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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cambodia rejects Thailand's claim over two temples at border area

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia Tuesday rejected Thailand's claim over the temples of Tamone Toch and Tamone Thom in northwestern Otdar Meanchey province, which borders Thailand.

"The Tamone temple complex, composed of the temples of Tamone Toch and Tamone Thom and located in the Phnom Dang Rek range, is clearly situated in the Cambodian territory," said the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia in a statement.

"Cambodia rejects any claim contrary to the legal rights of the kingdom," the statement said.

Cambodia is confident that the Cambodian-Thai joint Commission on the Demarcation of Land Boundary (JBC), which will meet in the near future, will be able to settle bilateral border matter peacefully in legal way, it added.

Cambodian-Thai military standoff at the border area over disputed sovereignty of the temples and land there Tuesday entered the 29th day, as both sides promised to settle it through diplomatic channel. But no sign has occurred so far for withdrawal of the accumulated thousand-strong troops near the border.

On July 15, Thai troops went into the border area to fetch three trespassers who had intended to claim Thai sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Temple in the eponymous province of Cambodia. The troops stationed there ever since, thus triggering the military stalemate.

During the time, Thai troops occupied one pagoda in Preah Vihear province and one temple in Bantey Meanchey province that the Cambodian government claimed should belong to its kingdom.

Preah Vihear, Otdar Meanchey and Bantey Meanchey are the three major Cambodian provinces that border Thailand. The Phnom Dang Rekrange, or the Dangrek Mountain, runs through the provinces, serving as a natural defense line against Thailand.
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Royalist parties u-turn and accept Cambodia poll results

The insane Royalist Funcinpec Party is a useless and disgrace group. They are existing just to bring shames to the Cambodia Kingdom.

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's royalist parties said Tuesday they would accept the results of last month's election, despite their previous claims that Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party had rigged the polls.

The royalist Funcinpec party and its offshoot the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) joined opposition leader Sam Rainsy late last month to complain that thousands of people were left off voter lists in the July 27 election.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) claimed victory as early results showed they won nearly 60 percent of the vote, and in separate statements released Tuesday the royalists said they would accept that outcome.

"NRP considers that the election ... was transparent, free, fair and in accordance with democratic process in Cambodia," the party headed by former Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh said.

His old outfit, meanwhile, said: "Although there are some technical irregularities, Funcinpec party publicly supports and accepts the temporary results of the election."

Their apparent u-turn comes after Hun Sen said last week he would include Funcinpec in the new government. He also said another party with two seats in parliament -- and apparent reference to the NRP -- had approached him.

Early results released by the National Election Committee (NEC) show the CPP winning 58.1 percent of the vote, compared with 21.9 percent for its nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party.

Hun Sen's CPP has said it captured at least 90 of the 123 parliament seats up for grabs. Funcinpec and the NRP are believed to have won only two seats each.

The final NEC tally will be announced in September, ahead of the forming of a new government.

International monitors have said the election was flawed and did not meet key standards, despite a more peaceful campaign and improvements in the electoral process compared to past polls here.

Sam Rainsy has estimated that one million registered voters were cut from the rolls and has demanded a re-vote.
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Cambodia reasserts claim over border temples

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia reasserted its claim Tuesday over ancient border temples that also are claimed by Thailand ahead of talks next week on lingering territorial disputes.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are to meet Monday in Thailand to try to defuse military standoffs along their shared border — first near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple and then at the 13th century Ta Moan Thom temple.

Ta Moan Thom is several hundred miles (kilometers) west of Preah Vihear, where Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been facing off for four weeks in a dispute over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of nearby land.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Ta Moan Thom "is clearly situated in the Cambodian territory."

It said a nearby temple, Ta Moan Toch, which has been occupied by Thai troops also belongs to Cambodia.

Thailand has also laid claims to both temples.

Late last month, Cambodian officials said Thai soldiers had occupied the site and prevented Cambodian troops from entering. Thai military officials countered that their troops had been in the area for years.

Last week, the standoff there appeared to have eased, with both sides pulling back their soldiers.
But Thai troops have reoccupied the area since then, Maj. Ho Bunthy, a Cambodian army commander in the area, said Tuesday.

He said about 50 Cambodian soldiers have now positioned themselves in close proximity to about 120 Thai troops who are stationed on the temple grounds and in a camp nearby.

"The Thai troops are guarding a gate to the temple, and Cambodian soldiers are standing just outside the gate," he said in a telephone interview.

The two countries share about 500 miles (800 kilometers) of land border, which has not been fully demarcated.

The dispute surrounding the Preah Vihear temple escalated last month after UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have it named a World Heritage Site. Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed the bid, sparking demonstrations by anti-government protesters who claimed the temple's new status would undermine Thailand's claim to the surrounding area.

The dispute has continued despite two rounds of talks since last month, with the countries referring to two different maps.

Cambodia uses a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favors Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.
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Cambodian tribunal indicts Khmer Rouge jailer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's genocide tribunal formally indicted a former prison chief of the country's notorious Khmer Rouge on Tuesday, paving the way for a historic trial.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal said in a statement Tuesday that its investigating judges issued the indictment upon ending their investigation of Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — whose Phnom Penh prison was used as a torture center.

Duch, charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, is the first suspect to be indicted by the tribunal. He and four other former senior members of the Khmer Rouge, who held power in the late 1970s, were taken into custody last year.

The radical policies of the communist group are considered responsible for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution. No senior member of the group has ever stood trial for the atrocities.

The tribunal's announcement marks another "important moment in the history of the court," said Peter Foster, a spokesman for the U.N.-assisted tribunal.

He said the indictment sets the stage for the first trial of the tribunal, which began its work in early 2006. No date has yet been set for a trial, but tribunal officials have previously said it was expected to begin in late September.

Duch, 66, headed S-21 prison, the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility, which used to be a school and is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. About 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been held there. Only 14 are thought to have survived.

When Duch was detained by the tribunal in July last year, he was charged only with crimes against humanity, with the war crimes charge being added with the end of the investigation against him.

Duch will be tried by a panel of five judges — three Cambodian, one French and one New Zealander — according to a 2003 pact between Cambodia and the United Nations establishing the tribunal.

The other four suspects being held by the tribunal are former top lieutenants of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998. They are former head of state Khieu Samphan, former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, and his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge social affairs minister.

They also face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Cambodian politics and disagreements between the government and the U.N. delayed the establishment of the tribunal for years. Its work was further delayed by disagreements among judges over the procedural rules and controversies involving allegations of kickbacks among Cambodian staffers.

The tribunal, which is mostly funded by donations from foreign donors, is facing a budget crunch. The $56.3 million that was originally earmarked proved inadequate because the tribunal has had to recruit more staff and expand its work.

A revised budget estimated the cost of carrying out the tribunal's work through 2010 to be $143 million. The tribunal is $86.7 million short of that goal.
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Cambodia claims more Thai troops sent to border

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodian border officials Monday accused Thailand of disregarding agreements to move back from three border temples in northern Oddar Meanchey province, but said they would not act until after bilateral ministerial talks in a week.

After negotiations Tuesday, Thai troops agreed to pull back from the Ta Moan group of temples, but moved back into the area Saturday, said a senior border official who asked not to be named.

"We have held four rounds of negotiations with the Thais and they just don't respect any agreement," the official said. "They have not built a barricade at the temple - that has been there for a long time - but they are making it bigger."

However, he said Cambodia refused to react until after talks between the nations' foreign ministers scheduled for August 18.

"We will not be drawn," he said. "We await the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen and he has ordered peaceful negotiation."

The English-language Cambodia Daily quoted provincial governor Pich Sokkin as saying about 20 Thai troops were now at the temples, with 70 more stationed nearby, and said they were fortifying barricades.

Thailand moved troops into the disputed border area on July 28, further worsening relations over a spat concerning the Preah Vihear temple, which was recently listed as a World Heritage site, about 150 kilometres east of Ta Moan.

Preah Vihear's listing by UNESCO on July 7 came despite protests by Thailand, which complained the surrounding border area remained in dispute and Thai troops moved in not long after. Later that month the spat spread to Ta Moan.

Cambodia has repeatedly said it has proof that the Ta Moan group of temples are sovereign territory but has stressed it seeks a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

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China's top political advisor meets former Cambodian King

BEIJING, China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin met here Monday with former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, who was here to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Jia said the China-Cambodia friendship became a treasure shared by the two peoples over the past 50 years, and Norodom Sihanouk was an old and good friend known by all the Chinese people. China and Cambodia were indeed good neighbors, good friends, good brothers and good partners, as the two sides enjoy mutual trust in political field, have mutually beneficial cooperation in economic field, and support each other in international affairs.

The Chinese side is willing to join hands with Cambodia to enrich and expand the bilateral relations so as to better benefit the two peoples.

Sihanouk said the Cambodian royal family, government and people would adhere to the friendly relations with China and make further efforts to consolidate and develop the traditional friendship.

China and Cambodia have maintained mutual friendship and cooperation since the two countries established diplomatic relations on July 19, 1958.
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South-east Asia: the gapper's paradise

Cheap, safe and vibrant, South-east Asia is the premier choice for the budget traveller, says Kate Thomas


Who goes there?

Whether you’re an eco-adventurer looking for a low impact challenge, a water baby in search of an island paradise or a city dweller looking for a bit of excitement, South-east Asia offers it all in a neat, low-cost package. The last five years have seen destinations such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam really open up to gappers – low costs, relative political stability and short distances make it easy to combine a worthwhile project with a travel experience.

What gap years can you do there?

From volunteering on coral reef conservation projects on Thailand’s Edenic islands to helping shape the futures of street children in the Philippines, gap year organisations offer a dazzling array of projects in Southeast Asia. Old favourite Thailand has plenty to tempt travellers. While you’ll probably want to check out the beaches and put in an appearance at the famous full moon parties, there are also lots of opportunities to volunteer. Projects Abroad offers gap year experiences that combine both work and play (www.projects-abroad.org).

For those who want to visit a part of Thailand most tourists never get to see, Africa and Asia Venture offer a two-month programme close to the Thai border with Burma. After five days’ orientation – including a Thai cookery course – you’ll spend eight weeks helping to shape the futures of children in the classroom (www.aventure.co.uk).

Adrenalin junkies looking for a thrill that lasts might want to bypass New Zealand and look at Trekforce Worldwide’s adventures to remote parts of Borneo and Papua New Guinea. Opt for the Borneo trek (from £1,500; two to 20 weeks) and you’ll stay in a traditional long house, climb mountains, swim lakes and help ensure the protection of the orangutan. Trekforce’s expeditions are more extreme than the average gap year project – Tribe presenter Bruce Parry was once a group leader, which gives you an idea of how intense the trip is likely to be (www.trekforce.org.uk).

What opportunities for further travel are there?

With so many countries packed into one region, it’s easy to get around. The backpacker path through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia is so well trodden, you’ll be sure to meet like-minded people along the way. The only problem is deciding where to go first. Some travellers opt to spend their time exploring the temples, decadent nightlife and heartbreaking history of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Others are enchanted by the ultra soporific islands of Thailand or Indonesia’s perfect waves. The express train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is a spectacular ride that skirts breathtaking valleys, patches of jungle and idyllic bays; fashionistas might want to make a stop in Hoi An, a veritable treasure trove of sprawling fabric markets, local tailors and cobblers. Rainforest clad Laos attracts eco-adventurers and amateur anthropologists – you can try white-water rafting or tubing as well as learning about the country’s threatened hill tribes. Malaysia offers a heady mix of jungle, island paradise and urban sprawl while next-door neighbour Singapore is an oasis of calm. Burma has a lot to offer tourists but you should think long and hard before going: many campaigners believe visitors should stay away for now.

How much will it cost me?

South-east Asia is a backpacker’s dream. The cost of gap year programmes varies dramatically, but most reputable companies won’t charge more than £1,500 for a four-week project. Transport is your greatest expense; even so, a second-class train ticket from Singapore to Bangkok costs just £50. You can eat well in most countries for as little as £3 or £4 a day.Unless you’re intent on luxury, a night in a decent guesthouse in Cambodia will set you back around £4. Prepare to tighten the purse strings if you venture off the beaten track, where there may be fewer options for travellers on a budget.

Book ahead and you’ll find great deals on flights to the region. Specialist travel agencies such as STA Travel sell return flights from London to Bangkok from £450, while Qantas and Singapore Airlines both offer fully-flexible fares to Kuala Lumpur from £750.

You’ll need to factor in the costs of visas and insurance – a 30-day tourist visa to Cambodia currently costs US$20(£10.50) – as well as enough spending money to cover such backpacker necessities as a T-shirt or string of beads from Bangkok’s famous Khao San strip.

Are there any risks?

Nowhere in the world is completely risk-free but South-east Asia is a sound choice for first-time travellers. The path through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia is so well trodden that you’ll always have the company of other backpackers and there are reliable medical facilities in most backpacker hotspots.

Malaria and Dengue Fever are endemic to parts of South-east Asia; visit a travel nurse for prophylaxis and other important shots before departure. Female travellers are unlikely to receive much unwanted attention in this largely-Buddhist region.

Make sure you’re properly kitted out before you head off into the sunset – Gap Year Travel Store (www.gapyeartravelstore.com) sells destination-specific kits containing everything from first aid and travel pillows to heat-conserving blankets and waterproof matches. They’ll even throw in a pack of glow-sticks – useful for providing emergency light as well as for waving around at all those full moon parties.

What they say

Paul Edwards spent five months in South-east Asia as part of his gap year, visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“I structured my gap year to incorporate volunteering as well as travel; I didn’t want to waste all my time sitting on a beach. I did a four-week tour of Cambodia and Vietnam with Intrepid Travel, who provided a fixed placement and local tour guides. There were people in the group from all over the world. I also volunteered to work with rescued elephants in Kanchanaburi in Thailand –a brilliant experience. I wanted to visit South-east Asia because it really is a backpacker mecca. You can live on around £5 a day. Your money goes a long way.”

What we say

“This region has always been hugely popular, but the downside is that every year another town or resort loses its largely-untouched lustre. In Thailand, westernisation is pulling and pushing at traditions. That means there’s all the more reason to steer clear of the hordes and find your own low-impact adventures, be it in the tranquil Indonesian islands, the quiet backwaters of Laos or the less-visited parts of Cambodia,” Andrew Buncombe, Asia correspondent, The Independent.

Should we be on the next flight out?
Yes

This is the backpacker trail, so it’s dead easy to meet other travellers
South-east Asia offers a wealth of attractions and historic sites in close proximity
Travel is much cheaper than in Africa or the Americas
No

All those fellow travellers mean it can be difficult to escape the crowds
Local traditions are under threat from the constant influx of tourists
English is widely spoken so you probably won’t pick up a language to put on your CV.
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Chinese teachers arrive in Cambodia

Cambodia has welcomed the arrival of 12 Chinese teachers who will work for one year in six community schools, it has been reported.

An agreement between the Chinese government and the Association of the Chinese People in Cambodia (ACPC) means that the teachers will work in institutions in the country's capital Phnom Penh.

The teachers' arrival aims to strengthen the ties between the two countries and promote further educational exchanges between them, chinaview.cn reported.

Secretary of the ACPC Ming Lean offered an encouraging welcome to the teachers, saying: "Your arrival embodies the care and support from the Chinese government for the education cause of the Chinese Cambodian community schools."

According to the ACPC, Cambodia has 1,000 Chinese language teachers and around 30,000 students studying the subject.

The ministry of foreign affairs for the People's Republic of China says that two countries have a "time-honoured traditional friendship" with their economic relations expanding rapidly.
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