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Thursday, May 05, 2011

'Effective mechanism needed for ASEAN to settle Cambodian, Thai border row'

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - The credibility and prestige of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may be downgraded if it has no effective mechanism to settle Cambodian and Thai border row, academics warned on Thursday.

Pou Sothirak, Cambodian senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Cambodian and Thai border row is not only damaging bilateral relations in a critical way, but also threatening regional peace and stability.

"If no effective mediation is pursued to contain it, it will undoubtedly affect the credibility and reputation of ASEAN," he said during a two-day conference on strengthening the ASEAN political-security community through preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution mechanism.

The conference brought together representatives from the Network of ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies and members of Cambodian parliament and decision makers from various Cambodian ministries.

Pou Sothirak said that the main challenges to security community are the ASEAN principles of non-interference and the norm of not putting bilateral dispute between members on the ASEAN agenda.

"The principles of non-interference and consensus are the obstacles in the realization of the security community by 2015," he said.

"ASEAN must do something right where failure would mean that the region return to the past of using force to settle disputes," he said. "This in turn will send ASEAN straight into a danger zone of losing its role as driver of the regional security architecture. "

Nem Sowath, a board member of Cambodian Institute of Cooperation and Peace, said ASEAN has played a significant role in coping with regional security issues and threat; however, it does not have appropriate and effective regional mechanism in place when it comes to territorial disputes among its member states.

"Cambodian-Thai border conflict is a case in point. It is a testing ground for ASEAN's ability to solve issues for its member states," he said.

"It is a warning signal to ASEAN to get reformed as soon as possible, otherwise ASEAN can be divided and ASEAN credibility will be downgraded." he said.

The leaders of ASEAN countries will meet on May 7-8 in the 18th summit in Jakarta, Indonesia and the border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand will be included in the agenda.

"In my own opinion, ASEAN should establish a special working group or a conflict resolution mechanism in order to settle Cambodian-Thai border row," he said.

"We wish to see ASEAN to be stronger, more united and more relevant particularly in security issues in order to serve the interests of everyone."

Yeo Lay Hwee, senior research fellow of Singapore Institute of International Affairs said "frankly speaking, ASEAN has really not moved much progress towards confidence building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution mechanism."

Suchit Bunbongkam, president of the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (Thailand), said the measures or conflict resolution mechanism should be established in order to settle issues for its member states and to prevent conflicts in the future.

"The principle of internal sovereignty and non-interference in ASEAN must be observed," he said. "For Cambodia and Thailand border conflict, we wish to see the issue be settled peacefully, not by armed forces."

Cambodian and Thai border has never been completely demarcated. Conflict has happened just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The latest flare-up had occurred from April 22 until May 3 at the 13th century Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province, leaving 19 people on both sides killed and nearly 100,000 civilians fled homes for safe shelters.

Both sides always blamed each other for firstly triggering the attacks.

ASEAN countries consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Angelia travels to Cambodia in the name of Louis Vuitton

As a natural beauty Angelina Jolie is widely known for her pouty lips and sultry eyes. She is an Academy Award winner, a mother, a wife, a UN High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador, and now it is confirmed that she will be the new face for Louis Vuitton.

The campaign will be shot in Cambodia by the internationally acclaimed photographer, Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz has shot a slew of celebrities, from the George W. Bush Cabinet to a nude Vanity Fair cover of Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley.

Angelina reportedly banked $10 million for the campaign, which is rumored to be her largest endorsement yet. She will be joining other celebrities, such as Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, who have also represented the designer.

The location of the shoot is in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a country Angelina is more than familiar with being the birth place of her adopted son, Maddox. In 2001, prior to the adoption Angelina donned the Laura Croft gear for her part in the film, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, filmed in Angkor Wat.

Following her adoption of Maddox in 2002, 2003 saw the inception of the Maddox Jolie-Foundation, which has since been changed to Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation.

The foundation is committed to creating peace and stability in communities by working with impoverished rural villagers and local governments. It aims to help alleviate food shortages and increase basic necessities, such as healthcare and education.

Currently, the program is working on the Samlout 2012 project. It's priority is to achieve economic grown and reduce enviornmental destruction in the rural Cambodia Samlout district.

Since then, Angelina has returned to Cambodia on many occasions for business and pleasure. She is so beloved there that it was said that a temple was named after her.

In 2010, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, told WENN news that Ta Prohm, a Hindu religious temple has been unofficially renamed the "Angelina Jolie Temple."

Cambodia being such an important part of Angelina's philanthropic endeavors and personal life makes for an interesting setting.

The campaign's debut is slated for this summer.
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Thai Government Blamed for Deaths During 2010 Uprising

Anti-government Red Shirt protesters clash with security forces in Bangkok, Thailand, April 9, 2010.


Human Rights Watch is urging the Thai government to prosecute those responsible for killings during last year’s anti-government demonstrations.

The rights organization also said the government is responsible for an ongoing crackdown targeting political opponents as the country heads towards nationwide elections.

It accuses the Thai government of failing to fully investigate last year’s political violence, which it blamed on both the military and opposition protesters.

Last year thousands of anti-government protesters, known as the Red Shirts, occupied Bangkok streets demanding a new election. After a months-long standoff from March to May, the government ordered the military to end the demonstrations. The clashes that followed killed 90 people, most of them civilians.

Brad Adams, the Asia Chief for Human Rights Watch, told a news conference in Bangkok that military snipers appear to have targeted civilians.

"The government cannot simply say that in the heat of attempts to clear demonstrators from the streets of Bangkok, some soldiers may have exceeded their orders," Adams said. "The government provided these orders and the army put these snipers in place and people died."

Adams said the military’s historic impunity is holding back Thailand’s rule of law and democracy.

He added a government appointed truth and reconciliation commission has been ignored by the military and not given enough resources to fully investigate the violence.

Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for Thailand's Foreign Ministry, defended the government’s actions.

"The events that occurred were very chaotic," he said. "And, there were a number of cases where it is unclear, both from witnesses account as well as from forensic evidence, as to the people behind the various deaths and injuries. Let me just reiterate that the investigation has not yet closed. It is still ongoing. And, we hope that a conclusion could soon be found," said Thongphakdi.

The Human Rights Watch report also criticized some Red Shirt leaders for the violence. The rights group says some of the leaders publicly welcomed armed elements known as Black Shirts who fought with Thai soldiers.

And, as the military moved in to end the demonstration, Human Rights Watch says some Red Shirt leaders encouraged looting and arson that burned tens of businesses and buildings in downtown Bangkok.

Brad Adams also criticized a government campaign of censoring opponents using laws meant to protect the monarchy from defamation, or Lese Majeste.

"The crackdown on dissent has been ongoing," said Adams. "The government has used any laws at its disposal to stifle speech, it has used the Lese Majeste law in a politically motivated manner, it has targeted one side. We have very large numbers of the Reds who have been arrested for what happened during the protests and we have no one on the government side who has been held accountable," he said.

Thani defended the government's closing down of hundreds of Red Shirt publications, radio stations, and websites since the protest, saying it was done under the rule of law.
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Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden backs online micro-finance initiative

Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden came face to face with entrepreneurs she described as "inspirational" during a recent trip to Cambodia with leading aid and development agency CARE International UK.


CARE took Meaden, their newly-appointed ambassador, to see how individuals in Cambodia are using loans provided to them by individuals in the UK through new micro-lending website Lendwithcare.org. Lendwithcare allows people to lend as little as £15 to entrepreneurs in poor communities around the world, enabling them to start or expand their small businesses.

Meaden met a range of entrepreneurs from poor communities, including a female farmer who used her loan to diversify her crops and rent essential farming tools, which increased her annual income. Another bought bamboo cases to sell a sweet rice snack from her stall. One was a seamstress who used her loan to buy three sewing machines, to train girls from her village for a small fee.

Unlike the business models Meaden is used to seeing, the seamstress' new venture was not all about the profit. "She decided to earn less money for herself, but involve more people in the village, simply because she treasures her community. In the UK I think that would be a very rare decision indeed," she said.

Despite her Dragons' Den persona, Meaden believes profit can't always be measured in cash terms.

"When I arrived I was expecting to sit, slightly Dragons' Den style, and ask the typical questions: 'What do you buy it for, what do you sell it for, what are your margins?' I began to realise very quickly that these are entrepreneurs in the raw; they're not looking to become millionaires, they're just looking to be able to live and be able to feed their family. They want to make enough money to keep themselves and their family safe. Once I understood this point, I realised that their output wasn't just cash," she said.

Meaden explained why she is happy to support Lendwithcare.org: "I really liked the idea of Lendwithcare. I love this idea of putting together people who have money, and want to see what their money is doing, with people who need their money. I think that's a magical combination. You get your money back, and that's good because it means the project has been successful. But really, I think the success can be measured by the change it's left behind."

Lendwithcare.org case study

Farmer Phang Seoun, 49, harvests rice and watermelons on land 10km from her home, and is raising six children alone after her husband died. Phang had struggled to afford to provide for her family and fund the tools needed to keep her business going. Phang's profile was uploaded to the Lendwithcare.org website so people in the UK could lend to her to help fund her business plans. Phang became fully funded and received her request of £261.42, which she used to buy seed, fertiliser and rental of a hand tractor used for ploughing. The resulting income will be used for food, clothing, education and for expenses of the wedding of her daughter.

Reflecting on how CARE International UK has helped Phang, Deborah Meaden said: "I believe that providing the opportunity and framework for people to help themselves is the only sustainable way forward and I saw this very clearly on my trip to Cambodia. The people there are willing to work to repair their lives; they just need even the smallest of leg-ups to get them started."

To change a life with a loan, please visit http://www.lendwithcare.org/.

How you can help

Support CARE International's poverty-fighting work around the world by taking on the CARE IT Adventure Challenge, supported by Computer Weekly. Cover a marathon on foot, bike and canoe alongside teams from across the IT industry, visit www.carechallenge.org/IT or call 020 7934 9470. Read more!

Ieng Sary back in Courtroom

Iang Sary, who was deputy prime minister and foreign minister during the rule of the Khmer Rouge, sits through a hearing at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal yesterday


A feeble Ieng Sary appeared before Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal yesterday to challenge his provisional detention ahead of his looming trial alongside three other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Lawyers for the former KR foreign minister argued that judges had not rendered a sufficiently reasoned decision on the defence appeal of last year’s indictment within the window during which the court could still compel their client’s detention. The maximum time limit for pre-trial detention since Ieng Sary’s 2007 arrest has therefore now lapsed, the defence said.

The challenge follows appeals earlier this year on similar grounds by the other three defendants set to be tried in the court’s second case: former KR head of state Khieu Samphan, Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith. These appeals have been rejected.

Despite this precedent, defence lawyer Ang Udom told the court yesterday that there was no legal basis to continue Ieng Sary’s detention.

“Mr Ieng Sary has the presumption of innocence and has not been convicted of any crime,” Ang Udom said.

“The most suitable remedy is to release Mr Ieng Sary on bail immediately.”

The defence recommended that Ieng Sary be released from the court’s detention facility and placed under house arrest at his expansive home in Phnom Penh.

“Brother No 3” himself, now 85 years old, managed less than an hour in court yesterday before asking to leave due to fatigue. His lawyers have requested that the court conduct his upcoming trial in half-day sessions in view of his health concerns.

Donning the loose-fitting button-down shirt of the style he has worn in previous hearings, he appeared fatigued and at one point seemed to doze off as his lawyers spoke in front of him. Early in the session, the defence asked that he be given leave for a bathroom break.

Much of the argument yesterday followed the template of previous hearings on pre-trial detention. At one point, however, defence lawyer Michael Karnavas provided a sample of the debate over Cambodia’s complicated history with the West that is sure to come at greater length in the upcoming trial.

Responding to comments from deputy prosecutor Veng Huot, who noted in passing statements of support for the tribunal from United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and American secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Karnavas said the UN was not “in any position to be lecturing”, given its support for the Khmer Rouge for years following their 1979 overthrow.

“I do believe that we should be entitled to talk about the carpet bombing, by the United States, of Cambodia. We should be able to talk about the UN’s involvement after 1979,” Karnavas said, accusing UN officials of limiting the court’s jurisdiction to events between 1975 and 1979 “to ensure that those issues were not properly vented out”.
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Vaccine touted as cancer prevention

The creator of the human papilloma virus vaccine, Professor Ian Frazer, visited Cambodia yesterday and stated that vaccination prior to sexual activity was a crucial step in protecting against infections that can cause cervical cancer.

Professor Frazer told an audience at the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday that 80 percent of HPV infections are contracted within three years of becoming sexually active.

“[About] 70 to 80 percent of women who are sexually active get the virus,” he said. “The public health benefit comes from vaccinating young women before they become sexually active.”

Genital HPV infections are primarily transmitted through sexual intercourse and are linked to most cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is administered in three doses and has been given to over 60 million women worldwide.

Professor Frazer added that two HPV vaccines on the market protect against virus types 16 and 18, which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

An HPV vaccination programme began in Cambodia in June 2008.
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Cambodia, Thailand agree to border station points for deploying observers: Cambodian FM

Cambodia agreed to accept the finalized arrangements for the deployment of Indonesian observers to the disputed border areas near Preah Vihear temple after Thailand has removed a disputed station point, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong said on Thursday.

"Cambodia replied to Indonesia, current ASEAN chair, on May 4 about the acceptance of the 7th terms of reference (TOR) for the deployment of Indonesian observers to the border with Thailand," he said at Phnom Penh International Airport before leaving for ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting on May 6 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"This is the finalized TOR," he said.

Hor Namhong said that Cambodia has got unofficial information that Thai cabinet ministers' meeting on May 3 also agreed to accept Indonesian observers to Cambodian-Thai border.

"So, I hope the TOR for observers will be signed in the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting on May 6 between Cambodian, Thai and Indonesian foreign ministers," he said.

"After that, Cambodia would urge Indonesia to send observers as soon as possible to ensure a permanent ceasefire," he said.

Cambodia and Thailand invited Indonesian observers to their respective border near Preah Vihear temple on Feb. 22 in the ASEAN informal foreign ministers' meeting after the deadly clashes on Feb. 4-7.

At that time, Indonesia agreed to send 15 observers to each border side of Cambodia and Thailand in order to monitor a ceasefire, but since then the sending has not happened as both sides have not agreed on TOR.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated.

Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. But Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand had a border conflict, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua
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