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Thursday, November 05, 2009

UN: 50 peacekeepers punished for sex abuses

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER


GENEVA — At least 50 peacekeepers have received punishments ranging from reduction in military rank to eight months imprisonment for committing sexual abuses on United Nations missions since 2007, the U.N. said Thursday.

The data were released after media organizations asked what measures countries were taking against peacekeepers accused of rape and other abuses in conflict areas such as Congo. The U.N. can investigate allegations of misconduct, but prosecution is handled solely by governments contributing personnel to missions.

The figures show a significant increase in prosecutions and court-martials by national authorities this year. The disciplinary action against 33 peacekeepers in "cases involving sexual exploitation and abuse" through November included lesser penalties from dismissal, forced retirement and withdrawal of an officer's commission to prison sentences reaching eight months.

Only two military personnel were punished for similar abuses in 2008, and 15 in 2007, according to the U.N. data aggregated by the organization's field support department.

"When allegations of misconduct involving military and police personnel are substantiated, the U.N. can repatriate the individuals concerned and ban them from participating in future peacekeeping operations," the U.N. said.

Allegations of sexual exploitation and other crimes have dogged U.N. peacekeeping missions almost since their inception in 1948, with abuses reported in missions from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor, West Africa and Congo. The issue was thrust into the spotlight after the United Nations found in early 2005 that peacekeepers in Congo had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money.

In response, the U.N. adopted a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse and a universal code of conduct that required training for all peacekeepers. But it left punishment for wrongdoers to individual countries, which has been a continuing problem.

The figures show that the U.N. has referred to national authorities over 450 instances of misconduct — sexual and otherwise — since 2007. It received responses in only 29 of these cases.


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Cambodia recalls ambassador to Thailand over Thaksin issue

PHNOM PENH, The Cambodian government on Thursday evening announced to temporarily call back its Ambassador to Thailand, a move came shortly after Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

The decision was announced at 8:30 pm local time by Sok An, minister of council of ministers, at a hastily arranged press conference.

"The move we took is a response to Thai's recall of its Ambassador to Cambodia," Sok An said, adding that "That we appointed Thaksin as our government's adviser is Cambodia's internal affairs and conforms to international practice."

Earlier Thursday, the Thai government decided to recall its Ambassador to Cambodia to protest against the appointment of the ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatre as adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government.

The Cambodian government announced on Wednesday that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was officially appointed as adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government of Cambodia by King Norodom Sihamoni. Moreover, the Cambodian government will not allow to extradite the ex-Thai premier.

Also, the Thai government said that it is ready to demand of revising bilateral agreements, which have been agreed by the two countries, Thai News Agency reported.

The Thai government's movement is based on diplomatic principle, which does not intend to any violence to occur between the two neighboring countries, the report said.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been difficult since July 2008 amid an ongoing border conflict over land surrounding an11th century temple which has claimed several lives. The withdrawal of ambassadors was the most severe diplomatic actions thus far in ongoing tensions between the two countries which will only result in a further worsening of the relations between them.
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Thailand, Cambodia recall envoys over Thaksin spat

By Ploy Ten Kate Ploy Ten Kate


BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors from each others' countries Thursday, deepening a diplomatic row after Cambodia made fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra an economic adviser.

The tit-for-tat spat threatens to worsen a political crisis in Thailand by giving Thaksin and his red-shirted anti-government supporters an ally just across the border, causing a diplomatic embarrassment for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It also suggests deepening enmity between leaders of the two countries after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen soured the start of an Asian summit hosted by Abhisit last month by turning up and offering Thaksin the job of adviser.

"We will recall our ambassador in Cambodia to express our dissatisfaction," Chavanont Intarakomalsut, a secretary to the Thai foreign minister, told reporters.

"We will also review all of the agreements between the two countries along with any other cooperation with them."

Hours later, Cambodia followed suit, describing its move as temporary and saying that its envoy would return when Thailand's ambassador was sent back to Phnom Penh.

It called on Thailand to be "open minded" and said it was not surprised by Bangkok's decision to withdraw its envoy.

Hun Sen's offer last month to give Thaksin a job and a home in Cambodia riled Thaksin's opponents and heightened tension between the neighbors, whose troops have clashed over a disputed border and a 900-year old temple straddling the frontier.

DAMAGE CONTROL

Some independent analysts said Thailand's decision to respond to Thaksin's appointment by recall its ambassador was playing into the hands of the former telecoms tycoon.

"The government should avoid escalating this and should instead be in damage control mode," said Gothom Arya, director of research at Mahidol University in Bangkok.

"Thaksin is already causing problems for the government. Being so close to home, he will be in closer contact with his people and it could strengthen his political campaign."

Thaksin lives mainly in exile in Dubai but he is still immensely popular among Thailand's rural poor and his supporters have staged frequent street rallies, calling for his pardon and return.

The Cambodian government said late Wednesday that Thaksin had been made a personal adviser to Hun Sen and an economic adviser, effective October 27.

It said it would reject any request to extradite the billionaire on the grounds that his removal in a 2006 coup and subsequent graft conviction were politically motivated.

"(Cambodia) will not, under any circumstances, extradite Excellency Thaksin upon any eventual request made by Thailand," the statement said.

Abhisit stood by the decision to recall the ambassador and said the Cambodian government had "intervened in Thai justice" and hurt the feelings of the Thai people.

"I believe Thailand and Cambodia still want to be good neighbors, but once these problems happen, we need to respond," Abhisit told reporters.

The Thai Foreign Ministry accused Cambodia of meddling in its internal affairs by helping a "criminal fugitive" to "play a political role."

"This is an intervention in Thailand's business and a rejection of Thai justice, putting a personal relationship and an individual's benefit above the relationship between the two countries," the ministry said in a statement.

"The Thai government, therefore, will not stand still."


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Cambodia aims to raise AIDS/HIV awareness among drivers

By Wang Eng Eng, Channel NewsAsia


PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's battle against AIDS and HIV infection has hit the road.

From this year, new drivers will have to learn more than just how to handle a vehicle; they will also be quizzed on their knowledge of AIDS/HIV infection.

"Every year, we have more than 20,000 people who want to get a driver's licence. So during the examination, we'll put 12 questions on HIV prevention," said Lim Sidenine, director of Planning and Admin General Department, Ministry of Public Works & Transport, Cambodia.

Questions include how AIDS/HIV infection is transmitted and how to protect oneself against the disease.

The Ministry of Public Works & Transport is also taking the lead in educating truck and lorry drivers, as this group is considered at greater risk of AIDS/HIV infection.

Truck and lorry drivers play a key role in Cambodia's infrastructure growth as they transport building materials across the country.

However, most of the infrastructure and road improvement projects are concentrated in towns with a high prevalence of AIDS/HIV infection such as Poipet, which is at the Thai-Cambodia border.

Cambodia's HIV infection rate has fallen in recent years from 0.9 per cent in 2006 to 0.7 per cent in 2008 - mostly due to government efforts to promote condom use in brothels. - CNA /ls
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Thailand says Thaksin job may harm Cambodia relations

BANGKOK, Nov 5 (AFP) - Thailand said Thursday that Cambodia's appointment of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser may cause relations between the two countries to further deteriorate.

The Cambodian government announced the move on state television late Wednesday, two weeks after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen first riled Bangkok by offering the job to the billionaire Thaksin.

Twice-elected Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption. The Thai government, now led by his opponents, wants to bring him home to face justice.

"It will hardly help. It is more likely to make things worse," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters Thursday when asked if Thaksin's appointment would improve relations.

Suthep said Thailand would also press for Thaksin's extradition if he ever goes to live in Cambodia, saying that a treaty between the two nations would cover the former premier's case.

"If they refuse to hand him over then we consider that a breach of an international agreement," he said.

Thaksin, who is believed to spend much of his time in Dubai, said in a Twitter posting that he thanked Hun Sen for the appointment but still wanted to work for Thailand's well-being.

"I thank His Excellency Hun Sen and I just received a copy which was signed by King Sihamoni. It's an honour. But it's not going to be fun like working to help Thai people out of poverty," Thaksin said.

Thaksin remains a hugely influential figure in Thailand, where he has stirred up mass protests against the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the past year.

His own allies were driven from government in December 2008 after anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok's airports.

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Veteran Vietnamese meet Cambodian officials

Representatives of Vietnamese veterans who had been sent to Cambodia as voluntary soldiers and specialists in the past two decades met with those of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association in Hanoi on November 4.

The event was hosted by the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association, the Military-run TelecommunicationsCorporation, Viettel, and the Cambodian embassy in Vietnam.

The visiting President of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association Men Sam On, who is also Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, expressed her gratitude to Vietnam, for helping Cambodia to escape from Pol Pot’s genocidal regime.

She pledged to do her best to preserve and foster the solidarity and friendship between the two nations.

Meanwhile, the President of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association, Vu Mao, and a contingent of veteran Vietnamese volunteers expressed their hopes that Men Sam On’s visit would usher in a new era of cooperation between the two associations to boost the traditional friendship between the two countries.

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