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Monday, November 09, 2009

Cambodia's conflict with Thailand triggers anxiety in ASEAN: secretary general

JAKARTA, The Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said on Monday that conflict between two of its members, Thailand and Cambodia, has triggered anxiety in the organization. "This is not just a border dispute anymore because it has caused anxiety in ASEAN and could affect the image and profile of the body," the Secretary-General of ASEAN Surin Pitsuwan told ambassadors for the organization in a briefing here.

He also has appealed to the two countries to take a maximum restraint and asked ASEAN foreign ministers to assist the two countries in ending the dispute.

Surin told the press that currently, the organization has just to wait for the development there.

"Right now, what we can do is just waiting," said Surin.

Surin said that he was hoping that the two countries could settle their problem amicably.

"Please take all instrument we have here, discussion and other possible assistance," he said.

According to Surin, all instruments should be used to maintain and perfect the organization's integrity. (PNA/Xinhua)

FFC/ebp

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Thais ready Thaksin extradition papers for Cambodia

BANGKOK - Thailand has prepared extradition papers for Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of the fugitive former premier's diplomatically tense visit to neighbouring Cambodia this week, a government prosecutor said Monday.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and now lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, sparked a furious row between Bangkok and Phnom Penh last week by accepting a position as economic adviser to Cambodia's government.

The billionaire telecommunications tycoon is due to make a speech to Cambodian economics experts at the country's finance ministry on Thursday, sparking calls from Thailand for Cambodia to extradite him.

"We have extradition papers ready but our documents must be approved by the attorney general after we receive a request by the foreign ministry or police," Sirasak Tiypan of the Thai attorney general's office told AFP.

"The papers are the same we have sent to Fiji, Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates."

Thaksin was sentenced to two years jail in absentia in 2008 for abuse of power, a judgment that both he and his close friend, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, have described as politically motivated.

The Thai government said last week that it would seek Thaksin's extradition as soon as he set foot in Cambodia. But Cambodia has said it will reject any request to extradite Thaksin.

Thailand says a refusal would violate international agreements and lead to further diplomatic measures.

The feud over Thaksin had already prompted Thailand and Cambodia to recall their ambassadors from each other's capitals last Thursday. The Thai government also threatened to close their shared border.

The two countries have fought a series of deadly skirmishes over disputed land around a Cambodian 11th century temple on the frontier since it was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The timing of the row could cause embarrassment for Thailand as it prepares to chair a meeting in Singapore between US President Barack Obama and Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday.

Twice-elected Thaksin remains a huge threat to Thailand's government, coordinating mass protests from afar since it took power in December 2008.

Meanwhile, in an interview with British daily The Times published on Monday, Thaksin urged the reform of institutions around Thailand's revered monarchy.

He said that 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch, was above politics but that "circles" around the palace were interfering with the running of the country.

"That's the problem in Thailand. The monarchy is not the problem. The monarchy is good for Thailand. Thailand needs to have a monarchy but it should not be abused or played by the palace circles," he was quoted as saying.

Asked if the "royal institution" needed reform, he said: "Yes, yes."

"I can assure you His Majesty is above (politics), but those in the circle have a network," he said.

"They want to get rid of me because they say I am trying to turn Thailand into a republic and topple the monarchy. That's not true. I have a very high respect for the monarchy and royal family."

Thaksin's supporters have targeted the house of the king's main adviser, former general Prem Tinsulanonda, during several protests this year and accused Prem of orchestrating the coup.

Thaksin's comments remain sensitive in a country where insulting or defaming the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Three people were arrested recently for spreading rumours about the health of the king, who has been in hospital for nearly two months with a lung infection and fever.

- AFP/ir
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Group Seeks to Keep Cambodian Arts Alive

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer


[Editor’s note: Organizations like Cambodian Living Arts work to restore and improve Cambodia’s artistic heritage. Cambodian Living Arts was established 10 years ago by Arn Chorn Pond, a Cambodian-American who was nominated for an Emmy for “The Flute Player.” He founded the organization when he first returned to Cambodia to support arts masters who had helped him survive the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.The group’s executive director, Prim Phloeun, recently took a trip to the US, including Washington, where he spoke to VOA Khmer on the challenges facing his group and the support it gets from donors.]

Q. What projects does your group work on?

A. Cambodia Living Arts is working on some projects to promote Cambodian culture. We are especially trying to maintain Cambodian classical music, classical dance and Cambodian plays that have been getting lost. We are now also working with popular dance. We are trying hard to preserve and ensure that our tradition and culture don’t fade.

Q. Has your trip to the US born been fruitful?

A. CLA’s projects have been established over the past 10 years with mostly US-supported funding. Since I’ve been here, I’ve met some donors who are willing to continue to promote Cambodian culture. I’ve met about 10 rich donors here who still want to provide funding for our group to be able to continue to move our projects forward.

Q. How has your organization helped Cambodia in terms of art and culture?

A. As you know, CLA is helping 15 art masters, such as Eang Sithol, Kong Nay, Tep Mary and some other senior professors who are skilled in classical music, classical dance and Cambodian plays. We have 15 projects for CLA in six provinces in Cambodia. We have 300 young students who want to learn more about our Cambodian culture.

Q. How much do those students understand now?

A. Most of them are becoming skillful. So far, they’ve gone to perform Cambodian dance and culture in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a month. Cambodia was one of the top five most attracted performances among 100 countries around the world.


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