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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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