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Monday, February 14, 2011

UN urges 'permanent' Thai-Cambodia ceasefire

By Pierre-Antoine Donnet Pierre-antoine Donnet

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council called Monday for a "permanent ceasefire" between Thailand and Cambodia after a border dispute erupted into deadly clashes last week around a Hindu temple.

Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil made the call after a closed door session with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, which has attempted to mediate the conflict.

"Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully," she said.

She said council members expressed "great concern" over the clashes and "called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation."

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had gone into the meeting seeking a "permanent ceasefire" while Thailand, represented by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, had insisted that the two neighbors settle the dispute among themselves.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegwa, who has tried to mediate the dispute, also took part in the Security Council session.

Viotti said the council supported the Indonesian mediation efforts.

"The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts -- and right now regional efforts are in full force -- and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue," she said.

The two Southeast Asian neighbors blame each other for the crisis, which has left at least 10 dead, including seven Cambodians, in clashes with heavy weapons last week.

They are fighting over a border area that surrounds the Preah Vihear temple, an 11th century cliff-top ruin that belongs to Cambodia but whose designation as a World Heritage site has touched off the ire of Thai nationalists.

While Cambodia won support for a permanent ceasefire, the council did not endorse its request for the deployment of UN peacekeepers into the contested area.

The Cambodian foreign minister accused Thailand of using internationally outlawed bombs and submunitions in the conflict.

"We deny all of that and we did not shoot first. It was a response," Kasit responded.

The Thai minister said there was no need for UN peacekeepers, and said that option had not been discussed in the Security Council session.

On Sunday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his foreign minister would insist that the crisis be settled on a bilateral basis without outside intervention.

Kasit said he had not met one-on-one with his Cambodian counterpart in New York, but there would be an opportunity to do so during a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta February 22.

Indonesia's foreign minister said "obviously, this is a matter that will have to be resolved in final analysis bilaterally between the two sides but it does not mean there is not a space and a role for regional countries to play."

Thailand has laid the blame for the crisis on UNESCO's decision to declare the temple ruins a World Heritage site even though the land around it is disputed.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

"The war was not caused by the listing of the temple, but by Thailand's invasion of Cambodian territory," said Koy Kuong, the Cambodian spokesman. "They want not only the territory, but also the temple."


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Government of Cambodia and World Bank Group Launch Program to Improve Access to Credit for Agribusinesses in Cambodia

Phnom Penh (MMD Newswire)-The Royal Government of Cambodia, the World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on Friday launched a financial program that will help improve access to credit for Cambodia's agribusinesses, a sector that is vital to the country's economic growth, poverty reduction, and job creation.

The program will mitigate the default risk that banks face when lending to Cambodian agribusinesses by guaranteeing 50 percent of loans that participating banks and microfinance institutions extend to the sector. It is expected to support up to US$50 million in new financing to private sector agribusinesses, such as rice millers.

The program is a collaborative effort between the Royal Government of Cambodia; IFC, the member of the World Bank Group focused on private sector development in emerging markets; and the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank Group that provides interest-free loans and grants to help the world's poorest countries.

Improved access to finance for agribusinesses will provide strong support to Cambodia's economy since agriculture accounts for one-third of the country's gross domestic product and employs around 70 percent of the population, providing livelihood to the majority of poor people.
"Agriculture has emerged as an important source of growth for Cambodia," said Simon Andrews, IFC Manager for the Mekong Region. "By improving access to finance for agribusinesses, we hope to see an increase in total output for agri-processing in the country and thus foster job creation and growth of small and midsize enterprises."

Annette Dixon, World Bank Country Director for Cambodia, added: "Improving financing in the agriculture sector is vital for sustained growth and further poverty reduction in Cambodia. This initiative will encourage the development of more financial services in the rural sector, particularly for the poor, and it will provide strong support for the implementation of the country's rice sector policy. This is a good example of how government, the private sector, and development partners can collaborate effectively to strengthen private sector development in agriculture."

About the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group is one of the world's largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world. For more information, please visit www.worldbank.org, www.miga.org, and www.ifc.org.
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2nd Ld-Writethru: Cambodia hopes to "avoid any large military clash" with Thailand

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Cambodia said here on Monday that the current situation of a cease-fire with Thailand after the border clashes "remains extremely fragile," but the country still hopes to "resolve the problem peacefully, in order to avoid any large military clash."

The statement came as Hor Namhong, Cambodian deputy prime minister and minister of foreign minister and international cooperation, was addressing a closed UN Security Council meeting.

"Even though there were two de facto agreements on a cease-fire, the current situation, however, remains extremely fragile," he said. "Fresh fighting may breakout again at any time without forewarning."

Earlier on Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told reporters here that "There is no reason why there should be the continuation of the conflict (with Cambodia) in the sense that we have all of the bilateral mechanisms to do the border negotiations to look at the border security through our respective defense ministers under the general border committee."

Earlier on Monday, the Security Council called on both Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint, avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, and to establish a permanent cease- fire.

Also on Monday, Marty Natalegawa, the chairman of ASEAN and Indonesian foreign minister, told reporters here that the Thai- Cambodian border clashes needs to be resolved peacefully, through dialogue and negotiations.

Earlier this month, both Cambodia and Thailand have written to the 15-nation Security Council on the border conflict. The Cambodian-Thai border dispute was also brought before the Security Council after the clashes took place in October 2008.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been fully demarcated. From Feb. 4 to Feb. 7, at least eight people were killed and 67 others were injured in border clashes, reports said.

Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Temple of Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-square-km territory around the temple has never been resolved.

The conflict has occurred just a week after Cambodia's Temple of Preah Vihear was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, since then both sides have built up military forces along the border, and periodic clashes occurred, resulting in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Namhong, also in his statement at the closed-door meeting, accused Thailand of "aggression," saying "Cambodia has exercised utmost restraint and maintained great patience in negotiating with Thailand to resolve the problem peacefully, in order to avoid any large military clash."

"Negotiation bilaterally have failed, therefore we need one other third party to have the two party to settle our problem," Namhong told reporters here after closed door Security Council meeting.

On Monday, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia issued a statement rejecting "the false statement of Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva on Preah Vihear temple."

The statement said that the Bangkok Post on Feb. 11 reported, and which was also published in the National News Bureau of Thailand, that "Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asks UNESCO to remove the temple of Preah Vihear from the World Heritage List, claiming that the delisting of the temple of Preah Vihear would remove tensions between Cambodia and Thailand."

The statement "strongly rejected the false statement of Thai prime minister", saying that the "real tension has been caused by Thailand's long-standing territorial invasion."
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PM grilled over Cambodian oil rights claims

Abhisit says allegations are 'totally groundless'

The People's Alliance for Democracy is challenging Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to clarify the group's claim that Thai political groups have a vested interest in oil wells in Cambodia.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said yesterday the PAD had fresh evidence of Thai political groups' interests in Cambodia, and it wanted the prime minister to explain the issue.

Praphan Koonmee, spokesman for the PAD splinter group, Land Protection Power, said the PAD wanted the prime minister to hold a live TV debate with the group on the issue.

He said the media should be allowed to freely question each speaker so the public could weigh up the information from both parties.

Mr Abhisit has agreed to clarify his position on the yellow shirts' allegation even though he said the claims made by the PAD of certain Thai political groups having vested interests in oil exploration in Cambodia were groundless.

He said the PAD's information on the the dispute with Cambodia was old and focused on problems in the past that his government had solved.

He said the PAD's use of outdated information had confused people about the government's policies.

The government's position on the border disputes was clear, he said.

"We insist that the disputes could be settled by bilateral mechanisms, because the MoU [memorandum of understanding signed with Cambodia in 2000 to help settle border claims] is still in place," Mr Abhisit said.

"If the public is misled to believe that the Thai government could revoke the MoU any time, it would go to support the [Cambodia's] claim that the bilateral mechanisms could not settle the disputes."

The prime minister said the PAD should be more open-minded and compromise on its demands. It is well known that Cambodia will benefit from Thailand's withdrawal of its membership of the World Heritage Committee.

"I understand the PAD's concerns. Let's talk things out," he said.

Pol Lt Gen Somyot Phumphanmuang, an assistant police chief who headed a team investigating the seizure of Bangkok commercial airports by the PAD in 2008, yesterday told reporters he had resigned as the investigation leader.

The announcement came after Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a core PAD leader, yesterday morning filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court, demanding 220 million baht in compensation plus 7.5% annual interest from Pol Lt Gen Somyot for charging him with terrorism.Pol Lt Gen Somyot showed reporters copies of his resignation letter dated Feb 11, which was tendered to the police chief Wichean Potephosree.

He wrote in the letter that he had been under pressure from several groups since being appointed to head the investigation team. His involvement in the case had affected his family and close friends, and so he asked the police chief to find a replacement.

Pol Maj Gen Amnuay Nimmano, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order had assigned his bureau to enforce the law against any PAD supporter found to that violated the Internal Security Act in place in seven districts of Bangkok.

The bureau will summon those violating the ISA, including PAD leaders, to hear charges. Those who fail to report will face arrest warrants.

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Thailand, Cambodia Foreign Ministers to Face Off at UN

Daniel Schearf Bangkok


Thailand and Cambodia's are to make their case before the United Nations in New York over deadly border fighting that erupted a week ago. Cambodia wants U.N. peacekeepers sent to prevent further clashes. But Thailand rejects any U.N. involvement.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will address the United Nations Security Council on Monday

Cambodia requested the emergency meeting after the worst fighting with Thailand in years broke out near a disputed border area.

At least eight people were killed when soldiers exchanged artillery and machine-gun fire. Thousands of villagers fled for safety. Both sides say the other fired first.

By Monday, many had returned home but both sides are on full alert for any further clashes.

Cambodia calls the clashes a Thai invasion akin to war and wants the U.N. to send peacekeeping troops to the area.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, says the U.N. presence would help build trust between the two nations.

"What we wish to tell the world that we wish to stop all aggressions,” Phay Siphan said. “We wish to stop all firing against the temple of Preah Vihear. And, we wish to build like a trust between two nations."

Thailand rejects the proposal for U.N. troops.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the issue must be resolved bilaterally.

"We hope that the international community will persuade Cambodia to return to the negotiating table with us where we already have the memorandum of understanding and we also have the exiting mechanism - the joint border committee that was to have met before the incident took place at the end of the month," Panitan said.

Cambodia pulled out of the border talks after the fighting broke out.

The clashes erupted near disputed territory surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu Khmer temple known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand.

The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled the temple is in Cambodia, but a main entrance is on the Thai side and both dispute areas around the temple.

The border dispute flared up in 2008, after the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, granted World Heritage status to the temple.

Thai nationalists, many of whom say the temple belongs to Thailand, protested, and both governments reinforced troops along the border, who occasionally exchanged gunfire.

In this latest incident, Cambodia says the temple sustained heavy damage from Thai shelling, though foreign media reports indicate it was minor.

A U.N. team wants to visit the temple to assess the damage but Thailand has objected and is lobbying to have the World Heritage status removed.

The border tensions come as internal pressure is building on the Thai government.

Thousands of anti-government Red Shirts are holding monthly demonstrations against what they say is unfair treatment of their leaders.

Nationalist Yellow Shirts are also rallying against the government for not being tougher on Cambodia.
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