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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cambodia moves to bar Thai chicken

Cambodia yesterday barred imports of chicken products from Thailand after authorities raided chicken slaughterhouses in Nakhon Ratchasima for selling decomposed chicken, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Ministry of Commerce instructs all levels of authorities along the border between Cambodia and Thailand to prevent all imports of chicken products from Thailand even though the products have phyto-sanitary certificates in order to protect our people's health," Cham Prasidh, Cambodia's minister of commerce, wrote in a directive.

The move came after Thai officials raided chicken slaughterhouses in Nakhon Ratchasima province on Monday and seized about eight tonnes of decomposed chicken.

The slaughterhouses had soaked dead chickens in a strong-smelling formalin solution before processing them as food products for human consumption.

Wachirawit Kritrittisak, deputy chief of Nakhon Ratchasima police, said police had already pressed at least 10 charges against the operators of four of the 11 slaughterhouses.

The suspects allegedly said that they typically supplied chicken carcasses to fish and crocodile farms. They told police they had bought them from middlemen.

The investigating team is gathering evidence against the operators of the other slaughterhouses, according to Pol Col Wachirawit.

Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Raphee Phongbupphakit yesterday said a committee has been set up to look into claims of negligence after learning the slaughterhouses had allegedly sold to local food processors meat from chickens that had arrived at their facilities already dead.

The probe is expected to be completed in three days, Mr Raphee said.

The panel yesterday invited Pak Chong livestock chief Wibul Rattanapornwong, police chief Col Pakawat Thamde and two senior officers from Pak Chong and Klang Dong police stations to testify.

Earlier, the governor ordered a transfer of the provincial livestock chief, Suksawat Thongnoi, to an inactive post pending the probe into his conduct in relation to slaughterhouse operations in the district.
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Suwit set for talks with Phnom Penh

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti will hold an informal meeting with Cambodia tomorrow and on Saturday to try and reach an agreement on the Preah Vihear management plan.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the parties would try to settle the dispute ahead of a 10-day World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting from Sunday in Paris that will consider the management plan for the ancient temple proposed by Cambodia.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday held a meeting of the national world heritage committee to discuss guidelines on the Preah Vihear issue, Mr Panitan said. Mr Abhisit instructed the panel to think of the national interest and keep the country from losing its sovereignty and territory.

Mr Suwit yesterday said Thailand had a clear stance on the Preah Vihear issue. It wants the WHC to postpone consideration of the management plan for areas surrounding the World Heritage-listed site until border demarcation work is completed.

He said he was unsure if the WHC would postpone considering Cambodia's insistence on its right to table the plan for the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area around the temple.

Mr Suwit said Thailand would offer to host the next WHC meeting in Phuket.

He said claims by Cambodia that Prime Minister Abhisit had asked it to withdraw Preah Vihear from the world heritage listing were untrue.

He said the Foreign Ministry would send a letter explaining the matter to Cambodian authorities.

The national world heritage committee will meet today to discuss prerequisites for the WHC meeting, Mr Suwit said.

He said other Unesco member countries would have a better understanding about Thailand's position on the plan after Thai representatives had the opportunity to explain the matter.

Mr Abhisit also said that each side should respect the laws of the other and avoid doing anything that could affect relations. He was referring to reports Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to arrest Thai officials that encroach on its soil and charge them with spying, as Thailand has done.
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No ‘Spy’ Prisoner Exchange: Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday ruled out a prisoner exchange of three people recently arrested in Thailand on spying charges with two Thai activists already serving time in Cambodia on similar counts.

In a speech rebuking media statements by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Saturday, Hun Sen said Thailand should go ahead with trials for the three Cambodians allegedly caught over the disputed Thai border.

Thai national Suchart Muhammad, 32, Cambodian Ung Kimtai, 43, and Nguyen Tengyang, 37, a Vietnamese, were arrested last Tuesday at in Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province and accused of spying on Thai paramilitary bases and bunkers there.

Hun Sen said Wednesday it was “strange” for a country to employ spies from three different countries and he warned Cambodian officials to be careful traveling to Thailand.

“Thai authorities will arrest him or her to exchange with the two Thai ‘Yellow-Shirt’ activists now detained in Cambodia on espionage charges,” he said.
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UN Secretary General Moves To Ease Tribunal Tension

N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, tours the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge regime's notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh (file photo).


The office UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to ease increasing tensions within the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday, rejecting media reports that a controversial third case will be dropped.

The UN-backed court’s investigating judges have come under fire in recent weeks after they made a preliminary conclusion to Case 003, for two unnamed Khmer Rouge suspects.

Ban said through a spokesman on Wednesday that the conclusion had only been a procedural step and was not a signal the case—which Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly opposes—would be ignored.

However, the investigating judges have already seen a staff exodus, and their office was called “toxic” by a leading consultant for investigation, especially after they failed to interview the two chief suspects in the case.

“The co-investigating judges must ultimately issue a closing order in case 003 which, in relation to each suspect, either sends him or her to trial, or dismissed the case against him or her,” according to Ban’s statement.

Claire Duffy, a court monitor for the independent Open Society Justice Initiative, said while the statement was “technically” true, it was also a defense of the UN’s court operations.

“If you have just kept up to date with all the developments that have been happening, it’s clear that the judges intend to dismiss the case,” she said.

The judges “haven’t even interviewed” the suspects or assigned them counsel, she said, making indictments very unlikely.

Ban’s statement said the jurists for the tribunal “must be allowed to function free from external interference by the royal government, by the UN, donors states and by civil society.”
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Stunning Angelina Jolie ad benefits charity


Actress donates rumored $10M payout for new Louis Vuitton campaign.  And the giving just keeps on coming.

Just days after she and partner Brad Pitt donated $500,000 to assist tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., Angelina Jolie is making headlines again with a gorgeous and charitable new ad campaign for Louis Vuitton.
The 36-year-old was reportedly paid a whopping $10 million to pose for the ad, shot in Cambodia by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. The country is close to the star’s heart as the birthplace of her eldest son, Maddox. According to sources, her entire fee is being donated to charity, with speculation that it will benefit the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which helps community development and conservation in Cambodia.

"We are honoured that Angelina Jolie agreed to participate in our Core Values campaign, whose central theme of travel as both a physical and emotional journey is one with which she can personally identify," said Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton executive vice president of marketing and communications. "Angelina Jolie is a global star in every sense — not only in her career as an actress, but also in her long-term commitment to international humanitarian issues."
 
In a teaser posted on the Louis Vuitton Journeys site, a short film hints at a more involved campaign in July to highlight Jolie's history and commitment to the region. According to WWD.com, she will "discuss how her visit to Cambodia was a life-changing experience, awakening her to the plight of Third World countries."
 
The "Core Values" campaign will run for 18 months and include other celebrities like Bono and Sean Connery. 
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NGOs in Final Bid to Change Controversial Draft Law

International and local organizations met over a conference call on Tuesday in a final effort to push for changes to a controversial draft law to regulate the NGO sector before it moves to the next stage of approval.

The groups say they want changes to a third draft of the law, which they fear will hamper their development efforts and leave them open to government interference.

The law is expected to move from the draft stage at the Ministry of Interior for approval by the Council of Ministers in the near future.

In a conference call organized by Washington-based Oxfam America on Tuesday, representatives from a number of organization expressed continued reservations over the law, which many said would weaken civic and social development.

“A country trying to develop without a strong civil society is like trying to ride a bicycle with just one wheel,” Nora O’Connell, a director of policy at Save the Children, said. “You may be able to push it along the road, but it will take a lot longer. You need both government and civil society working together to make real progress.”

Bill Penington, Cambodia’s assistant country director for Care International, said the law would slow down development by impeding the work of organizations.

Such concerns have been echoed by the US State Department officials, who say the new law could be unnecessary and restrict the work of NGOs.

Interior Ministry officials have defended the law as necessary to regulate a growing sector and have dismissed concerns it could be abused.

But critics say the law contains complicated requirements for registration and reporting to the Ministry of Interior, while at the same time it potentially prevents smaller grassroots organizations from forming. The law, they say, could be abused to shut down organizations or associations that are at odds with the government.

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, a program manager for Freedom House, called the draft law “draconian” and “ambiguous.”

A rights group or other watchdog is “generally going to be critical of the government whether it’s Cambodia or whether it’s the US,” she said.

The law as currently drafted could lead to an organization being shut down, she said. “So this is a significant barrier, not just to the freedom of association as a fundamental principle, but also for the freedom of expression.”

While the organizations say they want the government to redraft the law, there are some who say it should not be necessary at all, given other laws already on the books.

“Things like the civil code, the constitution and also the current laws, actually cover every aspect,” said Brian Lund, East Asia director for Oxfam America.

The government estimates 3,000 non-governmental organizations, either international or local, operate in Cambodia.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the law will “protect the interests of civil society.”
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