The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thailand welcomes Hun Sen's call for peace

Thailand on Friday welcomes Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's desire to peacefully resolve the border conflict around the Preah Vihear temple through existing bilateral mechanisms.

Hun Sen on Wednesday said the dispute should be settled on a bilateral basis and through peaceful means, following the military standoff since the middle of last month.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday welcoming Hun Sen's views, saying it also wished to find a peaceful solution to the Preah Vihear issue.

The statement said the dispute should be resolved by existing bilateral mechanisms, including meetings between the foreign ministers of both countries and the ThaiCambodian Joint Boundary Commission, and the General Border Committee.

The countries' foreign ministers are to hold their second meeting on the dispute later this month in Hua Hin.

Both countries agreed to redeploy their troops from the area following the first meeting between Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong in Siem Reap late last month.

Differences on boundary issues between the nieghbours are not unusual, the Thai Foreign Ministry statement said.

This issue is just one small part of the overall relations between Thailand and Cambodia. The two countries have a myriad of common interests and wideranging cooperation in economic, political, social and other dimensions, it said.
Read more!

Ratch suspends three overseas projects

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding, Thailand's largest private power producer, has suspended work on three projects outside the country, notably the Koh Kong power plant in Cambodia, which has been put on hold mainly because of the political dispute between the two nations.

Projects in Laos have also been suspended. Ratch has to negotiate with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to adjust power prices after construction costs increased from last year.

Referring to the Koh Kong plant, Ratch managing director Narong Sitasuwan said yesterday: "As everyone knows, if the relationship between the two countries is not good, we can't do anything. But we can wait for the right time and we still intend to invest in this project."

The project in Cambodia is the biggest power plant in which Ratch has ever invested. The company has co-invested with Electricity Generating (Egco) - with a combined share of 70 per cent - to generate power from coal, with a production capacity of 3,660 megawatts. The US$7.3-billion (Bt246 billion) project was scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2016.

According to the previous plan, Ratch was to start construction of the Koh Kong power plant this year. The company did start some of the basic construction but now the process is suspended.

Narong added that the other overseas projects suspended are the Hong Sa lignite power plant and the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower plant in Laos. Ratch is proposing that Egat revise its power price now that construction costs have soared by 25 to 30 per cent from last year.

The investment value of the Hong Sa power plant and the Nam Ngum hydropower plant are $2.61 billion and $708 million, respectively. The Nam Ngum 2 power plant is Ratch's only overseas project that is still on schedule.

Narong said that in order to diversify risk from the existing projects, Ratch had recently restructured its internal administration by naming two deputy managing directors. The company also set up three business units in order to closely monitor its overseas investments, particularly in Laos, which needs new power plants.

"As far as I'm concerned, there are roughly 100 locations in Laos that can set up power plants, of which 30 to 40 locations [have commercial potential]. Our staff is now exploring those locations to seek out new opportunities," he said.

The company is conductng a feasibility study for the 140MW Nam Bak hydropower plant - an extension project of Nam Ngum 2 - which will enhance production efficiency of the Nam Ngum 2 plant.

Narong added that Ratch would revise down its investment budget for the five-year business plan ending in 2011 in order to reflect the fact that several projects have been suspended. The current plan calls for spending Bt30 billion on the projects.

Narong said he could not estimate the revised, lower amount.

Ratch expects its revenue this year to grow by 5 per cent from Bt46 billion last year, while earnings are forecast to increase by 10 per cent from Bt5.8 billion.
Read more!

Cambodia: Kuwait Pledges US$5 Million For Cambodian Muslims

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Kuwait has pledged US$5 million to help support religious activity and education for Cambodia's Muslims, a government official said Friday (8 Aug).

Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah made the pledge during his visit here earlier this week, said Ahmad Yahya, a government adviser who heads the Cambodian Muslim Community Development.

He said the fund was in response to a request Cambodian Muslim leaders brought to Kuwaiti officials during the visit.

The money will be used for renovating a mosque in the capital Phnom Penh and building a 2-hectare (5-acre) Islamic center near the mosque, in addition to several schools and mosques in a northeastern Cambodian province, Ahmad Yahya said.

Kuwait and other Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, have long funded schools and mosques in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand, both of which have small and generally poor Muslim populations.

Ahmad Yahya said the Kuwaiti prime minister announced the new pledge to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during their dinner meeting on Monday.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen very much welcomed the pledge," he said. "The money is not here yet, but when its comes the Cambodian government will manage it accordingly."

Cambodia has an estimated 700,000 Muslims, representing about 5% of the country's 14 million people, according the U.S. State Department's annual report on religious freedom.

Most of them live in the rural areas and, in the past decade, have been experiencing a revival of their religious freedom that was abolished, just like all religious practices, when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

With the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the past decade, there have been concerns that some projects funded by Middle Eastern money may become breeding grounds for extremists.

In May 2003, Cambodian authorities closed down a Saudi-funded Islamic religious school outside Phnom Penh and arrested three of its members on charges of alleged links to Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian Islamic extremist group connected to al-Qaida.

During his visit, the Kuwaiti leader also expressed his country's interest in investing in Cambodian farmland to produce food for the oil-rich Gulf state.

The two countries also signed agreements to foster economic cooperation, protect investments, and establish direct flights between them.

Cambodia also asked Kuwait for assistance in training its workers in offshore oil exploration and production. (AP)

Read more!