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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The temple of gloom

Thailand's "active support" for the proposed inscription of Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site is strongly highlighted in both words and pictures in Cambodia's main application document to Unesco.

The document, a copy of which was received yesterday by The Nation, features photos of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama engaged in bilateral activities proclaimed to be progress towards reconciliation after decades of territorial dispute.

Disclosure of the document is likely to inflame the ongoing controversy, in which the besieged Samak government is accused of bypassing Parliament and the public alike in making crucial moves that carry possible effects on national sovereignty.

The document's key sections include Cambodia's insistence that the temple is under its sovereignty, the temple's cultural and historical value, international support for the temple's inscription and Thailand's virtual support for the nomination.

Whereas the controversy has centred on a joint communique between Thailand and Cambodia signed by Noppadon, the application document is likely to galvanise critics accusing the Samak government of either being naive and exploited by Phnom Penh or conspiring with the neighbouring government in exchange for political vested interests.

While critics have said the joint communique would put Thailand at a legal disadvantage if new territorial disputes arose in the area, the application document to Unesco could be perceived by some as a diplomatic embarrassment for Bangkok.

The Unesco document devotes considerable space to Cambodia's legal victory over Thailand in the International Court of Justice, detailing the court's rulings on why the contentious temple belongs to Cambodia. Then, only a few pages apart, the document goes on to highlight Thailand's "active support" for inscription.

Samak, whose photo taken during a visit to Phnom Penh in March was played up in the document, was cited as "confirming" Thailand's intention to support the inscription, as was Noppadon, whose photo was also given prominence in the document.

The Preah Vihear controversy will place the Samak government under fire in Parliament today, as the opposition Democrats are set to grill the decision virtually to give up Thailand's long-lasting sovereignty claims, which persisted even after the world court's ruling.

Key points in today's debate will likely include questions on whether the Samak government violated the Constitution in supporting the World Heritage-site push without consulting Parliament and whether it instead should have, for the inscription's sake, proposed a joint effort in which Thailand and Cambodia approached Unesco on more equal grounds.
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Cambodian King to visit Vietnam

Is King Norodom Sihamoni going to have palace in Hanoi?

VietNamNet Bridge - Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni’s official visit to Vietnam aims to tighten the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation relations with Vietnam.

At the invitation of Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet, the Cambodian King will start his three-day visit to Vietnam on June 24.

This is the second visit of the Cambodian King to Vietnam which also marks the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Vietnam (June 24).

The Vietnam – Cambodia relationship has continued to be reinforced in the spirit of “good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and long-term, durable and comprehensive cooperation”. In early 2008, many important activities were carried out between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers met on the sidelines of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) meeting in March 2008; the fourth meeting on cooperation and development of Vietnamese and Cambodian border provinces was held in February 2008, which made the cooperation more comprehensive and effective; and a successful exchange was held between the two Foreign Ministries in May 2008.

In 2007, diverse activities were held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties.

The exchange of high-ranking delegations between the two countries has been promoted. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Vietnam in October 2005, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni visited Vietnam in March 2006, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet visited Cambodia in February 2007, and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence visited Vietnam in March 2008.

The economic, trade and investment relations between the two countries have also been promoted, with trade turnover in 2007 of 1.17 billion USD and an expected amount of 2.3 billion USD in 2010. In the first four months of this year, the figure reached 552 million USD, an increase of 41.4% compared to 2007, and Vietnam’s investment into Cambodia in 2007 was estimated at 100 million USD.

In addition, cooperation in the educational, energy, medical and transportation sectors has continuously increased. In 2008, Vietnam pledged to grant 100 long-term and 450 short-term scholarships for Cambodian students. Cambodia gave 10 long-term and 20 short-term scholarships to Vietnamese students to study the Khmer language. Vietnam has continued to conduct medical check-ups for Cambodians. Cambodia highly praised Vietnam for its humanitarian eye surgeries based on a deal between President Nguyen Minh Triet and King Sihamoni.

The two countries have cooperated well in the security and defence sectors to address problems at border gates, ensuring security and stability in the region. They agree to complete border demarcation by 2012, and regularly work together to prevent crimes, drug trafficking, trade fraud and social problems.

The two countries have also cooperated closely in regional, sub-regional and multilateral groups, including ASEAN, the Ayeyawady - Chao Phraya - Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and GMS.

King Norodom Sihamoni’s visit to Vietnam will contribute to tightening Vietnam – Cambodia relations and addressing some existing problems.

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