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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thai Protesters Occupy Premier’s Temporary Office

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of anti-government protesters occupied Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s temporary office, three months after taking over the official Government House compound in central Bangkok.

“We will go wherever the premier goes,” said Parnthep Pongpourpan, a spokesman for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, whose members also gathered at the nearby Thai military headquarters. Two people were wounded today when shots were fired during a clash between anti- and pro-government supporters on a Bangkok highway, Agence France-Presse reported, citing police.

Anti-government protesters yesterday blockaded parliament, forcing lawmakers to abandon a legislative session, and said they may confront Somchai at Bangkok’s new international airport tomorrow when he returns from an Asia Pacific summit in Peru. The premier has rejected calls for his resignation, and police have avoided clashing with the PAD after an Oct. 7 incident at parliament in which two people died and 470 were injured.

“We will have to negotiate for the return of our offices,” said government spokesman Nattawut Saikuar, estimating that several thousand protesters were at the temporary offices in the former Don Mueang Airport. The location of tomorrow’s scheduled cabinet meeting hasn’t been decided.
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport was closed due to protests today, Agence France-Presse reported, citing airport authorities. The international airport canceled all departing flights after demonstrators surged into a terminal, the Associated Press reported.

Shots Fired

Anti-government demonstrators fired shots today after government supporters began throwing rocks at a truck carrying PAD members as it was returning from the old airport, the Associated Press reported, citing Thai PBS television. The anti- government group then chased their opponents, who numbered several dozen, AP said.

The Bangkok-based protest group, which includes many middle- class residents and receives support from the country’s royalist elite, accuses Somchai’s ruling party of buying votes to win elections and opposes former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a September 2006 coup. At least five people have died as a result of the protests since August.

Army Chief Anupong Paojinda met other military chiefs to discuss the protests today and reiterated their commitment not to stage another coup, according to army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong.

Thaksin, who fled in August to avoid corruption charges, said he will return to Thailand at some point, according to an interview with Dubai-based Arabian Business published Nov. 23.

‘Bring Confidence’

“The country is going down deeply,” Thaksin was quoted as saying in the report. “I can bring confidence quickly back to Thailand.”

Somchai, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, has called for national unity as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy faces its slowest growth in eight years.

Thailand’s gross domestic product may expand as little as 3 percent next year, the National Economic and Social Development Board said yesterday. That would be the slowest pace since a 2.2 percent rate in 2001 and less than the central bank’s lowest estimate of 3.8 percent.

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Delegation of China-ASEAN Association visits Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- A delegation of the China-ASEAN Association here on Tuesday met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, initiated a cataract removal project and donated a digital library to local university.

During the meeting with the king, both sides reviewed the bilateral cooperation and exchange between Cambodia and China in the past years, and wished the two countries to conduct more joint works in various sectors in the future.

The Cambodian-Chinese ties are expected to arise to a new level over the current trust and friendship, both sides agreed.

For the surgery project at the Preah Ang Duong Hospital, about a hundred of Cambodian patients will receive cataract operation conducted by Chinese ophthalmologists.

The hospital used to treat half of the country's cataract patients, whose number rises by 20,000 per year.

At the Royal Academy of Cambodia, the delegation donated a digital library, where users can find rich data and information with a computer.

Acting Prime Minister Sok An told the donation ceremony that the library is expected to provide a new way for students and teachers to conduct their study and teaching work.

The delegation arrived here on Monday to carry out the programs to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia and the Year of China-Cambodia Friendship 2008.

The China-ASEAN Association is a civilian organization devoted to promoting the ties between China and ASEAN nations in the fields of politics, culture, economy and trade, technology, sports, health and tourism.
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Rape risk increasing in Cambodia

By Guy de Launey

Women and girls in Cambodia are facing an increasing risk of rape and sexual assault, a government report has said.

It says that around a quarter of the female population faces domestic violence.

But the study showed many Cambodians think it can be acceptable for a husband to assault his wife.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs released its findings to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Long-held prejudices are combining with new forms of anti-social behaviour to put young women and girls at particular risk, the report says.

It said that the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by men is having a direct impact on the safety of female Cambodians.

It suggests that gang rape is being treated as a "sport" in some areas - and that law enforcement agencies need to do more to stop it.

Education needed

The research also indicates that women themselves may have created one of the biggest barriers to reducing domestic violence.

When presented with a list of justifications for a husband attacking his wife, more than half the women surveyed agreed with at least one of the suggested reasons.

The report says that education may be the key to changing the attitudes which allow attacks on women to go unpunished - or even condoned.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs points out that Cambodia is ahead of many other developing countries in terms of its legislation.

There are laws on the prevention of domestic attacks - and the national millennium development goals include targets for the reduction of violence and human trafficking.

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