Saturday, 28 November 2009

Cambodia puts painful past into history books at last



Students look through Cambodia’s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history, which was issued to them earlier this week. Jared Ferrie for The National

Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent
November 28. 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH // The 57-year-old teacher stood in a conference room packed with colleagues and observers and articulated what is perhaps the simplest yet most perplexing question about the regime that killed a quarter of its own population.


CAMBODIA NOV2009 Students at Hun Sen high school in Ta Khmeo City hold up Cambodia´s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history after receiving them during a distribution ceremony Jared Ferrie for The National

“Why did they behave the way they did?” asked Nguon Sophal, who teaches high school in the western city of Battambang.

She was one of 180 teachers attending a week-long training programme to acquaint themselves with the first Cambodian textbook to discuss the Khmer Rouge in detail. This week, they will fan out across the country to instruct about 3,000 more teachers who will finally begin educating young Cambodians about the horror their elders lived through three decades ago.


CAMBODIA NOV2009 Students at Hun Sen high school in Ta Khmeo City hold up Cambodia´s first textbook of Khmer Rouge history after receiving them during a distribution ceremony Jared Ferrie for The National

It was a professional question for Ms Nguon, but it was also a deeply personal one. In an interview afterward, she said her husband, child, father and sister were all taken away and killed for no discernible reason.

From his seat on an elevated panel at the front of the room, David Chandler, who first arrived in Cambodia as a US diplomat in 1960 and has written four books about the country and the Khmer Rouge, looked straight at her, thought about it for a few moments, and replied: “That is a very good question.”

Mr Chandler had just spoken for more than an hour about the movement. The inner circle of Khmer Rouge leaders were intellectuals who studied in France, yet they despised the educated class so much that they tried to exterminate them in their own country. They were Marxist-Leninists, but their later “blood-curdling nationalist slogans that spoke of the Cambodian ‘race’ replaced the austere and often impenetrable language of Marxist-Leninism,” Mr Chandler said.

The Khmer Rouge relied at different stages on support from Vietnam and China, as well as from the United States and its allies – odd bedfellows considering that the US dropped half a million tonnes of bombs on Cambodia while waging war against Vietnam, which then fended off a brief invasion from China in 1979.

Haunting questions about the Khmer Rouge live on. Why did they turn the country into a vast torture camp where as many as two million people starved to death or were executed on the basis of paranoid conspiracies? Why did they kill doctors? Engineers? Why did they smash babies against trees?

“If one of your students asks, ‘Why did the Khmer Rouge behave this way?’ it’s unfair to say you don’t know,” said Mr Chandler, who now teaches at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The challenge of explaining this complex and confounding history fell to one Khaboly Dy, the textbook’s author who was born two years after the Khmer Rouge were vanquished to the jungles in 1979 by invading Vietnamese and Cambodian troops.

Previous history books issued by Cambodia’s Vietnamese-backed government boiled the Khmer Rouge down into five lines. Even those references were removed in the early 1990s when Khmer Rouge leaders signed peace accords, promising to end their guerrilla war.

As a high school student during the 1990s, Sayana Ser said she understood very little about her parents’ and grandparents’ experiences under the Khmer Rouge’s four-year rule.

Now 28, she is helping co-ordinate the teachers’ training programme that is run by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DCCAM), which produced the book. She began volunteering at DCCAM after she realised that all she knew about the Khmer Rouge were tales overheard from her mother talking with friends. The stories sounded so awful that she only half believed them.

“I heard them talking, but they didn’t tell their children,” she said. “I thought it was fiction, used to make us more careful.”

Poring over documents at DCCAM, she discovered that the stories of starving people foraging for leaves to eat, of torture, mass executions and rampant disease were true.
“The survivors want to us to know we won’t forget their suffering,” Ms Sayana said.

Khaboly Dy, the author, had another reason for writing the book: To “guide students away from anger, revenge, hatred”.

Rather than going into a detailed history of the Khmer Rouge, Mr Dy said he laid out a foundation that he hopes will encourage interested students to do further research on their own.

The textbook avoids in-depth political analysis of the movement. Instead it focuses on events. It names only the most senior leaders of the regime, including those now awaiting trial at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal. “Lots of people say the history of the Khmer Rouge is politically sensitive,” Mr Dy aid.

Many former Khmer Rouge members are now high-ranking officials, such as Keat Chhon, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Heng Samrin, the president of the National Assembly. The presence of former Khmer Rouge members in today’s government is no doubt one reason that Cambodia has been reluctant to educate its youth about the Khmer Rouge. But the textbook “doesn’t label too many individuals”, Mr Dy said, adding that he received “sincere support” from the education ministry.

On Wednesday, the ministry’s undersecretary of state, Tun Sa-Im, was on hand to help distribute the new textbooks to students in Ta Khmeo City, about one hour’s drive from Phnom Penh. A token number of students lined up and bowed politely to Ms Tun before receiving the textbook. Then the 180 teachers passed the rest of the books out to 3,000 students who were seated neatly in rows.

In their white uniforms, in the shade of large trees, many students eagerly flipped through the pages, examining the black and white photos, sometimes turning to comment to their schoolmates. A microphone was set up for some of them to ask questions. “Why did the Khmer Rouge kill people?” asked Sa Vattana.

Mr Dy explained that the Khmer Rouge leadership believed that their country was infested by spies and enemies of the revolution who needed to be eliminated.

“For more information go to chapter five,” he added.

Immunity Question Hurts Assembly’s Fairness: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
27 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The National Assembly should be a place of justice and fairness, with serious weight given the suspended immunities of its members, a democracy advocate said Thursday.

“What is important is that there should be a place to find right and wrong and what is just in the National Assembly, and if immunity is removed, it should not be done very quickly like this,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Hang Chhaya was referring to the Nov. 16 suspension of opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity, the third opposition suspension this year.

Sam Rainsy is facing charges in Svay Rieng of incitement and destruction of property, after villagers reportedly angered by Vietnamese encroachment allegedly pulled border markets out of the ground in Chantrea district.

Hang Chhaya echoed concerns of US congressman Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, who said this week that such court cases and the removal of parliamentary immunity could hurt democratic debate in the nation’s legislative body.

Callers to “Hello VOA” Thursday showed wide condemnation for the suspension, which occurred with only members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party present.

“Sam Rainsy is a member of parliament, and he has the right to serve the people,” said a caller named Un.

“What the government has done to strip [his] immunity is a clear threat not only to Sam Rainsy but other MPs,” said a caller named Ma. “That’s not respectful of freedom and people’s confidentiality, because those are representatives of the people.”

Trade Officials Fight Allegations of Label Swaps

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report form Washington
27 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Commerce officials are working in the US to counter accusations that garments claiming to be made in Cambodia are actually produced in neighboring Vietnam.

Members of the opposition “told America that our shirts were not made in Cambodia, but were made in Vietnam,” Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told VOA Khmer in an interview on a recent visit to Washington. “Is it fair to say that?”

Cham Prasidh and other officials were in Washington to seek more markets for Cambodian products and to lobby for continued preferential trade agreements.

The garment industry provides more than 300,000 jobs and is economic earner for Cambodia, sending most of its items to the US market.

Sandra Polaski, deputy undersecretary of the US Department of Labor said allegations of label-swapping had reached her, but she dismissed them.

“There is actually a fairly strict system to monitor, to be sure that the products that were labeled, ‘Made in Cambodia,’ came from Cambodia. So I don’t think it is an extensive problem.”

Similarly, Cham Prasidh said that the Cambodian ministry of commerce has effective examine systems to every garment factories that can’t be cheated. He urges those critics better to think more about the country benefits.

“We have control systems at every garment factory,” Cham Prasidh said. “No one can trick us. The one who talk about the Vietnamese clothes, they even provoke problem at the Vietnamese border.”

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said the allegations should be investigated.

And Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Unions of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the government still needs to establish an inspection group to monitor factories.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said there was no benefit to label swaps, as the costs of smuggling goods or paying bribes to conduct the scheme would outweigh the benefits.

Film With Rare Khmer Rouge Interviews Opens

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
27 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A documentary film that uses rare interviews with Khmer Rouge leaders and foot soldiers to demonstrate the regime’s chain of command is screening in Amsterdam this week.

The 94-minute “Enemies of the People” includes testimony from the regime’s ideologue, Nuon Chea, who was silent on his role within the Khmer Rouge for 30 years and is now in detention awaiting an atrocity crimes trial at the UN-backed tribunal.

“For the first time, you can see the chain of command that went up and down the Communist Party of Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge party,” one of the film’s producers, Rob Limkin, told VOA Khmer by phone.

“We make the connection between one person who received an order from another person, and we’re able to make quite close connections from all the way up from the top to the bottom of the Khmer Rouge,” he said.

Thet Sambath, the film’s co-producer, who lost his own family to the regime, spent almost 10 years researching the tragedy of the “killing fields” and meeting with some of the regime’s topmost leaders.

”I can say that the film documentary I am producing is different from others,” he said by phone from Amsterdam. “It is not to support anyone. It is in the middle and not in support of the Khmer Rouge or its victims. We are in the middle so that we can show the truth so everybody knows the real history.”

News in Pictures


Thai Denfense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (R) and Cambodian Defence Minister General Tea Banh (L) speak during a news conference after a meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee, a forum that meets to discuss military ties, in Pattaya November 27, 2009. Thailand and Cambodia said on Friday a recent diplomatic row will not lead to conflict on their heavily armed common border where troops have clashed in deadly exchanges in the past year. REUTERS/Stringer (CAAI News Media)


British national James Henry Kinch is followed by reporters as he is escorted by a policeman after arriving at Bangkok's Criminal Court November 27, 2009. Australia has asked for the extradition of Kinch who was arrested in Thailand in May 2008. He is wanted in Australia for allegedly conspiring to import 600 kilograms of pseudoephedrine into Australia. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (CAAI News Media)


Briton James Henry Kinch talks to reporters from the detention room at criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. Kinch, 50, has been accused of shipping pseudo-ephedrine into Australia to make illegal drug ice. Australia has been trying to extradite Kinch from Thailand since his arrest in May last year. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong) (CAAI News Media)

Ministers reaffirm close military ties



Published: 27/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Thai-Cambodia general border committee meeting has reaffirmed that only peaceful means should be used in settling border disputes between the two countries, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Friday afternoon.

The two-day defence minister-level meeting at the Dusit Thani hotel in Pattaya concluded today.

Gen Prawit said the armed forces of Thailand and Cambodia agreed to the following points:

1) The military forces of the two countries deployed along the land and sea border areas will perform their duty based on using peaceful means to settle conflicts. Coordination at all military levels would ensure good understanding on both sides.

2) The armed forces of the two countries will facilitate border trade between Thai and Cambodian people.

3) The armed forces of the two countries agree to maintain good relations with each other and between Thai and Cambodian people by complying with international law and agreements, and based on understanding, sincerity and equality as member countries of Asean.

4) The armed forces of the two countries will support missions and mechanisms of international relations at all levels in order to strengthen ties between Thailand and Cambodia, with the highest target of ensuring the safety of Thai and Cambodian people and enhancing sustainable peace along the border.

Representatives on the Thai side included Gen Prawit, Supreme Commander Gen Songkitti Jakkabatra, Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paojinda and Army Region 1 Commander Lt-Gen Khanit Saphithak.

The Cambodian entourage was led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh.

Lecturers of the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture Wait to See How Chan Sarun Takes Action against Chan Nareth – Friday, 27.11.2009

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

Posted on 27 November 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 640

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

“The rector of the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture, Mr. Chan Nareth, is accused by lecturers working under his administration of being involved in corruption to take between US$300,000 and US$400,000 university resources each year.

“A local website wrote, following the claims of many lecturers, staff, and civil servants of the university, that Mr. Chan Nareth took the money, income of the university, for himself alone, while lecturers, staff, and civil servants receive only small salaries that cannot even support their daily living expenses.

“The lecturers describe on the website their accusation against the university rector Chan Nareth, claiming he commits corruption for his own interest, and at present he has luxury cars and several residencies.

“The Royal University of Agriculture is located in the Meanchey district of Phnom Penh; it is also called the Chamkar Doung School or the Chamkar Doung University of Agriculture.

“The lecturer Chhum Phetlun wrote on the website that since 1999, this university started to charge tuition fees from its students, for the studies that began in 2000, so it brings in US$300,000 to US$400,000 each year. This large amount of resources was not shared with lecturers, staff, and civil servants of the university to assist their family livelihood, but Rector Chan Nareth took it alone. Because they can no longer bear the greed of their director, they decided to disclose this case through the media in order to inform the leaders so that they take action to seek justice for lecturers, staff, and civil servants of the university.

“Earlier on, 72 lecturers, staff, and civil servants had thumbprinted a demand addressed to Mr. Chan Nareth to add US$6 per hour to the hourly remuneration decided by the state [for the lecturer's remuneration], and to add additional payments for civil servants, who earn US$80 per month, and for other staff who earn US$50 per month, starting from 2010.

“The lecturer Chhum Phetlun added that previously, being afraid of the power and influence of Rector Chan Nareth, all lecturers, staff and civil servants did not dare to protest, or to report anything to higher level leaders. But now, because of the rector’s greed to take US$300,000 to US$400,000 per year for himself alone, they cannot stand it any longer, and are not afraid any longer, and they decided to report it to the media to help to bring this message to the leaders, especially to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Mr. Chan Sarun, to learn about the difficulties of lecturers, staff, and civil servants of the Royal University of Agriculture of Chamkar Doung.

“Adding up the amounts of US$300,000 to US$400,000 each year from 2000 to 2009, it comes to as much as US$2,700,000 to US$3,600,000.

“Yesterday [26 November 2009] Khmer Machas Srok could not reach Rector Chan Nareth, who is being accused, for a comment.

“Analysts said that in this case, Mr. Chan Nareth probably did not dare to take the money alone, there must be some other higher leaders with whom he shared it, so that he can be happy above the pile of difficulties of many lecturers, civil servants, staff, and workers.

“Therefore, they wait to see what measures the higher level leaders of the relevant institutions, especially the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Chan Sarun, and the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon, will take on Mr. Chan Nareth, if this scandal is true.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #540, 27.11.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 27 November 2009

One man stands to pay for Cambodia's crimes

http://www.theage.com.au/

BEN DOHERTY, PHNOM PENH

November 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)


Cambodians queue to attend the trial of the Khmer Rouge chief jailer, Duch, who is now awaiting sentencing. Photo: Reuters

There is anxiety that delays and interference will spell the end of the Khmer Rouge trials.

IN COURT, the high school maths teacher Kaing Guek Eav is a meticulous note-taker. Bespectacled and neatly dressed, he records impassively each of the horrific accusations made against him.

He is unemotional, inscrutable. When he speaks, he is deferential and polite.

The torturer, the mass-murderer he was to become is not apparent.

But they are the same man. Under his revolutionary name, Duch, Eav ran the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng jail. Enemies of the party were brought there to be tortured - shocked, beaten, mutilated - before being bludgeoned to death at the nearby killing fields.

While he confessed this week: ''I am solely and individually responsible for the loss of at least 12,380 lives,'' Duch then confused the court on the final day of his trial when he asked to be acquitted and released. The court ordered that he remain in custody.

With his seven-month hearing now concluded, and he awaiting a sentencing decision early next year, Comrade Duch holds the dubious distinction of being the only person ever to stand a full trial for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

And, with 30 years passed since the regime was toppled, it is possible that he, alone, will face justice for the crimes of a regime that killed more than 1.7 million.

The Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia - the hybrid international/Cambodian court established to hear the Khmer Rouge trials - is slated to try four other regime officials, all more senior than Duch.

But those four are ageing and in ill health and it is a very real possibility they may not live long enough to complete their trials.

And with corruption allegations hanging over the court and signs of interference, it is possible the chief architects may escape ever being brought to account.

Comrade Duch was a prison boss, not a party leader. He followed, to the letter and beyond, his brutal orders to ''smash'' inmates.

Some of those who gave the orders are to face court next.

Nuon Chea, or Brother Number 2, was the second-in-command. Ieng Sary was foreign minister and his wife, Ieng Thirith, the minister for social affairs. Khieu Samphan was the titular head of state. The youngest of these defendants is 77, the men are seriously ill.

The court's UN administrator, Knut Rosandhaug, said it would be mid-2011 before the trial of the four, Case Two, can be heard. It will likely be "2014, maybe 2015", before it is concluded.

Court monitor Heather Ryan from the Open Society Justice Initiative told The Age it was a real possibility some, or all, might die before then.

"It's not inconceivable given the age of the accused. For these people to face justice, they need to survive at least another 3½ years. … I think it would be exceptionally unlikely that all of them would survive that long."

The four are the most senior officials known to still be alive. Pol Pot died in 1998.

"Case Two is the most important," the director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Youk Chhang, said. "These were the leaders, none of them have apologised, none of them have asked for forgiveness, none of them speak

"How long those defendants live is up to God. But I never wish them dead, never. I want them to face the court, to answer for what they have done."

But other concerns hang over the court.

There is anxiety that the Government is interfering, refusing to co-operate with inquiries and trying to stifle further investigations it might find uncomfortable.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former low-level Khmer Rouge cadre, believes more charges could lead to civil war. "I wish the court would have a budget shortfall as soon as possible," he said.

A report this week from the Open Society Justice Initiative found Cambodian court staff were refusing to issue summons to witnesses who hold senior government posts.

And investigations into another five Khmer Rouge leaders, believed to include senior government figures, have been stifled by the Cambodian side of the court.

"It seems that there are efforts being made to protect people from having to be involved," Ms Ryan said.

Cambodians, who are naturally distrustful of courts through domestic experience, have embraced the court and the opportunity for justice it offers. Hundreds filled the public gallery every day of the Duch trial.

Duch will have just one more day in court, next year, when he will learn his fate.

Who will follow him into the dock is unknown.

Khmer Rouge Trial Adjourns; Accused Death Camp Commander Awaits Sentence

http://www1.voanews.com/

In the last minutes of his trial, the man accused of running a Khmer Rouge death camp Friday asked for an acquittal. The three Cambodian and two international judges ignored the request and ended the trial.

Luke Hunt | Phnom Penh 27 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)


Photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, show Kaing Guek Eav, (R), the former chief of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, in the court room of the U.N.-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 25 Nov 2009

In Cambodia, the trial of a prison commandant who ruled over the deaths of at least 12,000 people has wrapped up. But, it will be months before a verdict and sentence are issued.

In the last minutes of his trial, the man accused of running a Khmer Rouge death camp Friday asked for an acquittal. The three Cambodian and two international judges ignored the request and ended the trial.

In summing up the trial of Kang Guek Eav, also known as Duch, his lawyers downplayed the role of the S-21 death camp he ran. S-21 was housed in a Phnom Penh school when the Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975 to 1979.

Duch has admitted running the prison and has apologized for his role. But his lawyers have argued he was not a senior official in the Khmer Rouge and he acted to protect himself and his family.

Helen Jarvis is head of the court's victims unit and says many will be relieved that the court has wrapped up the trial, which began in February.

"For the last seven months they have been here almost every single day, and have been following the ups and downs, they've been on the edge of their seats, crying, angry, upset, worried, everything," said Helen Jarvis. "Their emotions have been absolute high pitched for seven months.

She says victims of the Khmer Rouge now will wait for a verdict and sentence. The prosecutors have asked for 40 years in prison, although many victims want Duch to serve a life sentence.

A verdict is expected early next year.

About 1.7 million people died under the ultra-Maoists, from murder, starvation and illness caused by forced migration around the country as the Khmer Rouge attempted to establish an agrarian Utopia.

Defense lawyer Francois Roux told the court that Duch was full of remorse and drew comparisons with Albert Spear, Adolf Hitler's defense minister in World War II who was sentenced to 20 years in jail at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Roux said Duch had "shed tears over the graves of the children" who were processed at S-21 before being transported to the Killing Fields on the outskirts of town where, like their parents, they were bludgeoned to death.

The Khmer Rouge established 196 such camps around the country based on a prototype Duch established in 1971.

The court heard S-21 held top rank among the camps and Duch was central to Khmer Rouge policies of purging potential enemies of the state.

Because of international politics and Cambodia's own civil war, Duch is the first Khmer Rouge leader to face trial The trials of former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, former head of state Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea are not expected to begin until late next year.

Many other Khmer Rouge leaders have died without ever facing justice, including the head of the group, Pol Pot.

Cambodia cancels $41.2 million loan from Thailand


By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press Writer
Saturday, November 28

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia informed Thailand on Friday it was canceling a US$41.2 million loan from Bangkok meant to finance the upgrade of a highway from the Thai border.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country didn't need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own.

The decision comes during a period of bad relations between the two countries over Cambodia's recent welcome to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive from Thai justice.

Thai-Cambodian relations took a turn for the worse when Cambodia recently named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia's rejection of a formal request from Bangkok to extradite him, drew a negative reaction from Bangkok.

Each country has recalled its ambassador and Bangkok has canceled an agreement to negotiate on joint development of offshore territory claimed by both countries. It also said it would review all other assistance agreements and projects with its neighbor.

Cambodia is holding a Thai man on a spying charge for allegedly sending a copy of Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai Embassy during the former leader's visit earlier this month.

The secretary to Thailand's foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, downplayed the importance of Phnom Penh's cancellation of the loan to upgrade the 73-mile (117-kilometer) road stretching from Cambodia's northwestern border with Thailand to the province of Siem Reap.

He called it a normal procedure, as Friday marked three months after the agreement was signed, and Cambodia was supposed to give notice on whether it agreed to its terms.

The road would in large part serve trade between the two countries, which is heavily in Thailand's favor.

He said Thailand had reviewed the agreement, as part of its earlier threat to cancel all assistance agreements, but took no action on it.

A Thai court last year sentenced Thaksin in absentia to two years in prison for violating a conflict of interest law, but he fled into exile before the verdict. He was prime minister from 2001 until ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Cambodian ex-prison chief pleads for release


In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Kaing Guek Eav, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, sits in the courtroom of the U.N.-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. Both sides in the genocide trial wrap up their cases on Friday amid allegations by prosecutors that the former school teacher's admissions of guilt are insincere. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia)


Cambodian Buddhist monks walk though the gate to the U.N.-backed tribunal court hall as Kaing Guek Eav, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Cambodian villagers walk through a gate outside the courtroom before the U.N.-backed tribunal of Kaing Guek Eav, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. Closing arguments were expected to conclude Friday in the genocide trial with both sides sparing over how much the former school teacher should be held accountable for the regime's brutality. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


By SOPHENG CHEANG and LUKE HUNT (AP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — After claiming to feel great remorse for his part in Khmer Rouge atrocities, the defendant in Cambodia's first genocide trial on Friday surprised the court with a last-minute plea for his freedom, saying he should not have been prosecuted and has already spent ten years in jail.

Kaing Guek Eav, who headed a torture center from which about 16,000 men, women and children were sent to their deaths, seemingly stepped back from previous assertions of responsibility for his actions and expressions of sorrow to his victims, as well as willingness to accept severe punishment.

His Cambodian lawyer, Kar Savuth, went a step further and stunned the tribunal by issuing the trial's first clear call for an acquittal of his client, even after his French lawyer, Francois Roux, denied seeking such a verdict.

Only when directly pressed by a frustrated Judge Dame Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand did Kar Savuth say that in calling for Duch's release he was seeking his acquittal.

After consultations, the judges at the U.N.-assisted tribunal accepted the plea for acquittal, even though the legal basis for it was unclear.

Acquittal in legal terms normally means a finding that the defendant is not guilty of the crimes he is charged with, while the defense case hinged generally on claims that Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, ought to have any punishment lightened in view of his cooperation with the court and expressions of remorse.

Cambodian-American human rights lawyer Theary Seng said the call for an acquittal was difficult to understand.

"What he did totally undermines his efforts up until now in terms of remorse and it undermines his request for forgiveness, which I thought was genuine," she said. "It's inexplicable and calls into question his previous efforts of remorse. This is really disturbing."

Friday's dramatic turn of events came as the trial was in its next to last stage, with prosecution and defense making rebuttals to the other's closing arguments. Judges are expected to issue their verdict early next year.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

The prosecution earlier this week asked the court to sentence Duch to 40 years in jail, taking into account his cooperation and time served while waiting for trial. The maximum sentence he could receive is life imprisonment. Cambodia has no death penalty.

Some 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation due to the radical communist policies of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime. Four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge are also in the tribunal's custody, and they are expected to be tried next year or later.

Even Friday, Duch spoke of acknowledging and apologizing for "the more than one million souls who perished" due to the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

But he went on to claim that the tribunal's mandate was to prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders, and didn't apply to him, an argument that had already been rejected by the court.

Also pointing out the time he had already spent in custody, Duch said to the judges, "I ask the chamber to release me."

The tribunal earlier this year ruled that Duch had been held illegally for five of the eight years he was in the custody of Cambodia's military court before being transferred to the tribunal, and that if found guilty, he could get credit not only for time already served but also to compensate for the earlier violation of his rights.

The positions of Duch's two lawyers seemed to diverge in their closing arguments earlier this week, with Kar Savuth seeking an acquittal, and Roux pleading for a lenient prison sentence due to his client's contrition and cooperation with the court.

Thailand, Cambodia say row won't lead to conflict


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) talks to former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK — Thailand and Cambodia's diplomatic row over fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will not cause further clashes between their armed forces, their defense ministers said after meeting Friday.

Relations between the countries, which have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged earlier this month when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh as an advisor to the Cambodian government.

After a two-day meeting in the Thai resort town of Pattaya which ended Friday, the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers said they had agreed to reach peaceful solutions to solve new misunderstandings.

"Thai and Cambodian forces will support every mechanism to strengthen relations between the two countries," Thai defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

Prawit said the meeting focused on issues around the poorly defined, heavily armed border and how to make people who live there live peacefully.

Prawit added that military and diplomatic rows were different, saying: "We have to divide them from each other".

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser earlier this month and the Thai tycoon then visited Phnom Penh for four days from November 10.

Thailand was infuriated when Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin, who was sentenced to two years in jail in absentia in September 2008 on corruption charges and is currently living in exile.

The two countries withdrew their ambassadors, and the row was further inflamed when Cambodian police arrested a Thai man on charges of spying on Thaksin and expelled the first secretary to Thailand's embassy.

Thailand reciprocated soon after.

But Cambodia allowed the mother of the detained man, Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, to visit him in prison on Friday in a bid to ease tensions.

"They met for one hour and a half at a meeting room in the prison," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a secretary to the Thai foreign minister.

Siwarak's mother, Simarak Na Nokhon Phanom, told reporters at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh that she thanked Hun Sen for allowing her to see her son, but added that he was "unlucky" to be arrested.

Siwarak an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested early this month on charges of spying on Thaksin's flight schedule.

Cambodia promotes special Olympic sports event


November 27, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia's Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation with the support from Australian Embassy held the special Olympic sport tournament on Friday at National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh to promote the sport events in the country.

"This sport is contributing to encourage the disabled people and low intelligent people in the country and we have never abandoned them," Meas Sarin, undersecretary of state for Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport said at the opening ceremony of the fourth national special Olympic tournament.

"It also will help our next generation to promote this sport and push them to contribute their abilities for helping the society," he added. "We have never discriminated for all kinds of people," he noted.

Chap Rotana, senior member of executive committee of the National Special Olympic Committee of Cambodia told Xinhua that this year the country has over 190 special athletes joining the full-day event.

Source: Xinhua

Cancellation of 41.2 USD million loan, Cambodia


November 27, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

CAMBODIA informed Thailand on Friday it was canceling a US$41.2 million (S$57 million) loan from Bangkok meant to finance the upgrade of a highway from the Thai border



Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country didn’t need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own.

The decision comes during a period of bad relations between the two countries over Cambodia’s recent welcome to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive from Thai justice.

Thai-Cambodian relations took a turn for the worse when Cambodia recently named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia’s rejection of a formal request from Bangkok to extradite him, drew a negative reaction from Bangkok.

Each country has recalled its ambassador and Bangkok has canceled an agreement to negotiate on joint development of offshore territory claimed by both countries. It also said it would review all other assistance agreements and projects with its neighbor.

The secretary to Thailand’s foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, downplayed the importance of Phnom Penh’s cancellation of the loan to upgrade the 117-kilometer road stretching from Cambodia’s northwestern border with Thailand to the province of Siem Reap.

Thailand, Cambodia say row won't lead to conflict

By Agence France-Presse
Updated: 11/27/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand and Cambodia's diplomatic row over fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will not cause further clashes between their armed forces, their defense ministers said after meeting Friday.

Thailand and Cambodia's diplomatic row over fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will not cause further clashes between their armed forces, their defense ministers said after meeting Friday.

Relations between the countries, which have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged earlier this month when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh as an advisor to the Cambodian government.

After a two-day meeting in the Thai resort town of Pattaya which ended Friday, the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers said they had agreed to reach peaceful solutions to solve new misunderstandings.

"Thai and Cambodian forces will support every mechanism to strengthen relations between the two countries," Thai defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

Prawit said the meeting focused on issues around the poorly defined, heavily armed border and how to make people who live there live peacefully.

Prawit added that military and diplomatic rows were different, saying: "We have to divide them from each other".

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser earlier this month and the Thai tycoon then visited Phnom Penh for four days from November 10.

Thailand was infuriated when Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin, who was sentenced to two years in jail in absentia in September 2008 on corruption charges and is currently living in exile.

The two countries withdrew their ambassadors, and the row was further inflamed when Cambodian police arrested a Thai man on charges of spying on Thaksin and expelled the first secretary to Thailand's embassy.

Thailand reciprocated soon after.

But Cambodia allowed the mother of the detained man, Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, to visit him in prison on Friday in a bid to ease tensions.

"They met for one hour and a half at a meeting room in the prison," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a secretary to the Thai foreign minister.

Siwarak's mother, Simarak Na Nokhon Phanom, told reporters at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh that she thanked Hun Sen for allowing her to see her son, but added that he was "unlucky" to be arrested.

Siwarak an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested early this month on charges of spying on Thaksin's flight schedule.

Family visits accused spy in Cambodia



Published: 27/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The mother and brother of the Thai engineer arrested in Cambodia on spying charges, Sivarak Chutipong, flew to Cambodia on Friday morning to visit him in jail.

Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom said before leaving she was so excited at the prospect of seeing her son that she had not been able to sleep properly the last few nights. She would tell him to be patient because he would be soon be freed.

Mr Sivarak is being detained at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh. Mr Sivarak's younger brother, Phongsuree, accompanied his mother on the visit.
They were scheduled to meet him about 2pm.

Mr Sivarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Service, a Thai company, was arrested on charges of supplying state secrets - details of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule - to the Thai embassy when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh earlier this month.

Deputy director-general of the Consul Department Mathurapojjana Ittharong said the family had been allowed a 30 minute visit starting at 2pm. They would leave Phnom Penh for Bangkok around 10pm.

Mr Sivarak has applied for release on bail. The Cambodian court is expected to announce its decision on Dec 8.

The defence ministers of both Thailand and Cambodia on Friday agreed not to let the diplomatic row between the two countries sparked by the appointment of Thaksin as a political adviser to the government and personal adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen lead to the deepening of the border conflict.

"Thai and Cambodian armed forces will support every mechanism between the two countries to improve ties," Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters after a meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee in Pattaya.

"The highest goal will be the safety of the public and sustainable peace at the border," he said, adding that troops from the two sides have a "peaceful relationship".

Cambodian Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh told the press conference that Cambodia would not do anything that would affect the lives of the people of the two countries.

"We will avoid any action that would lead to a conflict between the two countries," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban brushed aside former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's call for the government to initiate talks with Cambodia to normalise diplomatic relations.

Mr Surakiart made the suggestion during a seminar on Thai-Cambodian relations at Chulalongkorn University on Thursday. He also said the Thai-Cambodian conflict should be raised for discussion in the Asean forum.

Mr Suthep said the conflict was between two counries and it should not be made a problem for Asean.

"It is not that we fear it would be a loss of face. It is a difference of thinking. Mr Surakiart may have his own thoughts on the matter, but the government thinks a problem between two countries should not be taken to Asean or a higher level," Mr Suthep said.

It would take some time before the two countries could reach a good understanding. As long as the core cause of the conflict remains unchanged it would be difficult to hold talks, he said.

He also said the conflict between the two countries was limited to a diplomatic disagreement, while military relations remained intact. Soldiers of the two countries had been in good communication to prevent tensions along the border, he added.

"We neighbours may have a quarrel, but that should not be allowed to develop to fighting. We have to maintain peace," Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the Thai-Cambodian border committee meetings would proceed as normal and there would not be a border closure because it would affect the lives of people living along both sides of the border.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said dispute between Thailand and Phnom Penh will continue to exist as long as Thaksin is Cambodia's economic adviser.

Mr Kasit was responding to questions about the diplomatic row could be settled.

"Thaksin is the problem," he said.

He insisted that the Foreign Ministry would not initiate talks with Cambodia, as former foreign minister Surahiart Sthirathai has suggested, or ask it to strip Thaksin of his advisory posts.

"What should be done has been done," Mr Kasit said.

As a Thai citizen, Mr Surakiart was entitled to voice his opinion, and the government welcomed suggestions, he said.

Cambodia torturer Duch – killer of 12,380 – asks court to set him free


Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, stands next to a security guard during closing arguments in his trial. Photograph: Lars Olsen/Reuters


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Khmer Rouge prison boss who admitted responsibility for the torture and murder of more than 12,000 people has stunned a war crimes court by asking to be acquitted and released.

On the last day of a nine-month trial, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, asked the judges to consider his co-operation with the court and the 10 years he had already served in jail and set him free.

In the last sentence of his final summing up, he said: "I would ask the chamber to release me, thank you very much."

The extraordinary request came just two days after he told the court he was ultimately accountable for the deaths that occurred while he headed the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. "I am solely and individually responsible for the loss of at least 12,380 lives," he said.

This morning an astounded bench asked Duch's lawyer, Kar Savuth, to clarify his statement, asking if his plea to be released was a request for acquittal.

"Release means acquittal," the court was told.

The prosecutor, William Smith, said outside court that he was surprised by Duch's last-minute change of heart. "The fact that he entered a request for an acquittal reinforces in our mind that his remorse is limited."

The prosecution has asked for 40 year's jail for Duch, 67. He will be sentenced next year.

Between 1975 and 1979 Tuol Sleng was the centrepiece of the Khmer Rouge's brutal security regime. "Enemies of the party" were tortured – shocked, whipped, beaten, and mutilated – into false confessions, then bludgeoned to death and buried in mass graves.

Outside court, Dara Chey, a student who lost four relatives during the Khmer Rouge years, said Duch's request for acquittal cast doubt on his earlier apology. "I do not believe him when he says he is sorry any more. He is just trying to get out of jail. He should never be allowed out. Cambodians will not be happy if he ever walks free."

This week Duch asked to be allowed to apologise in person to his victims' families. No family members of victims, or victims' groups, have said they want to meet with Duch.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. The joint trial of four more senior Khmer Rouge leaders is expected to start in mid-2011, while the court is considering whether to open cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres.

Khmer Rouge prison chief in shock acquital plea


Duch told the court he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge



Two million people were executed or died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge



By Patrick Falby (AFP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch stunned Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court Friday by asking judges to acquit and release him on the final day of arguments in his trial.

Prosecutors and victims said the demand raised questions about Duch's previous admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness for overseeing the murders of 15,000 people at a notorious torture centre.

"I would ask the chambers to release me. Thank you very much," Duch said at the end of his closing statement to the court, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Following a query by shocked judges, Duch's Cambodian lawyer Kar Savuth confirmed that Duch was asking to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.

International prosecutors earlier this week asked judges to impose a jail sentence of 40 years on Duch -- a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav -- for his role in the brutal 1975-1979 communist regime.

Under their leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly two million people as they abolished money, property and set up huge labour camps in their bid to turn Cambodia back to a rural "Year Zero".

Duch's jail, known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, was at the heart of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus. Inmates were taken from there during Duch's tenure for execution at a nearby orchard now known as the "Killing Fields".

During the nine-month trial, Duch's defence team focussed on getting a lighter sentence, by downplaying his position within the regime and by highlighting his remorse, his time already served and his cooperation.

But in the past week there have been signs of disharmony between Duch's Cambodian lawyers and his international counsel over their strategy.

Kar Savuth said Wednesday for the first time that Duch should be acquitted, appearing to cause a rift in the defence team. Co-defence lawyer Francois Roux then expressly stated early Friday the defence was not seeking an acquittal.

The court's three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges officially wrapped up the proceedings later Friday without making a ruling on Duch's request. They are expected to hand down a verdict by March.

Prosecutors said they were "surprised" by Duch's last-minute demand.

"The fact that he (Duch) entered a request for an acquittal reinforces in our mind that the remorse is limited," international prosecutor Bill Smith told a hastily arranged press conference at the court.

"We the co-prosecutors have been taken by surprise. It's still in my mind unclear whether there was agreement or disagreement between the national and international counsel," Smith said.

The court, set up in 2006 as a final chance to find justice for victims of the blood-soaked regime, has already been mired in controversy over alleged political interference and allegations about kickbacks in return for jobs.

Vann Nath, an artist who survived Tuol Sleng after he was put to work painting pictures of Pol Pot, said Duch's request "insults the dead".

"He must not be released because he committed huge crimes. We totally depend on the court for justice," he said.

Chum Mey, who survived because of his skills as a mechanic, added: "The court must not release Duch. Duch is known worldwide as a guilty person who killed thousands of people."

Pol Pot died in 1998. The joint trial of four other more senior Khmer Rouge leaders is expected to start in 2011, while the court is considering whether to open cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres.

"Because of the behaviour of the defence it was a good day for the prosecution but an unfortunate day for justice and a very disappointing day for the victims," said Eric Holder, a human rights professor from the University of California at Berkeley, who is attending the trial.

FM Kasit: Thailand won't negotiate with Cambodia as long as Thaksin advises


27 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov 27 (TNA) - Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya on Friday asserted that Thailand will not open negotiations to settle the diplomatic row with its neighbour Cambodia as the problem was caused by its neighbour when Cambodia appointed fugitive ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser.

Mr Kasit commented as former Thai foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai advised the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to open talks with the Cambodian government first to end recent diplomatic falling out which deteriorated relations between the two kingdoms.

The minister reaffirmed that Thailand will not begin negotiations as long as the fugitive ex-Thai premier remains in the post and the Cambodian government still "meddles" with Mr Thaksin.

He said that it is not about "losing face" because Thailand has its own dignity, saying the problem was initiated by the Cambodian government and should be ended by Phnom Penh.

Mr Kasit also denied a news report that the Thai foreign ministry has submitted a letter to the Cambodian government calling for Mr Thaksin's dismissal, saying that the ministry has already disclosed what it had done, and that it has nothing to hide.

The foreign ministry has done everything in its power to help the detained Thai engineer being held in a Cambodian prison over spying charges and provided a lawyer for him, but the case must proceed under the Cambodian judicial process, he said.

Diplomatic ties between Thailand and Cambodia worsened after the Cambodian government appointed the fugitive ex-Thai premier as its economic adviser and personal advider to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Both countries recalled their respective ambassadors in retaliatory action, while the Cambodian government rejected Thailand's request to extradite Mr Thaksin.

The Cambodian authorities then arrested Siwarak Chutipong, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), charging him with acquiring secret information considered to affecting Cambodia's national security after he was accused of releasing Thaksin Shinawatra’s flight schedule to a Thai embassy official in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh who is now attending the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) meeting in the Thai seaside resort of Pattaya, southeast of Bangkok on Friday reiterated that legal action against Mr Siwarak will proceed under international legal practices and with fair treatment.

Gen Tea Banh expressed confidence that problems will be sorted out and Cambodia will not complicate the case of the Thai engineer by mixing it with other issues.

However, he said the period of detention depends on the legal procedure and the court ruling.

The Cambodian defence minister reasserted that the arrest of the Thai citizen has nothing to do with politics, but is because his actions are an offence under Cambodian law. (TNA)

Q+A: How bad is the Thai-Cambodian spat?


Fri Nov 27, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

(Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia are embroiled in a diplomatic stand-off over the appointment of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, on the run from a graft conviction, as an adviser to the Cambodian government.

Rivalry between the two neighbors dates back centuries and tensions are never far from the surface. But ties have sunk to their lowest in almost seven years, with both sides recalling their ambassadors and freezing agreements.

Their defense ministers met on Friday, saying military ties were strong and there was no risk of conflict [ID:nBKK529850]. But tensions remain high on the heavily armed border.

WHAT CAUSED THE LATEST FLARE-UP?

The Thai government sees Thaksin's new job as a slap in the face, but what seems to have irked Bangkok so much is Cambodia's refusal to extradite him, should a request be made, using the argument that his graft conviction was politically motivated.

That is seen as an attack on Thailand's judicial system.

There are other reasons, however. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has had enough trouble from the self-exiled Thaksin as it is, and the prospect of him wielding his sizable influence from across the border could hamper his efforts to bring stability to his deeply polarized country.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF TENSIONS?

There is no love lost between the two countries. Cambodia's Khmer Empire, dating back to the ninth century, was once the dominant power in the region and ruled over much of modern Thailand from its Angkor Wat complex, prompting many rebellions.

A big source of tension is Preah Vihear, an 11th century temple straddling their disputed border. Although an international court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, it is still the source of nationalist squabbles that have led to deadly border skirmishes.

As recently as September, Cambodia accused Thai soldiers of burning a boy alive after shooting at villagers in the area.

Diplomatic ties were severed in 2003 for almost three months after Cambodians went on the rampage in Phnom Penh, torching the Thai embassy and vandalizing Thai businesses over an unsubstantiated rumor that a famous Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

ARE TENSIONS GETTING WORSE?

Following Thaksin's departure from Cambodia on November 14, officials on both sides of the border have been more measured in their comments.

Thailand held back on plans to freeze low-interest loans to Cambodia and welcomed access to a Thai national detained in Cambodia charged with spying. The scheduled meeting between Thai and Cambodia defense ministers in Pattaya this week was not postponed as earlier expected.

Defense ministers are discussing broad security and joint development-related issues. They did not make any commitment to withdraw troops from disputed land surrounding Preah Vihear temple, a move that would require parliamentary approval in Thailand.

SHOULD INVESTORS IN CAMBODIA BE ALARMED?

Not yet. Cambodia's economy depends heavily on China, Japan and South Korea, and very little on Thailand, which in turn relies on its neighbor for just 0.05 percent of total imports.

Despite endemic corruption and various internal problems, investors are still drawn to Cambodia and it is unlikely the latest tit-for-tat row with Thailand will change anything.

Providing the border remains open and peace prevails, it will not make much difference. However, the thousands of Thais that flock to Cambodia's border casinos each week might think twice about a flutter while tensions remain high.

(Reporting by Jason Szep, Ambika Ahuja and Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Cambodian, Thai militaries not to use force to solve border issues: Thai minister


2009-11-27

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian and Thai militaries agreed at a meeting Friday they will not use force to deal with border issues.

The agreement was made at a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC), which is being held in eastern beach resort town Pattaya on Friday and Saturday, the Thai News Agency reported.

The Cambodian side is headed by Defense Minister Tea Banh.

Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwn, Supreme Commander General Songkitti Jakkabatra, Army Commander-in-Chief General Anupong Paochinda, First Army Region Commander Lt General Khanit Saphithak have represented the Thai side.

Speaking after the first day of the GBC meeting, General Prawit said the militaries of the two countries will use peaceful means to deal with bilateral issues.

The Thai and Cambodian militaries will ensure the Cambodian-Thai people will continue with their normal life peacefully and sustainably.

Also, the militaries will cooperate to facilitate border trade and tourism activities, the Thai defense minister said.

General Prawit said the Thai and Cambodian armed forces have also agreed to maintain their good relations based on international laws.

The GBC meeting, which is co-chaired by the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers, or their representatives, is held on a regular basis.

Editor: Deng Shasha