy Governor Loun An was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"We are in the process of recruiting people for militias to protect homes and ensure security for people if there is a war with Thai soldiers," Loun An said.

"Militia members receive no salary and do not register with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), although they will get some sponsorship money," he added.

The Cambodian government has called for calm following last week's border clash that has resulted in the deaths of three Cambodian soldiers and a Thai trooper.

The violence has only encouraged more Cambodians to come to their nation's defense, Chuong Praseuth of the Banteay Meanchey provincial administration told the Post.

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.

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, the report said.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Thai PM: ASEM meet to restore Thailand's international prestige

BANGKOK, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said Thursday Thailand will use the Asia and Europe Meeting (ASEM) leaders summit that opens in Beijing on Thursday to restore the kingdom's international luster that was diminished due to the past two years of domestic political turmoil, the Thai News Agency reported.

Somchai left Thursday for the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting summit to be held in Beijing on Oct. 24-25.

Somchai told reporters before leaving Thailand for Beijing that The Beijing meeting would be a good opportunity to restore confidence after the country was hit by domestic political turmoil.

He said he would like to tell the countries that even though Thailand is facing problems, it could move ahead.

Somchai said he had prepared various issues to be discussed with ASEM member countries during the gathering, particularly relating to the global financial crisis.

Thailand had experienced a financial crisis in 1997 and would demonstrate in Beijing that the country has prepared measures to respond to the crisis if it affected Thailand, he said.

Somchai said that both the European Union (EU) and China proposed to have bilateral meetings with Thailand on the sidelines of the summit and he is pleased to hold the talks.

Touching on relations with Cambodia, Somchai reiterated that the bilateral talks would be the best way to end the border disputes between the two countries.

He said Cambodia is good neighbor and that both nations wanted to stay together peacefully without violence.

Somchai accepted that sometimes problems could not be avoided but it should be agreed upon in bilateral contacts, without need to bring them to the international arena, as no other country could know the details as much as Thailand and Cambodia.

Somchai said he hoped the two nations could maintain good relationship and friendship.

The meeting would be the first face-to-face talks between the two leaders since deadly armed clashes erupted last week between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at a disputed border area near the ancient Khmer Preah Vihear temple.

One Thai soldier and two Cambodian soldiers died as a result of the clash.

PM to 'explain things' in Beijing

Bangkok Post

Thursday October 23, 2008

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat brings with him heavy luggage when he lands in Beijing today for the 7th summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem).

The Oct 23-25 visit to Beijing is Mr Somchai's first foreign trip since he was chosen Thailand's 26th prime minister 35 days ago by 298 votes against 198 in parliament.

Traditional courtesy calls to leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), earlier scheduled for last week, were cancelled due to political turbulence at home amid rumours of a possible coup against his administration.

Mr Somchai is perhaps the only Asean leader who might not make that protocol trip to Asean after all - as he is also tangled in possible court cases at home and his government is in a losing battle with the street demonstrations led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied Government House since Aug 26.

Although Mr Somchai's alleged wrongdoing in connection with a land auction case was ruled "an act of carelessness" by the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC), and a lawsuit filed by Senator Ruangkrai Leekijwattana in the Constitution Court challenging his qualifications to become premier has yet to be decided, his image on the international stage is already tainted.

The situation regarding his beleaguered government has raised concern not only within Asean but also among friends from Europe and East Asia - they wonder whether he will still be around when Bangkok is scheduled to host the 14th Asean Summit in December, when the Asean Charter will officially take effect. The 61-year-old Mr Somchai, who is a brother-in-law of convicted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, must have adequate and convincing explanations ready for his foreign counterparts in Beijing.

Mr Somchai is scheduled to hold talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, with whom he has cultivated good relations thanks to the Thaksin connection. He will also have a bilateral meeting with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, besides confirmed meetings with leaders from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia as well as a protocol meeting with the host, China.

In Beijing, Mr Somchai has with him Deputy PM Olarn Chaipravat (Finance Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech will not attend the meeting) to discuss with the other 44 Asem members (27 EU members, nine Asean countries, China, Japan, South Korea and new members India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Romania and Bulgaria) plus two organisations - the European Commission and the Asean Secretariat - issues regarding the looming impact of the global financial crisis.
The Thai premier also has with him Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat for discussions relating to Asean and Cambodian issues.

(It is interesting that Mr Somchai believes the military top brass back home will not stage a coup against his administration, though they have been calling on him to quit the post for the sake of national reconciliation.)

Mr Somchai believes the general sentiment overseas is still supportive of his elected government. He only needs to convince the world that the PAD-led battle against him has no legal validity and that he has to stay on to carry the torch of democracy. Of course he has street movements such as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship cheering him on.

Jakrapob Penkair, former minister of the PM's Office from the previous Samak administration, has been acting as his de facto spokesman for the foreign community. If things work out in favour of his government, Mr Somchai thinks he will need two more months before clearing the exit runway.

The premier has even told his men to find a contingency venue for the Asean summit, as Bangkok might not be safe for dignitaries should things turn ugly against his government. He is thinking of Chiang Mai - a key base of the ruling People Power party and political stronghold of his wife who is Thaksin's younger sister - as a possible venue for the Asean summit in mid-December.

But we may have to weigh his performance on the international front according to his success in achieving guarantees from Hun Sen that the latter will not behave unpredictably against Thailand on border issues. It would certainly help smooth Thai-Cambodian interaction if parliament were to quickly endorse the provisional arrangement agreed on by former foreign minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in Cha-am two months ago, so that experts could proceed with boundary talks. In the meantime, the flashpoint at Phu Makhua may need the regional border commission, which is meeting today in Siem Reap, to ease tensions.

Until parliament endorses the provisional arrangement, hopefully by next week, so that foreign ministry officials can negotiate with Cambodia properly, possible border or verbal conflicts with Cambodia cannot be ruled out. In which case the joint boundary commission, the proper channel to address sensitive matters, would not be able to function.

Fresh talks on Thai-Cambodia row

Military chiefs are set to resume talks on a ceasefire in the disputed border region [EPA]

AL JAZEERA

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Military officials from Thailand and Cambodia are preparing for a new round of talks aimed at easing tensions along their shared border after last week's outbreak of violence.

Nhek Bunchhay, the Cambodian deputy prime minister, said on Thursday that the move was part of efforts to "break the stalemate" that led to the clashes.

The two sides agreed on a joint border patrol last week following a gunbattle that left two Cambodian soldiers dead and three more wounded. Seven Thai troops were also injured.

The clashes near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple sparked fears that the two countries were headed for an outright war, prompting lengthy ceasefire discussions.

Both sides however said that they will maintain troops and artillery in the area.

Border tensions escalated following increased rhetoric in recent weeks, with political and military leaders blaming each other for trespassing on to the others' territory.

The ancient Hindu ruin which is at the centre of the dispute obtained a UN listing as a World Heritage Site in July, a ruling that re-ignited a decades-old feud.

Both countries have long claimed the temple complex but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

Thousands of Cambodian villagers in the area near the Preah Vihear temple have fled their homes amid fears of more violence.

The international community including the US and UK has urged the two countries to show restraint over the standoff.

Cambodia and Thailand have deployed hundreds of troops to the border region, backed by heavy equipment and air support.

Thailand protests Cambodian troop deployment along border

Bangkok , Oct 23: Thailand has protested against Cambodia deploying its troops at Trimuk Pavilion (Sala Trimuk), near the tri-border meeting point of its boundaries with Cambodia and Lao.

Director-General Virachai Plasai of the Thai Foreign Ministry's Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs met Cambodian Charge d'Affairs to Thailand Ouk Sophoin at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present an aide-memoire on a September 18 occurrence, during which seven fully-armed Cambodian troops were deployed at Trimuk Pavilion.

According to the diplomatic note, Thailand expressed its concern over the unnecessary tension caused by such a deployment of troops by Cambodia into a boundary which is yet to be demarcated and still subject to tripartite negotiation between Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Thailand reiterated its commitment to settle boundary issues with Cambodia fairly through peaceful means under the existing framework of the Thailand-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC).

In the note, Thailand asked Cambodia to promptly withdraw its troops from the Trimuk Pavilion area and refrain from further troop deployments in the area to preserve goodwill and trust between the two countries pending completion of the boundary demarcation.

In addition, Thailand informed Cambodia that on Tuesday the cabinet confirmed the appointment of Vasin Teeravechyan, former ambassador to the Republic of Korea, as Chairman of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundaries (JBC).

Bureau Report

Crisis tops Beijing summit agenda

European leaders will seek Asian backing to revamp the world's financial system [AFP]

AL JAZEERA

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leaders from Europe and Asia have begun gathering in China for a meeting set to be dominated by talks on measures to counter the global financial crisis.

The biennial Asem summit in Beijing which opens on Friday will discuss a French plan for global regulation of the financial industry.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is expected to seek backing from the 45-member grouping for his bid to radically restructure the Western-dominated global financial system.

He wants the emerging giant economies of China and India to have a bigger role in the world's economic decision-making.

The two-day meeting which starts on Friday includes the heads of 45 member states who together account for almost two-thirds of the world's gross domestic product.

The meeting comes amid hopes that China's economy may remain robust enough to play a key role in limiting the damage from the crisis.

According to the International Monetary Fund, China is now the largest contributor to global growth. Even with the latest data showing its economy slowing down, it is still expected to expand by 11 per cent this year.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the summit, Xi Jingpin, China's vice president, said the Chinese government was "paying very close attention and evaluating the efforts and measures we can all make to maintain stability".

On Wednesday Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said it was "critically important" for leaders attending the Beijing summit to make concrete commitments to deal with the current financial crisis.

"I hope this summit will have the chance to raise some ideas, and consider some options," he said.

"I hope China will play a stabilising role."

Rights prize

The two-day summit meanwhile could be overshadowed by Chinese anger at a jailed dissident being shortlisted for an EU human rights prize.

Hu Jia has been named as one of three activists being considered for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize, prompting Beijing to issue a warning that ties could be seriously damaged if he won.

China has already expressed "much regret" to EU officials over the nomination.

Hu, a high-profile rights campaigner known for criticising the government in internet articles and in interviews with the foreign media, was jailed for "incitement to subvert state power".

In a letter to the European Parliament president, Song Zhe, China's ambassador to the EU, said EU-China ties were just recovering from the angry backlash in China triggered by European human rights protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

"If the European Parliament should award this prize to Hu Jia, that would inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations," Song wrote.

"Not recognising China's progress in human rights and insisting on confrontation will only deepen the misunderstanding between the two sides," he cautioned.

Hu's earlier nomination as a frontrunner for this year's Nobel Peace Prize also drew Chinese criticism.

A prominent member of the European Parliament said the Chinese threat was counter-productive.

"Heavy-handed Chinese state lobbying to influence the outcome of the Sakharov prize winner only plays into the hands of critics and reinforces the case for Hu Jia," Graham Watson, the leader of the EU Liberal group, said.

HRP wants an additional bank holiday!

Cambodge Soir

22-10-2008

Kem Sokha’s party asked the government to apply to the letter of the 1991 Paris agreements and is in favour of celebrating October 23 throughout the Kingdom.

On the 17th anniversary of the Paris Agreements, the HRP (Human Right Party) sent an open letter to the government inviting it to respect the main points of the agreements, such as “to respect human rights and pluralist democracy”.

According to the HRP, the government put aside the October 23 date, only celebrating January 7, the day Cambodia was “freed” from the Pol Pot regime. HRP proposed that “October 23 should be celebrated as a national holiday”, and enjoined the contracting States to respect the spirit of this Agreement and in particular the aspects regarding “national sovereignty and national integrity”.

The HRP took this opportunity to expose Thai manoeuvres “one of the contracting States, sharing a border with Cambodia which should withdraw its soldiers from Cambodian territory, pursuant to article 18 of the Paris Agreements”.

Leang Delux

Cambodian MPs on training ground

Cambodge Soir

22-10-2008

The UNDP set up a workshop to raise awareness among lawmakers of their roles for the fourth legislature.

On Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23, the United Nations Development Programme convened all Cambodian MPs for a workshop on better understanding their functions and responsibilities as representatives of the Cambodian people.

Members of Parliament, international experts, academics and worldwide participants are gathered by the UNDP to give presentations at the National Assembly.

For Heng Samrin, the National Assembly president, he declared on the opening day: “In the next five years, you [the MPs] will face challenges forcing you to make a choice between the needs of your constituency, of your party and of your family”. He went on to remind the MPs that “our Assembly like any other throughout the world requires the assistance of experts to draft laws”.

Mu Sochua, SRP (Sam Rainsy Party), Deputy General Secretary and opposition MP, “this workshop is good but in the past, the Parliament did not always practise democracy”, and added that her party does not play any efficient role in the decision making bodies of the lower chamber in this new legislature.

Leang Delux

Hun Sen to meet Somchai in Beijing on Friday

Cambodge Soir

22-10-2008

The Cambodian–Thai border issue should be one of the items on the agenda of the meeting, according to the spokesman of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will meet with his Thai counterpart, Somchai Wongsawat, during the seven Asean–European Union summit in Beijing on October 24-25. He should also take this opportunity to meet His Majesty the King Father Norodom Sihanouk, undergoing medical treatment in the Chinese capital.

The meeting with Somchai is planned for October 24 and will deal with the border dispute according to Koy Kuong, the spokesman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The day before in Siem Reap, the regional commanders of the two countries will meet to discuss the redeployment of troops stationed inside and around the Preah Vihear pagoda.

According to an agreement between both countries, ten soldiers of each country are fanned out inside the pagoda and 20 outside.

On October 15, the day of the skirmishes, 13 Thai soldiers were taken prisoner though they were later released. Since then ten Thai soldiers have taken back their positions inside the pagoda but none are stationed around the building.

The Director of ADHOC, Mr. Thun Saray, Criticizes the Slow Creation of Mechanisms to Respect Human Rights - Wednesday, 22.10.2008

Posted on 23 October 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 583

“Mr. Thun Saray, the director of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – spoke on 21 and 22 October 2008 during the discussion in a national workshop about the ASEAN Charter, the three institutions of ASEAN [ASEAN Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community], and an ASEAN Human Rights Institution. He said that in our world, the Asian region is the slowest to create a Human Rights Mechanism to promote the implementation of human rights in the region. However, during the period of the latest years, we see that much efforts have been made by officials of the governments as well as by many civil society organizations to encourage the creation of an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

“But before coming to the creation of a regional Human Rights Mechanism, it is important to first have an ASEAN Charter [1 MB, PDF]. On 20 October 2007, which was the 40th anniversary of the creation of ASEAN, the ASEAN summit had adopted an ASEAN Charter in Singapore [to establish a legal and institutional framework for ASEAN]. The ASEAN Charter speaks clearly about the creation of an ASEAN Human Rights Institution, but the Charter does not state the mandate or power or composition etc. of the Human Rights Institution.

“Cambodia has the ASEAN Charter already ratified on 18 April 2008. By 18 April 2008, six countries had it already ratified. These countries were Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam [but the text mentions only five countries!]. Since then, the governments of ASEAN formed a senior group to draft documents about the Human Rights Institution.

“In the meantime, while the efforts by government officials of ASEAN continued, also civil society organizations tried to create their own alliance to collect ideas from different organizations in the region to be made into one document as a joint recommendation for the work in the struggle of ideas to persuade officials from different governments in ASEAN to include our comments into the documents, to create a regional Human Rights Institution which is efficient to promote human rights in the region.

“The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy – SAPA – and Forum Asia have already organized such workshops in some countries in the region, like in Malaysia, in order to collect opinions and recommendations from civil society organizations. On 21 and 22 October, these organizations come to cooperate with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC - and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO – to organize workshops in Cambodia in order to collect opinions and recommendations from civil society organizations in Cambodia.

“Recently, ADHOC had presented a report about human rights abuses in Cambodia in 2008, showing that by July 2008, 64 cases showed that the number of human right abuses still strongly increased, compared to human rights abuses in previous years. Regarding these human rights abuses, ADHOC shows in most cases the connection to authorities of the government, like police, military police, village and commune chiefs, and court officials in some provinces and cities, acting against weak citizens.

“The report of ADHOC continues that among these cases, 34 cases related to threats against political activists and 2 cases related to the destruction of state property, 8 cases were related to physical assault, 12 cases were murders, 2 cases were kidnappings, and 6 cases were illegal detentions of humans. In July 2008, the number of threats against political activists increased dramatically to 34 cases, happening mostly during the previous fourth term parliamentary election campaign.

“Among those cases of human rights abuses, 20 cases happened in Kompong Cham, 10 in Siem Reap, 11 in Kampot, and 5 in Stung Treng. ADHOC considers that those provinces suffer from a higher rate of human rights abuses than other provinces in the country. Each human rights abuse, particularly physical assault related to politics, consists of the physical assault and the arrests of activists of parties that do not have power, it relates to the illegal actions by commune offices which were committed by the authorities, by police, soldiers, as well as by the military police who always used their power to arrest and detain citizens – which is against legal procedures – or to arrest citizens without arrest warrants from a court.

“The report went on to say that some authorities use their roles and their power to injure the weak, making them become victims very unjustly – while perpetrators and their helpers are still free from prosecution by the authorities. This shows the use of roles and of power to abuse the law by the authorities, and it shows the abuse of law and a bigger culture of impunity in Khmer society, at the present, due to the use of power beyond what the laws set.

“These cases represent most serious human rights abuses committed by the authorities, by military police, police, court officials etc. who mostly seek benefits for their partisans and for individuals; the government should take action to persecute them according to the law, and to punish any official who breaks the law; and the government should conduct reforms, so that the citizens can trust the institution of the court again.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #123, 22.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

cambodia: Work safety worsens as construction booms

Construction laborers at work at a building site in Phnom Penh. As the fast-modernizing city is transformed, safety standards are stuck in the past

The race is on to build Phnom Penh’s first skyscraper but as the fast-modernizing city famous for its graceful skyline transforms, safety standards appear to be stuck in the past.

MONDAY MORNING

The construction business in Cambodia is booming, attracting investments of 3.2 billion dollars in the first six months of this year and luring some 40,000 seasonal construction workers from impoverished provinces.

But, as construction worker Chan Vuthy can attest, work safety has deteriorated as buildings spring up. The day a blade from a malfunctioning saw cut deep into his knee, the 23-year-old was wearing flip-flops, a cloth hat and no protective equipment.

When he stumbled to the bottom of the site, his boss scolded him for recklessness.

He was then fired, and had to spend his savings on a month of hospital treatment.

Cambodian construction workers risk their lives for an average wage of two and a half dollars a day, commented Sok Sovandeith, president of the Cambodia National Federation of Building and Wood Workers.

There are no laws to force construction enterprises to pay adequate wages, and few workers have any training and companies have little incentive to take measures to avoid accidents or use equipment such as hard helmets, work boots or safety harnesses.

“We’re very worried about poor working conditions, which have not been improved or guaranteed by law”, Sok Sovandeith said, adding that construction work is the most dangerous kind of labor in the country.“After inspections, we found a lot of building sites and companies do not give out safety materials”.

Many construction companies lay the blame for poor safety on workers who do not protect themselves.

So far the government has sided with businesses, taking no action to ensure better work conditions amid the building boom, which has attracted investment from South Korea and China and helped fuel double-digit economic growth.

“The whole country acknowledges that construction is the third gem besides the agriculture and garment sectors to boost the domestic economy”, says Im Chamrong, head of Cambodia’s General Department of Construction.

“Some construction companies can’t afford the safety equipment. We cannot force them to buy it”, Im Chamrong explained.

With few zoning regulations, new construction projects tower over traditional Khmer homes and the old French villas built in the colonial era.

In June, a South Korean company broke ground on a 52-storey tower slated to be the country’s tallest skyscraper when it is completed in 2012, while all across the capital tall buildings are going up.Once-sleepy boulevards are already crammed with expensive cars driven by the country’s growing elite.

But the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, with about 35 percent of the country’s 14 million people living on less than 50 US cents a day. These are the men and women who end up migrating to the capital and risking their lives on building sites for a couple of dollars a day.

There are no statistics for accidents in Cambodia’s construction industry, but there are many anecdotes about deaths and injuries to workers.

“There have been a lot of people being killed accidentally, but some companies try to hide the figure of the dead and victims”, Sok Sovandeth says, adding the country needs better labor laws to save lives.

Cambodia appoints first female deputy premier

Thursday October 23, 2008

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodia has appointed former soldier turned journalist Mem Sam An as its first female deputy prime minister, the politician confirmed Thursday.

The 55-year-old, who represents the south-western province of Svay Rieng, was a senior minister in the previous cabinet and said she is honoured by the promotion.

Mem Sam An became part of Cambodian folklore in the 1970s, marshalling troops on the Vietnam border against the Khmer Rouge with what her comrades describe as extraordinary bravery.

She subsequently became an important member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which was returned with an increased majority in national elections in July, and has also worked as a journalist for party publications.

"I became a soldier when I was 16. This honour shows that women can achieve anything if they have support," she said.

In Cambodia, seven deputy prime ministers jointly served under Prime Minister Hun Sen last term.

Democratic elections resumed in Cambodia in 1993 after nearly three decades of civil war and are held every five years.

Politics in Cambodia has traditionally been male-dominated, although there are a number of powerful female politicians, especially within Mem Sam An's own party.

Residents angered by floods in Russey Keo demand help

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The flooded Road 598 in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Roads are impassable, schools cannot operate and residents complain that polluted flood waters are making them sick

RESIDENTS of Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district, whose homes repeatedly flood following development there by the municipality, are threatening to protest if the authorities fail to drain the area by the beginning of next month.

Vath Chamnan, 35, a resident of Phnom Penh's Thmey commune, said the residents from his village have agreed to collect thumbprints on a compensation demand that they are planning to submit to City Hall.

"We will collect the thumbprints of all those who have had their homes flooded by the development plan if the government continues flooding our village," Vath Chamnan said.

He added that all affected residents from the Russey Keo district will have an opportunity to thumbprint the compensation demand.

The children from the district cannot attend school as it has been flooded, and the residents are getting skin infections from walking in the polluted water, he said.

"The children will soon be at risk of cholera and dengue fever," he added. Mei Vicheth, a resident of Boeung Chhouk village in the area, has labeled Phnom Penh's development plan "a ruin the city plan" and said that villagers were very angry with the capitals governor, Kep Chuktema.

"Phnom Penh's governor claims he is developing Phnom Penh to attract tourists, but he is pumping sand to fill in drainage ponds and this is causing pollution and floods," Mei Vicheth said.

" Authorities should be liable for this flood and provide materials and food . "

Government liable

Sok Sambath, chief of Kilometre No 6 commune and a former Sam Rainsy Party activist who defected to the Cambodian People's Party before the July elections, said he disapproves of the filling in of the drainage ponds in his commune.

"The governor of Russey Keo district and the governor of Phnom Penh approved this to develop a factory and modern buildings," he said.

"Now 70 percent of people's homes and many newly constructed roads have been flooded by the landfill."

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap agreed, saying "Phnom Penh authorities should be liable for this flood and provide materials and food for the villagers".

"They must have a drainage system ready before embarking on any development," he said. Thun Saray, president of Adhoc, said the authorities should rethink their master development plan because many Phnom Penh roads have no drainage system and the city will inevitably flood.

Kep Chuktema, the governor of Phnom Penh, said that City Hall was unable to pump out the water from the flooded areas as it was simply a seasonal deluge.

Funcinpec members to jump ship over lack of govt positions

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prince Norodom Ranriddh at a press conference last month.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Half of Funcinpec is threatening to defect, saying they laid out cash while campaigning and expected government positions in return

DISGRUNTLED Funcinpec members are threatening to abandon their party for the Norodom Ranariddh Party because they were not given the positions in government that they expected, officials said Tuesday.

Ok Socheat, an advisor to the Funcinpec Party, told the Post that many officials who had not been appointed government positions were angry that they'd spent large amounts of money contesting the July 27 election but have no role in the coalition government to show for it.

"Before the election we heard that 300 officials would be appointed in government, but then the number was decreased to 61," he said, adding that up to 50 percent of the party's members had begun plotting their defection to other parties.

"It is normal for them to be angry. They have spent a lot of money to seek votes. So when they are given no positions, some of them turned to Samdech Krompreah," Socheat said, referring to Norodom Ranariddh by his royal title.

"Some officials expected that they could persuade the Prince to re-lead Funcinpec."

He said that out of multiple positions at the 26 ministries and two secretariats of state, Funcinpec officials have only been given one ministry, one secretary of state and one under secretary of state.

Fighting a losing battle

In terms of advisors to the government, only two Funcinpec officials, Tea Chamrath and Duong Khem, were appointed alongside four senior ministers and one deputy prime minister, he said.

Funcinpec's Secretary General and Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Suth Dina, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), told the Post that regardless of Prince Ranariddh's recent decision to leave his self-titled party, many Funcinpec officials had been courting the NRP because they were disappointed with their positions.

" It is normal for them to be angry. They have spent a lot of money to seek votes "

"Just because the Prince has resigned as NRP president, it does not mean that he has resigned from politics," said Suth Dina.

Suth Dina also indicated that he thought some officials turned to the Prince because they hoped he would go on to lead Funcinpec.

But Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec, said that there was no basis to believe the Prince anymore.

"He used to say he would pump his royal blood into politics, but where is he now?" he asked.

Govt to decide refugee cases

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Montagnards protest the deportation of 28 ethnic minority asylum-seekers outside the Phnom Penh UNHCR office in July.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Refugees and asylum-seekers will now have their cases reviewed by the Department of Immigration, but the UN is not completely out of the loop

FOREIGN asylum-seekers in Cambodia will now have their cases heard at the Department of Immigration rather than the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) office, according to a press release Monday.

The UNHCR office has been the port of call for refugees in Cambodia for the last 14 years, serving the needs of a small number of people, mainly persecuted Montagnards from Vietnam's Central Highlands who have been forced to flee their homelands.

According to the press release, the decision on whether to grant refugee status to individuals still rests with UNHCR officers, but will be done in stricter consultation with Cambodian officials, with the goal of eventually handing over authority entirely.

Toshi Kawauchi, protection officer at the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh, told the Post Tuesday that he saw the move as a positive step, symbolising Cambodia's growing responsibility in the area of refugee rights.

"It is a positive sign that the government is committing itself and taking responsibility [for refugee law]," he said.

He added that although the office has already moved, the government and the UN were still in the process of drafting domestic laws that would formalise the new procedures.

"It is an ongoing process," he said.

"Right now we are preparing the legal framework that will be needed to formulate proceedings."Sok Phal, deputy director of immigration police, said that the move represents Cambodia's commitment to upholding international standards of law without the help of the UN.

"We have always worked in cooperation with UNHCR, and now we will continue to cooperate with UNHCR, but we will be the authority."

Government policies, in which the UNHCR were complicit, came under fire earlier this year when scores of Montagnards protested the deportation of 28 of their fellow asylum-seekers outside the UNHCR office.

According to the UNHCR, only around 300 Montagnards have been granted refugee or asylum-seeker status and remain in Cambodia.

Kawauchi said the UNHCR was confident the Cambodian government would incorporate international standards when rewriting their domestic laws.

Exodus of villagers ends as calm returns to border areas

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Villagers returning to their homes in Koy Muoy village after tensions at Preah Vihear eased.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

As a quiet spreads over the border between Thailand and Cambodia, villagers who fled the fighting are returning home

Preah Vihear

HUNDREDS of people who fled their homes near the Thai border when fighting broke out between Cambodian and Thai soldiers last week have now returned to their villages.

About 90 percent of villagers in Kor Muoy, a village only about six kilometres from the temple, left following last week's fighting, leaving a ghost town behind.

Almost all the doors and windows were locked. The main street was nearly empty, and the normally bustling market was quiet.

Three days later, villagers have started to trickle back to their homes, walking the streets and shopping at the market - signs that normalcy is returning to the border.

Chan Sok, a 42-year-old woman who fled shortly after the outbreak of fighting, told the Post that her family fled to Sra Em commune some 30 kilometres away because she feared that the border skirmishes could escalate into full-blown war.

"Even if I was in the bank, I was not confident I was safe," she said.

Chan Sok had just moved her small business from the Poipet border to Kor Muoy village six months ago.

"I was very frightened, and I thought that the fighting would just get more serious," she said.

Yem Pheap, 44, stayed in Kor Muoy village because she could not afford the transportation costs out of the area.

"I was very afraid during the shooting, but I did not know where to go, and I did not have the money for transportation, so I had to risk staying here," she said.

Chea Keo, the deputy commander of Military Region 4 stationed at the temple, told the Post that the situation was now calm along the border near Preah Vihear and that villagers could safely return to their homes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, following last Friday's cabinet meeting, appealed to people along the border to stay in their villages and to resume friendship with their Thai neighbours to ensure a good business climate.

"I would like to appeal to the people along the border to not be afraid. The situation along the border is under control," Hun Sen said. He also appealed to the villagers not to hoard goods or petrol because it was not necessary.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

As prices rise, workers go foraging

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Garment factory workers are increasingly feeling the pinch with food prices double what they were last year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Food prices have doubled since last year, but factory wages have remained static. In response, many garment workers have started foraging for food in a bid to save some cash

FORAGING for food is an increasingly popular weekend pursuit for garment workers feeling the pinch due to the spiraling cost of goods.

"This year, my livelihood has got so much worse," said Vang Phanna, 20, a garment worker who was collecting water hyacinth in a pond in the Dangkor district of Phnom Penh.

"The price of food has doubled since," she said, adding that the price of rice went up from 1,200 to 2,800 riels (US$0.30 to $0.70) per kilo this year.

To avoid spending too much of her $50-a-month salary on food, Vang Phanna and her friends now go every weekend to forage for snails, crabs and wild vegetables in the fields around the garment factory that employs them.

"I spend all of my monthly salary on food, rent, electricity and water," Vang Phanna said, adding that were she not to forage, she would spend a disproportionate percentage on food.

Teng Srey, 18, one of Vang Phanna's colleagues, has been trying to reduce her living expenses by sharing a room with six other garment workers and reducing the number of times she travels back to visit her family in Kampong Chhnang province.

"It is not only food prices but also bus ticket prices that have doubled this year," she said, adding that she used to spend 5,000 riels for a bus fare back home but now she has to pay 10,000 riels for the same ticket.

Barely enough

While in past years Teng Srey prided herself on being able to send part of her salary home to support her family in the province, nowadays her salary is barely enough to support herself.

"Last year I was able to save some money to send back home to support my other three siblings to study. This year I have sent nothing. What I earned was just enough for me to survive."

"I don't know whether my three siblings had to postpone their studies because I haven't had the money to visit them for the last few months."

Sam Ath, 33, who has been working in a Phnom Penh garment factory for the last two years, said that last year she used to be able to send US$20 per month to her parents in Takeo province.

"Since the beginning of this year, I haven't sent anything to my parents," she said.

The total number of employees in the garment industry stands at approximately 350,000. Most garment workers come to Phnom Penh from the provinces to work in the city's factories.

Phnom Penh rated the second-worst city in the world to visit

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Phnom Penh’s Independece Monument bedecked with coloured lights is a key tourist attraction.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

'Government indifference' has earned the capital the second-worst rating in National Geographic's 2008 destination survey

AN annual National Geographic survey has rated Phnom Penh the "second-worst" city in the world to visit, putting its shortcomings down to "government indifference".

The 2008 "Places Rated" Destination Stewardship survey, announced this week by National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations, based its ranking on how well cities endured the pressures of mass tourism, the ravages of nature and the onslaught of global development.

According to the iconic magazine, the charm of Phnom Penh has been "lost to uncontrolled urban growth and the outright greed of land speculation", one of the judges said, adding it was a "very sad story" its astute colonial urban planning had now all but disappeared.

Govt dismisses result

Kousoum Saroeth, deputy director of the Cambodian Board of Tourism, dismissed the survey, saying that development has an overall "good impact" on tourism.

"Right now we have many projects that are helping organise tourism events in Cambodia," he said Tuesday, adding that tourism was one of the big earners in Cambodia.

The survey, which was judged by an independent panel of 280 experts in travel-related fields from around the globe, asked participants to scrutinise 109 historic places - the theme of the 2008 survey.

They were also asked to evaluate the qualities that make a destination unique.

Earlier this month, architects and urban planners warned the government that major commercial development projects, such as the filling-in of Boeung Kak lake, were tarnishing the once architecturally-lauded city. But City Hall has insisted all plans were sustainable.

Phnom Penh will sit just above Central City, in the US state of Colorado, when the full list of cities is featured in the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. It was labelled worst because, judges claim, casinos stole its charm.

Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal Moves Forward

The war victims in Cambodia


Khmer Rouge Trials Progress after 7-Month Standstill

The Seoul Times

By Anya Palm
Special Correspondent

The Cambodian government asked in 1997 the UN for help to establish a war crimes tribunal, which should bring to trial the perpetrators that dragged Cambodia through unspeakable horrors in the late 70s. Today, after 10 years of negotiations and several attempts of sabotage towards the tribunal, the Cambodian people are closer to see at least some form of justice than ever.

But it did not look good until only 14 days ago. November 2006, the tribunal was caught in a deadlock over the internal rules. UN said they would not let the tribunal proceed without an agreement on these rules and thus, over the past 7 months, there have been hard negotiations and several failed attempts to reach a solution.

But June 14, the judges agreed upon the wording of every single one of the hundreds of internal rules after having discussed them for a fortnight.

Defense was tough

The biggest challenge has been to secure the rights of the defendants. The defense refused to compromise on several rights, including the right to choose a team of lawyers, to remain silent, to be considered innocent until convicted and be trialed within a reasonable timeframe. The prosecutors decided to accept those non-negotiable rules.

- We could not have hoped for a better result. Apart from the defense, there have been very few disagreements during the meeting. They even had time to discuss beyond the agenda, says Peter Foster, UN spokesperson for the KR Tribunal. He adds that there is at least one case ready to be handed over from the prosecutors.

The first case is very likely to be Duch, the former leader of Tuol Sleng, the notorious torture prison where none but a handful of the 17,000 prisoners survived. However, nothing is public yet.

Monitors satisfied – for now

DanChurchAid's collaboration partner, human rights organization Adhoc is one of the biggest local contributors to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, the formal name of the trials. But they are also one of the critics. Director Thun Saray says he is satisfied with the rules — for now.

- In general, the rules are ok. It seems like the judges have listened to the advice from the international experts and the NGOs, he says. But he points out, though, that there is a very tight budget for witness protection and that might be a problem later.

- We are contempt for now. But we will need to monitor the status of the budget for witness protection, because as it is now, there is not money enough for that, he says.

The ECCC expects to start the prosecution of the defendants in the end of 2007 or beginning of 2008, according to Peter Foster.

Fact Box:

The Khmer Rouge, lead by Brother Number 1, Pol Pot, controlled Cambodia in between 1975-1979. During those years, the regime attempted to convert Cambodia into a one class society by idealizing the worker and have the entire population farming rice in the provinces. During that experiment, about two million civilian Cambodians were either murdered or died from hunger, disease or the hard labor in the field.

The Child Health Site Funds Clean Water System for Cambodian Hospital

Seattle, WA, October 22, 2008 --(PR.com)-- GreaterGood.org and The Child Health Site is pleased to announce the gift of $8,370 to the nonprofit A Child’s Right. This gift will be used to install one clean water system as well as construction for a clean water station at Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The installation is expected to provide clean water for approximately 10,000 children a year treated at the hospital and for their families, who camp near the hospital while their children are undergoing treatment.

The Angkor Hospital system will be installed in November. Eric Stowe, executive director of A Child’s Right, will be accompanied on this trip by volunteers including Brian Ebersole, former mayor of Tacoma, and George Flanigan, city inspector for the City of Gig Harbor.

As well as aiding in the installation of the water systems at Angkor Hospital, Stowe and his volunteers will travel to other sites in Cambodia, ranging from street shelters to orphanages, to install clean water systems. They will be in Cambodia from November 14 to November 24.

“The work that A Child’s Right performs is vitally important to the long-term health of children in need. We were impressed by the effectiveness and the efficiency of the system used by A Child’s Right and look forward to working with them in the future to fund more clean water projects,” said Lisa Halstead, president of GreaterGood.org.

More About A Child’s Right

Based in Tacoma, WA, the nonprofit A Child’s Right provides the very best in water purification systems to children living orphanages and street shelters, children’s hospitals, and schools. Under the direction of Eric Stowe, A Child’s Right has grown rapidly in the past 18 months to become the single largest provider of clean water during the 2008 China earthquake relief effort, serving approximately 50,000 children in the region.

By utilizing the same high-tech, low maintenance systems that provide clean water for Starbucks and McDonalds in China, Stowe has been able to address the most basic health need of children and drastically reduce the expenses of the organizations caring for those children. With a new water filtration system installed by A Child’s Right, the orphanages, shelters, schools, and hospitals no longer need to import expensive bottled water to protect the health of the children in their care.

“Our standards are simple,” explained Stowe. “If the water is not clean enough to give to our own children, we won’t give it to any child.” The filtration system used by A Child’s Right eliminates virtually all bacteria, viruses, pathogens, and cysts from the water. Upon the installation of a system, Stowe and his volunteers always celebrate by taking the first drink of clean water on site.

Once installed, the water systems provided by A Child’s Right need only 5 to 10 minutes of maintenance a year. In-country staff check on every site every three months for the first two years and every six months the following years to ensure the system’s integrity and the quality of water.

“What is amazing about the new technology is how quickly we can set these up,” said Stowe. “We used to dig up water and sewage lines and be filthy for days. But now, we can install a system in under six hours.”

The systems are paid for and maintained through a combination of corporate and foundation grants as well as private donations. Volunteers of all ages from the United States have assisted Stowe and the nonprofit’s in-country staff in the installation of systems in Nepal, China, Ethiopia, Thailand and Cambodia, providing continual access to clean water for thousands of children.

A Child’s Right currently has agreements with the Chinese government to provide new clean water systems to 500 orphanages over the next five years. The goal, said Stowe, is “to provide clean water to every institutionalized orphan in China by 2013.”

More About The Child Health Site

Launched in October 2002, The Child Health Site focuses the power of the Internet on a specific need: saving children by funding basic but critical health services.

To fulfill its mission, The Child Health Site raises funds for charities through three important channels: the company’s innovative Click to Give™ program, direct donations through such site programs as Gifts That Give More™, and contributions paid for by items sold through The Child Health Site’s store.

The Click to Give™ program on the site’s homepage (www.thechildhealthsite.com) is paid for by advertisers and 100% of this ad revenue goes directly to support the work of the charities listed on the site. In 2007, visitor clicks funded basic but critical health services for more than half a million children in need around the world.

The totals of the 2008 Click to Give™ program are posted on The Child Health Site’s results page and are updated daily.

The Child Health Site is part of the GreaterGood Network of websites. To learn more, visit www.thechildhealthsite.com or www.greatergood.org.