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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

‘Cambodian troops ready to withdraw from Thai border’

* Cambodian PM says Thai troops will have to pull out first

PHNOM PENH/BANGKOK: Cambodian troops are ready to withdraw from a disputed border area, but Thailand will have to pull out first, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

“For us, there is no problem at all. It is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, (we are ready) any time,” Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh, adding, “The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government.” His comments came one day after the two countries agreed to consider a redeployment of troops from the area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where thousands of soldiers have been facing off for two weeks. The soldiers have been mobilised since July 15 around a small patch of land near the temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the Cambodian jungle.

The ruins of the Khmer temple belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the surrounding territory. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his newly appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag held talks on Monday in Siem Reap with a handful of top military officials from both countries. After around 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to re-deploy troops. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia. Cambodia had asked the UN Security Council to take up the latest conflict over the temple, but suspended its request to allow the current talks to proceed. Both sides have toned down their rhetoric after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced concern about the conflict and called for a peaceful resolution.

Thailand: Meanwhile, Thailand said on Tuesday it might be weeks before it could re-deploy troops from the disputed border zone. The Thai army commander responsible for the border area confirmed that any withdrawal could be delayed. “The redeployment process takes time and it needs to pass a high-level process first,” Major General Kanok Netrakasana told reporters.
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Still, both countries agreed that the 12-hour talks in Cambodia’s Siem Reap had served to defuse tension surrounding the border issue. “The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand will help relieve tension and improve the situation,” said army chief Anupong Paojinda, adding, “Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first.” afp
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EU criticises Cambodia election

By Guy Delauney

Monitors from the European Union say Cambodia's recent general election fell short of international standards.

They said the governing party dominated the media and the National Election Committee (NEC), and tens of thousands of people were disenfranchised.

But they also praised the smooth running of what was described as a "technically good" election.

The EU observers were among 17,000 local and international monitors who observed the election.

While their findings were a mixed bag, there was certainly more criticism than praise.

The key issue was impartiality and the role of the governing Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Large majority

The EU team said the CPP had made "consistent and widespread" use of state resources for its own campaigning efforts.

The party dominated media coverage to an unacceptable degree, and the presence of officials connected to the CPP on the NEC compromised that institution's independence.

The monitors said the NEC had disenfranchised 50,000 registered voters by allowing their names to be removed from the electoral roll.

But the EU's chief observer, Martin Callanan, said that had not affected the result of the election.
"Under the provisional results that have been published, the CPP clearly has a very large majority," he said.

"Therefore any irregularities which were proved would have to be on a very large scale in order to invalidate that result.''

The opposition parties beg to differ.

Four of them have rejected the provisional results, which give the CPP an overall majority.

They claim that hundreds of thousands of their supporters were unable to vote and that similar numbers of ineligible people were allowed to cast ballots.
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