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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

China donates gymnastics equipment to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, China Wednesday donated a batch of gymnastics equipment worth around 14,000 U.S. dollars to Cambodia for its gymnastics federation to carry out daily training of national athletes.

The equipment included balance beam, low balance beam, spring board, crash mats and landing mats, according to the relevant certificates signed by Cambodian Tourism Minister and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) Thong Khon and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

While delivering his speech for the donation ceremony, Thong Khon wished that the upcoming Beijing Olympics and the current series of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries would score success.

Zhang Jinfeng said that China would mobilize all its resources to guarantee high-quality Olympic Games for the world.

In addition, she expressed appreciation for the participation of the games by Cambodia and the scheduled attendance of its opening ceremony by King Norodom Sihamoni, former king Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Norodom Monireth.

Both of them also expected more professional exchanges to bring about new achievements in the sport field of the two countries.

At the donation ceremony, members of the national gymnastics team of Cambodia performed their programs.

According to NOCC, the national gymnastics team of Cambodia was established in 1983. It is now coached by a Canadian and its youngest member only ages nine.

There are currently 10 gymnastics clubs in Cambodia and they are based in eight provinces or municipalities, said NOCC files.

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Boonsrang urges border calm

Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit has urged people protesting in Si Sa Ket over the Preah Vihear temple controversy not to escalate the tensions with Cambodia after three Thais crossed into the disputed border area.

The crossing of senior monk Phra Khampheng, Vicharn Tabsorn and Chanikarn Kengnok, members of the ultra-nationalist Dharmayatra group, into the overlapping zone around 7am yesterday, prompted Gen Boonsrang to call Cambodian Defence Minister Teah Banh to secure their release.

Suranaree Task Force commander Maj-Gen Kanok Nettarakawaysana and Si Sa Ket governor Seni Jittakasem also went to Preah Vihear to hold talks with Cambodian authorities on the issue.
The three Thais were freed after four hours of negotiations, they said.

The Dharmayatra group has camped out on the Thai border in Kantharalak district of the northeastern province since June 22 to protest against Thai support for Phnom Penh's listing of the temple as a World Heritage site.

They are also demanding the return of the Preah Vihear temple to Thailand although the kingdom lost a legal battle with Cambodia over it in the International Court of Justice in 1962.

The World Heritage Committee has now listed the Preah Vihear temple.

Yesterday's events turned tragic for ranger Vilai Arom, who stepped on a landmine during a border patrol of the area. His leg was blown off in the blast.

Cambodian government spokesman Khiew Kanharith and director-general of the national authority of Preah Vihear temple Hang Soth, said that Thai troops had crossed over into Cambodian territory to help the three protesters.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat and the Si Sa Ket governor denied that Thai troops had intruded on Cambodian soil.

Lt-Gen Nipat Thonglek, head of the Border Affairs Department under the Supreme Command, said the protesters posed no harm to Cambodia as they protested peacefully by meditating.

Khieu Kanharith was quoted as saying in Phnom Penh that 170 Thai troops and civilians had crossed into Cambodian territory. He said a group of Thai soldiers were being detained inside Cambodia and would be there overnight. Still, he was confident the situation was under control and would not flare up.

But a reliable Thai source dismissed his account, saying there were no Thai troops under detention in Cambodia.

Worried about the tensions, Gen Boonsrang called on nationalists to pay heed to warnings by the military not to let the situation get out of control and stressed that the overlapping area of 4.6 sq km would be handled by the authorities and legal experts.

Those who did not know the problem and were ultra-nationalist but had taken their own steps without paying heed to any warnings would cause confusion, Gen Boonsrang warned.

The supreme commander called on ultra-nationalists staging protests over the Preah Vihear issue to stay calm. Patriotism was good, but it must be based on reason and fairness, he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday called on the Senate to impeach Prime Minster Samak Sundaravej over the temple row.

PAD leaders Pibhop Dhongchai, Suriyasai Katasila and Sirichai Mai-ngarm submitted 46,530 signatures to Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondej demanding the impeachment of Mr Samak for violating Article 270 of the charter.

His cabinet had endorsed the joint communique without parliamentary approval, the PAD said.

Treaties and Legal Affairs Department director-general Krit Kraichitti yesterday told the House panel on border affairs that the listing of the temple ruins did not include the 4.6-sq-km overlapping area with Cambodia.

Mr Krit insisted that Cambodia had proposed the listing of the temple only. He and Lt-Gen Dan Meechu-at, head of the Survey Department under the Supreme Command, were yesterday invited by the panel chaired by Samphan Lertnuwat, a list-MP of the People Power party, to testify over the listing of the Preah Vihear temple.

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Cambodian secretary of state recovering well after acid attack

PHNOM PENH, Ngor Srun, secretary of state at the Cambodian Council of Ministers and top aid for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, was recovering well in Thailand after the acid attack Sunday in Phnom Penh, national media said Wednesday.

Although the acid hit Srun's face, his wounds were superficial and he should be able to return soon to Cambodia following medical treatment in Thailand, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted his sister-in-law Chea Sam Ath as saying.

"I saw him Sunday before he left for Thailand. He is just a little burned and it didn't affect his eyes. He can be normal after treatment," said the elder sister of Srun's wife Chea Sam Eng, who is the second daughter to Cambodian Senate President CheaSim.

The attack occurred in downtown Phnom Penh, as Srun ended his participation in a major general election campaign for the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and prepared to bring his vehicle to a nearby workshop for mechanical check.

Srun was hospitalized at the Calmette Hospital around 11:00 a.m. local time Sunday and transferred to Thailand later in the afternoon.

Hospital sources said that Srun was burnt on the left side of his face, ear and chest. His wounds were cleaned, treated and bandaged in the emergency room over the course of two hours.

This has been the second high-profile crime so far during Cambodia's general election month, which started in June and will end on July 27.

Friday, veteran reporter Khim Sambo and his son were shot dead on street. Sambo used to work as part-time contributor for the Khmer Conscience News, a Cambodian-language newspaper closely affiliated with the major opposition party.
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Cambodia: Thai troops still in country


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian officials said more Thai troops crossed into their country's territory Wednesday in the second day of alleged incursions amid tensions over disputed border land near a historic temple.

Thai officials have denied any incursion, saying the troops are deploying on Thai territory to protect their country's sovereignty.

"Their troops have increased in number. They have not pulled back yet," said Hang Soth, director-general of the national authority for the Preah Vihear temple. Both sides were due to resume negotiations Wednesday morning, he said, but did not elaborate.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday night that 170 troops and Thai civilians had crossed into Cambodian territory. He could not say how many civilians were among the group.

The number of Thai troops swelled to about 200 on Wednesday, Cambodian border guard unit commander Seng Vuthy said by telephone from Preah Vihear.

"Both the Cambodian and Thai forces have their hands on their guns at all times," Seng Vuthy said.

The latest confrontation came after UNESCO declared Preah Vihear — which is at the center of a long-standing border quarrel between the neighbors — a World Heritage site last week.

Both countries claim land around the temple, and Thai anti-government activists have revived nationalist sentiment over the issue. The activists and some government officials fear the temple's new status will jeopardize their country's claims to land adjacent to the site.

The incident has claimed at least one casualty. A land mine explosion sheared the right leg off a Thai soldier patrolling in the area, said Thai army Col. Sirichan Ngathong.

Stretches of the Thai-Cambodian border are still strewn with land mines sown by various sides during the 1970-75 Cambodian civil war and the guerrilla conflict that followed the fall of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Maj. Gen. Kanok Netakawesana, a Thai army field commander in the region, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that his troops were on Thai soil close to the disputed area. He declined to give the number of soldiers deployed.

"We are not violating the territory of Cambodia. We have every right to deploy troops here to protect our sovereignty," Kanok said.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat denied any incursion, saying the relationship between the two countries remained normal.

The ministry said in a statement late Tuesday that the troops were ensuring that any protests by Thai activists were being done "in an orderly manner."

The Thai troop movements followed the arrest by Cambodia of three Thai citizens for crossing the border earlier Tuesday. The three were returned to Thailand later Tuesday.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles many Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor complex in northwestern Cambodia.
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