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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Thailand, Cambodia agree on UN plan for disputed temple

BANGKOK - THAILAND'S prime minister said on Tuesday he would not block attempts by neighbouring Cambodia to have the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex listed as a United Nations World Heritage site.

Thailand and Cambodia have historically both laid claim to Preah Vihear, an ancient Hindu site perched high on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border.

Newly-elected Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said his government had reached an agreement with their neighbour allowing Cambodia to propose Preah Vihear temple - but not the surrounding land - as a World Heritage site.

'Cambodia and Thailand are preparing to issue a joint communique, but first I have to inform the Thai people,' Mr Samak told reporters on Tuesday as he returned from an overnight trip to Cambodia, his first as prime minister.

'Cambodia confirmed that they will propose only the temple site for World Heritage status, not the surrounding area,' he added.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said the communique would also stipulate that Thailand and Cambodia must jointly manage the area surrounding Preah Vihear.

The United Nations culture organisation Unesco ruled last year against granting the temple coveted World Heritage status, but recognised it as a significant international site.

Rumours swirled that Thailand had blocked Cambodia's efforts to have Preah Vihear listed, but Cambodian officials denied that and said they expected the temple would be accepted this year after they submit a management plan to the World Heritage Committee.

A dispute with Thailand in 2003 over Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple - the most significant symbol of the country's ancient Khmer empire - sparked a night of riots that saw Thailand's embassy and several Thai-owned businesses burned and looted in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Disagreements over Preah Vihear, which sits on Cambodian soil but can only be easily accessed from Thailand, have long plagued Thai-Cambodian relations.

Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk took Thailand to the World Court in 1962 over the two countries' claim to Preah Vihear. The court ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia. -- AFP

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Wiregrass Man, "The Father of Baseball in Cambodia"

Dothan, Al. (WSFA) -- It's America's favorite pastime and many in the Wiregrass have grown up playing it: baseball.

However, for one man, it's much more than a game. For Joe Cook it's an escape from a violent past.

Now Cook is using that game to teach kids about the country that took him in.

He's your average joe, but he doesn't look like it.

He and his family were forced from their native Cambodia to escape the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in early 1980's.

"Everything was just overwhelming at the time," says Cook.

Baseball opened up so much for Joe. It makes him feel American.

He's married with two children, and working as a chef in Dothan.

His first trip back to Cambodia was in 2002. It was on that trip that he made the decision to take the game that gave him so much back to the kids of Cambodia.

"I'll bring gloves, balls and I'm going to teach you how to play baseball," says Cook.

With his promise, Joe and the people of Baribo built their own field.

Joe's dream hasn't been easy to accomplish, though.

He doesn't make much money and what he does earn goes to paying bills and his family.

It's the passion for baseball in Cambodia that keeps him going.

Cook says, "I throw balls to the kid, they throw back to me, there's so much joy in that kids eye."
In December of 2007 Cambodia's first national baseball team competed in the Southeast Asian games.

Cook was able to be a part of that experience, because to many, he's the father of baseball in Cambodia.

"They always come up to me, ask me questions to learn about new things," says Cook.

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Renewed fears for rare Mekong dolphin in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A sharp drop in the number Mekong dolphins born in Cambodia has renewed fears for the survival of the rare mammals, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.

Only three baby dolphins, one of them dead, were found during an annual survey conducted in late November, down from six newborns in previous years, Touch Seang Tana told Reuters.

Their weight had also dropped to under 2 kg (4.4 lb) from 5 kg (11 lb) in the 1980s, the chairman of the Commission for Mekong Dolphins Conservation said.

"A group of 10 full-grown dolphins living in the upper Mekong River had no babies at all this year," he said, blaming a shortage of fish and rising water temperatures which might have affected their reproductive systems.

There are about 150 dolphins living in the upper Mekong River, up from only 90 before a 2006 ban on net fishing in the eastern provinces of Kratie and Steung Treng.

Conservationists had hoped for a surge in newborn dolphins after the ban was imposed.

"Global warming may be a possible indirect threat to the dolphin population, particularly if their fitness is reduced," said Teak Seng of the World Wildlife Fund.

"Dolphins are very sensitive to changes in their environment such as water temperature and quality. Other factors may be more influential such as diseases and water pollution," he said.

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