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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Thai, Cambodian troops clash again at border



Cambodian soldiers take up positions with their weapon
in Oddar Meanchey province, Cambodia-Thailand border

A Cambodian soldier has been killed in fighting with Thailand over the weekend, bringing the total number of dead to 17 as the Southeast Asian nations' festering border conflict drags on.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn Sunday around the Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples, which are in a disputed zone between the two nations, authorities on both sides said.

One Cambodian soldier was killed by shrapnel from an artillery round, Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen Chhum Socheat said.

In the 10 days since fighting began April 22, 16 soldiers and one civilian have died. Some 18 Cambodian and 50 Thai soldiers have also been wounded, military officials said.

Thailand and Cambodia fought six times since 2008 over land disputed for more than half a century, but analysts say domestic politics on both sides is driving the current conflict, which has forced nearly 100,000 villagers on both sides of the border to flee their homes for refugee camps.

AP

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Thai-Cambodian border clash an ‘embarrassment for ASEAN’

Thai and Cambodian military forces continue to exchange fire in their border area as both countries lay claim to the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding area although they have committed to a cease-fire a number of times. Indonesian and Cambodian journalists, including The Jakarta Post’s Mustaqim Adamrah, had a chance to interview Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya during his visit to Jakarta last week. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Question: Thailand and Cambodia have repeatedly pledged to maintain a cease-fire in February and last Thursday. So why did clashes occur again two weeks ago, with the latest last Friday?

Answer: To reaffirm for the record, we never started the clashes. We have no reason to be unfriendly to Cambodia.

First, we are major exporters to Cambodia. Our exports to Cambodia make up 90 percent of bilateral trade [between Thailand and Cambodia]. So, it’s on our interest to keep trading with and exporting to Cambodia.

Second, we are becoming major investors in [Cambodia] in many fields: electricity generation, [manufacturing] industry, tourism, healthcare and construction.

Third, we welcome 150,000 Cambodian workers to Thailand under a bilateral memorandum of understanding.

Fourth, we are becoming a major donor to Cambodian development, education, social, health and infrastructure development.

Fifth, there’s a growth in Thai tourism to Cambodia and at the same time, we are a transit point as international airlines come to Thailand and visitors take regional airlines to Cambodia. So Thailand is an entry point for Cambodian tourism.

Sixth, we started and initiated the ASEAN master plan of connectivity: physical infrastructure, roads, railways, ICT [information and communication technology], electricity and other things, inclusive of the Mekong River development, as well as people-to-people contact.

We and Cambodia are two kingdoms, one destination. Two months ago, we had an agreement with Cambodia for Cambodians to enter Thailand without the need for visas.

The Thai side of the border is heavily populated. Why should we fight when the munitions fall on Thai villages? The Cambodian side is sparsely populated.

It would be silly for us to keep shooting when we know very well that artillery from Cambodia will fall on villages, temples and schools as has been shown on television.

Last time we had to evacuate about 20,000 people. We had to build houses, repair temples and schools, and we had to build more bunkers.

The physical side [construction] is not as important as the morale of the people. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people have been displaced. Instead of spending time looking after their animals, growing rice and tapioca, they have to sleep on temple floors. The damage is not only on the dollar. It’s frightening to hear the gunfire.

What triggered the additional clashes at two separate temples — 150 kilometers away from Preah Vihear — where February’s skirmishes occurred?

From our point of view, the position of the two military units is about 50 meters apart.

Ten days ago, we found out that the Cambodians had moved closer to the Thai side and started to dig bunkers. So we told the Cambodian soldiers to move back and that’s when they started to shoot.

How has Indonesia played out its role as chair of ASEAN? Is it failing to do its job, especially in light of the latest clashes?

We highly appreciate the role of Indonesia — the seriousness, the sense of purpose and the goodwill. So we do whatever we can [to cooperate].

I don’t think [Indonesia is failing] because its responsibility is more or less behind the scenes. No one expected that fighting would break out 150 kilometers away [from the original flash point].

The conflict between the two countries is a waste of time. It’s a waste of resources for the Indonesian government, for Cambodia and for Thailand.

We have to respect and honor the role and involvement of Indonesia. Thailand is not in a position to embarrass the Indonesian government.

It’s sad for ASEAN that the two countries keep on fighting. I’m ashamed. It’s an embarrassment to ASEAN that this conflict has dragged us to the UN.
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Thai, Cambodian troops clash again at border

BANGKOK -- A Cambodian soldier was killed in fighting with Thailand on Sunday, bringing the total number of dead to 17 as the Southeast Asian nations' festering border conflict dragged on.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn Sunday around the Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples, which are in a disputed zone between the two nations, authorities on both sides said.

One Cambodian soldier was killed by shrapnel from an artillery round, Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen Chhum Socheat said.

In the 10 days since fighting began April 22, 16 soldiers and one civilian have died. Some 18 Cambodian and 50 Thai soldiers have also been wounded, military officials said.

Thailand and Cambodia fought six times since 2008 over land disputed for more than half a century, but analysts say domestic politics on both sides is driving the current conflict, which has forced nearly 100,000 villagers on both sides of the border to flee their homes for refugee camps.
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Cambodia's army condemns Thailand for 10 straight days of arms attacks

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Ministry of Defense on Sunday afternoon issued a statement condemning Thai troops for their ten straight days of armed attacks into Cambodian territory at the 13th century Ta Mon temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province.

"The repeated invasions of Thai troops into Cambodia have caused gradual damage to Cambodia, it is an unacceptable act," said the statement. "The Royal Cambodian armed forces (RCAF) strongly condemn this latest series of the attacks on Cambodia."

"We'd like to appeal to Thai troops to keep their repeated promises of ceasefire in order to avoid further costing human lives--either soldiers or civilians."

The statement was issued after the latest round of sporadic clashes between the two countries' troops overnight Saturday- Sunday over the border disputed areas at Ta Mon temple and Ta Krabei temple, marking the ten straight days of the skirmishes.

The fighting had killed at least eight Cambodian soldiers, seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian, and forced some 100,000 villagers of both sides to flee homes for safe shelters.

However, Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat, spokesman of Cambodia's Ministry of National Defense said on Sunday that following renewal of acts of aggression on the part of the Thai military on Saturday night through Sunday morning, one Cambodian soldier was killed and another was wounded.

"Again and again, the acts of aggression on the part of the Thai military continue to cause damage for Cambodia despite the agreement reached between Cambodian-Thai military commanders at military Region levels and frontline commanders at Division levels, " Chhum Socheat said.

"This is the tenth times that the Thai military violated the ceasefire agreement and promised, and spin doctored the situation and alleged against Cambodia while we are stationing on our sovereign territory," he added.

The two countries' border has never been completely demarcated. The conflict has occurred just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The International Court of Justice awarded in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square- mile) surrounding area.
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Laos, Viet Nam, Cambodia build road links

VIENTIANE, Apr 30, 2011 (Vientiane Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The triangle of land where the Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian borders meet is experiencing rapid development as the three countries work to improve transport links.

The Lao part of the development triangle is located in Attapeu province in southern Laos, Director of the Attapeu provincial Public Works and Transport Department Mr Phetmixay Khampakmy said on Wednesday.

"The development triangle is receiving funding assistance from the Japanese government," he pointed out.
In Laos, construction has started on a road in Samakkhixay district of the province which will eventually link to Vietnam and Cambodia through Phouvong district.

The province is spending US$5.6 million to build a bridge across the Xekhaman River, as well as three kilometres of asphalt road on both sides of the bridge, with funding provided by Japan, Mr Phetmixay told Vientiane Times .

The new bridge and road on either side will be finished within 24 months from the start of construction.

The distance from the Xekhaman bridge to the border with Cambodia is about 90km.

"We can't say when the asphalt road reaching Cambodia will be finished, but we have acquired funding from Japan to continue building a further 19km of road," he added.

Laying asphalt on roads is quite expensive, with 1 km costing around US$800,000, he said.

Attapeu province borders Vietnam and Cambodia and has five districts -- Xaysettha, Samakkhixay, Sanamxay, Sanxay, and Phouvong.

Sanxay and Phouvong districts are considered to be amongst the poorest in the country, with a lack of basic infrastructure, especially roads and electricity.

An asphalt road connecting Attapeu to Vietnam was built a few years ago, but there is no road access to Cambodia. Only Champassak province currently has a road link to Cambodia.

As part of development plans to take the province out of poverty by 2020, work on a road link between Attapeu and Cambodia has started.

A planned motorway between Attapeu and Vietnam, passing through Phouvong district, is currently under construction, with surveying and design for some sections also ongoing.

Road access from the provincial capital to the border area of Phouvong district is restricted during the wet season, as vehicles often can't cross rivers because ferry services are frequently halted due to strong currents.

Once complete, the road will help reduce poverty because people will have better access to markets in both Laos and Cambodia where they can sell their agricultural produce and handicrafts.
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Filipino teachers shine in Cambodia

By Leti Boniol in Phnom Penh/Philippine Daily Inquirer


Phnom Penh (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Their primary goal when they left the country for Cambodia may have been to earn more money. But in the end, Filipino teachers end up giving their best to that country.

Take the case of Jayson Umaquing, who left the Philippines six years ago for a teaching job that was to give him higher pay in US dollars, part of which he could send back home to his parents and two sisters. He also wanted to embark on an adventure and a life of independence from his family.

His mother would not let him leave at first, fearing for his safety, but he grabbed the opportunity after being accepted for a teaching job in a private school in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

It was for him a a completely new world where he met people from different parts of the globe. He was able to visit the famous heritage destination Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and other places of nature. The exchange rate at the time was at least P47 to a dollar and that went a long way in sending his sister and some relatives to school.

He went through the stage of being lonely, doing all the work at home and in school, and facing a language barrier in a country where only a few speak English. But after learning the Khmer language, he was able to mingle with the local population and found that "they are a friendly and enthusiastic" people. He said he has adapted to the Khmer culture, which he described as "very rich and interesting."

In his six years of teaching Math and English to Grades 9 and 10 pupils of the Pannasastra International School, and Business and English subjects to college students of the Pannasastra University and the Western University of Cambodia, he observed that students "easily give up and get stressed."

But Filipino teachers are "patient and hardworking," he observed.

New heaven
Another teacher, Joyce Ira Yarza, 28, first taught in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in 2005, but transferred to an advertising firm in Phnom Penh in 2007 on the invitation of a friend. She enjoyed the teaching job for two years, but felt she needed change. She went back to teaching and "found a new heaven" in the Cambodia International Academy in Phnom Penh.

Joyce brought her children to Cambodia so she wouldn't miss them. Together with her husband and children, she said she has "found a new home that will satisfy our needs."

She has not had any problem with the locals, as she has adapted to their nature and culture. She teaches algebra, science and English for middle level students. The pay and work conditions are "not as much as I get in Vietnam" but the "best thing" she likes in the city is the "simple way of life."

She works Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and spends her weekends with the family. "I am not stressed here," she added.

Most teachers in Cambodia accept tutorial services in the evenings, Joyce said, something she cannot do because she has her hands full with her own family.

Working in a multicultural community makes teaching so much fun, she added. "Every day, you learn many things from your colleagues and students. If there is one thing I consider a challenge, it's how to improve myself and my teaching to give the best for my students," Joyce said.

Another teacher, Jennifer, (not her real name), who requested anonymity, said she went to Cambodia to apply for the job that she is currently holding. For three years, she has been teaching all subjects at the primary level of a Christian school.

Exposure and involvement in a multicultural community are some of the benefits of teaching in Cambodia, Jennifer said. "Each year, I have at least five nationalities in a class. I not only teach but also get to learn and appreciate my kids' culture. I get more interested about foreign news and information, particularly about my students' countries," she explained.

There were 257 Filipino teachers in Cambodia as of Dec. 31, 2010, the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh said.

"Most of them work for private schools and universities at levels ranging from pre-school to post-graduate studies," according to Ambassador Noe A. Wong in his reply to an e-mailed questionnaire from the Inquirer.

Some Filipino teachers also occupy academic supervisory posts like principal or dean, he said. Their salaries vary depending on the school and teaching level, the embassy said.

Memorable

Jayson said he has had memorable experiences, one of which was when he had a Christmas lunch with his students and they gave him a gift and numerous Christmas cards with heartfelt messages. He was so happy to know his students appreciated his work, he said.

But as Cambodia develops, things will not always be the same for migrant professionals in that country. Jayson realizes that for the past few years, companies and organizations in Cambodia have started to localize their work force because of the lower cost of hiring personnel.

"The wages we get here are not as big as those being given in First World countries," he said in an emailed reply to an interview. "Although sometimes, we don't get benefits," he added without elaborating.

Thus, he plans to go back home this year to explore other employment opportunities in other countries, or to finish his Master's degree.

For Joyce, she will never forget being described by her students as the "Best Science Teacher" they ever had.

She and her husband have not made plans to move to another country in the next years. But Joyce said she would come back to the Philippines only when she retires.

She said her school was being accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges so she expected the students would get quality education. "If every school here is accredited by international school-governing bodies and quality education is assured, I believe that intellectually-inclined students will be the product of our hard work," she said.

Joyce believes Cambodia still welcomes more individuals who can contribute to the welfare of their people.

Jennifer added that even though Filipino teachers' main purpose in working in Cambodia is a better financial position, they "give their best" in their work.

I think it's in our culture to be patient and resilient. Moreover, Cambodians treat Filipinos with respect," she said.

She has seen some improvement with the educational system in that country, with the influx of outside help and foreigners who volunteer to help improve education in Cambodia.

She said she and her husband are open to explore work opportunities in other countries but not in the next two to three years.
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