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Friday, September 12, 2008

Thai soldiers claim another Cambodian temple, military says

Written by Thet Sambath

Thai soldiers have moved into Ta Krabey temple, but military commanders say negotiation will be used to solve the problem

MORE than 100 Thai soldiers seized control of the Kingdom's Ta Krabey temple Wednesday evening and are refusing to leave, despite the best efforts of some 50 Cambodian soldiers who remain at the site, military commanders stationed at the border said.

Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, said that Cambodian soldiers - who have controlled the small temple for years - tried to defend the site by shooting in the air but that the Thai soldiers still marched in.

"They dared to enter because they know Cambodian soldiers got the orders not to use violence and shoot," Ho Bunthy said.

The Wednesday night incursion involved around 100 Thai soldiers who had previously tried to prevent Cambodian troops from accessing the temple by cutting down trees and using them to block the entry road.

"Thai soldiers cut trees down on the road around 13 kilometres away from Ta Krabey temple on Wednesday afternoon to prevent our armed forces from walking to this temple and help them to send their troops to enter the temple in the evening," Ho Bunthy said.

Ho Bunthy said that before the Thai soldiers entered the temple he ordered 50 Cambodian soldiers to stand in a "fence" formation to try to prevent them from entering but to no avail, adding that the Thais had been eyeing the temple for days.

Negotiations again
Chea Morn, commander of Military Region 4, said that military commanders on both sides are trying to solve the problem through negotiation. "We are standing at the temple together now and we will negotiate with Thai military commanders later on," he said.


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It is a big problem when two countries are at war. we are trying to avoid it.

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"If we tried to prevent the Thai soldiers from entering the temple, there would be a clash between the two sides so we will let the border committee demarcate first," Chea Morn said.

"It is a big problem when two countries are at war. We are trying to avoid it," he added.

San Vanna, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said that he has been informed about the Thai soldiers occupying the Ta Krabey temple. "It saddens me to hear about this. The Thai soldiers shouldn't have entered the temple."

Yim Sovann, opposition Sam Rainsy Party's parliamentarian, criticised the government for taking a weak stance against Thailand.

"It is embarrassing that our government is too weak to defend our nation," he said.
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Cambodia Allows Hijab at Schools

CAIRO — Cambodian Muslim students will be allowed to wear Islamic attire, including hijab, as of the new academic year in October, reported the Phnom Penh Post daily on Friday, September 12.

"While students are supposed to wear white shirts and blue trousers to school, Khmer Muslim students will be allowed to wear traditional uniforms to school because we are open minded about students believing in different religions," said Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth Chey Chap.

Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged two months ago to allow Muslim students to wear their Islamic attire at schools.

The decision will be effective when the new academic year starts in October.

Previously, Muslim students, both boys and girls, had to abide by a standard uniform determined by their schools, usually comprises a shirt and a pair of trousers.

This had forced many Muslim students, particularly girls, to abandon their studies.

Some schools were bending the rules to allow female Muslim students to don headgear.

"At the moment Khmer Muslim students don't wear their traditional clothes at school, but they still wear folded scarves around their faces," said Dy Tep Kosal, the director of Chea Sim Cham Reun Roth Secondary School, where Muslims make up nearly 40 percent of its students.

Hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women.

Inclusive

The government decision drew cheering from Cambodian Muslims.

"This shows that the government doesn't want to discriminate against Muslim students and will show people that there are a lot of Khmer Muslims within the education system," said Zakaryya Adam, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Cults and Religion.

Abdulhalim Kasim, a Muslim student at Norton University, said the decision comes in the right time for female Muslim students.

"While it doesn't make any difference to me because I am a man and can wear whatever Khmer students wear, girls need to wear scarves over their faces," he said.

Kasim said the decision also has broader implications.

"The fact that the government will allow us to wear our traditional clothes means it accepts all religions [and] it will make it easier for Khmer Muslims to study."

There are estimated 700,000 Muslims in Cambodia, making up 5 percent of the country's 13 million population.

Cambodian Muslims are generally located in towns and rural fishing villages on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and in Kampot Province in the south.

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Cambodia patient over Thailand's turmoil and temple talk delays

Phnom Penh - Cambodia is content to wait for as long as it takes Thailand to settle its political upheavals and resume talks over disputed border territory, its government said Thursday. Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that it was the least Cambodia could do to give Thailand breathing room to get its internal affairs in order.

"The dispute over the border has been around 100 years," Kanharith said. "A few more weeks can't hurt."

Cambodia closed the border at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on its northern border in June. On July 7 UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site over Thai objections, and a week later, Thai troops moved into nearby areas that it said are disputed but that Cambodia said is its territory.

Cambodia claimed Thai troops also moved into the Moan temple complex 150 kilometres to the west soon after - claims Thailand denied, saying it has had a troop presence near there for years.
Several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the deadlock with both sides vowing not to back down. Further talks are now on hold.

Thailand's Constitution Court on Tuesday found embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej guilty of violating the national charter for hosting a television cooking show after he assumed office on February 6, forcing him out of his job.

Although the court's ruling immediately deprived Samak of the premiership, the constitution allows him to return to the post if members of parliament vote him back into power.
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Gina is heading to Cambodia to teach children

By Julie Armstrong

A FORMER pupil of William Howard School in Brampton is to give up three months to teach deprived children in south-east Asia.

Gina Williamson, 18, was inspired by a school trip to Tanzania where she admired the communal and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Next week she will set off for Cambodia where she will be teaching under-10s with volunteer company Bunac.

Many children there come from such poor families they have to stay at home to work during the day.

Bunac gives them the opportunity of a free education, providing classes in the evenings to make them more accessible.

Gina, who has just gained three Bs and a C at A-level, said: “I went to Tanzania with William Howard in July. That was my first experience of a Third World country – a real eye-opener.

“I loved everything about it. The people were really friendly and so generous even though they have so little.

“They’re really proud of their country and there’s a real sense of community. All their food is local and organic, grown in their gardens. Everything is in tune with the environment. I’d like to live in a commune over there.

“It made me feel I should be doing something worthwhile, giving something back to people who are less fortunate. I’ve done a 60-hour TEFL course online and I leave on Tuesday. I’ve never been to Asia and wanted to go somewhere different.”

Gina, of Cherry Lane, Parkland Village, Carlisle, will live in Siem Reap, a large town about eight hours north of the capital Phnom Penh, and will visit the famous Ankor Wat – a 12th-century Buddhist temple which appears on Cambodia’s national flag.

She has paid £30 towards a sustainable forest project to offset the carbon emissions from her flight. She will share a house with other volunteers, whom she has not yet met.

“I am most scared about going on my own,” she said. “I think my phone bill will be huge because I could be homesick and lonely. I don’t know any of the other volunteers, but we’ll all have one thing in common – we all wanted to go to Cambodia.”

She will come back for Christmas but in January will be off on her travels again – this time to Canada to train to be a ski instructor.
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