Sunday, 5 April 2009

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge: The cadre's story



AlJazeeraEnglish

Him Huy was a farmer before he joined the Khmer Rouge as a young revolutionary.

He became a guard at S-21, the Phnom Penh prison where thousands were detained and tortured. But when the Khmer Rouge began eradicating its own members he began having second thoughts.

He tells Al Jazeera his story.

Talks Can Ease Thai-Cambodian Border Tension -PM

A Thai commander talks to a Cambodian commander at the front line of their disputed border in Preah Vihear
Thai authorities said two of their soldiers were killed and nine wounded on Friday in a clash around the Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday supported Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen's move to downplay a border clash, calling it the result of a misunderstanding that could be resolved through amicable talks.

Thai authorities said two of their soldiers were killed and nine wounded on Friday in a clash around the Preah Vihear temple, the worst fighting since a military stand-off near the area last year.

Cambodia said it suffered no casualties after the troops of the two sides exchanged rifle and rocket fire.

Preah Vihear, a 900-year-old Hindu temple known as Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, sits on an escarpment that forms the natural border between the two countries and has been a source of tension for generations.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday the clash would not escalate into a more serious conflict.

"I regard the fighting yesterday as an incident, not a war. I don't want to see these incidents repeated or fighting expand to other areas," Hun Sen said.

Tension over the fresh clash eased through sustained dialogue between Thai and Cambodian officials, Abhisit said on a weekly television programme.

He said the latest incident started with a Thai soldier stepping on a landmine in a disputed area over which both countries claimed sovereignty.

"Many border areas have problems arising from a dispute over counter claims by both countries," Abhisit said.

"There have been bilateral government talks over these problems, including contacts between me and Prime Mininister Hun Sen that have created mutual understanding that they should be resolved through negotiations," he said.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

A joint border committee set up to demarcate the jungle-clad border area after last year's clashes, which killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers, will meet again on Monday for three days of talks.

Both sides have talked about developing the site, some 600 km (370 miles) east of Bangkok and only a decade ago controlled by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army, into a tourist destination.

Interference 'deplored' by judge

stuff.co.nz

By MAGGIE TAIT - NZPA
05/04/2009

As Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen says he can't wait for the tribunal hearing cases against Pol Pot's henchmen to fold, Dame Silvia Cartwright says political interference in any court proceeding is deplorable.

Justice Cartwright, a New Zealander, is one of five judges sitting on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal which Hun Sen verbally lashed last Tuesday - the day after the UN-backed international-Cambodian court started hearing its first case.

It took 30 years to have the trials, and only five high-ranked cadres of the extreme communist regime are being charged, starting with Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, who ran Tuol Sleng torture centre and prison.

The court has been beset by delays and accusations of corruption and political interference. The judges have ruled it is up to local authorities to examine such claims.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a speech on Tuesday, expressed disdain for the court and made it clear he wanted everything wrapped up as soon as possible.

There are concerns that the Duch trial could be the first and last the multi-million dollar court hears.

Money may be one way of ending the process. So far the court's budget has ballooned to $170 million for five years.

"I would pray for this court to run out of money and for the foreign judges and prosecutors to walk out," Hun Sen said.

"That would allow for Cambodia to finish the trial by itself."

The Prime Minister's speech was also read as confirmation by some that the Cambodian representatives on the court were under his influence.

Dame Silvia would not comment directly, saying it was a political matter, but she was clearly unimpressed by the verbal attack.

"Countries where the rule of law is respected and where their citizens can be sure of a fair trial are those in which the independence of the courts and judges is guaranteed," she said.

"Comments, politically motivated or otherwise, which appear to be an attempt to interfere with that independence are therefore to be deplored."

- NZPA

Cambodia favours Vietnamese goods

VOV News
04/05/2009

A recent survey by Cambodia’s largest daily newspaper, Rasmei Kampuchea, shows that Vietnamese goods are especially favoured in the Cambodian market.

The survey was conducted among senior officials of the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce and the country’s consumers during a Vietnamese products fair in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

According to the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, Vietnam took the lead with US$988 million worth of products consumed in Cambodia in 2008, surpassing China ($784 million) and Thailand ($674 million).

Vietnam exports a wide range of commodities to Cambodia, such as medicine, cosmetics, textiles and garments, electronics, mechanical products, processed food, fruit and vegetables.

This is the second year that Vietnam has topped the list of countries producing goods consumed in Cambodia.Cambodian economic experts predict that with its geographical advantage, Vietnam will be able to maintain its leading position if it continues to diversify its products and improve its designs.

Thai prime minister shrugs off Cambodian border battle

Earth Times

Sun, 05 Apr 2009 07:35:57 GMT
Author : DPA

Bangkok - Two short, sharp border clashes with Cambodia that left at least two Thai soldiers dead last week will not sour essentially good relations between the two neighbours, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Sunday. Thai and Cambodia troops engaged in at least two brisk shootouts Friday that killed two Thai soldiers and wounded a dozen more on disputed ground near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, located 350 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

Abhisit said he would discuss the dispute with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at this week's Association of South-East Asian Nations summit hosted by Thailand.

"This was not a war, it was a misunderstanding," he told a television audience.

His remarks echoed the conciliatory remarks made by Hun Sen yesterday when he called for an easing of tensions. Cambodia has not reported any casualties.

The two neighbours have a long history of quarreling over the ownership of part of the land surrounding the temple ruins on their joint border, often reflecting nationalist and political tensions within their own countries.

The dispute escalated in July when clashes left two Cambodian soldiers dead and several Thais wounded shortly after the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the ancient Hindu temple a World Heritage Site despite Thai objections.

The International Court of Justice granted ownership of the temple site to Cambodia in 1962. But land adjacent to the temple compound, including its main entrance on the Thai side, is claimed by both countries.

The Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was forced to apologize for allegedly calling the Cambodian prime minister a "gangster" in a parliamentary debate. Kasit claimed that characterization was a mistaken translation from his Thai phrasing, which he said meant "lion-hearted."

3rd Thai soldier dies after clash

The Straits Times
April 5, 2009

BANGKOK - A THAI soldier died of his injuries following a border gunbattle with Cambodian forces which claimed the lives of two other troops from his country, the Thai military said on Sunday.
Soldiers from both countries fought with machineguns, rockets and mortars on Friday as a long-running feud over territory near a temple on their disputed frontier boiled over.

'A third soldier died yesterday (Saturday). Another is still in a critical condition,' a Thai military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

One of the other soldiers died at the site of the clash on Friday and the other passed away in hospital on the same day.

Cambodian and Thai officials held talks on Sunday to prevent any further fighting near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple. -- AFP

Thai, Cambodian field commanders agree to avoid clashes in future

MCOT English News

SI SA KET, April 5 (TNA) -- Two days after deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, field commanders of the two neighbouring countries agreed Sunday to avoid future battle through talks.

Thailand’s Suranaree Task Force commander Maj-Gen. Kanok Netrakavaesana told a press conference that he had discussed with Cambodia’s local commander Lt-Gen. Srey Deok at a temple atop Preah Vihear earlier in the day, agreeing maintain tighter discipline over their field commanders to keep the peace in the temple vicinity.

If any problem arises in future, army commanders of both sides in the area will come to the negotiating table and find ways to solve the problem, Maj-Gen. Kanok said.

The latest clashes were purely “accidental” and both sides agreed to avoiding future clashes, he said.

The latest incident broke out last Friday when soldiers of the two countries clashed twice near the ancient temple. Two Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers died in the fighting while nine Thai soldiers were wounded.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple – called Khao Prah Viharn by Thais -- belongs to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance is from a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the same portions of surrounding territory.

On reports that Cambodian soldiers have moved six tanks to two villages near Preah Vihear which could be interpreted as reinforcing their troops in the area, Maj-Gen. Kanok said it was Cambodia’s concern, but the number of Thai troops in the area remained unchanged.

“Future problems can be settled through talks immediately,” he added, “because Thailand and Cambodia are friendly long time ago,” he added. (TNA)

Thailand and Cambodia agree to prevent border fightings

The Nation
Sun, April 5, 2009

Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Sunday that their commanders would increase their supervising over their soldiers to prevent reoccurrence of the last week's fighting in which two Thai soldiers were killed.

They firmly agreed that their troops must stay on their territory.

Maj Gen Kanok Natrakawesana, commander of Suranaree Task Force held an urgent meeting with Cambodian Maj Gen Srey Doek in Preah Vihear Temple on Sunday morning.

After the meeting, Kanok described the meeting as constructive.

Two Thai soldiers were killed Friday when troops from both countries fought heavy gun battles. In addition, Kanok said that the soldiers who guarded the border area would not be allowed to bring in any alcohol drinks to the border area.

"If any problem happens, commanders of both sides would immediately step in to prevent any fightings," Kanok said.

Referring to the last week's fightings, Kanok said it was a misunderstanding and both countries have already discussed and solved the misunderstanding. "We have agreed that we will cooperate more and such fightings would not happen again," he said.

Meanwhile Srey Doek told Khmer media that the meeting was held to make the situation return to normal and to make sure there's no more gunfire.

"We have agreed to stay on our own sides of the border," he said.

Cambodia, Thai PMs downplay clash

Eye-to-eye: A Thai soldier looks at a Cambodian trooper (R) at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, north of Phnom Penh yesterday. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict. Picture: Reuters

The Brunei Times

PREAH VIHEAR, CAMBODIA

Sunday, April 5, 2009

S'pore urges both sides to exercise 'utmost' restraint

TENSIONS were high among troops on both sides of the disputed Cambodian-Thai border yesterday while their prime ministers played down gunbattles near a temple which left two soldiers dead.

Both sides were jittery after Friday's firefight, which was the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Thai troops fired into the air in the morning after a Cambodian soldier's rifle accidentally discharged several shots, Cambodian troops said, while a Cambodian commander could be heard telling his soldiers to hide behind trees.

"The situation at the border is quiet now and back to normal," Cambodian commander Yem Pem said, adding that troops were on "24-hour alert".

Soldiers exchanged rocket, machinegun and mortar fire Friday, damaging the staircase of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, following a brief skirmish earlier in the day, officials said.

One Thai soldier was killed and another died in hospital later, while 10 others were injured, said the Thai military. Cambodian officials reported no casualties.

A Thai military official said nine soldiers were still being treated in hospital, with two of them in critical condition.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said the violence damaged a government office and local market. Hundreds of Cambodians who lost their homes in the fighting were evacuated to a school 20 kilometres away.

"We were so frightened because the situation was so tense," said Chum Vanna, 27, who was evacuated with her husband and children.

"I'm very angry with the Thai soldiers. All of my belongings were completely burnt. We came here with just a few clothes," she added.

The area saw several clashes last year after Cambodia received United Nations World Heritage status for the temple ruins in July. Four soldiers were killed in a firefight in October.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart were keen to defuse the latest crisis, both sides insisting usual border committee talks would proceed along with meetings scheduled at a key regional summit next week.

"It is normal that every side has the right to self-defence. If they come, it happens. And as we enter their territory they also have the right to fire at us," Hun Sen said during a visit to the southern province of Kampot.

"But we consider this (clash) an incident. I don't call it a war... We are very sorry. We don't want Cambodian or Thai soldiers to die," he added.

"I think (the talks) must go ahead," Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters. "We don't want to see clashes and losses on either side."

Thai army chief General Anupong Paojinda said Cambodian and Thai officials were in talks to defuse the stand off.

"High level officials are talking to each other with good mutual understanding. There are no problems," he said.

Hun Sen and Abhisit are due to join a summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and key regional partners in Thailand from Friday.

Singapore, meanwhile, urged both sides to "exercise utmost restraint in the broader interests of the region".

Friday's clashes came three days after Hun Sen warned Thailand not to allow its troops to cross into disputed land.Bangkok denies claims that 100 soldiers went over the frontier a week ago.AFP

Thai PM to discuss border dispute with Cambodian PM during ASEAN Plus Three summit

People's Daily Online
April 05, 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Sunday said he would discuss about the border dispute issue with Cambodian Prime Minister Hunsen during the ASEAN Plus Three summit to be held next week in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Abhisit expressed condolence to families of the two Thai soldiers, who died after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire on the disputed border area on Friday.

Abhisit vowed to quickly solve the ongoing border dispute, which had prolonged since both sides had had different views on the line of demarcation, the website by Bangkok Post reported.

The Thai Prime Minister said as he respected the International Court's ruling after it awarded the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, however, he conceded the situation had intensified after Cambodia applied to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

Abhisit said he would at the same time ensure that Thailand would not lose its territorial right on Thailand's northeastern province of Si Sa Ket, which borders Cambodia.

Also, Thai Deputy Prime Minister overseeing security affairs Suthep Thaugsuban and Defence Minister Pravit Wongsuwan were continually coordinating with Cambodian authorities, Abhisit said.

Thailand will hold the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN Plus Three summit from April 10 to 12 in beach resort Pattaya of Thailand's central province of Chonburi.

Source:Xinhua

After the clashed , is it time to laugh?

Cambodia Major General commander Srey Dek (R) arm wrestles with Thai Major General Kanok NetraKaveysana (L) during a joint lunch at Koe sekhakirisrarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple April 5, 2009. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday supported Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen's move to downplay a border clash, calling it the result of a misunderstanding that could be resolved through amicable talks. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea ( CAMBODIA POLITICS IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

Cambodia Major General commander Srey Dek (L) shakes hands with Thai Major General Kanok NetraKaveysana (R) on their way to a joint lunch at Koe sekhakirisrarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple April 5, 2009. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday supported Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen's move to downplay a border clash, calling it the result of a misunderstanding that could be resolved through amicable talks. Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing two Thais in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea ( CAMBODIA POLITICS IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

Cambodian New Year parade still on, despite setbacks

Long Beach Press-Telegram
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/04/2009

LONG BEACH - After a tumultuous offseason, the Cambodian New Year parade celebrating the Year of the Ox, 2553 on the Cambodian calendar, will embark today on its annual trek down Anaheim Street.

With its colorful array of floats, cars, community groups and dance troupes in traditional costume, the parade will once again be cheered on by thousands along the route from Junipero Avenue to MacArthur Park.

That the parade would be staged for a fifth straight year was not always a sure thing.

This year's theme, Cambodia Town for Prosperity, is ironic given financial hardships that were still being worked out days before the event.

After last year's parade and the related New Year celebration at El Dorado Park, the Cambodian Coordinating Council reported a $40,000 deficit owed to the city for services.

Parade organizers and the city settled on a payment plan to make up the deficit and enough money has been raised to keep the parade going this year.

This year's event is scheduled to begin about 9:45 a.m. with the traditional interfaith celebration.

Local pastors Wayne Chaney and Samuel Nhim will deliver prayers and local monks will bless the event.

Last year, the parade featured more than 80 entrants, its most ever. This year,

52 entrants were officially signed up as of Thursday with more expected who invariably sign up at the last minute.

After the parade wends past MacArthur Park, there will be a celebration from noon until
4 p.m. at a lot on the corner of Walnut Avenue and Anaheim Street with entertainment, refreshments and activities.

Traffic will be halted along Anaheim between 9 a.m. and noon. Cross traffic will be allowed intermittently, although it is recommended to navigate around the parade.

Parking for the event is available at the Long Beach City College Pacific Coast Highway campus and shuttles will run to the intersection of Anaheim and Temple Avenue and MacArthur Park. There will be VIP parking at the UCC Plaza at Junipero Avenue and Anaheim
.

Suranaree Taskforce chief meets Cambodian local army chief to discuss border dispute

April 5, 2009

Si Sa Ket - The commander of the Si Sa Ket-based Suranaree Taskforce and 20 army officers held a meeting with the commander of the 3rd Reinforcement Division of Cambodia Sunday morning.

Maj Gen Kanok Netkawesa and 20 other officers travelled in a military personnel carrier to Preah Vihear Temple to meet the Cambodian commander at 10:15 without company by the press.

The Nation

Standoff holds after Cambodia-Thai border clash

Cambodian soldiers close to Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border, north of Phnom Penh. Tensions eased but troops remained wary Sunday at the disputed Thai-Cambodian after gunbattles left two soldiers dead, Cambodian soldiers said. (April 5, 2009, 1:39 pm)


April 5, 2009

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) - Tensions eased but troops remained wary Sunday at the disputed Thai-Cambodian after gunbattles left two soldiers dead, Cambodian soldiers said.

Troops could be seen chatting and some even stowed away their weapons, but they said they remained ready to fight after their Friday clash -- the biggest burst of violence for months in a feud over territory near an ancient temple.

"The situation is not escalating, but if the Thais try to enter the banned area something might happen. If they don't come, there will be no problems," commander Bun Thean told AFP Sunday.

Soldiers exchanged rocket, machine-gun and mortar fire on Friday near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the frontier, following a brief skirmish earlier in the day, officials from both sides said.

Thai and Cambodian commanders planned to meet at their disputed border Sunday and eat lunch together in attempt to further calm tensions, Cambodian soldiers said.

The area was the scene of several clashes last year after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the ruins in July, with four soldiers killed in a battle there in October.

The countries have been at loggerheads over the site for decades.

One Thai soldier died at the site of the clash Friday and another died in hospital later, while 10 others were injured, said the Thai military.

Cambodian officials reported they suffered no casualties.

Nine soldiers were still being treated in two hospitals in the northeast Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani, two of them in a critical condition, said the Thai army.

Despite the violence, Cambodian premier Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva sought to play down the latest crisis.

Both countries have said border committee talks would proceed along with meetings scheduled at a key regional summit next week.

The premiers are due to take part in a summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and key regional partners in Thailand from April 10.

In 1962 the World Court awarded the ruins to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance is in Thailand, and landmines cover much of the disputed land.

PM vows to solve border dispute

By: BangkokPost.com
Published: 5/04/2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday that he was sorry about the clash between Thai and Cambodian troops near Preah Vihear temple, and vowed to quickly work out the ongoing border dispute between the two countries.

He expressed condolence to families of the two soldiers who died after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire on the disputed border area on Friday.

He said the border dispute had prolonged, since both sides had different views on the line of demarcation.

The prime minister said he respected the ruling of the International Court, after it awarded the ruins to Cambodia in 1962.

However, he admitted that the situation had intensified after Cambodia applied to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site and asked Thailand for approval.

Troops from both sides then gathered near the ancient temple. Until recently, a Thai soldier stepped on a landmine, and the two countries claimed that the land belonged to them.

Mr Abhisit said the government had discussed this with Cambodian high-ranking officials, and he and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen both agreed that the Joint Border Committee to continue negotiations.

He said Deputy Prime Minister overseeing security affairs Suthep Thaugsuban and Defence Minister Pravit Wongsuwan were continually coordinating with Cambodian authorities.

The Thai government will do its best to protect the country's territorial sovereignty, and this issue will be raised at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Plus Three and Plus Six summit, scheduled to be held in Pattaya this month.

ROTA team helps Cambodia orphans

A ROTA volunteer interacting with some of the children

4/5/2009
Source ::: THE PENINSULA

DOHA: Qatar-based NGO Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) has added one more feather to its cap by organising another successful volunteer trip to Cambodia, in partnership with Education City. The trip, from March 19 to 25, involved ROTA representatives, students and staff from Education City as well as representatives from Qatar Foundation and crew from the Al Jazeera children’s channel.

The volunteers visited the city of Siem Reap to support an ongoing project for the Working for Children (WFC) orphanage in Pouk district. At WFC, the team equipped a library with bookshelves, books and learning materials. They assisted in building a 400-metre fence to stop invasions by wild animals and also engaged in a little bit of gardening. The students also conducted educational workshops and entertainment activities, including face-painting, games, sports activities and English lessons.

A cultural element was the highlight of the volunteer trip — encompassing a Tuc-Tuc tour around Siem Reap, a traditional dance show, and visits to Tonle Sap floating village, Ta Prohm Temple (from the famed Indian Jones movies) and the Temple of Angkor Wat — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Cambodia suffers from a high drop-out rate in schools. On average, for every 100 students that starts Grade One, only 15 will get to Grade 12, of which only seven students will pass the exams and become eligible to pursue higher education.

The idea for a charity which would reach out to the Asian continent to provide those in need with quality education was conceived by Qatar’s Heir Apparent, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in November, 2005.

Guided by its Chairperson,

H E Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, Reach Out To Asia operates as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) within the framework of Qatar Foundation — a private non-profit organisation founded in 1995 by H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.

Qatar Foundation is built on the principle that a nation’s greatest resource is the potential of its people, and it aims to develop that potential internationally through a network of centers devoted to progressive education, research and community welfare.

ROTA’s mission is to extend that assistance into Asia — where it’s strategic geographic location gives it a unique opportunity to support its neighboring countries as they overcome developmental difficulties. In addition, more than 60 percent of Qatar’s own expatriate community is of Asian origin, giving ROTA added insight and understanding of the needs and cultural norms of the Asian people.

War crimes trial holds out hope for Cambodia

Portraits of the victims of the Khmer Rouge terror fill a hall in the genocide museum at Tuol Sleng

Bou Meng, one of a handful of survivors of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, points to himself in a picture at the genocide museum in Phnom Penh. His wife died in the jail
The Independent

Survivors of the killing fields are looking to a UN-sponsored court for justice, 34 years after the Khmer Rouge seized power. Andrew Buncombe reports

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Comrade Duch sits behind a screen of glass. Designed to withstand the force of bullets, the screen also deadens the noise of the proceedings. Visitors to the public gallery – survivors, relatives of the dead and those who simply want to witness history – can use headphones if they want to hear better. A team of interpreters provides simultaneous translation in French, English and Khmer.

And yet, as Cambodia's landmark genocide tribunal finally began to hear evidence last week, in a specially constructed courthouse on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the details that emerged could also have been described as being in another language: that of horror.

It is 35 years since the black-clad Khmer Rouge guerrillas swept out of the jungles of Cambodia and seized control of Phnom Penh, brutally forcing their country into an uncompromising, Maoist-inspired revolution that left an estimated 1.7 million people dead. And the horror of their four-year rule – a time of starvation, mass execution and sickness – still resonates, but it also mystifies. "For 30 years, a generation of Cambodians have been struggling to get answers for their fate," one of the two joint prosecutors, Chea Leang, told the court. "Justice will be done. History demands it."

Comrade Duch, or Kaing Guek Eav, is the first of five senior Khmer Rouge leaders to stand before the UN-sponsored court, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The other four defendants – the regime's second-in-command, Nuon Chea; the former foreign minister, Ieng Sary; the former social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith; and the former head of state, Khieu Samphan – all held more senior posts than Duch.

But the 66-year-old's position as head of Tuol Sleng prison placed him at the very heart of the regime's killing operation. And the enduring horror of the prison, in a former secondary school in Phnom Penh, is among the reasons the regime's brutality today holds such a place in the popular imagination.

It was at Tuol Sleng, or S-21, that thousands of alleged enemies of the regime were brought to be tortured, interrogated and dispatched for execution on the so-called killing fields at the edge of the city. Of the estimated 14,000 people sent to the prison, just 12 are known to have survived. Today, six of those are still alive. Among those killed was John Dewhirst, a teacher from Newcastle, who was captured by the Khmer Rouge aboard a motorised junk off the Cambodian coast and taken to the jail. Today, the prison is a museum and an essential stop for any visitor to Cambodia. The photographs of thousands of prisoners, taken by their guards, stare from the walls. The metal bed frames to which they were shackled remain in place. Yet even that haunting place provides only a glimpse of the horrors that took place inside the former classrooms.

On Monday, dressed in a pressed white shirt tucked neatly into his trousers, Duch sat, seemingly without emotion, as the indictment was read to the court, detailing the torture and murder that he oversaw. His prisoners, the court was told, were thrown to their deaths, bludgeoned, their stomachs slit, smothered with plastic bags and their blood drained away by medics until they collapsed. The children of prisoners were apparently taken from their parents, taken to the third storey, and dropped to the ground floor. "Several witnesses said that prisoners were killed using steel clubs, cart axles and water pipes to hit the base of their necks," the indictment continued. "Prisoners were then kicked into the pits, where their handcuffs were removed. Finally, the guards either cut open their bellies or their throats."

What makes the drama of the trial even more compelling is that Duch has not sought to deny his involvement, although he previously rejected the claims of witnesses that he personally killed anyone. Indeed, just a day after the wrenching list of allegations was read to him, he spoke of his desire for forgiveness.

Taking off his glasses and putting aside a prepared statement, Duch turned to look at the 500 or so people seated in the court's public gallery. "My current plea is that I would like you to please leave an open window for me to seek forgiveness," he said, vowing to give his full co-operation to the tribunal. "This is the only remedy that can help me to relieve all the sorrow and crimes I have committed."

He added: "At the beginning I only prayed to ask for forgiveness from my parents, but later I prayed to ask forgiveness from the whole nation ... I wish to express my deep regretfulness and my heartfelt sorrow."

Among those sitting and listening to Duch were Chum Mei and Bou Meng, two of the handful of S-21 survivors. "I felt a little feeling of relief but I don't trust him 100 per cent," said Chum Mei, a former mechanic who survived because of his ability to help maintain the prison's machinery. "I know Duch well. This man, he has many tricks. He just said these words because he wants the court to reduce his sentence."

Vann Nath is another who survived the horrors of Tuol Sleng. Listed as a possible witness, the 63-year-old painter has been barred from attending this part of the trial. In a recent interview with The Independent on Sunday at his gallery in Phnom Penh, he revealed how he had survived because Duch came to learn of his skills as a painter. Separated from the other prisoners, Vann Nath was put to work producing portraits of the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, who died in 1998.

"I saw a lot of things during my year in the prison," he said, surrounded by paintings showing scenes from Tuol Sleng, the colours dark and menacing except for the glare of the prison's bare lights. "It was [worst] during the day. They were interrogating new prisoners who'd come. There was torture, screaming, lots of activity. I saw Duch every day, he came to my place every day." The white-haired man, now in less than perfect health, saw Duch last year when the court held preliminary hearings and travelled to the notorious killing fields site located close to a village called Choeung Ek. There, Duch had broken down and wept, though Vann Nath could not see him very clearly. Asked how he would feel to finally see Duch in court, he said: "The most significant thing is that I have lived to see the trial. I cannot guess what my feelings will be, but I hope for now that we can get a kind of justice."

The move to place Duch and his fellow defendants before the tribunal has not been without controversy. Indeed, the Cambodian government, headed by the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander, has been accused of blocking the remit of the court in order to protect former regime officials now in senior positions within the establishment. Others, too, have expressed concerns that the process could be divisive for the country rather than healing. In a nation where half the population is aged below 25, and where the Khmer Rouge's rule has only recently become part of the school curriculum, some might be inclined, in that utterly inadequate cliché, to let sleeping dogs lie.

Others disagree. Professor David Chandler, a Khmer Rouge expert and author of the study Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison, said: "I think the trials are immensely important because the people who had been in command positions in [the regime] need to face some of their accusers. Whether this will help Cambodia deal with its past on a mass scale is impossible to say, but the fact that the perpetrators of the documented crimes against humanity that occurred are not immune from prosecution is a start towards ending the culture of impunity which has affected those in power in Cambodia throughout its history."

The Khmer Rouge came to power in April 1975, seizing on anti-government feelings that had been exacerbated by a massive US bombing campaign which was a spill-over from the war in Vietnam. When they swept into Phnom Penh they were initially cheered, but within days the cadres were forcing people to leave their homes and possessions and to march into the countryside, where work camps were set up.

The regime fell in January 1979, when Vietnamese forces entered the country, and the Khmer Rouge began a long guerrilla war. Duch slipped out of Phnom Penh, converted to Christianity and worked with a US charity on the Cambodian border. He was only brought before the tribunal after he was discovered in 1999 by the Irish-born photojournalist Nic Dunlop, author of The Lost Executioner.

Mr Dunlop was this week in court to watch the proceedings. "My thought is that if this is going to have an impact on Cambodia it has to get outside of these walls," he said. "So far that has failed to happen. While this whole thing is costing $143m, only $50,000 of that has been set aside for outreach projects."

Some hope that once the tribunal has completed its task, Cambodia can work on putting its dark past behind it. Soysrey Line, a 22-year-old student who works as a waitress at a street food stall in the centre of Phnom Penh, said she feared the Khmer Rouge had tarnished the name of Cambodia around the world. "People know that Pol Pot was Khmer," she said. "He has created this bad image."

The Khmer Rouge years: Cambodia's trip to hell and back again

1975

Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, seizes Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, overthrowing US-backed Lon Nol. Prince Sihanouk becomes head of state. "Year Zero" sees towns and cities cleared in an attempt to create an agrarian society. Money becomes worthless and religion is banned; 1.7 million people will die in the years to 1979.

1976

Cambodia renamed Democratic Kampuchea. Prince Sihanouk resigns and is replaced by Khieu Samphan with Pol Pot as prime minister.

1978

Series of Khmer Rouge cross-border raids sparks invasion from Vietnam.

1979

Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge forces retreat to the Thai border, and Vietnamese troops occupy the capital. The People's Republic of Kampuchea is founded.

1993

UN-run elections lead to an unstable coalition between Prince Sihanouk and a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla.

1998

Pol Pot dies in the jungle after being ousted as Khmer Rouge leader the year before. The following year, the last of the guerrillas surrender.

A liquid kaleidoscope in the heart of Khmer kingdom

Express Buzz

Aditya SinhaFirst
Published : 05 Apr 2009

A recent holiday to Cambodia stunned me. Twice. Once was at the main temple of Angkor Wat, the 12th century Khmer civilisation temple complex, but not at the first glimpse from across the moat; not while walking towards the temple and watching it grow from a panoramic postcard into a giant 3-D temple that breathed and swallowed me in; not inside the temple peering at the magnificent towers based on south Indian architecture, or at the bas-relief wall carvings of the Ramayana and Mahabharata that run the length of the temple; no, what was stunning was how the temple’s colour changed as the Sun moved down the sky. The temple was like a liquid kaleidoscope, comprising a variety of grayish-green, in some places more mauve, in some places more brown, and in some places more purple. Late afternoon is the best time to sprawl on the lawns and gaze at the temple.

The other stunner was S-21. It is in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s

capital, 325 km from Angkor Wat (which is just outside of Siem Reap town). S-21 is a high school that was turned into an

interrogation centre by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79). About 17,000 people were interrogated there; only 12 are known to have survived. Pol Pot killed about 1.5 million Cambodians during his reign; the total population when he took over was 7.5 million.

S-21 is as it was. It is now called the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The torture dev­ices that leave nothing to imagination; the bleak rooms containing only the torture bed; and outside, the pillar from which suspects were hung upside down and

immersed in vats of water — it’s shocking, but nothing compared to the rows and rows of photographs of the now-dead inmates. Pol Pot’s regime was so administratively inept that when the 1979 Vietnamese invasion reached Phnom Penh, no one ordered the destruction of records. So you have large photos of men, women, and yes, children; killed as enemies of the people. The moment that stunned me was seeing, in the corner of the photo of a woman suspect, the small hand of a child reaching out.

On a topical note: The man who ran S-21, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, is now facing justice; his case came up before the UN-assisted genocide tribunal on February 16, and after procedure matters, the trial began last Monday.

So this was a holiday where I saw the apogee of a civilisation, and the horrific depth to which it can plummet. Some of the tortures of S-21 can be seen in the bas-relief wall carvings at Angkor Wat, in the battle scenes of the Mahabharata or in the depiction of 32 hells of Hindu mythology. Angkor Wat is perhaps a bitter reminder to the Khmer people of paradise lost. Or perhaps brutality is in the Khmer DNA, manifest both in glorious times as well as during ignominy. I tried to find out in a recent book, Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare by Philip Short, but all that this exhausting, detail-heavy book (that I would not have finished had I not so enjoyed my holiday) did was sadden me on behalf of the Khmers.

So visit Cambodia, and visit both Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh resembles a population-depleted Patna, but then the splendor of the royal palace and the Silver Pagoda, and the French-style sidewalk cafés on the riverfront take you to a different world, a world of the last century that may soon be lost to urban change and economic growth. While there, spend an afternoon at S-21. Do not fret that it may be depressing.

Angkor Wat, frankly, is not for the elderly or for children; it is for people who don’t mind walking a lot (which might rule out most Indians). It is about four hours from Phnom Penh by boat up the Tonle Sap river and beyond the Great Lake (where Pol Pot, who as a revolutionary once tried to cross the country on an elephant, got lost for three days), but the guides dissuaded us from boating up,

saying that four hours was too long to be in the sun, even in early January; by road it is about five hours; by air 35 minutes. But once you are there, time loses all meaning; the magnificence of this Khmer creation is timeless.

The place is sprawling and you could spend a lot of time based in Siem Reap. My favourite places are the two Khmer

ancient capitals, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom has a causeway across the moat which is lined with devas on one side and asuras on the other; on the entry gate and at the main Bayon temple are giant stone faces looking in all four directions (which I first thought was inspired by Brahma, but might have been inspired by King Jayavarman, who constructed it, or the Buddha, who was worshi­pped here); and in the complex lies the awe-inspiring unrestored temple at Ta Prohm, overrun by giant silk trees, reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films and used as a location for Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider film.

Cambodia’s other highlight is the thing that is common to the highs and lows of any civilisation: its food. We discovered fish Amok, a coconut-curry sauce distinct from anything the Thai can throw at you, and which goes well with beer; also Khmer roast pork, which, unsurprisingly, also goes well with beer. Delicious. What I did not try (a sign of my age, or a sign of my not having had enough beer) were the delicacies at Phnom Penh’s central market: fried snake, fried spider, fried beetles and boiled fertilised duck egg. My wife, helpful as always, ‘egged’ me on: “Come on, try it!” Remind me to change my insurance beneficiary.

Flying to Cambodia is not a problem as the Thais (who along with the Vietnamese are the Khmer’s traditional enemy), dominate the air routes. You can fly from Bangkok to either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, any day of the week. Visa is on arrival for $ 25. There’s a departure tax of $ 25. Dollars are the de facto currency for tourists, so Cambodia is not cheap like Thailand, or, as we overheard some Europeans complain to a monk (of all people), like Vietnam and Laos. Be prepared to spend. It will be well worth it.

— editorchief@epmltd.com

Suu Kyi's US backers plead to keep sanctions

Sen. Jim Webb participates in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in March 2009 in Washington

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Congress supporters of Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi pleaded to keep sanctions on the military regime as a key senator said efforts to isolate the junta had failed.

President Barack Obama's administration is reviewing strategy on Myanmar, also known as Burma, whose ruling junta has crushed dissent and kept Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 19 years.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 17 members of Congress said they were "greatly concerned" by indications that the United States was considering lifting sanctions on Myanmar.

The lawmakers, led by longtime Aung San Suu Kyi champion Joseph Crowley, said that Myanmar's leader Than Shwe had shown no desire to engage with the world's only detained Nobel laureate.

"Than Shwe's regime continues to perpetuate crimes against humanity and war crimes so severe that Burma has been called 'Southeast Asia's Darfur,'" they wrote.

They noted that Congress approved a law last year subjecting the Myanmar junta to sanctions until it releases all political prisoners and starts dialogue on bringing in democracy.

"We urge you to join us in standing firmly alongside Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's democracy movement," they said.

But Jim Webb, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Asia, said the United States needed a more "constructive" policy on Myanmar.

"Certainly the way that we approach it now I don't believe has had the results that people want it to have," Webb, a member of Obama's Democratic Party, told a luncheon at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"What I think we should be doing in Burma is trying to open up diplomatic avenues where you can have confidence builders... and through that process work toward some way where you can remove sanctions," he said.

State Department official Stephen Blake last week paid the first visit by a senior US envoy to Myanmar in more than seven years, quietly holding talks both with the junta and the opposition.

The State Department played down the significance of the meeting, stressing that the Obama team was still reviewing policy on Myanmar.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said Wednesday the United States was seeking a common approach with Asia on Myanmar and said the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program could serve as a model.

Nearly all Asian nations maintain full relations and trade with Myanmar, distancing themselves from the sanctions policy of the United States and the European Union.

China is the key commercial and military partner of the junta, which crushed 2007 protests led by Buddhist monks.

The previous US administration of George W. Bush strengthened decade-old sanctions against Myanmar -- imposed under his predecessor Bill Clinton -- while his wife Laura was an outspoken critic of the military regime.

Senator Webb -- a Vietnam veteran who has also been a journalist -- said the United States should take a lesson from how it opened relations with China and Vietnam despite human rights and other concerns in the two communist states.

Webb said that when he returned to Vietnam in 1991 -- four years before Washington and Hanoi established relations -- the situation was worse than when he visited Myanmar in 2001.

PM Abhisit: No need to negotiate with Thaksin, affirms extradiction

BANGKOK, April 4 (TNA) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday there is no need for his government to negotiate with ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in ending political unrest in the country, and reaffirmed his government's commitment to extraditing the ex-premier.

Mr. Abhisit’s comments followed Mr. Thaksin’s Friday video broadcast United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters that he rejected the government’s offer to hold talks.

Prime minister Abhisit also dismissed rumours that Mr. Thaksin, convicted and on-the-run ex-premier was in the Cambidian capital, adding fuel to rumours that Mr. Thaksin could be influencing Cambodia’s part in the recent border incidents.

The prime minister said officials are trying to determine probing the exact whereabouts of Mr.Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, and will try to extradite him to Thailand to face his jail sentence in the country.

Mr. Abhisit’s personal spokesman, Thepthai Senpong had earlier alleged that Mr. Thaksin was in Phnom Penh.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is inspecting the issue of Mr. Thaksin’s location to extradite him to Thailand to face sentence in the country.

Mr. Abhisit said the situation at the border had eased to a certain extent, and that he did not want fighting to happen again, but the government must affirm the kingdom's right in the disputed area.

The talks with Cambodia will defuse tensions and eventually solve the problems, he said.

Meanwhile, the red-shirted anti-government UDD demonstrators now protesting at Government House promise to hold a ‘massive’ demonstration on Wednesday to bring down the coalition government.

Mr. Abhisit said his government is willing to amend law and constitution to develop democratic system in the country but opposition political parties have refused to cooperate so the demonstrators should also protest against the opposition.

Regarding next week’s planned rally, Mr. Abhisit said his government is confident it can control the situation and that he hopes persons committed to democratic values and practices would not want to see any political changes through violence.

Meanwhile, UDD core leader Jatuporn Prompan denied that Mr.Thaksin is in Cambodia.

Mr. Jatuporn, who is also a member of parliament from the Opposition Puea Thai Party, said Mr. Thaksin is at a location thousands kilometres distant from Thailand with a three-hour time difference. (TNA)

Khmer Rouge story a vague one for young Cambodians

In this March 31, 2009, Cambodian students pick up educational materials as they visit the war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as the trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav opened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Students are interested in learning more about the Khmer Rouge period from 30 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)
Cambodian high school students visit the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh Cambodia Sunday, March 29, 2009 to learn what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime as the first trial of a Khmer Rouge leader gets underway. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Dum Sam An, 24, prepares coffee at the cafe of the war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,Thursday, April 2, 2009. Serving up fried rice and noodles to a bustling courtroom crowd, Dum Sum An wishes she knew more about Cambodia's ongoing genocide trial. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Dum Sum An, street vendor of fried rice and noodles, is too young to have known Cambodia's 1970s reign of terror. For her, the trial of Khmer Rouge high-ups in the courthouse nearby means crowds of spectators who need to be fed.

The 24-year-old woman, like many of her generation, has only a cursory knowledge of the horrors wrought on the country during the group's four-year hold on power. She says she came to Phnom Penh for a job and earns $60 to $100 a month from her tin-roofed stall 100 yards from the custom-built courthouse.

"I don't have time to follow the trial," she said.

The U.N.-assisted Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia, which last week began hearing the first genocide case against a former Khmer Rouge official, hopes to find justice for the 1.7 million people who were worked to death, starved or executed by the communist regime, and to set the record straight for survivors and history.

The subject isn't taught in schools, and many survivors find it hard to tell their children about it. When they do, some children don't believe them.

Some children may only hear about the Khmer Rouge when their parents make them finish their food and say something like, "If you lived through the Khmer Rouge, you would know how important is food," said Mychelle Balthazard, a co-researcher of a report published in January by the University of California, Berkeley. "If it's like that, it wouldn't be very interesting to them."

The report found that 81 percent of Cambodians under age 29 said their knowledge of the period was "poor or very poor." Eighty-four percent said what they knew came from families and friends.

Balthazard added that they probably are "more interested in MTV and technology than what happened 30 years ago."

Still, most of those surveyed said they want to learn more. Dum Sum An, for instance, said she wished she had time to be in the courthouse. "I would learn a lot from what Duch says to the judges," she said.

Duch is the nom de guerre of Kaing Guek Eav, who commanded the Tuol Sleng prison in the capital Phnom Penh, where as many as 16,000 men, women and children were tortured before being sent to be killed. At age 66, he is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders going on trial.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia and himself a survivor, said young people do care about the Khmer Rouge. "They want to understand it so they can bury it," he said.

"The story is difficult to transmit to the children: the cheating, the lying, pointing a finger at others to be executed to survive, stealing food to eat," said Youk Chhang, whose group collects evidence of the atrocities. "Most parents don't tell this to their family."

At the prison, which is now a museum, 16-year-old Oeng Kim Heak walked past the blood stains and rows of shackles that chained prisoners to the floor.

She was brought to the prison with a group of students for a history lesson by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers. She stared at photographs of people who were interrogated, tortured and killed.

"My father told me and I didn't believe him. I thought it was a story," she said.

"All these Khmer people died for no reason. I don't want this to happen again."

The Ministry of Education and the Documentation Center have collaborated on publishing new textbooks, and Youk Chhang said the Khmer Rouge legacy will be included in the high school curriculum for the first time this year after 3,000 teachers are trained about it.

The court's outreach office has reached some 750,000 of Cambodia's 14 million people with information about the tribunal.

But Outreach Officer Chin Hemvichet says more people need to be reached outside the capital, and conceded that he wants funds for a traveling show with DVDs of the trial to blanket the country. "So far we don't have a vehicle," he said.

But even in Phnom Penh some were indifferent. "I'm busy and I don't want to know about that," said Leang Nalin, 22, who studies finance. "I know a little but I have never cared. My parents never talk about it," she said.

Restaurant caterer Yao Daung Dee, 42, said she believes Duch is already being punished.

"I am Buddhist. I trust in the law of karma. He killed a lot of people so I think he already has to pay back. I think he can't sleep at night."

Troops jittery after deadly Cambodia-Thai clash

By: AFP
Published: 4/04/2009

Tensions were high among troops on both sides of the disputed Cambodian-Thai border Saturday while Thai and Cambodia prime ministers played down gunbattles near a temple which left two soldiers dead.

Both sides were jittery after Friday's firefight, which was the biggest flare-up for months in a bitter feud over territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Thai troops fired into the air in the morning after a Cambodian soldier's rifle accidentally discharged several shots, Cambodian troops said, while a Cambodian commander could be heard telling his soldiers to hide behind trees.

"The situation at the border is quiet now and back to normal," Cambodian commander Yem Pem said, adding that troops were on "24-hour alert."

Soldiers exchanged rocket, machinegun and mortar fire Friday, damaging the staircase of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, following a brief skirmish earlier in the day, officials said.

One Thai soldier was killed and another died in hospital later, while 10 others were injured, said the Thai military. Cambodian officials reported no casualties.

A Thai military official said nine soldiers were still being treated in hospital, with two of them in critical condition.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said the violence damaged a government office and local market. Hundreds of Cambodians who lost their homes in the fighting were evacuated to a school 20 kilometres (12 miles) away.

"We were so frightened because the situation was so tense," said Chum Vanna, 27, who was evacuated with her husband and children.

"I'm very angry with the Thai soldiers. All of my belongings were completely burned. We came here with just a few clothes," she added.

The area saw several clashes last year after Cambodia received United Nations World Heritage status for the temple ruins in July. Four soldiers were killed in a firefight in October.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart were keen to diffuse the latest crisis, both sides insisting usual border committee talks would proceed along with meetings scheduled at a key regional summit next week.

"It is normal that every side has the right to self-defence. If they come, it happens. And as we enter their territory they also have the right to fire at us," Hun Sen said during a visit to the southern province of Kampot.

"But we consider this (clash) an incident. I don't call it a war... We are very sorry. We don't want Cambodian or Thai soldiers to die," he added.

"I think (the talks) must go ahead," Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters. "We don't want to see clashes and losses on either side."

Thai army chief General Anupong Paojinda said Cambodian and Thai officials were in talks to defuse the stand off.

"High level officials are talking to each other with good mutual understanding. There are no problems," he said.

Hun Sen and Abhisit are due to join a summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and key regional partners in Thailand from Friday.

Singapore, meanwhile, urged both sides to "exercise utmost restraint in the broader interests of the region."

Friday's clashes came three days after Hun Sen warned Thailand not to allow its troops to cross into disputed land. Bangkok denies claims that 100 soldiers went over the frontier a week ago.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads for decades over the site perched on a forested cliff overlooking green swathes of countryside.

The World Court in 1962 awarded the ruins to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance is in Thailand, and some of the disputed land is yet to be demarcated.

Thaksin is in Cambodia, says Democrat spokesman

By THE NATION ON SUNDAY
Published on April 5, 2009

Democrat Party spokesman Theptai Senapong said yesterday he believed ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was hiding in Cambodia.

He urged the Cambodian government to reveal his whereabouts and to clearly state what it would do if Thaksin were found there.

Theptai, who is also Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva's personal spokesman, quoted "reliable sources" as saying that Thaksin was believed to be living near Cambodian Premier Hun Sen's house and that the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was trying to verify that report.

He said the government was ready for an extradition request and that the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was making an approach on the matter.

Theptai said the Lao government had stated that it would extradite Thaksin if he was found in the country and would not allow him to use it as a political tool.

Theptai denied that Cambodia's failure to make a statement on the matter might be related to a recent verbal slip by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya allegedly calling Hun Sen, "a gangster". He said that matter was over. Government spokesman Panitan Watanayagorn yesterday declined to confirm Theptai's claim, saying that authorities were trying to verify the report. He added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would hold a press conference in a few days on the matter.

Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said yesterday that officials were investigating the accuracy of the report that Thaksin had been spotted in Cambodia. Politicians close to Thaksin yesterday dismissed as groundless the report that he was now in the neighbouring country.

"Thaksin is now thousands of kilometres away from Thailand. He is in a time zone with a three-hour difference from ours. He is definitely not in Cambodia," said Jatuporn Promphan, who is also a leader of the red-shirt movement.

Noppadon Pattama said he was sure Thaksin was not in any neighbouring country at the moment although he did not know exactly where he was.

Political will needed on border

The Nation

By The Nation
Published on April 5, 2009

Is Hun Sen turning on Thailand because of his frustration with the trial at home?

For much of this past year or so, Thailand and Cambodia have been at each other's throats over the overlapping claims along the common border near an ancient Hindu temple. It came about as Phnom Penh was seeking World Heritage Site status from Unesco for the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple.

Bangkok's position has always been that both countries be the host of the Unesco bid as a way of depoliticising the overlapping territory. The idea of jointly registering changed when the Samak Sundaravej government endorsed Phnom Penh's unilateral bid and Unesco went with it even after a Thai court ruled the endorsement unconstitutional because Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama did not have Parliament's approval.

It was election time in Cambodia, and Thailand's feelings had to take a back seat to Hun Sen's political agenda. He had to look strong, and hence the uncompromising position.

But neither his election victory nor the Unesco-conferred prestigious status brought him peace of mind. The desired outcome was nowhere to be found as officials from both sides dragged their feet over the overlapping claims, effectively diminishing Cambodia's efforts to cash in on the World Heritage Site status of the temple.

Today there are other things on Hun Sen's mind than the affairs of his People Party, and this time around it appears to have got the better of him.

Cambodia watchers say Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander, is frustrated with the idea of putting more Khmer Rouge cadres on trial for crimes against humanity during the Pol Pot regime from 1975-9 and has been lashing out at everybody around him.

Last week Hun Sen told a gathering in Sihanoukville that the joint UN-Cambodian court could plunge the country back into civil war if more Khmer Rouge cadres were put on trial.

"I would prefer to see this tribunal fail than see war return to my country," Hun Sen said a day after the joint UN-Cambodian court resumed its trial of Duch, Pol Pot's chief torturer of the S-21 prison, where more than 14,000 people were put to death. He is the first of five ageing senior cadres to face trial.

The Phnom Penh government has denied meddling in the court, but rights activists said that some of that digging might unearth the horrific past of some of the people in Hun Sen's administration.

Hun Sen may be frustrated at the idea of digging up dirt from the past, or, as he claims, turning the clock back to a civil war. However, it doesn't help to lash out at everybody around him, including Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Last week, Hun Sen lashed out at Kasit over a statement he made several months ago during a street protest prior to taking up his current position. One cannot help but ask why he waited so long. Besides, all of us were led to believe that the two men had turned over a new leaf after Kasit's official visit.

Over this past weekend, troops on both sides of the border remained on high alert for fear of more clashes. The last one was much bigger than the October 2008 clashes that came after Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to Thai troops to back away from the overlapping areas.

Over the weekend, Hun Sen softened his tone quite a bit, telling veterans in his country that the clashes had resulted from a misunderstanding.

"We consider this an incident. I don't call it a war ... We are very sorry. We don't want Cambodian or Thai soldiers to die," Hun Sen said.

His spokesman added that the existing mechanism and channel of dialogue between the two countries would continue unabated and that the Cambodian leader and PM Abhisit Vejjajiva were due to take part at the upcoming summit between Asean and key regional partners.

But while the two sides try to pick up the pieces from last week's bloody clashes, they have made virtually no progress in real terms in solving the issue of overlapping territories.

Pride and ego continue to get in the way as officials of both countries argue over nomenclature - Pra Viharn/Preah Vihear - in spite of knowing that they are talking about the same thing.

Besides, one would think that the pulling back of troops would be the top priority after last year's clashes, but the shelling last week tells us that the two countries do not have the political will to do so, perhaps for fear of being seen as weak by their own peoples. So much for Asean unity. So much for the Asian Century.

Thai, Cambodian leaders downplay border fighting

The Nation

By AGENCIES
Published on April 5, 2009

Thailand and Cambodia yesterday played down the renewed border skirmishes on Friday that left at least four soldiers from both sides dead.

However, a tense military stand-off continued ahead of bilateral border talks in the coming week.

Thai Army commander-in-chief General Anupong Paochinda said that the clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in a disputed area had resulted from "some misunderstanding".

Anupong said soldiers stationed on either side of the border had thought that the other side was intruding into their country's territory. He said Thailand would not use force to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday struck a conciliatory tone and described the armed clashes as a mere "incident" between neighbours that would not erupt into a war.

"There was brief fighting, but it was like neighbours who live close to each other and always have disputes," Hun Sen said. "Today they have a dispute, then they calm down and talk to each other."

Just a few days earlier, Hun Sen had issued a fierce warning that Thailand would face tough fighting if its troops crossed into disputed territory.

Talks between the two countries have failed to resolve the border dispute, but Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that further discussions would continue as scheduled tomorrow(Monday) and on Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

"I think the talks must go ahead," he told reporters. "I believe the situation has now eased off to some extent, and we don't want to see clashes and losses on either side."

General Anupong yesterday called on the neighbours to resolve their differences through negotiation, the Thai New Agency reported. He said the negotiations would take place at ministerial level as well as with the Cambodian prime minister.

The Army chief said the number of Thai soldiers stationed in the area remained unchanged despite a plan to evacuate villagers living near the disputed area.

Two Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers died in the fighting while nine Thai soldiers were wounded. The clashes took place near the ancient temple called Preah Vihear in Cambodian and Phra Viharn in Thai. Military commanders from both sides said yesterday that calm had been restored after Friday's fight-ing, in which troops exchanged fire with assault rifles and rocket-launchers.

Villagers of Si Sa Ket province living near the disputed border area yesterday were preparing to evacuate to safer areas deeper inside the country. An order issued by the provincial governor instructed residents of 25 border villages considered "risk areas" to prepare for evacuation if a fresh clash erupted or if either side started to reinforce its troops.

GEN ANUPONG: CLASHES AT THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER CAUSED BY ‘MISUNDERSTANDING‘


Pattaya Daily News

April 4, 2009

BANGKOK, April 4 - Thailand’s Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda said Saturday that clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at the disputed border on Friday resulted from ‘misunderstanding’.

Soldiers of each country stationed on the disputed border area thought that the other side intruded into their country’s territory, said Gen. Anupong, adding that Thailand would not use force to resolve the problem.

Thailand and Cambodia must resolve their differences through negotiations, Gen. Anupong said, noting that they are being prepared, he said as he was about to board a military aircraft to visit an Ubon Ratchathani hospital where soldiers wounded in the border clashes are being treated.

Two Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers died in the fighting while nine Thai soldiers were wounded. The clashes took place near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Gen. Anupong said negotiations will take place at the ministerial level as well as with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

However, he said senior army officers of both countries in the disputed area will play a significant role in finding ways to end the dispute. Cambodian troops have fired heavy weapons into the Thai territory since Friday’s clashes.

The number of Thai soldiers stationed in the area remains unchanged, even though plans to evacuate villagers living near the disputed area have been prepared, Gen. Anupong said.

On rumours that Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra might seek self-imposed exile in Cambodia, Gen. Anupong said concerned officials were probing the accuracy of the reports.

Gen. Anupong said he hoped the Thai people would understand the needs of the country and not join next Wednesday’s threatened large-scale rally in Bangkok by Mr. Thaksin’s supporters. (TNA)

Thai Army chief: Thai-Cambodian border clashes caused by "misunderstanding"

www.chinaview.cn
2009-04-04

BANGKOK, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda said Saturday clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at the disputed border area on Friday resulted from "misunderstanding", according to Thai News Agency (TNA).

Soldiers of each country stationed on the disputed border area thought that the other side intruded into their country's territory, said Anupong.

Leaving Bangkok for a visit at a hospital in Thailand's Ubon Ratchathani province where soldiers wounded in the border clashes are being treated, the Army Chief noted that Thailand would not use force to resolve the problem.

He said preparation were under way for negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia, at the ministerial level as well as with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, to resolve the issue, according to the TNA report.

However, senior army officers of both countries in the disputed area will play a significant role in finding ways to end the dispute, said Anupong.

Thailand and Cambodia have earlier conducted a few round of negotiations which involved the militaries and foreign ministries from the two sides to solve the border dispute regarding areas around the ancient Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The international court ruled the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia more than 40 years ago. But dispute about borders areas around the temple has remained a fuse in the Thai-Cambodian relationship.

The issue became hot again after the Cambodia applied successfully for the temple to be listed as a world heritage site in July last year. Military deployment was enhanced and sporadic clashes were reported along the border.

Not much progress has been made in the negotiations between two foreign ministers and two militaries except for a promise to act "restraint".

Friday's new border clashes caused the deaths of two Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers, and injuries of nine Thai soldiers.

The number of Thai soldiers stationed in the area remains unchanged, even though plans to evacuate villagers living near the disputed area have been prepared, Anupong said.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

BREAKING NEWS: Thai soldiers killed 4/04/2009


letterzrnumbers

April 04, 2009

Courtesy of SBS news Australia.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Thai and Cambodian soldiers revived a long-simmering dispute over an 11th century temple near their border, trading fire Friday with machine guns and rocket launchers in clashes that left as many as four people dead.

The latest flare-up — if not quickly resolved — could overshadow a summit of Asian leaders opening next week in the Thai coastal town of Pattaya. The summit already was delayed once in December after anti-government demonstrators took over Thailand's two main airports in Bangkok.

The fighting broke out near the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, which is on the Cambodian side of an ill-defined border. Soldiers clashed again hours later, but the area was quiet by evening and the two sides were in talks to defuse the crisis.

Accounts from the two sides varied on casualties and other details. Both sides said Cambodia fired first, but Cambodian officials said it was because Thais strayed into their territory, while Thailand's Foreign Ministry denied that its soldiers left its territory. The ministry said the Thai soldiers were investigating a land mine blast the previous day that blew off a leg of their colleague.

Both sides said the other fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said four Thai soldiers were killed and 10 captured. Thailand's Foreign Ministry insisted only one Thai soldier was killed, seven were injured and none was taken prisoner, while two Thai army officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said two soldiers were killed and 10 injured.

"The fighting has stopped. Commanders from both sides are talking," Maj. Nou Sarath, a Cambodian soldier at the border, told The Associated Press.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the talks later adjourned and would resume Saturday.

Leaders in both countries have a history of playing to nationalist sentiment in soveriegnty disputes.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is a blunt, tough-talking leader who has warned that he is willing to go to war over the temple.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is more diplomatic but his supporters include the yellow-shirted activists of the People Alliance for Democracy, who are intensely nationalistic and last year rallied around the temple dispute in their campaign against the previous government. They brought the administration to a near standstill in November by besieging government offices and the Bangkok airports.

Michael Montesano, a research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Abhisit cannot afford to be seen as weak on this issue.

"The yellow shirts made Preah Vihear an issue and any feeling on their part that Abhisit is insufficiently nationalist and insufficiently tough with the Khmer (Cambodians) could risk the yellow shirts withdrawing some of their support," he said.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared last July when UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some Thais to believe their claims to the surrounding land was being undermined.

The tensions erupted in brief border clashes last year, killing two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai, and both sides have stepped up deployment of soldiers at the border since then.

Former Cambodian communist stronghold cashes in - 04 Apr 09



AlJazeeraEnglish

April 04, 2009

The remnants of a brutal regime led by Pol Pot, Cambodia's former communist leader, can still be found in the western town of Pailin where many former members of his Khmer Rouge government still reside.

Al Jazeera's Laura Kyle reports that many of of the Khmer comrades are too busy making money to care about a UN backed tribunal that could put the former leaders on trial.

Day in pictures

A Cambodian refugee girl is seen in a tent at Sra Em village April 4, 2009, after leaving an area where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA MILITARY POLITICS RELIGION CONFLICT)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gives a speech at Koh Sla village, Kampot province, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 4, 2009. Hun Sen on Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere 'incident' between neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks as he visits Koh Sla village, Kampot province, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 4, 2009. Hun Sen on Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere 'incident' between neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand. At right is Hun Sen's wife Bunrany.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, greets villagers at Koh Sla village, Kampot province, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 4, 2009. Hun Sen on Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere 'incident' between neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, shakes hands with his soldiers as his wife Bunrany, left, looks on at Koh Sla village, Kampot province, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 4, 2009. Hun Sen on Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere 'incident' between neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian man holds a child as they wait for Prime Minister Hun Sen arrive at Koh Sla village, Kampot province, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, April 4, 2009. Hun Sen on Saturday downplayed the border clashes that killed at least three Thai soldiers near a disputed 11th century temple as a mere 'incident' between neighbors that would not break out into war with Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire on their disputed border near Preah Vihear temple

A Thai commander (2nd R) talks to a Cambodian commander (L) at Egal field where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire on their disputed border near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

Thai soldiers stand guard at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

Cambodian soldiers look at anti-personnel mines which were confiscated when Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire on their disputed border near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

A Thai commander (C) talks to a Cambodian commander (L) at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

A Cambodian soldier receives an intravenous drip at Egal field where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA HEALTH MILITARY CONFLICT RELIGION POLITICS)

A Cambodian soldier stands guard at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS MILITARY RELIGION CONFLICT)

Cambodian soldiers examine a burnt market near an ancient Hindu temple where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT POLITICS RELIGION MILITARY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

A Cambodian soldier obtains water to drink at a burnt market near an ancient Hindu temple where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT MILITARY RELIGION FOOD DRINK)

Cambodian soldiers guard at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS RELIGION MILITARY CONFLICT)

A Thai soldier looks at a Cambodian solider (R) at the front line of the border where Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rifle and rocket fire near an ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh April 4, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday a border clash with Thailand around a 900-year-old Hindu temple would not escalate into a more serious conflict.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS RELIGION CONFLICT MILITARY)

Cambodian soldiers close to Preah Vihear temple near the Thai border, some 543 kilometers north of Phnom Penh on April 4, 2009. Tensions were high among troops on both sides of the disputed Cambodian-Thai border Saturday while their prime ministers played down gunbattles near a temple which left two soldiers dead.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)