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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cambodia lacks funds for wildlife network

Written by Christopher Shay

AN increase in the number of wildlife seizures in Southeast Asia attests to the success of the region's collaborative approach to stamping out the black market wildlife trade, according to a press release from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN).

Cambodia, however, is still largely left out of this approach, as it lacks the funding to fully participate in the anti-wildlife trafficking group.

Asean-WEN, of which Cambodia is a member, is a network of law enforcement agencies seeking to improve communication between various government authorities in the 10-member bloc.

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Suon Sovann, deputy chief of the Forest Crime Monitoring and Reporting Unit at the Foresty Administration, told the Post on Monday:
"Wildlife crime is not a Cambodian issue. It's a global issue. We need funds so we can share information about wildlife crime."

In order to abolish the illegal wildlife trade, governments have to address both the supply and demand sides. This involves many different branches of government in multiple countries, said Mark Gately, the country program director at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Improved communications between Southeast Asian countries means that if reports are made of wildlife leaving Cambodia illegally, authorities in the neighboring countries can be alerted," a Wildlife Alliance spokesperson said Monday.

"At present, animals can be rescued within Cambodia, but once they cross the border, nothing can be done."

Teak Seng, country director of the the global conservation group WWF, said: "One specific country cannot be effective at curtailing wildlife trade. It requires international cooperation."
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Amnesty Urges Cambodia To Free Alleged Killers Of Union Boss

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Rights group Amnesty International Tuesday called on Cambodia's highest court to release two alleged killers of the country's labor leader, saying the true perpetrators remain at large.

Chea Vichea, who headed the country's largest labor union and was a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, was gunned down at a Phnom Penh newsstand in January 2004.

The daylight murder shocked the country and was condemned by Cambodian and international rights groups as a brutal attempt to silence the opposition-linked workers' group.
Just days after the killing, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested, convicted of murder and quickly sentenced to 20 years each in prison. They will make their final appeal at the Supreme Court next week.

"Amnesty International calls on the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and ensure that they are released without delay and their names cleared," the watchdog said in a statement.

The group said it "believes that the true perpetrators of the murder remain at large, while Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent almost five years in prison after a seriously flawed criminal investigation and a grossly unfair trial."

The pair denied any involvement in the killing and have fought their convictions. Former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who led the investigation, also has admitted that the two didn't kill Chea Vichea.

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Thai cabinet line-up could anger Thaksin's allies

By Tim Johnston in Bangkok

Thailand's king approved a new cabinet yesterday but political turmoil could persist as many of its members supported the protests that paralysed air transport and government.

The high-profile positions taken by protest backers could spur demonstrations by supporters of the administration ousted this month by the courts. Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister linked to that administration, demonstrated violently outside parliament last week when the new government, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, was voted into power.

While Mr Abhisit offered support for the People's Alliance for Democracy, the group that occupied the prime minister's office in August and Bangkok's two airports in November, Kasit Piromya, his new foreign minister, was more active. The PAD's protests cost the economy at least $2.8bn.

Mr Kasit, a regular speaker at PAD rallies, once described the airports occupation as a "new innovation for public protests".

Last week Mr Kasit told the Financial Times: "This was a protest against an elected government that had become abusive and corrupted. The PAD was part of the whole democratic process. People should be happy that for once the military wasn't involved."

Mr Kasit had earlier taken a hard line on the border dispute with Cambodia, which centres on an ancient temple and led to low-level skirmishes this year. The PAD rallied anti-government support by saying ministers gave Cambodia too much leeway because of alleged business interests of Mr Thaksin across the border.

In the interview, Mr Kasit was more conciliatory, saying Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, had been the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Abhisit on his win. "I think this is a great sign of friendship," he said. "We have a common heritage; we have to use that to bring us together," he said.

Thailand holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Mr Kasit said he was hoping to reengage Burma in dialogue.

"We will talk across the board on all issues," he said. Asean last week adopted a new charter which calls for a regional human rights body. Burma's human rights record will pose one of the biggest challenges to the new charter but Mr Kasit said human rights would be high on the agenda.
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