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Monday, November 30, 2009

Cambodia-Vietnam joint commission meeting to be held later this week

Cambodia and Vietnam are set to hold a joint commission meeting later this week in Cambodia's southwestern province of Sihanouk.

In a statement released on Monday, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said the 11th Meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission for Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Cooperation will be held in Preah Sihanouk Province from Dec. 3-4, 2009.

It said that Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem will lead a delegation to attend the meeting.

During his stay in Cambodia, Pham Gia Khiem will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hun Sen, and sign with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong on the agreed minutes of the meeting.
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Cambodia to consider bail request for Thai engineer on Friday

BANGKOK, A Cambodian court will hear Thailand's bail request bid on Friday for the Thai engineer in Phnom Penh on espionage charges and affirmed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had done its utmost to help him, according to MFA Department of Information director-general Vimon Kidchob.

Siwarak Chutipong, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was arrested by Cambodian police November 12 on charges of passing to Thai diplomatic officials what the Cambodian authorities considered as privileged information regarding the flight of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra when he made his recent visit.

Ms Vimon said she believed that Simarak na Nakon Panom, Mr Siwarak's mother, understood the procedure and had made an appointment with the Thai officials to go to Cambodia again next Monday (December 7 to hear the court's verdict) on the next day but she may want to visit him sooner.

However, Ms Vimon said that the mother had not informed the ministry of her desire to visit her son earlier than planned.

Mrs Simarak on Monday met former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama at Thailand’s opposition Puea Thai Party headquarters, seeking his assistance to get bail for her son and permission from Cambodia to visit him again.

She claimed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had moved too slowly for her to help her son.

Mr Noppadon, a legal adviser to convicted ex-premier Thaksin, said he would help her on a humanitarian basis by using his old connections in Phnom Penh to help Mrs Simarak see her son again and he did not want his move to be seen as a political issue. (TNA)

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US says to continue help Cambodia to fight HIV/AIDS

PHNOM PENH: The United States said on Monday that it will continue to help Cambodia in fighting against HIV/AIDS.

"The United States looks forward to continuing our support of successes like these and we are committed to furthering efforts that curb the spread of HIV in Cambodia," it said in a statement released here on Monday by its Embassy.

The US is considered as the largest bilateral HIV/AIDS donor in Cambodia, committing US $18 million in 2009 as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The US helped Cambodia cut its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate by half among the general population and by two thirds among brothel- based sex workers, a remarkable success story in the global fight against the disease.

The US assistance is also helping to provide life-saving antiretroviral medication to more than 31,000 Cambodians living with HIV/AIDS, reaching over 90 percent of those in need, the statement said.

Over the next five years, the United States will place a renewed emphasis on partnering with Cambodia to build the country' s national HIV/AIDS response, it added.
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Thaksin and Chavalit's Cambodia plan badly misfired

By Avudh Panananda
The Nation



After their best-laid plan went awry, two cunning schemers now find themselves left high and dry. Thaksin Shinawatra and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh have fallen off the political stage.

Until the two can come up with a new ploy to reclaim pole position, the role of playmaker has now been taken up by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In the next couple of months, Abhisit has a rare opportunity to rectify ailing politics. If he succeeds in his mission, then there is a glimmer of hope for overcoming Thaksin's gravitational pull.

Just a few short months ago, Thaksin and Chavalit acted and talked like they already had the world in the palms of their hands.

Chavalit stepped out of retirement to accept the Pheu Thai Party chairmanship. He confidently outlined his game plan designed to boost Thaksin's political standing.

He believed that he could overcome political polarisation if the pro-Thaksin camp could outshine the Democrat-led coalition.

Thaksin pulled strings with the red shirts and opposition lawmakers in order to orchestrate a showdown to dislodge the coalition.

It so happened that Thaksin and Chavalit found Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with a receptive ear to get involved in Thai politics and risk the good neighbourly ties.

Under the plan, the involvement of Hun Sen in the Thai political equation was supposed to be proof of Thaksin's superiority over Abhisit. But the plan backfired.

Friends and foes alike saw Thaksin and Chavalit as traitors, serving as Cambodian lapdogs instead of protecting Thai interests.

The very plan designed to destroy the prime minister yielded the opposite result. Abhisit received an all-time-high popularity rating.

Regardless of his experience as the longest-serving prime minister in Southeast Asia, Hun Sen picked two wrong horses to stage an entrance into the Thai political scene.

The Cambodian government had to switch on damage-control mode by dispatching Defence Minister Tea Banh, seen as Hun Sen's closest ally, to Bangkok on a fence-mending mission last week.

The pro-Thaksin camp fell into disarray. Chalerm Yoobamrung, the leader of the Pheu Thai MPs, became "conveniently" ill so he could sit on the fence and watch how the game played out.

Although some 30 Pheu Thai MPs and hardcore supporters went to meet Thaksin in Siem Reap, much greater numbers of opposition lawmakers followed Chalerm's lead to keep their cards close to their chest.

Even Chavalit tried to salvage his image by back-pedalling from Thaksin's Cambodian card. He turned down Thaksin's offer for him to fly to Phnom Penh to pick up the Thai engineer who is expected to be released from the legal wrangling for spying.

As if adding insult to his own injury, Thaksin made controversial and offensive remarks against the monarchy when he tried to apportion the blame for his predicament.

It came as no surprise that the red shirts were forced to postpone their mass rally, billed as a final showdown with the government. Thaksin is doing everything he can to win back trust in his loyalty.

As Thaksin and Chavalit will likely spend months trying to pick up the pieces of their own undoing, the limelight has shifted to Abhisit.

With the lull in street protests, Abhisit now has a fighting chance to steer mainstream politics to overcome the turmoil.

The key is how to accommodate and appease opposition lawmakers in order to stop them from gravitating toward Thaksin.

Three key events may be the decisive factors in reshaping Thai politics. The anticipated Cabinet reshuffle. The upcoming censure debate. And the twisting and turning of the process to amend the charter.

If Abhisit plays his cards right, then voters will likely go to the polls next year. The polarisation may not end completely with one round of voting, but at least the animosity is likely to dissipate.

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Mother wants Pheu Thai to help free her son

It came as a big slap on the government's face when Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, mother of Siwarak Chutipong - a Thai national being detained in Cambodia - asked the opposition Pheu Thai Party for assistance yesterday.

She complained that the Foreign Ministry was being too slow in getting her son out of prison.

She went to the party headquarters yesterday to ask former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama to help free Siwarak, who is being held on charges of spying on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule.

"The Foreign Ministry is too slow and my son and I can't wait. I will do anything to get him out," Simarak told a press conference.

Noppadon said he had used his connections in Phnom Penh to help Simarak visit her son again in a couple of days.

Simarak also thanked Thaksin for offering to help her son even though he had done something bad against the former PM.

Siwarak admitted that he had passed Thaksin's flight information on to a Thai diplomat who later was expelled from Cambodia, but Simarak said her son did not know that Thaksin was on the plane.

Siwarak was arrested on November 12 while Thaksin was in Phnom Penh to deliver a speech on economy. His visit intensified tensions between Thailand and Cambodia, especially since Bangkok was already angry with Cambodian PM Hun Sen for appointing Thaksin as his economic adviser. Simarak also called on Pheu Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, asking for help yesterday.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, said he understood that Simarak is a mother and would do anything for her son.

"But the Foreign Ministry is doing what it can to help her, too," he said.

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Hun Sen rules out normal ties with Abhisit government

By Rasmei Kampuchea


Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attacked Thailand again yesterday, saying the Thai government was derisive about his country and that Abhisit Vejjajiva was the most difficult Thai PM he had ever worked with.

Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh that bilateral relations, which have been sour for months now, would only be normalised if Thailand had a new government. He added that his country would "have no happiness" while Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya were still in power.
"I'm not an enemy of the Thai people ... But, these two people look down on Cambodia," Hun Sen said.

"Cambodia will have no happiness as long as this group is in power."

Hun Sen claimed that Abhisit called him over the weekend after Phnom Penh sent a note last week telling Bangkok that it was cancelling its request for a Bt1.4-billion loan to construct a road from the Thai border to Siem Reap.

"Abhisit called me, for the first time, asking me to withdraw the note. He said Thailand is still willing to give the loan," Hun Sen said.

However, Abhisit was told that Cambodia needed an official letter from him, but though the Thai premier agreed he failed to send the letter at the time it was promised.

"Abhisit is the most difficult person to work with when compared to other Thai PMs," Hun Sen said, adding that from now on Cambodia would not accept any aid from Thailand.

"We have decided to stop receiving any assistance from Thailand. Cambodia cannot allow itself to be humiliated," he added. "I told Abhisit that my people and I were hurt when we heard you talk about halting aid and loans. Now stop talking like this - it is cheap and childish."

The Cambodian leader also hit back about Thailand's threat to close the border between the two countries, saying: "If you are [an] idiot, if you want losses, please go ahead."

Bilateral relations between the two countries soured when Hun Sen appointed fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and refused to extradite him to Thailand.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thai FM: no plan of talks with Cambodia to end diplomatic dispute

[The Nation report: "Mother meets detained son in P Penh jail"]

Takes soil from house as symbolic link to his motherland

Detained Thai employee Siwarak Chotipong met his mother for the first time yesterday since being arrested on a charge of spying.

Siwarak has been accused of passing on fugitive former prime minister Shinawatra's flight information to an official of the Thai Embassy two weeks ago.

Simarak Ra Khon Phanom flew to see her son in Prey Sor prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon. She took along soil from her house in Nakhon Ratchasima for her son as a symbolic connection with the motherland.

Siwarak has lost some weight but is still in good health and Cambodian authorities are taking good care of her son, she told reporters in Phnom Penh after a visit.

"He wants to get out of jail as soon as possible and is waiting for the court ruling on December 8," she said.

He is not a political victim, but there might have been some misunderstanding and bad luck for him, she said.

Siwarak was arrested on November 12 on the day Thaksin was in Phnom Penh to give a lecture on economic development after being appointed an economic adviser to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Siwarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was accused of passing Thaksin's flight information to Thai diplomat Kamrob Palawatwichai, who was later expelled from Cambodia.

If found guilty, he would be sentenced to a 7-15-year jail term or fined 5-25 million Cambodian rials (about Bt50,000-Bt250,000) in accordance with article 19 of the Archive law.

Visiting Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said his country would handle the Siwarak case in accordance with law and international practice.

Tea Banh was in Thailand for a meeting of General Border Committee with his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan. They agreed to maintain good ties despite the conflict between the two governments.

Siwarak's case is seen as an extension of the diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia. Angered by the appointment of Thaksin as Hun Sen's adviser, Thailand downgraded relations with Cambodia and reviewed cooperation projects including a maritime deal.

Meanwhile Cambodia informed Thailand yesterday it was cancelling an agreement to receive a Bt1.4-billion loan to upgrade a highway from the Thai border, Associated Press reported.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country will not accept the loan because it could afford to build the road on its own.

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World Vision Goes Around the World to Find the True Spirit of Christmas Next stop: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Team began quest in U.S. two weeks ago, will travel to three more countries in next three weeks
$25 million fundraising effort aims to fight poverty and help 625,000 people around the world
Contact: Laura Blank, World Vision, 646-245-2496, lblank@worldvision.org

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Nov. 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- Since November 19, World Vision and thousands of people around the world have been traveling the globe in search of the Christmas spirit as part of the Christian humanitarian agency's "Spirit of Christmas" tour. The month-long tour features interviews and stories with children and families in the United States, Ecuador, Cambodia, Zambia and Ethiopia. In the past two weeks, World Vision's team has been highlighting both the heartbreaking circumstances of the poor and the inspiring impact even small donations of a few dollars can make in helping families provide for their children.

"So far, we've traveled from the neighborhoods of New York City to the mountains of Ecuador to see if we can find the 'true spirit of Christmas' around the world," said Devin Hermanson, campaign manager for World Vision's "Spirit of Christmas" tour. "In a year full of financial scandals, war, natural disasters, and a global recession, we all need a little encouragement. What we've found so far is that people around the world are still helping their neighbor in need."

The team has traveled to New York City and Quito, Ecuador. The team left Ecuador on Saturday, November 28 and traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There the team will learn first-hand about the sex trafficking industry and meet several young children who have been rescued from sexual slavery and are rebuilding their lives. About 2 million children -- most of them girls -- are enslaved in the global sex trade today.

Fast facts about the "Spirit of Christmas" tour in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

The team has traveled more than 14, 456 miles since November 19.

So far, more than $4.2 million -- or nearly 20% of the goal -- has been raised toward this year's $25 million goal.

More than 14 million people live in Cambodia.

More than one-third of Cambodians live below the poverty line, and nearly 78% live on less than $2 a day.

Between 50,000 -- 100,000 women and children are involved in the global sex trade.

It is estimated that nearly 30% of children involved in the sex trade are under 18.

The life expectancy for the average person is 61 years old.

World Vision has worked in Cambodia since 1970.

As part of the "Spirit of Christmas" tour, the organization seeks to raise a record-breaking $25 million through the World Vision Gift Catalog to help provide these communities with much-needed resources like water, livestock, medicine, and agriculture -- assistance that could change the lives of nearly 625,000 people. World Vision's cash donations are currently down 4 percent -- or $33 million -- a deficit that could ultimately affect the poorest families around the world. If World Vision meets the Gift Catalog's financial goal this year, it would be far more than the aid agency has ever raised during the holiday period, making it a truly extraordinary response in extraordinary times.

World Vision launched the Gift Catalog in 1996. A gift given through the catalog significantly improves the life of a child or family in need by providing tools and opportunities to overcome extreme poverty, while at the same time honor your friends and loved ones. There are more than 100 gifts (many under $35) to choose from. To order, visit our website at http://www.worldvisiongifts.org/ or call toll-free 1 (888) 511-6511. All items are tax-deductible.
To schedule an interview with the team as they travel, please contact Laura Blank at lblank@worldvision.org or +1.646.245.2496. To follow the team online, log onto Facebook, visit us on Twitter, or check out the "Spirit of Christmas" campaign site at http://www.worldvisiongifts.org/.


Note: The "Spirit of Christmas" World Tour Schedule
Bronx, New York November 17 - 22, 2009
Quito, Ecuador November 22 - 27, 2009
Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 28 - December 5, 2009
Lusaka, Zambia December 6 - 13, 2009
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 13 - 17, 2009
Bronx, New York December 18 – 23, 2009

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, visit www.worldvision.org/press. Read more!

Militaries could heal battered bilateral ties

By The Nation


The positive tone of the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers hold hopes for normalisation
The General Border Committee meeting ended on Friday on a positive note as the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers agreed to work for peace. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh, said they would use their good offices and the armed forces to create the political space needed to bring about the comfort level for the two sides to move on.

The two governments are currently engaged in one of their bitterest diplomatic disputes in decades after Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser. The move was nothing less than a slap on Bangkok's face. Hun Sen, naturally, said it was his and his country's business as to who he should appoint. He went on to cut Thailand's judicial system to pieces for charging his good friend with corruption, and taunted the Abhisit Vejjajiva government of being immature and lacking credibility and suggested that it seek legitimacy.

Nevertheless, the two defence ministers spent Friday mapping out guidelines for future cooperation between the armed forces and identified specific programmes to serve as a platform for such cooperation. The soccer game between soldiers from the two countries might well be back on schedule.

It has been pointed out that the Thai Army and their Cambodian counterparts, in spite of experiencing hiccups every now and then, have effectively turned the page and moved on from the turbulent years of the previous decades when Vietnam and Thailand turned Cambodia into a high-stakes game. Everybody had blood on their hands and no one is in the mood to dig up the past, hence the desire to leave the political baggage behind.

But let's not let the cosy feelings in Pattaya blur reality. Tea Banh may be the defence minister but we all know that the buck stops with Hun Sen. If Hun Sen does not want Tea Banh to get cuddly with the Thais, he won't.

Hun Sen may think he is smart by adopting this two-pronged strategy - a diplomatic spitting contest between the two capitals, but hugs and kisses between the two soldiers. But the problem strongmen with inflated egos have is that they invariably shoot themselves in the foot. And by that time it could be too late, as the damage could be too severe and the situation out of control.

No one can deny that there is a high degree of pretentiousness in diplomacy, as the outcome of the Pattaya General Border Committee meeting has shown. Maybe that is what is needed. Bangkok may have to pretend that its feelings were not bruised as badly as it seemed, while Cambodia could reap the benefits of the political capital sowed by Tea Banh and its armed forces. Who knows? The two countries could be hugging and kissing each other one day.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Cambodia cancels $41.2 million loan from Thailand

By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press Writer


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia informed Thailand on Friday it was canceling a US$41.2 million loan from Bangkok meant to finance the upgrade of a highway from the Thai border.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country didn't need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own.

The decision comes during a period of bad relations between the two countries over Cambodia's recent welcome to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive from Thai justice.

Thai-Cambodian relations took a turn for the worse when Cambodia recently named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia's rejection of a formal request from Bangkok to extradite him, drew a negative reaction from Bangkok.

Each country has recalled its ambassador and Bangkok has canceled an agreement to negotiate on joint development of offshore territory claimed by both countries. It also said it would review all other assistance agreements and projects with its neighbor.

Cambodia is holding a Thai man on a spying charge for allegedly sending a copy of Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai Embassy during the former leader's visit earlier this month.

The secretary to Thailand's foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, downplayed the importance of Phnom Penh's cancellation of the loan to upgrade the 73-mile (117-kilometer) road stretching from Cambodia's northwestern border with Thailand to the province of Siem Reap.

He called it a normal procedure, as Friday marked three months after the agreement was signed, and Cambodia was supposed to give notice on whether it agreed to its terms.

The road would in large part serve trade between the two countries, which is heavily in Thailand's favor.

He said Thailand had reviewed the agreement, as part of its earlier threat to cancel all assistance agreements, but took no action on it.

A Thai court last year sentenced Thaksin in absentia to two years in prison for violating a conflict of interest law, but he fled into exile before the verdict. He was prime minister from 2001 until ousted by a military coup in 2006.

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Khmer Rouge prison chief asks Cambodia genocide tribunal to release him, citing time served

By SOPHENG CHEANG and LUKE HUNT , Associated Press


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - After claiming to feel great remorse for his part in Khmer Rouge atrocities, the defendant in Cambodia's first genocide trial on Friday surprised the court with a last-minute plea for his freedom, saying he should not have been prosecuted and has already spent ten years in jail.

Kaing Guek Eav, who headed a torture center from which about 16,000 men, women and children were sent to their deaths, seemingly stepped back from previous assertions of responsibility for his actions and expressions of sorrow to his victims, as well as willingness to accept severe punishment.

His Cambodian lawyer, Kar Savuth, went a step further and stunned the tribunal by issuing the trial's first clear call for an acquittal of his client, even after his French lawyer, Francois Roux, denied seeking such a verdict.

Only when directly pressed by a frustrated Judge Dame Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand did Kar Savuth say that in calling for Duch's release he was seeking his acquittal.

After consultations, the judges at the U.N.-assisted tribunal accepted the plea for acquittal, even though the legal basis for it was unclear.

Acquittal in legal terms normally means a finding that the defendant is not guilty of the crimes he is charged with, while the defense case hinged generally on claims that Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, ought to have any punishment lightened in view of his cooperation with the court and expressions of remorse.

Cambodian-American human rights lawyer Theary Seng said the call for an acquittal was difficult to understand.

"What he did totally undermines his efforts up until now in terms of remorse and it undermines his request for forgiveness, which I thought was genuine," she said. "It's inexplicable and calls into question his previous efforts of remorse. This is really disturbing."

Friday's dramatic turn of events came as the trial was in its next to last stage, with prosecution and defense making rebuttals to the other's closing arguments. Judges are expected to issue their verdict early next year.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

The prosecution earlier this week asked the court to sentence Duch to 40 years in jail, taking into account his cooperation and time served while waiting for trial. The maximum sentence he could receive is life imprisonment. Cambodia has no death penalty.

Some 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation due to the radical communist policies of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime. Four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge are also in the tribunal's custody, and they are expected to be tried next year or later.

Even Friday, Duch spoke of acknowledging and apologizing for "the more than one million souls who perished" due to the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

But he went on to claim that the tribunal's mandate was to prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders, and didn't apply to him, an argument that had already been rejected by the court.

Also pointing out the time he had already spent in custody, Duch said to the judges, "I ask the chamber to release me."

The tribunal earlier this year ruled that Duch had been held illegally for five of the eight years he was in the custody of Cambodia's military court before being transferred to the tribunal, and that if found guilty, he could get credit not only for time already served but also to compensate for the earlier violation of his rights.

The positions of Duch's two lawyers seemed to diverge in their closing arguments earlier this week, with Kar Savuth seeking an acquittal, and Roux pleading for a lenient prison sentence due to his client's contrition and cooperation with the court.

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Thailand, Cambodia say row won't lead to conflict

BANGKOK — Thailand and Cambodia's diplomatic row over fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will not cause further clashes between their armed forces, their defense ministers said after meeting Friday.

Relations between the countries, which have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged earlier this month when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh as an advisor to the Cambodian government.

After a two-day meeting in the Thai resort town of Pattaya which ended Friday, the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers said they had agreed to reach peaceful solutions to solve new misunderstandings.

"Thai and Cambodian forces will support every mechanism to strengthen relations between the two countries," Thai defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

Prawit said the meeting focused on issues around the poorly defined, heavily armed border and how to make people who live there live peacefully.

Prawit added that military and diplomatic rows were different, saying: "We have to divide them from each other".

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser earlier this month and the Thai tycoon then visited Phnom Penh for four days from November 10.

Thailand was infuriated when Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin, who was sentenced to two years in jail in absentia in September 2008 on corruption charges and is currently living in exile.

The two countries withdrew their ambassadors, and the row was further inflamed when Cambodian police arrested a Thai man on charges of spying on Thaksin and expelled the first secretary to Thailand's embassy.

Thailand reciprocated soon after.

But Cambodia allowed the mother of the detained man, Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, to visit him in prison on Friday in a bid to ease tensions.

"They met for one hour and a half at a meeting room in the prison," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a secretary to the Thai foreign minister.

Siwarak's mother, Simarak Na Nokhon Phanom, told reporters at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh that she thanked Hun Sen for allowing her to see her son, but added that he was "unlucky" to be arrested.

Siwarak an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested early this month on charges of spying on Thaksin's flight schedule.

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Feature: Mekong Arts Festival: catalyst for social changes

As some 200 artists and media practitioners converge here for the week-long Mekong Festival beginning on Monday, their attention has gone far beyond "arts for arts' sake". What they are advocating is how to promote arts as catalyst for social transformation.

Through workshops, performances, forum, conference, film shows and visual arts, artists from the Mekong sub-region which is composed of Cambodia, China, Laos , Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, showcased their understanding of life in the era of globalization and economic integration.

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), one of the organizers of the Festival from the host country, has demonstrated the vigor and power of youth art throughout the festival with the omni-present performers, some 100 in total, disseminating the message of arts as a life-transforming force.

PPS, meaning "the brightness of art" in Khmer, was originated in 1989 from a refugee camp on the Thai border, when child refugees were encouraged to use artistic expression to overcome the trauma of war. After the refugees returned to their homeland, the idea of creative workshops persisted as a group of former children from the camp founded PPS IN 1994.

Today, PPS, a Cambodian non-governmental organization (NGO) which aims to support community development through providing social, educative and cultural services to children and their families, has not only hosted poor, disabled, abused and trafficked children in the Child Care Center, but opens wide its door to children and youth who want to pursue their artistic instincts and interests by enlisting them to its Visual Arts School, Performing Arts School and Music School.

Its iconic circus groups are the most renowned among its schools, touring and performing in Cambodia and Europe, nurturing an independent generation who are capable of supporting themselves while exemplifying their strength.

"Arts is a powerful tool for children to develop their confidence," said Khun Det, founder of PPS. He believes that visual arts and culture is more effective than speeches. He regarded PPS circus as "social circus" which combines elements of theater and music in addition to tradition.

During the Festival, audiences are amazed PPS performers whose vigor, humor and skills are great inspirations to children and youth in the community.

Chinese artists also shared their experiences at the Festival.

Zhang Jinzhong, an ethnic Jingpo dancer from Nengguan Performing Arts and Training Center in Ruili, southwest China's Yunnan Province, has been doing health education through dance for four years, helping ethnic youths learn folk dance, rap, or modern dance while staying away from drugs and HIV/AIDS.

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Lawyers say Khmer Rouge prison chief a scapegoat

By SOPHENG CHEANG and LUKE HUNT (AP)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Closing arguments were expected to conclude Friday in the genocide trial of a Khmer Rouge prison chief, with the two sides sparing over how much the former Cambodian school teacher should be held accountable for the regime's brutality.

Prosecutors earlier in the week demanded a 40-year jail sentence for Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, but the defense insisted he was not a senior Khmer Rouge leader and therefore should not be prosecuted at all.

That prompted an angry rebuttal Friday from Australian co-prosecutor William Smith, who said such defense assertions showed that Duch (pronounced DOIK) was "not facing up to who he was back in 1975 to 1979."

Duch commanded the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh where those accused of disloyalty to the xenophobic communist regime were held. He oversaw the torture and execution of about 16,000 men, women and children during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule.

Some 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation under the Khmer Rouge, whose Maoist ideologues led by Pol Pot emptied cities and forced virtually the entire population to work on farm collectives.

Judges in the U.N.-backed tribunal are expected to decide the verdict and sentence by early next year.

French defense attorney Francois Roux told the court Thursday that his client was being made a "scapegoat" for all the wrongs committed by the Khmer Rouge.

"As long as the prosecution's submissions make this man a scapegoat, you will not advance the development of humankind one millimeter," Roux told the packed court. "No, Duch does not have to bear the whole horror of the tragedy of Cambodia on his head."

Roux also criticized prosecutors for portraying Duch as a key member of the regime responsible for the network of terror.

"How dare you!" he declared, telling the court that a mere 1 percent of the Khmer Rouge victims died at S-21.

Duch, 67, is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

He has denied personally killing or torturing the S-21 prisoners, and testified that he only reluctantly carried out the orders from his superiors, because he feared for his life and his family's safety.

Addressing the court Wednesday, Duch apologized to the dead, their families, survivors of the regime and to all Cambodians — something he has done repeatedly since the trial began in March.

He said he was "deeply remorseful and profoundly affected by the destruction on such a mind-boggling scale."

But he emphasized that he was not alone in carrying out torture and killings, which also took place at 196 other prisons across the country, and insisted there was little he could do to prevent the horror at S-21.

"I could do nothing to help," he said. "Pol Pot regarded these people as thorns in his eyes."

Smith, the co-prosecutor, earlier acknowledged Duch's admissions of guilt and the fact that he has given evidence against other Khmer Rouge leaders, but said he still must be held accountable.

"The crimes committed by the accused at S-21 are rarely matched in modern history in terms of their combined barbarity, scope, duration, premeditation and their callousness," he said. "Not just the victims and their families but the whole of humanity demand a just and proportionate response to these crimes and this court must speak on behalf of that humanity."

Some survivors and other victims of the Khmer Rouge attending the U.N.-backed trial said a 40-year prison term, which would likely lock up Duch for life, would not be harsh enough. They want a life sentence handed down.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Khmer Defence Minister Tea Banh visits Thailand

By The Nation


Cambodia's Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh arrived in Thailand on Thursday to co-chair a meeting of Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee.

The meeting which will be held in Chon Buri's Banglamung district will be held in tight security as Thai-Cambodia relations have been on the line following visit of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to Phnom Penh earlier this month.

The senior officers of both countries then enjoyed golf games at a golf courses in Chon Buri.

Dozens of police and soldiers in full gear are deployed at Dusit Thani Hotel in Chon Buri where the group was staying.

The mutual relations have been strained following Thaksin's visit with Thailand and Cambodia recalling their ambassadors and first secretaries. Thailand has reviewed mutual cooperations to protest the visit.

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Khmer Rouge torturer had to "kill or be killed"

By Ek MadraPHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The Khmer Rouge's chief torturer and jailer had to "kill or be killed" and operate like an "obedient machine," his lawyer said on Thursday in defending the first member of Cambodia's murderous regime to face justice.

In the final two days of testimony in the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, a lawyer for the commander of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison said his client's life was at stake when he ordered the murder of more than 14,000 people in the 1970s.

Speaking a day after prosecutors asked the court to sentence Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 40 years in prison, the lawyer said the tribunal should show leniency because the 67-year-old former maths teacher had fully cooperated.

"Without Duch, the trial could not have unfolded if he, like others, had decided to remain in silence," Francois Roux, Duch's lawyer, told a courtroom packed with more than 600 people, including many survivors of the ultra-communist regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in 1975-79.

"The accused was absolutely, himself, in the hands of the party. And in fact, he had to operate like a machine, an obedient machine," said Roux. "He himself was in a situation where he had to choose to kill or be killed."

"We do not wish our client to be the scapegoat," he added.

Duch is scheduled to take the stand again on Friday on the final day of the trial. A verdict is expected by March.

He is accused of "crimes against humanity, enslavement, torture, sexual abuses and other inhumane acts" as commander of Tuol Sleng prison, a converted high school also known as S-21, during one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

Only seven of 14,000 people who passed through S-21 survived.

Prosecutors have urged the tribunal's five-judge panel to reject Duch's assertion he had little choice but to carry out orders, saying Duch was "ideologically of the same mind" as the Khmer Rouge leaders and did nothing to stop prison guards from inflicting rampant torture.

QUARTER OF POPULATION DIED

Lead prosecutor William Smith told the court this week "the accused was neither a prisoner, nor a hostage, nor a victim. He was an idealist, a revolutionary, a crusader - prepared to torture and kill willingly for the good of the revolution."

The tribunal seeks justice for nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population who perished from execution, overwork or torture during the Khmer Rouge's agrarian revolution, which ended with the 1979 invasion by Vietnam.

Duch faces up to life in prison if convicted. Smith said on Wednesday he should get 40 years. Cambodia does not have capital punishment.

Now a born-again Christian, Duch expressed "excruciating remorse" on Wednesday for the S-21 victims, most of them tortured and forced to confess to spying and other crimes before they were bludgeoned to death at the "Killing Fields" execution sites.

Witnesses in 72 days of hearings spoke of beatings with metal pipes, electrocution, near-starvation, violent rape and prisoners forced to eat their own excrement.

Duch has asked if he could apologise in person to his victims' families, and has said he was convinced he was fighting to free Cambodia from U.S. imperialism during the Vietnam War.

Four other senior Khmer Rouge cadres are in custody awaiting trial. They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, his wife Khieu Thirith and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea. Unlike Duch, they have not publicly apologised.

Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998.

The chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges -- known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia -- requires four to agree on a verdict.

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Thai Foreign Minister stresses Thai-Cambodian problem is bilateral issue

BANGKOK, Nov 26 (TNA) – Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya stressed when meeting with visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr RM Marty M Natalegawa that the diplomatic standoff between Thailand and Cambodia was a bilateral issue and could be settled between the two governments, according to a ministry senior official.

Information Department deputy director general Thani Thongphakdi told reporters after the Thai and Indonesian foreign ministers met that Mr Kasit explained the current situation between Thailand and Cambodia to his Indonesian counterpart.

Mr Kasit added that Thailand and Cambodia are trying to resolve their problem and that both consider the rift is a bilateral issue, not wider, and should be settled by the two governments, according to Mr Thani.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier expressed concerns over the continuing Thai and Cambodian rift and offered to serve as a mediator in the matter.

Mr Thani said Mr Natalegawa had listened to the Thai minister’s explanation and expressed hope that the diplomatic rift can be mended peacefully.

The Indonesian official was in Thailand on an introductory trip after being appointed foreign minister on October 22.

He is a career diplomat with more than 20 years of solid experience in diplomacy and international relations. He served as Indonesia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and permanent representative to the United Nations in New York before being appointed as foreign minister.

The diplomatic falling out between the Thai and Cambodian governments flared up after the Cambodian government appointed fugitive ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser. The two kingdoms recalled their respective ambassadors in retaliatory actions.

The Cambodian government also invited Mr Thaksin to Phnom Penh to lecture Cambodian business leaders and economists as his first assignment, at the same time rejecting Thailand's request to extradite the fugitive former premier.

As the diplomatic row continues, Mr Thaksin's interview with Britain’s Timesonline website continued to rankle Thais.

In the article, Mr Thaksin commented about the Thai monarch and his successor, with remarks considered offensive to the monarchy. The ousted premier, however, reportedly defended himself by saying his interview was ‘distorted’ by the reporter.

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) board decided to investigate TimeOnline, an arm of Britain’s Times of London as a special case due to its exclusive interview with Mr Thaksin deemed offensive to the monarch. (TNA)

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VIP Falls Behind Expectations

Nov 26, 2009 (Zacks.com via COMTEX) -- VimpelCom (VIP) reported third-quarter 2009 earnings of 42 cents per ADS (based on an average exchange rate of 31.26 RUR/US$) that narrowly missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 44 cents. However, the result beat the year-ago earnings per ADS of 27 cents.

The second-largest Russian telecom carrier reported quarterly net income of RUR13.5 billion (US$432 million), more than double the net income of RUR6.5 billion (US$208 million) reported in the year-ago quarter. This significant year-over-year growth is largely attributable to foreign exchange gains from a strong Russian ruble versus the US dollar.

Operating revenue increased 3.5% year over year to RUR71.3 billion (US$2.3 billion) as growth across Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was partly offset by declines in Ukraine and Armenia. Revenue from the wireless operation was RUR60.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) while the fixed-line business generated revenue of RUR15.1 billion (US$483 million).

Reported OIBDA of RUR36 billion (US$1.2 billion) reflects a year-over-year growth of 7%, yielding an OIBDA margin of 50.4%. The annualized growth reflects the company's ability to reduce costs amid the volatile economic environment. VimpelCom is pursuing various strategies to maximize cash flow through several cost-control measures.

The company's total active cellular subscriber base grew by roughly 7.6 million year over year and by 1.7 million sequentially to 65.4 million. Its broadband subscriber base increased 11% sequentially to approximately 1.9 million.

On a geographic basis, revenue from Russia increased 4.1% year over year to RUR61.2 billion (US$1.9 billion), representing roughly 86% of the company's total sales. Mobile subscriber base in Russia grew 13.2% year over year to 51 million. VimpelCom added 174,000 broadband subscribers during the quarter, bringing the total customer base to 1.83 million. The results were supported by a resurgent Russian economy.

Consolidated revenue from the CIS markets grew 3.9% year over year to RUR11.1 billion (US$355 million). Revenue from Kazakhstan (the largest CIS market) registered RUR5.4 billion (US$173 million), up 11.9% year over year. However, sales declined year over year in other key markets such as Ukraine (down 22.3%) and Armenia (down 3.4%).

During the quarter, VimpelCom spent RUR3.8 billion (US$122 million) in capital expenditures (CAPEX). The company has revised its CAPEX guidance reflecting a stronger ruble versus the dollar. VimpelCom expects CAPEX to be in the range of 10%-12% of its 2009 annual sales. The company plans to lift capital spending by at least 50% in 2010 to support 3G network expansion. VimpelCom's 3G services currently cover all regions of Russia.

VimpelCom repaid debt worth US$690 million during the third quarter. The company successfully reduced its net debt to US$5.5 billion at the end of the quarter from $6.3 billion registered in the previous quarter.

In October 2009, the company's two major shareholders Telenor and Altimo announced plans to merge their holdings in VimpelCom and Ukranian mobile operator Kyivstar to create a jointly owned telecom operator.

VimpelCom remains the second-largest wireless operator in Russia with over a 25% market share. Nevertheless, the company has a higher projected growth rate than its Russian peer Mobile Telesystems (MBT) as it continues to demonstrate the ability to succeed in emerging markets on the strength of sustained subscriber growth.

Besides maintaining its strong market position in the rapidly maturing Moscow metropolitan area, VimpleCom has successfully expanded into incipient Asian markets such as Vietnam and Cambodia. The company completed the commercial launch of its cellular operation in Cambodia in May 2009 under the Beeline brand. This was followed by the launch of wireless operation in Vietnam in July 2009. Moreover, VimpleCom recently signed an agreement to enter the Laos mobile market.

VimpelCom plans to cover more than two-third of Cambodia's population by the end of 2009 and reach over 40 provinces and 41 million people in Vietnam by the end of January 2010. The relatively lower mobile penetration in these new Asian markets offers attractive growth opportunities for the company.

Get real-time market insights and profitable stock recommendations from the team of analysts at Zacks Investment Research.See all today's Analyst Blog entries.
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Cambodia to develop solar power to meet domestic need

PHNOM PENH: Ten companies from eight countries have sought permission to invest in solar energy projects in Cambodia, after the removal of a 15% duty on imports of the materials needed to build solar plants in August, China’s Xinhua news agency cited a local media as saying.

“We have received many proposals for our approval, and we are now instructing them to study the domestic electricity market,” the ministry Secretary of State Sat Samy was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

“Two companies, from Japan and Malaysia, are close to beginning development on solar investment projects.” The other companies are from the United States, China, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Singapore, he said.

They were planning developments capable of generating between 10 and 50 megawatts of electricity.

The Cambodian government plans to supply electricity throughout the entire country by 2020 by developing renewable energy resources, specifically looking at solar, hydro and biomass fueled power, Sat Samy said.

Energy demand in Cambodia is expected to grow 3.7% per year from 2005 to 2030 as manufacturing industries are established and more households are connected to the electricity grid, according to a report released this month by the Asian Development Bank.

Just 20% of households are currently connected to the national grid, which is fragmented into isolated power systems centred on provincial towns and cities.

Sat Samy said the unserviced households present an opportunity for environmentally friendly electricity investment, adding that the solar industry had greater potential than in more developed countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Sat Samy said he anticipated electricity generated from solar panels would range from US$0.12 cents to US$0.15 cents a kilowatt-hour, higher than the expected price of the power to be generated from hydroelectric dams under construction along the Kingdom’s rivers. -- Bernama

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Death toll of A/H1N1 flu in Cambodia increases to 5

PHNOM PENH, Nov 25, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The death toll of A/H1N1 flu in Cambodia has increased to five and the virus infected rate topped 28 cases for one week, official of the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

"The fifth person who died of the flu late last week is a 20 year-old Khmer man," Ly Sovan, deputy director of the communicable control department of Health Ministry told Xinhua by phone.

He could not elaborate in detail for fatality case. But he said that the cumulative number of confirmed cases in Cambodia are 472, up from 444 cases last week. It spreads in 13 provinces and city in the country including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal, Takeo, Kampong Speu, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Mondul Kiri, Kampot, Prey Veng and Banteay Mean Chey provinces.

According to a report from the Cambodian Heath Ministry, the ministry will receive 300,000 doses of A/H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of November from the World Health Organization.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Prosectors seek 40 years for Khmer Rouge jail chief

CNN) -- Prosecutors in the trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief asked a U.N.-backed Cambodian court Wednesday to sentence the man to 40 years in prison for his role in the torture and deaths of thousands.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, is being tried on charges that include war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture during the communist regime's rule from 1975 to 1979.

Soon after the prosecution spoke Wednesday, Duch got up and apologized to the victims' families and asked for their forgiveness -- something he has repeatedly done since he became a born-again Christian.

Duch said he was just an instrument, with no choice but to follow orders from a regime that was determined to destroy all of its enemies, said Lars Olsen, spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Duch, 67, asked the court to consider his actions in the context of the time, saying the torture and killings were inevitable, Olsen said.

Duch's trial began in February just outside the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Lawyers are making closing arguments this week. A verdict is expected sometime early next year.

Prosecutors contended that Duch, a former school teacher, ran S-21 -- a prison that had been converted from a school.

Here, men, women and children were shackled to iron beds and tortured -- before they were beaten to death, prosecutors said.

Duch not just oversaw the torture and killing of more than 15,000 people -- but actively took part in some of them, prosecutors said.

Many of the victims were military officials or members of the Communist Party who were targeted for not going along with the philosophy of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge movement.

The movement swept to power in 1975. Three years, eight months and 20 days later, at least 1.7 million people -- nearly one-quarter of Cambodia's population -- were dead from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

The non-profit organization has been at the forefront of recording the atrocities committed during the regime.

S-21 was one of 189 similar institutions across Cambodia. And Duch is the first former Khmer Rouge leader to stand trial.

Spectators, many of them survivors of the abuse, watched the proceedings from an auditorium separated from the courtroom by a large glass window to prevent revenge attacks.

Four other former leaders await trial before the tribunal, also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, which is made up of Cambodian and international judges, does not have the power to impose the death penalty.
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S. Korea to airlift supplies to storm-hit Cambodia

SEOUL, Nov. 25 — South Korea said Wednesday it will airlift about seven tons of supplies this week to Cambodia as part of its pledge to help the Southeast Asian country bounce back from recent storm damage.

A C-130 transport aircraft carrying tuna cans, powdered milk, soap and other supplies will depart Thursday after the leaders of the two countries agreed last month on joint recovery efforts, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said in a statement.

South Korea will contribute US$ 200,000 worth of supplies, half of which will be carried on the aircraft while the other half will be delivered by local suppliers in Cambodia, the ministry said.

Typhoon Ketsana killed at least 18 people in central Cambodia in September, injuring 100 others and destroying scores of homes, according to news reports. (PNA/Yonhap)

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Khmer Rouge jailer expresses 'excruciating remorse'

By Ek Madra


PHNOM PENH, The Khmer Rouge's chief torturer and jailer expressed "excruciating remorse" on Wednesday for more than 14,000 people killed under his watch at a notorious prison during Cambodia's ultra-Maoist revolution of the 1970s.

In the final week of testimony for the first senior Khmer Rouge cadre to face the U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, said he was solely liable for the killings but that he served a mafia-type group.

"I found I had ended up serving a criminal organisation which destroyed its own people in outrageous fashion. I could not withdraw from it," said the 67-year-old former maths teacher.

"I was like a screw in the machinery of a car that could not be removed."

Duch is accused of "crimes against humanity, enslavement, torture, sexual abuses and other inhumane acts" as commander of S-21 prison during one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century, when the Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975-79 under Pol Pot.

He said he was convinced he was fighting to free Cambodia from U.S. imperialism during the Vietnam War. He has denied personally killing or torturing prisoners and has repeatedly said he was following orders out of fear for his own life.

Karim Khan, a civil party lawyer, urged the tribunal's five-judge panel this week to reject Duch's assertion he had little choice but to carry out orders, saying Duch was "ideologically of the same mind" as the Khmer Rouge leaders.

The tribunal seeks justice for 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population, who perished from execution, overwork or torture during the Khmer Rouge's agrarian revolution, which ended in the 1979 invasion by Vietnam.

"I am deeply remorseful of and profoundly affected by this destruction," he said. "I am solely and individually liable for the loss of at least 12,380 lives."

Researchers say more than 14,000 were killed after passing through S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng. Only seven survived.

"PSYCHOLOGICALLY ACCOUNTABLE"

Duch faces up to life in prison if convicted. A prosecutor said on Thursday Duch should get 40 years in prison for his role. Cambodia does not have capital punishment.

Now a born-again Christian, Duch has in the past expressed remorse for the S-21 victims, most of them tortured and forced to confess to spying and other crimes before they were bludgeoned to death at the "Killing Fields" execution sites.

But he appeared to take this further on Wednesday, speaking of his wish to apologise "forever" and telling a court packed with about 600 people, including some survivors of the regime, he would seek help to be recognised again as "part of humankind".

"I am psychologically accountable to the entire Cambodian population for the souls of those who perished," he said.

"May I plead with you to allow me to share with you my immense and enduring sorrow ... in order to express my most excruciating remorse."

Prosecution lawyers say Duch had broad autonomy and did nothing to stop prison guards from inflicting rampant torture.

Witnesses in 72 days of hearings spoke of beatings with metal pipes, electrocution, near-starvation, violent rape and forcing some prisoners to eat their own excrement.

A verdict is expected by March.

"I want him to face up to 80 years or life in jail," said 79-year-old Chum Mey, a rare S-21 survivor.

Mey was accused by the Khmer Rouge of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency before he was shackled, confined to a cell and tortured. He testified earlier in the year his toenails were torn off and he nearly starved to death.

A defence lawyer said Duch was unfairly singled out while nearly 200 other Khmer Rouge prison chiefs were never arrested or brought before a judge, including some who oversaw prisons and camps where as many as 150,000 people were killed.

"They have to be brought before the court," he said. "Only then will justice be done."

Four other senior Khmer Rouge cadres are in custody awaiting trial. They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, his wife Khieu Thirith and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea. Unlike Duch, they have not publicly apologised.

Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998.

The chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges -- known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia -- requires four to agree on a verdict.


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Cambodian court to rule on spy charges against Thai engineer on Dec 8

A Cambodian court is scheduled to deliver a ruling in the case against a Thai engineer, who was arrested on an espionage charge, on December 8, a senor Thai Justice Ministry official said Wednesday.

Thai News Agency quoted Thawee Sodsong, deputy permanent secretary for Justice, as saying that the court was scheduled to deliver a ruling on the case against Siwrak Chutipong on December 8.

Thawee arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport Wednesday morning after meeting the Cambodian justice minister and Siwarak in Phnom Penh, Thai News Agency said.

Thawee said the Cambodian justice minister promised to ensure that Siwarak would receive justice and he would make arrangement for Siwarak's mother to visit him in the prison.

Thawee said Siwarak was being detained in a 5 x 5 metre cell along with four other suspects
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Thais Endorse PM’s Handling of Cambodia Row

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Most people in Thailand think Abhisit Vejjajiva has handled recent tensions with neighbouring Cambodia well, according to a poll by ABAC. 51.9 per cent of respondents say the prime ministers calm attitude has been appropriate, while 39.4 per cent say his response to Cambodia should be harsher.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democratic Party (PP), has been in office since December 2008.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have become increasingly tense as, in early November, the Cambodian government announced that it had named former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, is a polarizing figure in Thailand. His supporters and critics have clashed on the streets since his departure from the country, and Thaksin has called for a "revolution" against the Abhisit government. The former prime minister has been convicted in cases of conflict of interest and would serve two years in jail if he returns to Thailand.

On Nov. 10, Thaksin arrived in Cambodia. The Thai government called for his extradition, which the Cambodian government rejected. Both countries have recalled their respective ambassadors and top diplomats over the Thaksin appointment.

On Nov. 17, Panitan Wattanayagorn, deputy secretary-general to Thai prime minister Abhisit, confirmed that the Thai government is looking for ways to curb aid to Cambodia over the Thaksin issue, declaring, "Most of the projects discussed are aid and loans for infrastructure projects, which might be delayed or cancelled."

Polling Data

Do you think the actions of Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva regarding Cambodia were appropriate or inappropriate?

Appropriate, he stayed calm in spite of provocation 51.9%

Inappropriate, he should take harsher measures in light of these developments 39.4%

Source: Assumption University of Thailand (ABAC)
Methodology: Interviews with 1,344 Thai adults in 17 provinces, conducted in November 2009. Margin of error is 2 per cent.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CAMBODIA: Poachers turn gamekeepers in eco-tourism projects

MONDULKIRI, Poaching was a serious business for Chran Thabb - until his tracking skills were put to better use protecting his former prey. He is one of 45 rangers in the remote eastern province of Mondulkiri recruited for a grassroots tourism project that uses employment incentives to encourage environmental conservation.

"Before, whenever I saw an animal in the forest, my first thought was to shoot it," said Chran, now a guide for treks around Dei Ey village, in a protected forest area in Mondulkiri.

"I don't do that any more. The animals would become extinct and I want the next generation to see them," he said.

Because of its forests, mountains and rare wildlife, rugged Mondulkiri has been targeted by the Cambodian government as an area for eco-tourism development, after lobbying by WWF. The wildlife group launched conservation projects more than four years ago in this remote region, which has been likened to Africa's Serengeti for its abundant wildlife.

WWF has recruited former hunters to put their knowledge of the forest and expert tracking skills to good use. The overall aim is to establish an environment where wildlife can recover after years of hunting, poaching and neglect. Richer wildlife, conservationists hope, will attract tourists - and, in turn, create jobs for local communities.

Most of Mondulkiri's impoverished population comprises indigenous communities who practise shifting cultivation but also grow cash crops, although this is under threat from deforestation and changing climate patterns, according to a September 2009 report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Lack of access to education and primary healthcare are key development concerns in Mondulkiri, IOM says, with 59 percent of its population living below the poverty line, according to a 2004 study by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

"In a poor province such as Mondulkiri, eco-tourism offers a long-term alternative livelihood to combat the short-term illegal activities they do now to earn a living," said Olga van den Pol, head of WWF's eco-tourism operations in Mondulkiri province.

Wildlife in the area, which is near the border with Vietnam, was severely depleted in the 1970s and 1980s when battling Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese soldiers relied heavily on hunting for survival.

But since the launch of conservation projects, rangers are seeing an increase in wildlife for the first time in years.

Community values

Most people in the area belong to the Phnong ethnic group. Bill Herod, a development worker who works with Phnong youth, said cultural forces should operate in favour of conservation efforts.

"Phnong are more likely to see common ownership of the land, and less likely to want to hunt for wildlife on an individual basis," he said.

Given Cambodia's violent past, it is especially important to avoid using violence to deter poaching and instead focus on encouraging livelihoods, conservationists say.

In countries such as Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, governments have resorted to heavily armed patrols in an attempt to combat poaching. But this method is increasingly being shunned.

"For a poor rural person who wishes to feed their family, no deterrent will be sufficient, but the chances of being killed are far higher," said James MacGregor, a researcher for the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. "Guns raise the stakes but don't combat the poaching necessarily," he told IRIN.

Challenges

While those employed by the projects hope their fortunes will improve, the initiatives are no panacea for the area's poverty.

Krak Sokny, a teacher and farmer in Dei Ey village, doubted the eco-tourism initiatives would reach a sufficient scale to extend benefits to locals not directly involved, but said they would instil an active interest in conservation in villagers.

And while Dei Ey and other areas appear to be on the path to recovery, other lands in the province still face serious threats from speculators and slash-and-burn practices.

Local development workers also say police and well-connected officials continue to traffic wildlife and timber with impunity.

Against these forces, villagers in Mondulkiri's eco-tourism enclaves are trying to carve out a space for themselves and adventurous tourists.

"I'm hoping there will be more tourists so we can earn money that way and not have to go hunting in the forest," said Am Pang Deap, who previously made ends meet selling fried bananas in Dei Ey, but now works at a new eco-tourism resort. "People are trying to hunt less and maintain what's left for tourists."
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Boyfriend and Girlfriend Chosen as Rhodes Scholars

University of North Carolina seniors Henry Spelman and Libby Longino are both heading to Oxford next year, joining 30 other students from the U.S. who were selected as Rhodes Scholars. Besides being students at UNC, Spelman and Longino have another thing in common -- they have been dating for nine months.

Longino and Spelman met during freshman year and then reconnected two years later on a summer research trip in Turkey.

"The worst possible situation would have been if one of us won and the other didn’t," said Spelman. "It would have been hard for the winner to celebrate."

The scholarship, worth around $50,000 per year, funds a two to four year graduate study program at the University of Oxford in England.

When the chair of the Rhodes selections committee read off his name last Saturday Spelman said, "I just felt my knees loosen.”

"I staggered a bit and got this big, stupid grin on my face,” he said. “I can't remember anything that was said to me for the next ten minutes."

Longino also found it hard to process information after the announcement.

"I think my first thought was something really profound, like, 'Oh my god, I'm going to Oxford,' " Longino joked.

She said the whole experience will be much more exciting knowing that she and Spelman will be going to Oxford together.

"I couldn’t be happier," Longino said.

A double major in English and public policy analysis, Longino will pursue a master’s degree in forced migration. She says she wants to work for a non-profit or international organization on international human rights.

Spelman, who majors in classical languages and has a minor in creative writing, will pursue a master's degree in Greek and Latin languages and literature. He hopes to become a professor of Latin and Greek, and credits his unique combination of interests as being part of the reason he received the prestigious award.

"I'm passionate about studying Latin and Greek poetry, writing my own poetry, helping refugees and playing squash," said Spelman.

Outside of the classroom, Spelman heads the Amnesty International chapter at UNC and has spent two summers with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Tanzania. He also plays on the club squash team and is the editor of The Cellar Door, UNC's undergraduate literary magazine.

Longino said her extensive international experience in social justice and human rights helped her as a candidate for the scholarship. Her travels have taken her all over the world, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Israel. She spent one summer interning with a microcredit program in Vietnam where she photographed homes and businesses of loan recipients and documented items bought from the loans. Other globetrotting activities included helping to start a group stopping child prostitution in Cambodia, and researching human trafficking in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

At UNC, Longino has served on the Student Attorney General's staff and is currently the president of the Carolina chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student think tank.

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State’s meddling threatens Khmer Rouge trials: report

AFP , PHNOM PENH


Cambodian government interference threatens the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, a report by an international monitoring group said yesterday, as the court heard final arguments in the trial of the regime’s chief jailer.

An Open Society Justice Initiative report noted the UN-backed tribunal had made progress in its first trial, against former Khmer Rouge prison boss Duch, but warned that concerns of political meddling could undermine the court.

“Political interference at the [court] poses a serious challenge to both the credibility of the court and its ability to meet international fair trial standards,” the report said.

A refusal by the court’s Cambodian investigating judge to summon high-ranking officials for questioning and statements against the court by senior government members have heightened concerns, the report said.

The organization also said that government delays in selecting a new international prosecutor after Canadian Robert Petit announced his resignation for family reasons in June has left the prosecution “without balanced and strong leadership.”

“While no reason for this delay has been stated publicly, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it will, and perhaps is intended to, weaken the office of the prosecutor by depriving it of long-term leadership,” the report said.

The troubled tribunal, which has also been hit by allegations that local staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs, was created in 2006 to try leading members of the regime on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The process has often been hit by allegations that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration has attempted to interfere in the tribunal to protect former regime members who are now in government.

As the court has sought to investigate other suspects, Hun Sen has made fiery speeches warning further prosecutions could plunge Cambodia back into civil war.

After Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, the court plans to try former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.
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Japanese investors on tour in Cambodia

A delegation of Japanese investors has arrived in Cambodia to learn about the country's economic potentialities and investment opportunities, official news agency AKP reported on Tuesday.

The 21-member delegation was received here on Monday by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers Sok An.

During the meeting, Sok An talked about Cambodia's agricultural sector, a priority of Cambodia, saying that the royal government has paid attention to build agricultural infrastructure and seek for markets for the agricultural products.

Sok An further informed his guests of other potential sectors in Cambodia, including tourism, garment and construction. "Cambodia has benefited from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from many developed countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, the U.S and European countries", he said, adding that the royal government has been planning to operate the stock exchange market by 2010.

For its part, the visiting Japanese delegation said it has lots of investment experience in the fields of real estate and stock exchange market. Delegates also expressed their interest in the future Cambodian stock exchange.
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Ousted Thai PM rallies supporters to Cambodia

By SOPHENG CHEANG, AP


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -Thailand said Friday it would not be provoked into violence in its diplomatic tussle with Cambodia over fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, even as the ousted leader taunted the Bangkok government by meeting with political supporters in the neighboring country.

Thaksin's visit to Thailand's doorstep has highlighted his ability to command headlines in his homeland and destabilize its politics, even three years after he lost power and fled into exile.

Dozens of opposition politicians and other Thaksin supporters drove across the border into Cambodia to meet with the ousted leader, irritating Thailand's government, which considers him a convicted criminal and a threat to its power.

Thaksin's warm welcome in Cambodia has strained already uneasy bilateral relations.

On Thursday, Cambodia expelled a senior Thai diplomat and arrested a Thai employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services — which manages flights in the country — for allegedly stealing Thaksin's flight schedule and giving it to the diplomat.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, was ousted by a 2006 military coup. He fled Thailand last year to avoid imprisonment on a corruption charge and now spends most of his time in Dubai.
Thaksin "is using a helping hand from a neighboring country as a tool to overthrow the monarchy and the Thai government," Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Friday in Bangkok.

Thaksin's political battle with the Thai government — which came to power this year after months of protests aimed at removing the former leader's allies from power — has bitterly divided his country.

He accuses Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of having taken control by undemocratic means. Thaksin remains hugely popular among the rural poor, who have staged frequent rallies calling for his return to power, but he is reviled by many in the educated urban elite.

Abhisit said Friday that Cambodia's expulsion of the Thai diplomat was intended to provoke a "violent response" from his government, but that he would respond peacefully.

"The Thai government didn't fall for their trick," he told reporters in Bangkok.

Thaksin was named an adviser to Cambodia's government on economic affairs last week, causing Thailand to recall its ambassador, with Cambodia following suit. On Wednesday, Cambodia rejected a Thai request for Thaksin's arrest, saying he was being prosecuted for political reasons.
Nationalist passions have been running high on both side of the border since Thailand opposed Cambodia's bid to have an ancient temple designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, but some land around it remains in dispute.

Both countries deployed troops to the border over the dispute, leading to skirmishes that left at least seven soldiers dead.

Cambodia on Friday withdrew 1,000 special forces troops from the disputed border area, though others remained.

"We are withdrawing our forces because we want Thailand to understand that Cambodia wants the border of the two countries to stay peaceful and for the area to be developed for the sake of both countries," deputy commander in chief Lt. Gen. Chea Tara said.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Exiled Thaksin in Cambodia kicks up trouble for Thailand

Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has long provoked Thailand's government by rousing opposition at home. Now he's inflamed regional tensions by becoming an economic adviser to rival Cambodia.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - At a luxury guesthouse, Cambodia's newest government adviser picks up a copy of his latest book, "Tackling Poverty." It explores how lessons from Thailand can be applied to other developing countries.

"I help tackle poverty worldwide, wherever they need me. Why not my neighbor?" asks Thaksin Shinawatra, the author.

But Mr. Thaksin, a Thai prime minister ousted by a coup in 2006, is no ordinary consultant – and he knows it. The politician's electoral successes antagonized Bangkok's royalist elite. Now, exiled in Dubai and wanted at home on a corruption-related conviction, Thaksin remains a political player who courts controversy.

His recent appointment as an adviser here has injected a new and potentially destabilizing element spilling beyond his home country. A five-day visit earlier this month to Cambodia, which shares a border and centuries of rivalry with Thailand, provoked a nationalist uproar in Bangkok. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors. Thailand tore up a maritime treaty and threatened to seal the border, where rival armies already face off over a disputed Hindu temple. Cambodia later expelled a diplomat for spying.

So far, the diplomatic tensions haven't spilled over to the temple site. The area is one of several poorly demarcated borders that Thailand shares with its neighbors and where sovereignty claims have flared into armed clashes, though rarely for long.

In Cambodia the border also evokes memories of Thailand's arming of the murderous Khmer Rouge during a civil war that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen fought mostly on the opposite side. He has argued that Thailand has no right to demand Thaksin's extradition because it used to shelter senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Thailand and Cambodia belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). But the Thai government has resisted mediation by the 10-nation bloc.

That leaves the two neighbors at loggerheads over Thaksin. A court in Bangkok is expected to rule next month on the confiscation of more than $2 billion of his frozen money. The case is separate from his 2008 conviction and two-year jail term. But Prime Minsiter Hun Sen has offered Thaksin sanctuary and rejected Thailand's request for extradition.

Feted in Cambodia

Arriving by private jet, Thaksin was given a lavish reception at Hun Sen's heavily guarded compound outside the Cambodian capital. On Nov. 12, he gave a talk to 300 civil servants on economic policy that was broadcast on state television.

Some analysts say the sight of Hun Sen embracing Thaksin as an "eternal friend" plays into the hands of critics who label him a traitorous opportunist. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has tried to capitalize on this nationalist anger by talking tough against Cambodia.

"One of the only ways to unite this incredibly divided country is to give them a common enemy," says a Bangkok-based diplomat.

But the row is unlikely to sway Thaksin's large base of supporters, who see him as a political victim. By popping up in Cambodia, which borders Thailand's pro-Thaksin northeast, he has given them fresh hope that he will return.

In an interview, Thaksin says his critics have a "Cold war mindset" toward Cambodia, a smaller neighbor, and argues that economic success there will eventually benefit Thailand. He claims not to be worried by the Thai government's efforts to bring him home.

"It's clear it's [the conviction] politically motivated. The more you try to extradite me, the more you will make the justice system look ugly," he says.

From Dubai, Thaksin travels regularly as a private businessman to Africa and the Pacific. After Mr. Abhisit revoked his Thai passport, he switched to Nicaraguan and Montenegro ones.

But visiting Cambodia with the backing of its leader is far more provocative, given the proximity and tensions between the countries. It also flies in the face of ASEAN's long-held principle that members don't interfere in one another's domestic politics.

Thaksin says that he also made an unannounced visit to Thailand's southern neighbor Malaysia earlier this year, though he didn't meet the prime minister. Thai media has reported previous trips to Cambodia, which Thaksin denies making.

At times, though, his bravado seems tempered by concerns of a backlash among Thais. Asked if Cambodia would become a new base of operations, he shook his head.

"If I were to come back, I would come back quietly and not so often. I don't want the Thai government to be so nervous," he says.

Why Cambodia wants him

To Hun Sen, this nervousness may spell opportunity, says Nidhi Eoseewong, a retired Thai historian. While Thaksin wants to stay in the limelight, Hun Sen is turning Thailand's deep political divisions to his advantage.

Hun Sen "wants to prolong the weakness in Thailand. He's very smart," Mr. Nidhi says.

However, a Cambodian observer, who requested anonymity, says that Hun Sen is driven primarily by frustration over Thai obstruction of Cambodia's plans for the border temple, Preah Vihear. He may have concluded that no favorable resolution is possible with Mr. Abhisit's government, unless international mediators are involved.

For his part, Thaksin describes his alliance with Cambodia's strongman in plainer terms. "I'm unemployed. He's my friend," he says.
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Abhisit government lacks political maturity - Cambodia

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation


Cambodia defends control of CATS as Siwarak admits to report of Thaksin flight plan

Cambodia yesterday lashed out at the Thai government over an allegation of taking control of the Thai-owned air-traffic-control company.

Meanwhile, a detained employee of the company confessed to a Cambodian court yesterday about leaking ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight information to a Thai diplomat.

Cambodian authorities temporarily controlled Cambodia Air Traffic Service (CATS) operations for national-security reasons until the case of its employee, Siwarak Chotipong, who has been accused of spying, comes to an end, a statement in Phnom Penh said.

"Cambodia always fulfils agreements it signs, including agreements with the private sector, so as to enhance the confidence of local and foreign investors, including Thai investors," the statement said.

"Without a firm position concerning the respect for agreements and having violated the principles of international law, the Abhisit [Vejjajiva] government must think that Cambodia will follow Thailand's way," it said.

Cambodia accused the Thai government of failure to honour the 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear Temple by the International Court of Justice and a maritime deal signed in 2001.

CATS is at the core of the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia. Its employee was arrested on November 12 as Thaksin arrived in Cambodia to give a lecture on economic development strategy to government economists and the business sector.

Siwarak admitted he had reported Thaksin's flight plan to the Thai Embassy's first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, 10 minutes after Thaksin landed in Phnom Penh on November 10, defence lawyer Kao Soupha said.

Siwarak did not know at the beginning that Thaksin was on the plane, the lawyer said.

"My client did not spy on Thaksin, since it is his responsibility as the official of the air-traffic-control company to know about the flight information," Kao Soupha said in a phone interview from Phnom Penh.

Siwarak has worked for the company for about eight years and knows very well that flight information is no secret, the lawyer said.

What Siwarak disclosed to the people who asked him about the matter was a confirmation that a charter flight had landed at Phnom Penh Airport.

The Thai employee did not pay attention to Thaksin's visit to Cambodia, because Siwarak was not in the country four days before the fugitive ex-premier landed in Phnom Penh, Soupha said.

"If he had really wanted to spy on Thaksin, he would not leave Cambodia, because Thaksin was about to arrive in the country," the lawyer said.

Siwarak is being held in pretrial detention at Prey Sor Prison, although a date for his trial has yet to be officially announced.

Soupha said he had filed a bail request for him yesterday and guaranteed Siwarak would not return to Thailand during the court trial. The court has 10 days to consider the bail request, he said.

The lawyer expects the Cambodian court will rule on December 8.

Thai authorities are going all out to provide assistance to Siwarak. A delegation from the Justice Ministry visited Cambodia yesterday, while representatives of the Law Society of Thailand and the Foreign Ministry will land in Phnom Penh today to see him.

His mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, will have a chance to see him this week, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said.

Meanwhile, the local authority in Cambodia's Koh Kong province yesterday sealed its sea, barring Thai fishery trawlers from its water.

Thai Navy commander Admiral Kamthorn Phumhiran said fishery concessions granted earlier to Thai boats were terminated, because Cambodia had changed the Koh Kong governor.

It is a norm of Cambodia to review the concession each time people in authority are changed out, he said.

Kamthorn said the termination of the fishery concession had nothing to do with the ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries and that the concession would be renewed once the new governor was firmly in charge.

Koh Kong's new governor, Lert Promkesorn, will take his time to study the fishery concession before deciding whether to renew it, a source said.
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Samart sees positive signs in Cambodia

By The Nation


Samart feels that the issue of its wholly owned subsidiary Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) is looking positive.

In a press release yesterday, Samart president Watchai Vilailuck said the company had heard government reports that the Cambodia government had no plans to either seize or buy back the CATS concession.

Watchai said that though they were not yet able to fully resolve problems related to imprisoned CATS engineer Siwarak Chutipong, the company believed that the Cambodian government's statement on the concession was a good sign.

Yesterday, Cambodia issued a statement saying that it always fulfils agreements it has signed, including contracts with the private sector, so as to boost the confidence of local and foreign investors, including Thai businesses.

In the press release, Watchai said that Samart felt uneasy that it had been drawn into a political conflict and hoped the situation would be resolved as soon as possible so CATS could resume its operations.

Samart also notified the Stock Exchange of Thailand yesterday that after Siwarak's arrest over spying charges, the Cambodian government had appointed a senior civil aviation official as a temporary chief to oversee CATS operations. The statement from Cambodian government also said that its officials were put in place temporarily to supervise and manage CATS so they could protect national security and safety of Cambodian leaders. Cambodian officials will continue running CATS until the court reaches a final decision on Siwarak.

Samart has been working closely with the Thai government to help negotiate Siwarak's release and resolve the problems.

The CATS engineer was arrested about two weeks ago for allegedly trying to obtain fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule. Since Cambodia took control of CATS, the nine or 10 Thai employees have not been allowed on the premises.

CATS has been operating the air-traffic control services as part of a 32-year concession from 2001 under a build, co-operate and transfer model with the Cambodian government. Revenue from the operations this year is about Bt800 million, accounting for 5 per cent of the Samart Group's consolidated earnings. CATS is also protected by the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between the two countries.

Samart shares closed at Bt6.05 yesterday, up from Bt6 on Friday.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

SM Goh to visit Cambodia and Laos

SINGAPORE: Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will visit Cambodia from 23-24 November at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

From Cambodia, Mr Goh will visit Laos from 24-26 November at the invitation of Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office says that these visits will reaffirm the warm and friendly ties that Singapore has with Cambodia and Laos.

The visits will also allow Mr Goh to update himself on developments in these countries.

Mr Goh last visited Cambodia in 2002 and Laos in 1997.

In Cambodia, Mr Goh will meet King Norodom Sihamoni as well as Premier Hun Sen.

Mr Goh will also meet Senate president Chea Sim and National Assembly president Heng Samrin.

In Laos, Mr Goh will meet President Choummaly Sayasone, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh and Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.

Mr Goh will be accompanied by Member of Parliament Mr Zaqy Mohamad and senior officials.

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A Move towards peace and Unity

Thailand is facing difficulty with Cambodia over the latter's decision to appoint former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser, with diplomatic relations beginning to weaken. What's worse is the powers that are to be are somewhat exploiting patriotism to stir up more conflict. 'Muse' asked you last week how we could steer the country through this difficult time. And what should the public, scholars and the authorities do to prevent further rifts, and ensure that the public does not fall victim to ultra-patriotism? Here are your answers!


Muse's PICK
"This is nothing new. The patriotism card has been used as a tool quite a few times in the past to stimulate people to help the country. But to create ultra-patriotism out of rumours or inaccurate information isn't right.

"First of all, everyone has to be informed correctly about what's going on. Accurate information must be accessible to all. The Sunday morning address by the prime minister on Channel 11 can also help answer some of the questions the public have. However, there must be people who disagree with the premier. "The ASTV by the yellow camp or PTV by the red camp are owned by private operators and cannot be controlled. The government, therefore, has to be more open-minded, act fast and create neutrality in the local media for everyone to be able to learn the real facts and not be brainwashed by mere rumours or made-up information. Most importantly, the government must not support the ultra-patriotism in any way.

"I'm not even sure if the current problem was only made up to negotiate with something or whether it's a real one. Border line is just a made up term; everyone in Cambodia and Thailand are still real neighbours."

PHITSANURAK PITATHASANG,

Mass communications lecturer

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"To steer the country through this difficult time of the Thai-Cambodia saga, I would like to share the incident when I attended the summit of an NGO meeting in the Philippines last week. There were delegates from many countries, including Thailand and Cambodia. At first the atmosphere was a bit uneasy due to the political situation. However, when the ice was broken, we were in better harmony to show that politics is not above our movement.

"From this I infer that if each citizen would do their own part in bringing unity and peace, then we would be able to overcome this awkward situation. Like the ocean that started with a drop of water, each voice can unite to bring synergy.

"As for the public, scholars and the authorities, I think everyone should be mindful of what they do - that it is genuinely for the Kingdom's interest rather than a personal one to prevent further rifts.

"However, it may be too late before we see the fruits of such political labour. So for the short-term, I would heed Gen Prem, the Senior Statesman's wisdom to pray 'Phrasayam Thevathiraj' to protect our precious Kingdom from the ill-intentioned force."

LUCY TAN-ATICHAT,

Retiree

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"Apart from the yellow camp, I don't see any ultra-patriotism in our society today. The general public is still going shopping at Siam Paragon, and go to cinemas in the city. However, such a current may draw more people to keep a closer watch on the political news since everything seems to be tied into it. A most recent case of the Thai engineer in Cambodia arrested for some non-sense allegation is the case. I guess if there's any ultra-patriotism in the country, there must be people protesting and submitting an open letter to the Cambodian embassy. Or in a worse case scenario, their embassy could be burned down the same way our embassy was a few years ago. Generally, I see it from the news that people at the Cambodia-Thai border are still working together as usual. And the Cambodian media never played up the issue about Thaksin being appointed as an adviser at all either."

SALMA SRIWANNAYOS,

Office worker


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"Overall, I personally don't think that Thais can become ultra-patriotic easily.

"Just imagine, a lot of people change the channel when there's any political news on. Moreover, the mass media has been providing plenty of entertainment, let alone ultra-patriot encouragement.

"But, of course, this current rift is a matter we all should deal with together. First, the government should do better to be a good leader with strong and proper policies so that citizens won't get too worried.

"And I really think the media should be more responsible in reporting unbiased and factual news, especially on TV.

"When ASTV represents the yellow shirts, D-Station speaks for the red shirts and Channel 11 is the voice of the government, then we need more alternatives. Though, I don't mind the channels. I believe that free TV can make the right patriot.

"When the government is strong and the media does a good job covering events, people won't be as selfish, or ultra-patriotic."

NUTTA SOOKSAWAT,

3rd year student Ramkhamhaeng University


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Next week: Despite being guaranteed the basic rights to religion and expression of faith by the constitution, it's undeniable that in the cosmopolitan city of Bangkok, some devout non-Buddhists, particularly Muslims, are denied basic rights to career and academic opportunities. Many schools still prohibit female Muslim students from wearing a hijab (a head covering worn in public by Muslim women) while a number of government units have a history of turning down Muslim applicants who refuse to take off their hijab during work for the sake of "conformity and uniformity". 'Muse' asks you that, in the age where religious, social and ethnic diversity is much cherished, how do you view the decision of some organisations who cite uniformity to justify their demands that workers to sacrifice religious practice? Do you think the authorities should work more to promote greater religious and cultural sensitivity and how? Send in your opinion along with your name, profession and contact address to muse@bangkokpost.co.th by November 25 to win a special prize.

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