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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thai troops deployed to cope with Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Thailand vowed it was ready to respond militarily if attacked by Cambodia after its smaller neighbor issued an ultimatum for Thai troops to pull back from disputed border territory by midday Tuesday.

Thailand moved more troops to an area nearby late Tuesday, but strictly as a defensive measure, said a senior Thai army officer.

The troops on both sides remained only about 100 yards apart, said Gen. Viboonsak Neepan, the Thai Army commander for the region.

"We have sent more troops to be stationed near the area but only enough to resist (an attack). We will not attack first," Viboonsak said. He did not specify how many troops were sent.

Despite increasingly heated rhetoric — including a description by Cambodia's prime minister of the contested land as "a life-and-death battle zone" — fighting did not break out, although the two countries disagreed on who backed down.

Thailand's prime minister said his country's troops had been on their own territory all along.

"If there is a problem, we will use peaceful means with an emphasis on negotiations," said Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. "We will not be an invader." Somchai is also under intense political pressure at home from anti-government militants seeking his resignation.

The dispute is over the land around Preah Vihear, an 11th century temple long claimed by both countries but awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962. Sovereignty over some of the land around the temple has not been clearly resolved.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday morning that Thai troops had tried a day earlier to advance into Cambodia's territory but Cambodian soldiers "waved them back and said, 'If you want to die, keep coming.'"

"They must withdraw," Hun Sen said in a speech in the capital, Phnom Penh. "I have set the timeline for them to withdraw by 12 o'clock."

Cambodian army commander Brig. Gen. Yim Pim later said all Thai troops had retreated about 90 minutes ahead of the deadline and were back inside their camp about half a mile from the contested territory.

"The tense situation has now eased," Yim Pim told The Associated Press.
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Thais defy warning

BANGKOK - THAI soldiers will not leave a disputed stretch of the border with Cambodia despite an ultimatum from Phnom Penh for them to withdraw by midday on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said.

'We are in our homeland. How can they expect us to leave our home?' he said in reply to a question from a reporter.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday the Thai troops should leave within 24 hours or his forces would turn the area into a 'death zone'.

Mr Hun Sen's comments came on Monday after he met Thailand's foreign minister in the latest effort to ease tensions over a territorial dispute that earlier this month sparked a brief exchange of gunfire at the border.

'We told them that if they do not stop (trespassing), armed clashes will break out,' Mr Hun Sen told reporters.

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat did not immediately comment after the meeting.

Last week, two Thai soldiers were injured by land mines along the border. Thailand says the soldiers were on the Thai side of the border, but Cambodia has accused them of overstepping the boundary at a point several kilometres west of the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The area - known as Eagle Field - could become 'a life-and-death battleground', Mr Hun Sen said, adding that Thai soldiers are now camped there about 33 metres from Cambodian troops.

Three days before that incident, at a point a few hundred yards (meters) away, a gunfight broke out between soldiers from the two sides. One Cambodian and two Thai soldiers were wounded.

Both sides claimed the other fired first and blamed each other for being on the wrong side of the border.

In a statement issued after Monday's meeting, Cambodia's Foreign Ministry called for more talks to 'avoid further unwarranted hostilities.'

Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962. Sovereignty over some of the land around the temple, however, has not been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared July 15 after Unesco, the UN agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site.

Both sides deployed troops to the border.

There has been a limited troop withdrawal from the area since, and talks have been held several times to resolve the conflicting claims, but without much progress. -- REUTERS, AP

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Cambodia issues ultimatum to Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's prime minister issued an ultimatum to Thailand to withdraw troops from a disputed border area by noon Tuesday or face a "life-and-death battle zone."

Prime Minister Hun Sen's warning came amid rising tensions over a stretch of border near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which has been a source of dispute between the two countries for decades.

Hun Sen accused Thai troops of advancing on a border area called Eagle Field near the temple in an attempt to occupy Cambodian land.

"They must withdraw," Hun Sen said. "I have set the timeline for them to withdraw by 12 o'clock." Noon in Cambodia is 0500 GMT.

Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962. However, sovereignty over some of the land around the temple has not been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed troops to the border.

A brief gunfight broke out between the two sides early this month, with one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers wounded. Both sides claimed the other fired first and blamed each other for being on the wrong side of the border. Three days later, two Thai soldiers lost legs when they stepped on land mines in the area.

Hun Sen met Monday with Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat, but the meeting appeared to end without a resolution.

He said Monday, "We told them that if they do not stop (trespassing), armed clashes will break out."
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Leading garment brands confirm sourcing advantage of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Leading garment brands have once again confirmed the sourcing advantage of Cambodia, said a press release from the International Buyers' Forum here Monday.

"Twenty-eight representatives from leading garment brands came to Cambodia last week for the two-day meeting of the International Buyers' Forum organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC)" and stated "they are recommending that their companies continue sourcing from Cambodia," said the release.

Forum participants remain very optimistic about Cambodia's garment industry, Tuomo Poutiainen, Chief Technical Advisor of ILO's Better Factories Cambodia program, was quoted as saying.

"Participants told me that subject to customer demand, on-going monitoring from Better Factories Cambodia and continuing good results, their companies are very positive about producing garments in Cambodia," he said.

"It confirmed both the relevance and importance of Better Factories Cambodia and stakeholders' belief and support for its new directions. There was consensus too that industry actors need to work more closely together, and the program needs to move beyond monitoring, and expand training and remediation. This view was widely shared by all the stakeholders," he added.

Membership in the forum comprises 32 brands which buy 60 percent of Cambodia's garment exports.

The forum, which takes place twice a year in Cambodia and Hong Kong, was convened by ILO and IFC to discuss the current work and future of ILO's Better Factories Cambodia.

Cambodia's garment sector is worth 2.6 billion U.S. dollars and is critically important to the estimated 350,000 workers and their extended family members who depend on the industry, a total of at least 1.7 million people.
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Four jailed for Cambodia murders

Four former members of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge have been jailed for their part in the murder of a British mine-clearer and his interpreter.

Three of those convicted received prison term of 20 years, a fourth 10 years, while a fifth defendant was acquitted by the court in Phnom Penh.

Christopher Howes and Houn Hourth were working in north-west Cambodia when they were abducted and killed in 1996.

The trial is seen as a sign that Khmer Rouge figures no longer enjoy immunity.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia for a four-year period in the late 1970s.

Senior figure

Forced from power by a Vietnamese invasion, the Maoist guerrillas continued to battle government troops from strongholds in the north-west for two decades.

Mr Howes, from Backwell in Somerset, was leading a Mines Advisory Group operation near the city of Siem Reap when his team was abducted.

The kidnappers asked Mr Howes to return to his office to collect ransom money, but he refused to leave his team. Although more than 30 members of the team were released or escaped, Mr Howes and his interpreter were killed.

A team of British detectives said in May 1998 they had firm evidence the two were taken to the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng and killed soon after the abduction.

Khmer Rouge members had been given amnesty under the deal which saw the organisation disband ten years ago.

One of those convicted is former senior Khmer Rouge commander Khem Nguon, who became a high-ranking officer in the Cambodian army after his defection.

Now he is a symbol that leading former Khmer Rouge figures are no longer immune from prosecution, the BBC's Guy De Launey reports from Phnom Penh.
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