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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

China calls Uighurs seeking asylum 'criminals'

BEIJING (AP) — China alleged Tuesday that 22 Muslim Uighurs who fled to Cambodia after deadly ethnic rioting this summer are criminals and said they should not be granted asylum.

The Uighurs were smuggled out of China with the help of a secret network of missionaries and Chinese Christians, according to missionaries who helped them. They arrived in Cambodia in recent weeks and have applied for asylum at the U.N. refugee agency office in Phnom Penh.

"These people are involved in crimes," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a press conference, without giving any evidence.

The U.N. refugee program "should not be a haven for criminals," Jiang said.

The ethnic rioting in July between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese was China's worst communal violence in decades. The Chinese government says the violence left nearly 200 people, mostly Han, dead.

Overseas Uighur groups say Uighurs have been rounded up in mass detentions since the violence. China has handed down at least 17 death sentences over the rioting.

Ilshat Hassan, the U.S.-based director of interior affairs for the World Uyghur Congress, has said the 22 Uighurs are the first large group to leave China after the riots, and they fear they will be returned by Cambodia, which has close ties with China.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Chinese Embassy sent the ministry a note about the Uighurs last week, but he said he didn't know what was in it. The Cambodian government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will conduct a new round of interviews to see if the Uighurs qualify for refugee status, he said.

Earlier this month, Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the country has the right to deny a deportation request if the people involved are political asylum seekers, but "if they are purely criminal people and there is a request, we may deport them."

Kitty McKinsey, a UNHCR spokeswoman at the agency's regional office in Bangkok, said Tuesday that it does not discuss individual cases. She described its mission as "to protect any people in the world who cannot receive protection from their own government."

"Sometimes the UNHCR and the government have a dispute over the kind of people in need of protection," she said.
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Sivarak: My phone talks were recorded

By THE NATION


Pardoned Thai "spy" Sivarak Chutipong has revealed that the Cambodian authorities recorded his phone conversations with a senior Thai diplomat, leading to his arrest and conviction in Phnom Penh.

Sivarak told Thai Rath online he knew his conversations with first secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai had been recorded. This account was likely to rekindle speculation that Phnom Penh had been tapping the communications of Thai citizens and diplomats.

The Cambodians apparently built their spy charges against Sivarak around Kamrob's alleged request for Thaksin Shinawatra's flight plan when he visited Phnom Penh last month, and Sivarak's action afterwards.

"I knew our conversations had been recorded," he told Thai Rath. He had said that he thought those phone conversations were normal.

Sivarak told Thai Rath he held no grudges against Kamrob, who he said had not contacted him since his return to Thailand on Monday.

Sivarak was last week sentenced to seven years in jail but later promptly pardoned by the Cambodian king. He returned to Thailand on Monday but the Thai government was very cautious about any sign of improvement in soured bilateral ties.

The improvement of Thai-Cambodian ties will hinge on three conditions - respect for the Thai judiciary, non-interference in internal affairs and a Cambodian review of the appointment of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra as adviser - the deputy secretary-general to the prime minister said yesterday.

"The return of the Thai engineer [Sivarak Chutipong] is a good sign - but bilateral ties will depend on how Cambodia meets the three conditions," Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Thailand will neither set a timetable for the next move by Cambodia nor make any demands for diplomatic normalisation, he said, reaffirming to uphold good neighbourly relations while Phnom Penh ponders its decision.

He said Cambodia's decision to back a Thai fugitive like Thaksin had made it impossible for Thailand to maintain bilateral ties under normal circumstances.

In regard to the involvement of Thai diplomat Kamrob Palawatwichai in the Sivarak legal wrangling, he said the Foreign Ministry would clarify pertinent issues in due time, as Sivarak had already returned to his homeland.

"Pending the green light from his ministry, Kamrob is expected to release a written statement to explain his role," he said, ruling out a call for Kamrob to give an interview in person.

Panitan hinted, however, that there would be no objection if Kamrob were also to seek a personal meeting with Sivarak to present his side of the story.

He said the Sivarak case, which prompted Thaksin's second trip to Cambodia, was a ploy designed to discredit the government and the Thai justice system.

Thai citizens should not fall prey to such ploys since political stability is the key to economic recovery, he said.

He added that Thaksin might also have a second motive: boosting the morale of the red shirts, currently seen as in disarray.

"Since negotiations aimed at eluding his judicial conviction cannot materialise, Thaksin is doing everything to sway the masses in order to pressure for a general election that he hopes would pave the way to get out of his legal trouble," Panitan said.

Thaksin yesterday accused the Foreign Ministry of ordering Kamrob to spy on his flight information when he landed in Phnom Penh last month.

Kamrob received a call from Bangkok and later called Sivarak, who worked for Cambodia Air Traffic Services, to ask for the flight schedule, Thaksin said in his Internet radio show.

When Kamrob got the information from Sivarak, he rushed to inform Bangkok, Thaksin said, without specifying what he meant by "Bangkok".

The Foreign Ministry, of which he was once a minister, had mobilised all resources to hurt him and caused much trouble for the Thai national and relations with a neighbouring country, the ex-PM added.

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Thaksin pledges to help Cambodia in agriculture+

During a nearly four-hour lecture to 30 Cambodian officials in Phnom Penh, Thaksin pledged to fund two small-scale model farms so as to show Cambodian farmers how to adapt to profitable farming, according to a statement released by the Economy and Finance Ministry.

Thaksin did not disclose how much funding he will provide, but suggested he wants to discuss the matter more precisely next month.

Cambodia considers agriculture one of the priority sectors to secure sustainable growth and creation of employment, and to increase income to help reduce poverty in the country.

Some 80 percent of Cambodia's 14 million people are farmers.

Thaksin arrived in Cambodia on Sunday for the second time since being appointed a personal adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and to the government of Cambodia on economic affairs on Oct. 27.

Thaksin is planning to give two more lectures to Cambodian officials on Wednesday on tourism and investment before leaving the country.

Thaksin, ousted from power in 2006 in a bloodless military coup while he was out of the country, was later convicted of corruption.

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Cambodia seeks strategies to combat economic crisis

PHNOM PENH, Representatives from trade unions, employers, government and civil society have gathered in Phnom Penh to share real-life experiences and discuss strategies to cope with challenges in Cambodia's industrial relations community during and beyond the global economic crisis.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Arbitration Council Foundation which organized the one-day forum said collective strategies discussed by conference participants included stronger workplace cooperation and improved systems for regular social dialogue, early crisis warning systems, and common procedures agreed by the employers and unions to resolve existing or potential workplace grievances.

"As the key actors in industrial relations, we need to work together in order to ensure that enterprises continue to survive, to minimize any further losses of profits and jobs while finding opportunities to prepare for and to produce new opportunities for our businesses and people,"said Sok Lor, executive director of the Arbitration Council Foundation "Achieving this common goal will require joint action, especially among the employers, unions, and Government,"he said.

Joint action and the need for improved social dialogue among the industrial relations community was echoed by many at the Conference.

Oum Mean, secretary of state of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said it is now a difficult stage for both the world and Cambodia's economy, yet (the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training) finds it an opportunity for Cambodia to strengthen cooperation between the government, employers and employees to join hand to combat the crisis, support the economy of Cambodia and create harmonization in industrial relations for improved productivity, sustainability in production and reduced job losses.

Echoing at the conference, Qimao Fan, World Bank Country Manager, stressed the importance of workers and employers engaging in dialogue and finding cooperative strategies during the period of the economic crisis. "Improved industrial relation is important today and probably the most important [time] in Cambodia's history," he said at the conference.

A one-day forum titled "Global Economic Crisis and Cambodian Industrial Relations: Challenges and Way Forward"– is designed for key employment and labour stakeholders to engage in social dialogue for improved industrial relations in Cambodia and thereby contribute to broader economic growth and social development.

The Arbitration Council Foundation is a registered local not- for-profit foundation established in 2004 to support and facilitate the labour dispute resolution work of the Arbitration Council. (PNA/Xinhua)

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