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Friday, August 01, 2008

Cambodian former king leaves for Beijing

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian retired king Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Monineath Sihanouk, accompanied by their son King Norodom Sihamoni, left here on Friday for Beijing for routine medical checkup and rest.

They were seen off at the Phnom Penh International Airport by Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, other government officials, royal family members and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

During the stay in China, Sihanouk, his wife and Sihamoni are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on August 8.

Sihamoni will return home in about two weeks, a royal palace official said at the airport, adding that Sihanouk and his wife will stay much longer.

The couple's last trip to China for medical checkup was in April 2008.

The 85-year-old former king suffers from diabetes and has had colon cancer. He abdicated his throne to Sihamoni in October 2004.

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Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister hospitalised in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary was rushed to hospital Friday after he discovered blood in his urine, said a spokesman for Cambodia's UN-backed genocide court.

Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five top regime cadres charged in connection with the Khmer Rouge's bloody rule over Cambodia from 1975-79, when up to two million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

"Doctors informed us that Mister Ieng Sary was taken to the hospital this morning because he had blood in his urine," Khmer Rouge trial spokesman Reach Sambath told AFP.

Ieng Sary was rushed from his jail cell to Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital for treatment by doctors, said the spokesman.

He has been hospitalised several times for a heart condition since he and his wife, former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, were arrested for war crimes and crimes against humanity in November.

Last month Ieng Sary's lawyers argued that he should be released before trial because he was so ill that jail could kill him.

The joint Cambodia-UN tribunal was established two years ago, after nearly a decade of haggling, to bring to justice those responsible for one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

The four other defendants at the tribunal are mostly in their 70s and 80s, and worries for their health have also cast a cloud over the proceedings as critics worry they could die before trials are completed.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. Tribunal officials have said they expect the court's first trial to begin in September with proceedings against Kaing Guek Eav or "Duch," who ran a notorious torture centre in Phnom Penh.
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Cambodian PM's wife prays at disputed Hindu temple

By Chor Sokunthea

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - The wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led Buddhist monks and soldiers in prayers at a 900-year-old Hindu border temple on Friday amid a three-week military stand-off with Thailand.

With Thai troops and artillery dug in only meters away, Bun Rany thanked the soldiers, mostly battle-hardened ex-Khmer Rouge guerrillas, for resisting what Cambodia says is Thai encroachment on a disputed patch of land next to the ruins.

"The first lady called on the ancestral spirits to defend Preah Vihear and chase away the enemy," Min Khin, chairman of the Southeast Asian nation's Festival Committee, told reporters after the ceremony, shrouded in early morning mist.

Preah Vihear sits on top of a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between Thailand and Cambodia, and has been a bone of contention between the two countries for decades.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague awarded the site to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since, although it did not rule on ownership of the 1.8 square miles of scrub at the centre of the latest spat.

The trigger for the latest row came from Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to have the temple listed as a World Heritage site, support that was seized on by nationalist street protesters bent on overthrowing the Thai government.

With a general election campaign underway in Cambodia at the time, it quickly escalated into a serious confrontation, with hundreds of troops and artillery sent to both sides of the border. In some places, the two sides are only a few yards apart.

Both foreign ministers vowed on Monday to resolve the stand-off peacefully and pull back troops, although nothing has changed on the ground, with Bangkok and Phnom Penh reluctant to redeploy in case they are painted as weak.

Bun Rany's high-profile visit, flying in by helicopter and a heavily armed security detail, suggests her husband, a wily former Khmer Rouge soldier who won a landslide victory in Sunday's election, is in no mood to compromise.

A group claiming Preah Vihear for Thailand described the ceremony as a black-magic ritual meant to bring bad luck, one newspaper reported.

Preah Vihear is not the only temple to have hit relations between the two countries.

In 2003, a nationalist mob torched the Thai embassy and several Thai businesses in Phnom Penh after erroneously reported comments from a Thai soap opera star that Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat actually belonged to Thailand.

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