Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cambodia reports down in criminal offensives, but up in rapes in 2010

via CAAI

February 02, 2011

Cambodia has seen 10 percent decline in cases of criminal offensives, but noticeable increase of 30 percent of rapes last year, according to the annual report from the National Police on Wednesday.

The report recorded 3,087 cases of criminal infringements happened last year, 10 percent down from 3,456 cases in a year earlier. Of the figure, 994 were felony cases, dropped 11 percent from 1,117 cases.

The criminal offensives cost 317 lives and wounded 1,213 people.

Among the cases, the police and relevant authorities had cracked down on 2,310 cases or 75 percent of the total offensives, and apprehended 3,413 perpetrators.

Despite the drop in criminal infringement, the report said that 321 rape cases had been recorded last year, up 30 percent from 247 cases in a year earlier.

It added that the rise in rapes due mainly to over-drinking of alcohols, drug usage and pornographic video.

Source: Xinhua

Humanity in focus

Bill Smith
Bill Smith was so moved by seeing children working a garbage dump for articles they could sell that he decided to act, and his actions helped change lives.

Photographer for Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears helping change lives in Cambodia


via CAAI
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com

Trash extended as far as the eyes could see. Hundreds of workers, many of them children, half-naked and bare foot, waded through the filth. They were accompanied by rats and snakes as they slaved beneath a scorching sun that brought temperatures topping 100 degrees. Flies enveloped the dump, the children wiping them off their arms as though they were pulling up the sleeves of a dress shirt. The end goal of the endeavor was to scavenge out tiny treasures: a minuscule piece of plastic, a scrap of steel, a fragment of glass, anything they could gather and sell at the end of the day. A young girl with sad eyes scooped through some slop, looking for particles of food that could be sold and used as cattle feed.

This was the scene that Bill Smith and his wife Lauren witnessed during one of their trips to Cambodia back in the summer of 2002. They had been taken to Stung Mean Chey dump, truly a name apropos of such a display, by their driver, Chat Kong, who suggested that they go see "the children." This was not what Smith and his wife had expected when they took his advice.

"I kind of knew that it existed. I vaguely remember seeing a picture like that in National Geographic," said Smith. "But it doesn't really hit home until you're standing there."

Smith is the team photographer for the Chicago Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls. He's made a living shooting the brilliance of Devin Hester, Jonathan Toews and Michael Jordan competing against the most famous athletes in the world on the biggest stage.

He's not one to be intimidated by a moment, until that one life-changing day. Smith and his wife were horrified by what they'd seen at the dump in the tiny village just outside Phnom Penh. They were practically in tears.

They had been traveling to different parts of Southeast Asia for more than a decade at the urging of friend Gary Fencik, the former Chicago Bears safety. In his downtime, Smith would take pictures for pleasure in these exotic locales. He'd been to Vietnam, India and numerous other countries, but he was always drawn to Cambodia.

Normally chatty about what they had seen during their daily exploits, the Smiths instead sat in silence on their drive back to the hotel. They knew they had to do something and decided to go back to the dump the next day and pick out a child to support. They realized they were being naïve. They knew helping one child would hardly make a dent in the dire scenes they had witnessed, but they didn't feel right sitting idly by while such unspeakable sadness was unfolding.

The following day, Kong drove them back to the dump, where Lauren saw a girl in a red hat. She had remembered seeing the girl working hard the day before, her sad eyes branded in Lauren's memory. Kong brought the terrified girl over and helped translate between the Smiths and the young girl. After learning their intentions, the shy girl, whose name they learned was Sreyna, eventually agreed to take them to her home. She led them through a shanty town, and they came upon a tiny shack constructed from corrugated tin and had no running water or electricity. Sreyna's mother was not at home, she was out working as a bricklayer, but the Smiths were greeted by Sreyna's older sister, Salim, and their friend, Nak, who had been living with them since her parents had passed away.

Eventually, the Smiths would meet Sreyna and Salim's mother and, through Kong's translation, they found out that all three children worked at the dump instead of attending school, each bringing in $10 a month. The Smiths made a deal with the mother, they would enroll the children in school as well as pay her the money that she would lose from them no longer working in the dump, but she had to promise that the kids would never work there again. They left Kong some money to care for the children and he agreed to occasionally visit the children to ensure that their pact was being held in place.

When they returned to the U.S., Bill showed the pictures he had taken at the dump to friends and relatives. Many of them were moved by what they saw and insisted on donating money to adopt a child as well. The word spread, and what started out as one child, then immediately grew to three, then up to 20 and counting. When the Smiths returned to Cambodia a few months later, they realized that even though what they were doing was progress, it still wasn't enough. The kids had no lights to do their school work at night, the conditions that they lived in were still terrible, and the Smiths knew that they had to raise more money so they could get them out of the slums and into an acceptable living situation.

By this time, Joe O'Neil, the Bulls' senior director of ticket operations, had adopted some children of his own and was helping Smith spearhead this initiative. The two of them brainstormed and ended up putting together a program called "From the Sports World to the Third World." They'd rent venues wherever they could get an audience, from country clubs to church groups, friends would invite friends and they began to show what they had witnessed at the Stung Mean Chey dump. Smith would start off by showing his pictures from sporting events and concerts at the United Center, then he'd go on to show the beauty of southeast Asia. Finally he'd show them the images of the children rummaging through the trash; by the time he'd finished with that, there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house.

Eventually, the donations came flooding in, and with some lucky breaks and articles in the Chicago Tribune, the yearly donations went from thousands of dollars, to more than a hundred thousand, with former Bears chairman Mike McCaskey and Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf among some of the larger contributors. Reinsdorf was so moved after seeing a documentary about the subject on Comcast SportsNet that he sent copies of the film to every Bulls season-ticket holder, encouraging them to donate what they could to the foundation. That's how what began as Bill and Lauren Smith opening their hearts to a few young girls ballooned into what is now "A New Day Cambodia."

Presently, "A New Day Cambodia" is a foundation comprised of two houses, a staff of 16 and 100 children who range from the ages of 7-22. The Smiths, O'Neil and countless others have been tireless in their efforts with this program. In essence, it has become a second full-time job for them. They are the ones who made all this possible, but at the heart of it all is Annette Jensen, who has been the director of the homes in Cambodia for more than three years and the person whom Bill Smith insists makes all of this work.

"Working with ANDC and the children was a job that fell into my lap," said Jensen, who according to Smith is vastly overqualified for the job and has turned down pay raises to ensure that more money will go toward benefiting the children. "I had no experience with children. My background is in translation and business. But once I met the 44 adorable children who had moved into the ANDC center a few months before I arrived in Phnom Penh, I was sold.

"The work is immensely rewarding. The children appreciate any little thing you do for them, and there is plenty of payment in the form of smiles, hugs and kisses every day."

Behind those smiles is an appreciation that transcends words.

"In the past, I was a scavenger on the dump and my family was so poor," said Chhon Sreynov, 15, a student in A New Day Cambodia. "After I live in the center, I feel I am a very lucky person that I can stay and study in the center. If I don't live here I don't know what my life will be."

O'Neil knows his work has impacted the lives of these children, but they've done the same to him and his family: "The most satisfaction I've had was bringing my family to Cambodia and having my children meet these children."

Children like Sot Ra, 15: "I am very lucky to live in the center. I live in the center by Mr. Bill and Mr. Joe. If I don't live in the center maybe I am a scavenger on the dump and I become a bad boy or become a playboy and steal somebody's money all the time. The center can make me have a good future in my life."

Jensen has been working with these children for more than three years, and over that time her duties have been ever evolving.

"At the beginning, the focus was on researching school options and trying to find doctors and dentists who actually knew what they were doing, treated the children with respect and were affordable," she said. "Then the focus became opening a second center and filling it with everything it needed, including new children for the project.

"Later, the focus moved to hiring teachers for our in-house English program that all the children attend six days a week for half a day, finding volunteers, meeting with visitors, dealing with staff, listening to children's questions, and dealing with the many issues that come up. Finally, the focus has turned to providing the children some of the fun that should come with being a child -- setting up dance programs, swim lessons, singing lessons, correspondence between children and sponsors, and the like."

Included in those fun activities are the sports the children like to play, the most popular of which is soccer. A few years ago some of the children were entered into a soccer league. "I'm pretty sure they lost every game," Smith said with a smirk. "Now they're one of the top teams."

While they are without access to the proper facilities to play the sport, many of the children also like basketball. In all likelihood they have yet to have the pleasure of witnessing Derrick Rose knife through the lane or watching Joakim Noah rebound and block shots. However, the children do wear the Bulls hats that "Mr. Bill" and "Mr. Joe" gave them, with pride.

"All the kids know that Chicago has been very good to them," said Jensen, "If they have a chance to go abroad, 99 percent of them would come to Chicago."

Certainly one of their first stops would be to the United Center.

This past June, the Smiths were lucky enough to witness the fruits of their generosity as Sreyna graduated from Zaman International School, which is designed for advanced students. The once sad-eyed girl turned out to be a truly gifted child. Despite not being formally educated until she was 9, she still finished high school at the age of 18.

"I couldn't look at the stage without crying, seeing her in her cap and gown, knowing where she came from," Smith beamed like a boastful father. "I was so proud."

Thai 'Yellow Shirts' vow protest after Cambodia verdict


via CAAI

BANGKOK — Thai "Yellow Shirts" vowed to intensify protests in Bangkok after a high-profile nationalist activist was jailed for eight years in Cambodia, in a case that has raised border tensions.

The group issued an ultimatum threatening to step up their rally in the capital after Veera Somkwamkid -- a former leader of the Yellow movement -- and his secretary were sentenced by a Cambodian court on Tuesday.

"The Thai government has three days to comply with our demands, including bringing back those two people from Cambodia," spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Yellow Shirts have camped out around the government's compound since last week, demonstrating against its handling of a border dispute with neighbouring Cambodia, and the group plans a larger rally on Saturday.

Despite relatively small numbers compared to their arch enemies -- the anti-government "Red Shirts" whose most recent rally attracted nearly 30,000 people -- protesters have managed to choke off streets around Government House.

Veera and Ratree Pipattanapaibul were were found guilty of illegal entry into Cambodia, trespassing on a military area and spying.

The pair were among seven Thais arrested in Cambodia on December 29 while they were inspecting disputed border territory.

The other five -- including a ruling party politician -- received suspended sentences for illegal entry on January 21 and have since returned to Thailand.

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

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he was "disappointed" with the verdict.

He warned protesters to remain calm and said security had been stepped up around key government buildings and the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok.

"Do not let this verdict trigger violence, we must solve the issue in peaceful way," he said.

Yellow Shirts are a force to be reckoned with in Thailand's colour-coded politics and have helped to claim the scalps of three governments in under five years, including that of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Officially known as the People's Alliance for Democracy, they seized two Bangkok airports in late 2008, leaving more than 300,000 travellers stranded.

Army boosts presence in disputed area


via CAAI

Published: 2/02/2011 

Thailand is ramping up its military presence in the disputed area along the border with Cambodia but the army insists the use of force will be the last resort.

The military rumblings come as the spat over the presence of national flags in the disputed zone continues, with Cambodia refusing to remove its national standard from Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara inside the contested area and Thailand erecting its own in response.

Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara is the Cambodian name of the temple known in Thailand as Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara.

The Thai flag is said to be bigger and stands taller than the Cambodian one.

Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha said the border dispute should be solved through the Joint Boundary Commission, adding the Foreign Affairs Ministry was pursuing this channel.

"Use of force will be the last resort," Gen Prayuth said.

"The government must try to solve this through dialogue."

He insisted Thailand had not lost any territory, despite the claims of the People's Alliance for Democracy pressure group, which is protesting against the government's handling of the dispute.

Gen Prayuth said the two countries had increased security along the border but insisted neither had any intention to intrude on the other's territory.

He said Cambodia's deployment of tanks and heavy weapons along the border was part of military preparedness in response to media expectation of the use of force.

Thailand had mobilised its own troops and arms, but Gen Prayuth said this was a routine preparatory practice.

"There are several approaches ranging from talks to force. If talks fail and there is a troop stand-off, that is another story," he said.

"But I don't want to see this happen. It will use a lot of resources. We have to help lessen tension.

" A war is not just about shooting at each other. We need to bring two or three times more troops to the border. There is also weapon support. All of this needs money."

Slip-Sliding Noodles at Phnom Penh


By Jay Friedman, Tue., Feb. 1 2011

via CAAI

Dish: Goo Nam Noodle
Place: Phnom Penh Noodle House, International District, Seattle
Price: $6.50

In the Bowl: Per the menu: "Cambodian spiced beef stew and tendon served with wide rice noodles."

Supporting Cast: A plate of bean sprouts (they'll ask if you want them raw or steamed) with a lemon wedge.

What to do: Toss in as many sprouts as you'd like, squeeze in lemon if desired, and add spice from the spice caddy. (I prefer the chili oil over the Sriracha.)

Noodling around: I'm a sucker for wide noodles, which is why I chose the goo nam noodle over the more popular Phnom Penh special rice noodle, which my companion ordered. I actually liked hers better, as the broth had a nice, clean taste (especially after a squirt of lemon boosted the acidity), and the pork and seafood components played off against each other well.

That said, I did enjoy much about the goo nam. The soup was mellower than expected, with just a slight spicy tang at the end, which I'd attribute to the chilies and lemongrass in the broth. (The chilies and lemongrass are apparently processed with peanuts, sesame seeds, garlic, shallots, and much more.) Some might like the stewed beef to be slightly more tender, but I was especially thrilled with the melt-in-your-mouth pieces of tendon--I'm happy to know that if I ever lose my teeth, I'll still be able to enjoy this fatty goodness.

As for those wide noodles, they were good, but they can be a challenge to eat. You can feel the slipperiness in your mouth, and you can experience it on your chopsticks as you struggle to corral some. This struggle often ends in noodle withdrawal, splashing back into the soup resulting in liquid spraying your shirt. My advice: Ask for some waribashi (disposable chopsticks) made from bamboo or wood. (Or bring them yourself.) They have better grip, and you'll more easily get your noodles.

If still hungry: You shouldn't be surprised that I was naturally drawn to the pork intestine, either fried or with herbed soy sauce ($8.50), or, even better, pork bung mustard green (braised pork intestine with seasoned mustard greens for $8.49--one cent cheaper!). But I'd ultimately recommend finishing your meal with durian custard and sweet rice ($4.00), as it's not often you can find durian dessert around here. Also, I love that Phnom Penh has Italian sodas (in a number of berrylicious flavors). Maybe I missed something while pursuing my history degree: Is there a connection between Cambodia and Italy?

Be aware/beware: In this era of "secret menus," note that you can go off-menu and order the legendary "bone soup." There's some code of secrecy about this, so I leave it up to you to pursue this if you please.

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via CAAI

U.S. Urges Cambodia- Thailand to Exercise Restraint on Border Issue

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 14:50 DAP NEWS / SOPHAT

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, FEB 01, 2011-Derek Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, Asian and Pacific security affairs on Monday urged Cambodia – Thailand to exercise restraints over border issues between the two countries and especially area near the 11th century Khmer Preah Vihear temple.

Derek told the media briefing at the US embassy in Phnom Penh after concluding his three- day visit here: “Actually, I raised the issues with Tea Banh (Cambodian defense minister) about the situation there and I asked the questions. It happened. While I am in Manila before coming here, I heard about the border issues (between the two countries)”. He replied the questions from the reporters.

“The US position I think is very quite consistence on this. We call for all both sides to exercise restraint to deal with peaceful manner. And lower tension over the situation… so that it is the most important thing and here is the Cambodian perspective.” He told the media.

“It is not a real specific topic or on the agenda during my visit but it is useful for us to be engaged…we have to talk, he said.

The tension of border issues between the two countries occurred again after Thai PM told Thai media that Cambodia has to move the flag and destroyed the pagoda nearby the temple. Cambodia rejected the comments and called that comment “unacceptable and insulting demand” because the flag and the pagoda near the temple are in Cambodia territory.

Cambodian and Thai Foreign Ministers have plan to meet on bilateral cooperation committee at Siem Reap Province, home of Angkor Wat temple on February 3-4 this year.

______

THAILAND MUST BE SENSITIVE TO ICAPP VOICES AND TO THE WISDOM OF WORLD OPINION

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 04:54 DAP-NEWS .- The International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) reaffirmed the ICJ Decision 15 June 1962;

- The International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) reaffirmed the World Heritage Committee to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List;

- The Cambodian flag flies over territory under Cambodian sovereignty only.


There is no Cambodian flag flying over "the disputed area". Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should not be alarmed and wrongly demand that the Cambodian flag be removed. It flies certainly over territory under Cambodian sovereignty only, in the area of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

It is Cambodia's longstanding official position that there is "no overlapping area," and "no disputed area" near the Temple of Preah Vihear, based on the Dangrek Map, known in legal and international circles as the ANNEX I map, accepted and used by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962 in order to make the historical, legal and international judgments of 15 June 1962, (Cambodia vs Thailand), case: The Temple of Preah Vihear. The ICJ found that Thailand had accepted the ANNEX I map, which confers the binding character of the ANNEX I map on the parties to the 13 February 1904 Convention.

The site of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda is situated 300 meters west of the Temple of Preah Vihear and 700 meters south of the frontier on the ANNEX I map, as delimited by the Mixed Commission composed of French and Siamese officers prescribed in the provisions of Articles 1 and 3 of the 13 February 1904 Convention.

Legitimately and legally speaking, this is an area under Cambodian sovereignty, and as such Cambodia is free to fly her flag or develop infrastructure aimed at improving the living conditions of the people in communities which had been established under Cambodian administrative supervision and control. Having said that, as long as (i) it is not a Thai provocation by actions and words, (ii) not a cause to cloud the relations and mutual understandings between Cambodia and Thailand, (iii) not hidden or open violations of Cambodia sovereignty by Thailand, how Thailand sees the frontier line on the ANNEX I map would not be a concern for Cambodia. The ANNEX I map exists legally. An international, final and stable frontier line exists legally as delimited by the Mixed Commission and as shown on the map.

Most recently, on 5 December 2010, after concluding successfully the 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) represented by 89 Asian ruling and opposition political parties, ICAPP Standing Committee members visited the Temple of Preah Vihear. They stood on the grounds of the Temple, turning their eyes north, looking at Thailand, and:

- Reaffirmed the great international significance and outstanding universal value -very pure, significant and exceptional- of this Temple in accordance with the cultural standard of UNESCO, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008, and expressed their appreciation of the Decision made by the World Heritage Committee to inscribe the Temple on the World Heritage List in Quebec, Canada;

- Expressed their entire satisfaction with the decision of the International Court of Justice in June 1962, which ruled the Temple of Preah Vihear is indisputably situated in territory under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cambodia;

- Appealed to the international community for their immediate assistance in restoring, preserving and protecting the Temple, following the example of ICC-Angkor, which should be applied as a model for the sacred site of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

As it is known universally among civilized nations in case of contention, there exist international standards, rules and procedures to resolve the differences peacefully, and in this instance between Cambodia and Thailand. Rolling tanks, sending troops to the border areas, beefed up troops with heavy weapons by Thailand are acts of provocation and the threat of using forces is imminent not to be ignored by the Cambodian people and government.

Thailand, since the days of the ICJ proceedings has shown its true color to be driven by insatiable territorial ambition over Cambodia and has resorted to innuendo, speculation and suggestion in a variety of ways intended to intoxicate international public opinion with the scheme of swaying it to the side of Thailand and to believe that Thailand is a victim of Cambodian territorial encroachment and that Cambodia has remained badly mean and aggressive and yet unpunished by the international public opinion. Sure enough, Thai people, for nationalist reasons have fallen for that. But the international public opinion, despite relentless campaigns by Thai powerful media in many different foreign languages, has instead given to Thailand a slap in the face by:

- Being skeptical from the start, knowing that Thailand is relatively much, much more economically and military powerful than Cambodia to allow the latter to bully Thailand; that is unthinkable.

- Believing that Thailand as a whole from top to bottom would not have tolerated any neighbors had they encroach Thai territory, or occupy a square inch of Thai territory, and asking why Thailand has not acted if it was true.

- Seeing Thailand's indecisiveness and hesitation pertinent to the alleged loss of Thai "disputed territory" as the admission of Thailand's scare of the unknown resulting from its lie and deception if it pursues military, diplomatic or international legal action.

- Getting tired of the same broken song about "overlapping area" and "disputed area," while insisting to resolve the "problems" bi-laterally and resisting the alternative approach of finishing up the Thai unproductive and annoying saga full of innuendo, suggestion and speculation, by using the good auspices of ASEAN and the UNITED NATIONS.

- Concluding that Thailand is a crying baby, and that is the end of it.

The Cambodian people have reasons to be thankful to the international public opinion for its fairness in listening to their voices telling the fact and the truth and referring only to the binding international convention treaty and legality.

Often times Thailand's provocations and threats of using forces are real and therefore, they demand vigilance from Cambodians at all times. Well over two years now, since 15 July 2008, Thailand has learnt some sad lessons that it should not have messed around with Cambodia, under the wise leadership of Prime Minister, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen who has the dream and the wisdom of building peaceful and developing areas along the border of Cambodia with Thailand and other neighbors, but is determined to lead a united Cambodia to defend her sovereignty and safeguard her territorial integrity.

Waddhana P

Senior Analyst and Researcher on

Cambodian-Thai Relations

Institute for International Affairs, Cambodia

______

Cambodia, Thai argue over diplomatic notes on pagoda and flag

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 08:15 dap-news

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Thailand throw arguments over diplomatic notes concerning the pagoda and flag that have been existing near Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple since 1998.

On Monday, the Thai Foreign Ministry issued a statement demanding Cambodia to remove the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and Cambodian national flag flying over the pagoda from the disputed area adjacent to the Temple of Preah Vihear.

The statement said the pagoda "is situated on Thai territory."

But, Cambodia, through the Foreign Ministry denied Tuesday with a diplomatic note saying "It is well acknowledged in Thailand that the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda was built by the people of Cambodia in 1998 with the flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia flying over this pagoda since then."

"The question is why only now that Thailand demanded for the removal of Cambodia's flag. Until now, Cambodia has never received any official demand from Thailand," it said.

"The Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda is legally well situated in Cambodian territory; and by no means will Cambodia relocate this pagoda elsewhere and Cambodia will continue to fly its flags there, " the statement added.

The argument is exchanged amid two Thai nationals being tried in Phnom Penh on Tuesday for their illegal entry, illegal trespass into a military zone and collecting information which is harmful to Cambodia's national affairs.

They were arrested in Banteay Meanchey Province by the Cambodian authorities on Dec. 29 for the above acts.

The two are known as Veera Somkwamkid, one of the leaders of the People's Network Against Corruption and an activist in the Thailand Patriot Network, and his secretary known as Ratree Pipatanapaiboon. Enditem.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press


via CAAI

Angkor Community Development Project-Phase II Launched

Phnom Penh, February 2, 2011 AKP – The Community Development Project at Angkor Park-Phase II, a joint cooperation between the APSARA Authority and New Zealand, was launched in late January in Nokor Thom district of Siem Reap city.

Director General of APSARA Authority Mr. Bun Narith, Siem Reap Deputy Provincial Governor Mr. Bun Tharith and New Zealand’s Ambassador Mr. Bede Corry were present at the launching ceremony.

The project focuses on natural resource protection and people’s living standard enhancement.

The first phase of the project, which has successfully ended, was implemented since May 2009 in two villages – Rohal and North Sras Srang – of Nokor Thom district.

According to Mr. Bun Narith, the over-US$2-million second phase, of which 60 percent is covered by New Zealand and 40 percent by APSARA Authority, will be expanded to six villages including Leang Dai and Plong of Angkor Thom district; Tuol Kralanh and Banteay Srey of Banteay Srey district; and South Sras Srang and Kravanh of Nokor Thom district. –AKP

Article in Khmer by HANG Seak
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

_______

Information Minister Gives Donation to School for Deaf and Dumb Children in Kampong Cham

Phnom Penh, February 2, 2011 AKP – Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith donated on Feb. 1 two LCD monitors and a scanner with the total cost of US$700 to Kampong Cham’s Kruosar Thmey School for Deaf and Dumb Children.
In early January 2011, the Cambodian information minister also visited the school and gave donation to deaf and dumb pupils.

From 2004 to 2010, H.E. Khieu Kanharith’s donation to Kruosar Thmey School for Deaf and Dumb Children reached some 15 million Riel (Cambodian currency roughly US$3,750) and US$1,700.

The school hosts about 170 deaf and dumb children, staffed by 27 education officers with classes ranging from 1st through 8th grade of general education.

Besides, H.E. Khieu Kanharith also visited the information provincial office. –AKP

Article in Khmer by HUN Yuth Kun
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

Market vendors to protest


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:03 Mom Kunthear

Vendors from the PC market who have been protesting against stall rental fee increases since December are preparing to protest to Hun Sen a second time if negotiations with Phnom Penh City Hall fail to produce a result in their favour.

More than 100 vendors from PC market last week gathered in front of Wat Botum to deliver a letter of intervention to Hun Sen’s cabinet asking to freeze rental fees, introduce five-year term contracts, limit rent increases to 10 percent at the time of contract renewal and prohibit late fees and excessive charges for water and electricity.

The letter prompted officials at City Hall to call a meeting between 10 vendor representatives, the PC market manager and municipal officials on Monday, which failed to reach a compromise.

Vendors said they planned to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house on Friday if negotiations again broke down.

“If City Hall officials cannot find a solution for us, we will gather in front of the Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to ask for his help,” said Pov Vanny, a vendor representative.

Vendors said the disagreement began when the market owner increased the rent on stalls from US$130 to $160 for large shops, measuring three metres by six metres, and from $85 to $110 for small shops.

Pov Vanny said they are protesting to Hun Sen because local, commune and district level officials have been unable to assist them.

Heng Vuthy, manager of PC market, declined to comment yesterday about the protests. He spoke with reporters in December, saying that the vendors who were not happy with the rent increase were free to leave.

US delegation ends three-day military talks


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Thomas Miller

United States officials finished a three-day trip to Cambodia yesterday focused on bilateral military cooperation and supporting the development of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces into a “professional force”.

Neang Phat, secretary of state for National Defence, led the Cambodian delegation in the meetings and said yesterday the visit demonstrated “that the relationship between Cambodia and America is very good”.

The purpose of the visit was to emphasise “commitment to assisting the RCAF develop a professional force, while encouraging Cambodia to continue on a path of improved transparency, governance,
commitment to the rule of law, sustained democratic development and respect for human rights,” a statement from the US Embassy said.

Derek Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, said at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday the Cambodian military was carrying out “notable institutional reforms” that had the potential to create a “transparent RCAF” that respects human rights and acts as a force for stability in the region.

He declined however to offer details on those reforms.

Mitchell said Cambodian counterparts showed great interest in engaging with the US, “and they know we come with certain standards ... we were very clear in our dialogue in laying those out and reaffirming that”.

Mitchell emphasised the value of US training and support over its direct military aid, which he said stands at US$1 million annually.

Mitchell also met with NGOs, which he said were “extremely important in this society”.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, and other human rights workers met with Mitchell yesterday.

“I do have a sense that the US engagement militarily is a given, so the conversation is ‘how’, not whether they should [engage] or not,” he said.

Ou Virak said the Cambodian armed forces are “most responsible for most of the rights violations, particularly the land grabbing”, in Cambodia.

“There is a lot of talk of professionalising the military,” he said, but “not enough” action. He said it is not yet clear what “professionalising” the military means.

He said the US has to be “extremely careful in making sure that the engagement isn’t enhancing the tools that oppress the people.”

The best way to do that, he said, was through frank talk.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEN DAVID

Police officer charged with murder in Kandal


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Chhay Channyda

Kandal provincial court yesterday charged a police officer with murder for allegedly shooting and killing a fisherman in Sa’ang district, and injuring two others in the dispute.

Sa’ang district Police Chief Meang Pich said the 40-year-old suspect was charged yesterday afternoon after being transferred into provincial police custody. The suspect was arrested and detained by district police on Monday.

“He is now in prison,” said Meang Pich.

The provincial court could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to district and Adhoc officials, the dispute occurred on Monday when the suspect caught three fishermen using illegal nets on Boeung Ta Nhov lake in Kraing Yov commune.

Men Makara, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the suspect allegedly sought bribe money from the victims, who refused to pay.

The suspect then allegedly shot all three fishermen, including San Seng, 37, who died from chest wounds. Yong Sokheang, 27, suffered serious injuries from a gunshot wound to the knee and is being treated in Preah Kossomak Hospital in Phnom Penh.

A third victim, 37-year-old Pheng Neth, suffered a wound to his arm, but was released from hospital.

Chhon Sarun, an uncle of the hospitalized victim, said yesterday that his nephew was still recovering, but was unable to move on account of his wounded knee. He expressed concern that his family would be unable to cover his nephew’s medical costs.

“We are so poor. How could we earn money to pay the treatment?” said Chhon Sarun.

Meang Pich said yesterday that district officials contributed 1 million riel (US$247) for Sang Seng’s funeral costs, in addition to 500,000 riel ($124) to help with Yong Sokheang’s medical bills.

Men Makara said he was pleased with the police and court’s quick response in arresting the suspect.

“It is a message to warn other officials not to punish villagers who did wrong, through shooting,” he said.

Police transfer 'spy'


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Thet Sambath

A Buddhist layman in Preah Vihear arrested on Monday and accused of spying for Thailand has been transferred to Phnom Penh for further investigation.

Preah Vihear provincial police chief Mao Pov said Toeun Pheap, 33, was accused of two crimes. “He entered a military base dishonestly and he collected military information, which damages our national defence,” he said.

Police said on Monday that Toeun Pheap was arrested after recording licence plate numbers of military vehicles parked at Svay Chrum pagoda.

Sao Yath, representative for villagers in Svay Chrum village, said that at his request, Toeun Pheap wrote down the number of the car used to remove a Buddhist statue from the pagoda.

He said the provocation was related to the authority’s order to local villagers in early January to leave their houses.

Svay Chrum pagoda, located near the Preah Vihear temple complex, was serving as a temporary depot for RCAF tanks, personnel carriers and military lorries.

Thoeun Pheap has been part of an ongoing protest involving more than 200 families in Svay Chum village to stop military and police efforts to dismantle their homes to clear the land for Preah Vihear National Authority and UNESCO offices.

Hor Neat, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said more than 100 soldiers, military police, police and officials were involved in a January 18 effort to forcefully remove villagers from the designated area, located 12 kilometres from the disputed area adjoining Preah Vihear temple.

Sao Yath said yesterday he had gone into hiding.

“I am accused of being a traitor and taking information about RCAF’s vehicles for Thailand,” he said.

Charges in drug cases


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged three of 19 suspects arrested in drug raids last week with drug distribution, releasing 16 yesterday.

Im Bunny, police official for the Phnom Penh municipal police force, said 16 of the 19 people arrested last week in connection with drugs use and distribution were released after they were interrogated by the court and found only to be users. They agreed to each pay 80,000 riel (US $20) to the court and promised not to use drugs again.

The three men charged were part of a raid on a house on Saturday carried out by mixed police forces in Sen Sok district.

Chea Meth, vice-prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the court released 16 because they were victim of drugs.

Villagers decry resin stench


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Uong Ratana

Representatives of 60 villagers in Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district yesterday filed a complaint asking the provincial governor to relocate a resin warehouse that is wafting terrible odours across their village.

Chhun Meng Chhoun, a representative from Ta Ong village, said that residents were becoming sick after putting up with the smell for a year.

“We request that the authorities intervene in relocating the resin warehouse because the smell could seriously impact the health of people in the village,” he said.

Chhun Meng Chhoun said that resin merchant Ly Iemthon had started stocking 10 to 20 tonnes of resin in his warehouse.

“Previously they bought one or two tonnes of resin and immediately transported it out so the smell was not so strong. But when there was no reaction from the villagers, they stocked more resin causing a very bad smell that we can’t stand anymore.”

Sar Sinat, a representative of the villagers, said that environmental officials reported to the provincial governor that they had solved the problem.

“They did relocate the resin warehouse, but they moved it from the west to the east of the village, so it’s still in the village,” she said.

Sar Sinat claimed that the smell from the resin was causing lung disease in the villagers.

“If the authorities don’t intervene to relocate this warehouse, all residents living in the village will die,” she said.

Resin merchant Ly Iemthon said yesterday that he followed instructions from the authorities and the provincial department of environment.

“I buy resin in the morning and immediately transport it to the factory in the evening,” said Ly Iemthon, adding that he stocked resin for periods of two to three months.

Provincial department of environment deputy director Phok Savuth said that the minister of environment had told him not to talk to reporters, but said that they had already solved the problem.

Provincial Department of Environment Director Ban Bunthoeun could not be reached for comment, but a report sent by Ban Bunthoeun to Kampong Cham Provincial Governor Hun Neng on January 19 and obtained by The Post stated that the villagers’ health was not affected by the resin.

The report also stated that stockpiles of about 100 and 200 kilogrammes of resin should not be stocked for longer than a day before being transported.

Kampong Cham provincial governor Hun Neng and Chamkar Leu district governor Kim Nuthniya yesterday declined to comment.

Police Blotter: 2 Feb 2011


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Phak Seangly

Man arrested after trying to rob motodop
Military police in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town arrested an 18-year-old man on Saturday, shortly after he was accused of stealing a motorbike from a 28-year-old moto-taxi driver. Police said the suspect left Phnom Penh for Poipet on Friday, and stayed a night at a local pagoda before entering the town by moto-taxi. On the way, the suspect hit the moto-taxi driver twice in the shoulder with a wooden stick and attempted to escape from the scene after his robbery attempt was unsuccessful, but he was arrested when the victim shouted for help.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Teacher electrocuted in funeral preparation
A teacher died immediately when he was electrocuted at a seventh-day funeral ceremony on Friday morning in Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district. Police said the victim was helping to prepare the funeral for a neighbour in his village, when he climbed an electricity pole to link power to the ceremony. A few minutes later he was electrocuted, falling down to the ground and dying instantly.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Diligent student takes life with sleeping pills
A 22-year-old university student was found dead at about 9am on Saturday in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei district. Police suspected that the woman committed suicide by taking sleeping pills. According to police, the death came a day after the woman’s mother blamed her for spending too much money on her studies without having a job to generate income. Police said that the woman was sent to a hospital, but it was too late to save her life.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Man arrested over rape of teenage ‘girlfriend’
Russei Keo district police on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old man after the family of a 13-year-old girl filed a complaint with police, accusing him of raping the girl on Friday night. The man denied he raped the girl, saying they had loved each other for a month. He said that on Friday the girl called him twice to pick her up from home to elope so they could leave Siem Reap, but they did not have money so the girl slept at his home, where they had sexual intercourse. The girl’s family sued the man for rape after they learned about the incident.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Rainsy says Kingdom could go way of Egypt


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Meas Sokchea

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said on a radio programme on Monday that corruption and joblessness could lead to a rebellion in Cambodia on par with recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt. “I see that it is not long … that there would be such a situation in Cambodia that is the same as Egypt and Tunisia, where people have ousted leaders from power,” he said during his Candle Light Radio Program. Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Sam Rainsy was attempting to throw the country into disorder for his own personal political gains.

Eco-tourism under focus


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:01 Soeun Say

The ministry of Tourism and Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast are preparing a strategy to develop community-based eco-tourism, with officials citing Cambodia’s North-East and South-East as areas which are ripe for sustainable development.

After signing a Memorandum of Understanding in August linking the ministry to the university, which is located about 100 kilometres north of Brisbane, academics are lending their expertise to the sector.

Dr Bill Carter, a USC associate professor in heritage resource management in Australia, told The Post on Monday that he intends to work closely with the ministry to educate tourism workers to boost professional development. He also plans to organise a skills exchange program,

On Monday he stated that Cambodia held huge potential to develop both short and long-term projects in the tourism sector, whilst sustaining natural resources and cultural history.

“The strategic plan is very important to support and strengthen tourism development sustainably and bring profit directly to the people living in local areas,” he said.

Thok Sokhom, director of the Department of International Cooperation & ASEAN at the Ministry of Tourism, said that USC would help improve human resources within the sector.

He intends to send the provincial governors from four provinces in coastal Cambodia and a director of tourism from a provincial department to study management, development and best practice in Australia this August.

“It is very important for our country. We want to have a long-term development plan which is focused on eco-tourism and tourism based on the community,” he said.

“We need to develop eco-tourism in Southeastern and Northeastern areas.

“We also want to establish a research centre and a vocational training school, in order to respond to the demand of increasing numbers of tourists,” he added.

“For the second step, we will open an institution and a university. This is our vision.”

New step for classic book on dance


Author George Groslier pictured in his museum office in 1928

Angkor curator Henri Marchal and George Groslier at Ta Prohm in 1910

via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:01 Craig Miles

THE first English-language edition of George Groslier’s rare book about Cambodian dance will be launched at a ceremony at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh this Friday, on the 124th anniversary of Groslier’s birth.

The ceremony will be hosted by French Ambassador Christian Connan, as well as Princess Bopha Devi, guardian of Cambodia’s ancient royal dance tradition.

Also in attendance will be Ravynn Karet-Coxen, who acted as cultural advisor in republishing the book, and American publisher and Groslier biographer Kent Davis of DatAsia Press.

The book, titled Cambodian Dancers – Ancient and Modern, has been translated into English from the original French masterpiece Danseuses Cambodgiennes – Anciennes et Modernes.

Only 30 copies of the original were ever produced.

Published in 1913, the book explored Cambodian dance under the guidance of King Sisowath, and most major works exploring Khmer art and culture cite Groslier’s rare work.

Publisher Kent Davis said he worked with Groslier’s daughter Nicole over the past three years to prepare the book, which represented numerous milestones.

“This is the first reprinting of Danseuses Cambodgiennes in any language since 1913, and also the first translation of any of Groslier's works into English,” he said. “But most profound of all, this is the first work by Groslier in a century actually printed in Cambodia by Cambodians.”

The new hardcover edition contains 380 pages and more than 200 illustrations, including all of Groslier’s original artwork from 1913.

George Groslier was the first French child born in Cambodia. He established the National Museum and School of Cambodian Arts and wrote more than 100 works about Khmer art and history.

A public introduction for the book will be celebrated at Monument Books in Phnom Penh on Saturday from 11am to 12:30pm.

Steady at the wheel


via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Wesley Monts

A worker relaxes with his feet propped up on the steering wheel in the cab of a lorry parked in Boeung Keng Kang 1 commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Monday.

Gearing up for Chinese New Year


Photo by: Heng Chivoan and Pha Lina

via CAAI

Wednesday, 02 February 2011 15:02 Heng Chivoan and Pha Lina

Throughout Phnom Penh people are preparing for the Chinese New Year which kicks off tomorrow. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunisolar Calendar. Top left: A rabbit and lanterns are displayed for sale near Olympic Stadium. Bottom left: Performers practice at Olympic Stadium. Centre: A girl examines pussy willow, a traditional home decoration during the holiday. Right: butchers in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district slaughter piglets that are to be barbecued for Chinese New Year.

Cambodia To Continue to Fly Its Flag at Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda


via CAAI

Phnom Penh, February 1, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has, in a statement, reiterated that the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda is legally well situated in Cambodian territory, thus the country will continue to fly its flag there.

The following is the full statement dated today:

“STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION OF CAMBODIA REGARDING THE STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THAILAND ON 31 JANUARY 2011 CONCERNING THE KEO SIKHA KIRI SVARA PAGODA OF CAMBODIA

1-The Franco-Siamese Convention of 1904 and the Treaty of 1907 established Joint Commission on the Delimitation of Frontiers between Indo-China and Siam. The Franco-Siamese Commission produced a set of 1/200,000 maps, including “Dangrek” map that included the Temple of Preah Vihear, which the International Court of Justice referred to as Map ‘Annex I’.

The MoU of 2000 [Article 1 (c)] refers to the Convention of 1904 and the Treaty of 1907 as well as the maps of the demarcation works of the Commission on the Delimitation of Boundary between Indo-China and Siam, set up under the said Convention and Treaty.

2-The judgment grounds of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962, which was based principally on the Map ‘Annex I’, had clearly mentioned as follows:

‘The Court however considers that Thailand in 1908-1909 did accept the Annex I map as representing the outcome of the work of delimitation, and hence recognized the line on that map as being the frontier line, the effect of which is to situate Preah Vihear in Cambodian territory’…

‘Both Parties, by their conduct, recognize the line and thereby in effect agreed to regard it as being the frontier line’…

‘There is, however, no reason to think that the Parties attached any special importance to the line of the watershed …The Court, therefore, feels bound, as a matter of treaty interpretation, to pronounce in favour of the line as mapped in the disputed area’ …etc…

Therefore, the KEO SIKHA KIRI SVARA pagoda is legally well situated in Cambodian territory; and by no means will Cambodia relocate this pagoda elsewhere and Cambodia will continue to fly its flag there.

3-It is well acknowledged in Thailand that the KEO SIKHA KIRI SVARA pagoda was built by the people of Cambodia in 1998 with the flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia flying over this pagoda since then. The question is why only now that Thailand demanded for the removal of Cambodia’s flag. Until now, Cambodia has never received any official demand from Thailand.

4-Cambodia’s only since desire is to find a peaceful solution with Thailand on the demarcation of the border according to legal documents, including the Agreed Minutes of the Joint Border Commission (JBC). Cambodia reserves its rights to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, while Prime Minister Abhisit has threatened to wage war against Cambodia.” –AKP

Tough prison terms

 via CAAI

By THE NATION, AGENCIES

Published on February 2, 2011




PAD, TPN claims govt responsible after Cambodian court sentences Veera to eight years in jail and Ratree to six; warn of violence by third party

Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon were yesterday given lengthy prison sentences in Phnom Penh over charges of illegal entry and espionage in a case that could worsen ties between Thailand and Cambodia.

In the one-day trial, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Veera, who leads the Thai Patriots Network (TPN), and his assistant Ratree, guilty of espionage, illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone. These charges carry a maximum combined penalty of 11 years and six months.

Veera was sentenced to eight years behind bars and a fine of 1.8 million riel (about Bt18,000), while Ratree was given six years and fined 1.2 million riel (Bt12,000).

The pair were among seven Thais arrested on December 29 while allegedly inspecting disputed border territory. The five other members of the group, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, received suspended sentences for illegal entry on January 21 and have since returned home.

Veera and Ratree have up to a month to appeal the verdict. Their legal adviser Karun Sai-ngam said yesterday that the defence team would file an appeal immediately.

The TPN leader, wearing a blue prison uniform, kept insisting in court yesterday that he was not on Cambodian soil when arrested.

"I was on Thai territory," he told the court through a translator. "I had no intention to invade Cambodian territory."

Veera also cited a Google Earth map to support this argument that he was on Thai territory when Cambodian soldiers arrested him. When asked if he was sure the Cambodian authorities would approve the map, Veera responded that maps on Google Earth were globally accepted and should be considered the most neutral at the moment.

In Bangkok, Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said yesterday that the ministry would support the two on whatever they decide to do in response to the ruling - be it filing an appeal or seeking an amnesty.

Thani, who is also director-general of the Department of Information, said the ministry has insisted that the verdict would have no legal bearing on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which Veera's group is part of, demanded yesterday that the government be held responsible for the guilty verdict issued by the Cambodian court.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Puapongphan, speaking at the protest site outside Government House, said the government had never supplied any information that could help Veera and Ratree in court.

"Throughout this trial, up until this hour, the government has not provided any information that benefits the two. So it must be held responsible for the negative ruling," Parnthep said yesterday evening.

He said the PAD would file petitions shortly with the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Administrative Court against the government and certain politicians in relation to their performance over the border conflict in general and the court case in particular.

Senator Kamnoon Sithisamarn said at the PAD protest site yesterday that the guilty verdict was like a "slap in the face" where Thailand's dignity was concerned.

Suthorn Rakrong, coordinator of the TPN, warned that a third party might use the situation to cause more confusion and maybe even lead to a coup by indulging in violent acts such as torching the Cambodian embassy.

"If anything like that really happens, I insist it has nothing to do with the Thai Patriots Network," he said.

The activist also said that leaders of the group would meet this morning to come up with a statement rejecting the Cambodian court's verdict.

Cambodia sentences Thais to lengthy prison terms over border

via CAAI

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH | Tue Feb 1, 2011 9:18pm IST

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court on Tuesday handed down jail terms of eight and six years to two Thai activists who were found guilty of trespassing and spying, a verdict that could raise political tension in neighbouring Thailand.

The decision could add momentum to a small but prolonged protest by Thailand's "yellow shirt" activists angered by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's diplomatic approach to dealing with a long-running border dispute with Cambodia.

Relations with Cambodia have become a bone of contention in long-running hostility between Thai political factions with the pro-establishment yellow shirts accusing their bitter foe, ousted former populist premier Thaksin Shinawatra, of colluding with Cambodia to Thailand's detriment.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has also used age-old rivalry with Thailand for his domestic interests.

The Cambodian court verdict also raises concerns about instability along the militarised border between the two countries. Both governments have had heated rows in recent years that have led to deadly skirmishes between troops.

Veera Somkwamkid, leader of a splinter faction of the yellow shirts, and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, were among seven Thais arrested by Cambodian soldiers on Dec. 29, when they entered a disputed border area.

The court in Phnom Penh sentenced Veera to eight years and Ratree, six years, for trespassing into the Cambodian territory, illegally entering a military zone and espionage.

"The decision is not acceptable," Veera told reporters. "There is no justice. We will fight this in a higher court."

The five other arrested Thais included a parliamentarian from Abhisit's ruling Democrat party. They were found guilty of trespassing late last month and were released after being given a suspended sentence.

The yellow shirts, formally known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), have demanded Abhisit revoke a decade-old Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia aimed at resolving border disputes.

Protest leaders earlier said Abhisit had not done enough to secure the release of the two convicted Thais and accused him of risking a loss of Thai sovereignty by failing to evict Cambodians from the disputed land.

POLITICAL MOTIVES?

The PAD has been demonstrating close to Abhisit's office since Jan. 25 and has until recently backed the premier. But they are now fed up with Abhisit's approach to border issues.

It now has a political party of its own, New Politics, but it has failed to garner much support and is expected to struggle in an election Abhisit insists will take place this year.

The PAD takes credit for helping Abhisit's rise to power having held crippling protests since 2005 against governments led or backed by Thaksin.

Thaksin's supporters, who wear red shirts, staged big and bloody protests against Abhisit's government in Bangkok last year. Tension has simmered since soldiers cracked down to end the protests in which about 90 people were killed.

Charnvit Kasertsiri, a prominent political historian in Thailand, said the border issue was once again being used to push political agendas and stoke nationalist fervour.

"This issue has been used for domestic political purposes on both sides of the border for decades. The question is: Why are they doing it again now and whether it would spill over into military skirmishes," he said.

The two governments have shown restraint in their handling of the issue, but rumours have swirled in the past week of live drills and troop reinforcements near the border. The talks has been denied by both armies, which say they are simply on alert.

"This is what both sides need to watch," Charnvit said. "This sort of rhetoric could spiral out of control and could also force the governments' hand to act if they felt threatened by changing public opinion and action on the other side."

Another standoff could play to the advantage of the royalist PAD, whose protest numbers have dwindled to the hundreds having peaked at about 4,500 a week ago.

Their return has sparked talk of a military coup, which the military and government has dismissed. Sustained PAD rallies in 2006 led to a bloodless putsch against Thaksin.

(Writing and additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Martin Petty)