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Saturday, August 02, 2008

PAD on the move

The anti-government coalition People's Alliance for Democracy on Saturday morning marched to the revered Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) to oppose government plans to amend the constitution - and to pray for Thailand to regain the Preah Vihear temple from Cambodia.

More than 200 democracy-activist PAD security guards provided security as the demonstrators trudged from their main protest site at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge, passing by the Democracy Monument to go to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Historically the private chapel of the kings of the present Chakri dynasty, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the spiritual 'heart' of Thailand.

The number of Bangkok police on duty has also been reinforced to make sure that pro-government groups would not attack the anti-government PAD during its demonstration.

More PAD supporters from upcountry joined the rally late Friday amid a downpour.

The 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962 and was declared a World Heritage site in early July. The two neighbouring countries are now locked in a dispute over a 4.6-square-kilometre overlapping zone surrounding the temple.

PAD demonstrators led by another core leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, on Friday held a ritual ceremony and sought a 'blessing from the sun' during Friday's eclipse, with the purpose of driving away evil and that Thailand could get back Preah Vihear temple.

The event was held after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's wife hosted a ritual at the Preah Vihear temple, also on Friday, to bless her country with good luck and to also give it power for its dispute with Thailand.

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Cambodia seeks FBI help in journalist murder probe

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia will seek help from the FBI in trying to solve the murder of a journalist affiliated with the opposition party and his son, an official said Saturday.

The government has contacted the FBI office in the capital, Phnom Penh, and plans to send a formal request for assistance on Monday, said Ministry of Interior Spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak. He said the FBI could help in arresting the culprits.

Khem Sambo, 47, and his 21-year-old son were gunned down in a drive-by shooting July 11.

The reporter covered corruption and other social ills for the opposition newspaper Moneaseka Khmer.

Cambodian human rights groups have said they suspect the slaying was linked to the many articles Khem Sambo wrote about illegal logging, illegal fishing deals and land grabbing that involved powerful officials in the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Saturday. But days after the attack, the embassy said the FBI stands ready to help investigate the case.

Khieu Sopheak said the police investigation has uncovered details of the shooting but no arrests have been made. He said investigators concluded that the assailant took off on the back of a motorbike driven by another man after shooting Khem Sambo. The duo returned minutes later to shoot the journalist's son.
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Thailand stops fruit export in Cambodia over temple controversy

Bangkok - Thailand canceled fruit exports this weekend to neighbouring Cambodia in the latest fallout over joint claims to an ancient Hindu temple on their borders that had threatened to turn into a military conflict. Thailand's Department of Export Promotion canceled plans to ship more than 10 tons of longan, a fruit grown in northern Thailand, to sell in two malls in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the government-run Thai News Agency reported Saturday.

The Thailand Exhibition scheduled for later in the month with more than 200 producers planning to show products in Phnom Penh had already been canceled, the DEP said.

A strong sentiment among Cambodians against Thai products was the reason, TNA reported.

Last Monday Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong met to defuse an escalating border spat over joint claims to portions of the Preah Vihear temple perched on their common border.

At the meeting the two sides agreed to redeploy more than 2,000 troops that had been sent to the border between Si Sa Khet and Preah Vihear provinces in Thailand and Cambodia, respectively. The temple is situated about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Hindu temple built on a 525-metre- high cliff on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai- Cambodian border, has been the cause of a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia for decades.

In 1962, the two countries agreed to settle joint claims to the temple at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Cambodia won, but the court stopped short of defining the border in the area.

Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.

The ancient spat got a fresh start in July when UNESCO agreed to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site. The inscription excluded the 4.6 square kilometres of disputed territory, and Thailand protested the listing.

The spat escalated from a diplomatic row to a potential military conflict in mid-July when three Thais were detained for entering the disputed temple territory.

Although the threesome were quickly released, troops were called in from both sides to protect their border.
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Thailand cancels product fairs in Cambodia

Department of Export Promotion (DEP) has canceled longan and Thailand Exhibition fair scheduled to be held in Cambodia this month due to a strong sentiment among Cambodians opposing Thai products following the temple row between the two countries, a senior Thai commerce ministry official said Saturday.

Northern Export Promotion Center director Boon Inthirat said longan growers in three districts of Chiang Mai province in Thailand's north had planned to transport more than 10 tons of longan for sale at two shopping malls in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Saturday and Sunday.
But the plan was canceled following advice by the Thai commercial office in Phnom Penh relating to strong sentiment among Cambodians boycotting Thai goods following a dispute between the two neighboring countries over an overlapping area around the Preah Vihear temple.

Also, another fair called the Thailand Exhibition in which more than 200 Thai producers would participate in displaying goods in Phnom Penh later this month has already been canceled. The fair was held in August in the past years, said Mr. Boon. (TNA)

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