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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cambodia gets more time to submit Preah Vihear plans

Cambodia has until February next year to submit its plan for safeguarding and developing the Preah Vihear temple, Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said yesterday.

The World Heritage Committee's decision initially obligated Cambodia to submit its plan by February this year, following the temple's heritage inscription last July.

However, Phnom Penh has not been able to submit many details of the plan, including a map of buffer zones around the site, owing to its boundary conflict with Thailand.

Fortunately, the delay has given Thailand a chance to campaign for a joint nomination of the Hindu temple with Cambodia, Suwit said.

The controversial Preah Vihear attracted renewed international attention after Thailand maintained its objection to the temple's inscription, which resulted in an angry outburst from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and tension at the border.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not discuss the campaign for a joint nomination. However, he did say that since Cambodia has more time to submit its plan, it would have an opportunity to follow the World Heritage Committee's decisions and clear up any difficulties along the border.

"We have expressed our concerns to the World Heritage Committee over several sensitive issues because we don't want to have problems or any tension with Cambodia," Abhisit said.

However, acting government spokesman Panitan Watanayagorn interpreted the delay as a victory for Thailand, following Suwit's heavy campaign during the committee's meeting in Spain from June 23 to 30.

He said the delay would give Thailand a chance to seek better understanding from members of the World Heritage Committee.

"The government hoped the World Heritage Committee would allow the two countries to jointly run the temple," Panitan told reporters.

Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said he would redeploy troops to border areas adjacent to the Hindu temple in accordance with the government's policy to pave the way for a peaceful solution.

"We don't have a timeframe, but it depends on the satisfaction of both countries. We have a common intention not to use force," he said.
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Cambodians Take Back the Lens


PHNOM PENH — While Pol Pot was still alive and civil war raged, it was a great time to be a photographer in Cambodia. That’s unless you happened to be Cambodian.

At the first scent of blood the testosterone-fueled pack, largely routine invaders from the safe haven of Bangkok, would assemble, all too appropriately at Phnom Penh’s Foreign Correspondents Club, a Mekong-side colonial watering hole straight out of a Marguerite Duras novel. They had tripods strapped to their backs and phallic zoom lenses at the ready.

Meanwhile the few Cambodians lucky enough to have access to a camera could be found snapping tourists emerging from the Royal Palace nearby or in Siem Reap, positioning honeymoon couples on the causeway of Angkor Wat. As one of Cambodia’s leading photographers, Mak Remissa recalled, “The foreign media didn’t really trust us to take pictures, but we needed to eat.”

That changed when the dictator died in 1998. With the Khmer Rouge vanquished, Cambodia was no longer a “hot” destination. The foreigners departed, leaving the handful of Cambodians with a modicum of technical competence to fill the vacuum. For Reuters, Agence France-Presse, the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post, they represented a useful supply of cheap labor; for the Cambodians, it was a rare opportunity to learn on the job.

Cambodia is, of course, one of the world’s most photogenic places. Its abundance of ancient monuments, rambunctious street life and saffron-robed monks habitually silhouetted by crimson sunsets stirs even the most disinterested tourists to fiddle with their apertures.

Though it’s perhaps taken too long for Cambodians to stake their rightful claim on some of this imagery, a handful of recent events confirmed what many have long suspected: that given a chance, Cambodians have very personal stories to tell, both in artwork and photojournalism.

The opening in March of the Sa Sa Gallery on Street 360 in Phnom Penh trumpeted the first photographers’ collective to be run entirely by Cambodians for Cambodians. Six young professionals — Kong Vollak, Heng Ravuth, Khvay Samnang, Lim Sokchan Lina, Vuth Lyno and Vandy Rattana — aim to create a buzz around this new space by mounting monthly shows of work by both artists and photographers. “The gallery is open to any Cambodian with a serious body of work,” said Mr. Vandy.

Significantly, Sa Sa is an abbreviation of Stiev Salapak, or “Art Rebels.” The gallery takes its name from a group founded in 2007 by Mr. Vandy, a passionate 27-year old who is trying to defend photographers’ interests in an increasingly competitive and still foreign-dominated environment. Currently employed by the Phnom Penh Post, Mr. Vandy is perhaps unique for having criticized foreigners living in Cambodia for not providing enough technical and moral support to Cambodian photographers.

Yet he would be the first to acknowledge a debt to more experienced colleagues from abroad. Since 2000 the Magnum photographer John Vink has been quietly rebuilding capacity in Cambodia by setting up workshops and mentoring several members of the first generation of post-conflict Cambodian photographers.

When the French photographer Stéphane Janin opened his Popil Gallery in Phnom Penh in October 2005, members of the younger generation of Cambodian photographers began to glimpse a future in the medium. Using the gallery as a forum, Mr. Janin encouraged his students to examine the history and content of photography, as well as its sociological impact.

His star pupil was Mr. Vandy, whose 2006 “Looking in my Office” series used the milieu of a telecommunications company to throw light on corporate behavior during the country’s short-lived boom. “I doubt if any professional foreign photographer in Cambodia could have come up with something as timely and insightful as these images turned out to be,” said Mr. Janin, who is currently living in Washington but still exerts considerable influence in the country.

The other significant change has been the advent of photo festivals. Following the Angkor Photography Festival in Siem Reap, now in its fourth year, PhotoPhnomPenh was inaugurated in November 2008. The curator was Christian Caujolle, the creator of the Vu agency and gallery and the first picture editor of the French daily Libération. Mr. Caujolle will reprise the festival in November.

“Cambodian work is technically unsophisticated but it is driven from personal necessity, and there is no question in my mind that some of it meets international standards,” said Mr. Caujolle. Looking back into history, local photographers, he said, were functionaries in King Sihanouk’s newly independent Cambodia and took part in national propaganda campaigns during the 1960s. Many died under the Khmer Rouge, who rather than exploit their talents sent their own novices to learn the craft in China, whose Cultural Revolution influenced Pol Pot’s regime.

A highlight of the Phnom Penh festival was “Bodega,” an event in which the recently created agency Melon Rouge showcased 15 photographers in a dilapidated colonial building one block from the Mekong. The results revealed both the variety of approaches to diverse subject matter and a paradox at the heart of the national psyche: the combination of pride and profound unease.
Melon Rouge’s founders, Nicolas Havette and Thierry Marre, want Cambodians to realize their own projects without pressure. Images of rubber harvesting in Kompong Cham by three “resident” photographers sponsored by the French Agency for Development were hung cheek-by-jowl with “Cinderella,” a study of the evanescence of identity by Chan Moniroth, the only female photographer in the show.

But Cambodian photographers also need to learn to “present pictures to editors, create narratives, photo essays and generally manage images,” according to Mr. Havette. Reasons often cited for their apparent lack of professionalism are the high cost of materials and weak computer skills. Yet perhaps the most evocative example of Cambodia’s contribution to photography could not have been more low tech.

Thaing Chhea Chhinn’s pinhole shots of the architect Vann Molyvann’s White Building, a riverside dilapidated architectural gem built to house athletes and civil servants in the 1960s, were taken with nothing but a shoe box and negative paper, yet for Mr. Caujolle they conveyed “a total awareness of a major issue in Phnom Penh, namely architectural heritage being sacrificed for personal profit. While meaningless on the international circuit, for Cambodians these pictures resonate.”

“The Building,” an ongoing project involving 25 emerging Cambodian photographers, explores landlessness, poverty and social exclusion from the perspective of the squatter community of thousands of families living in and around the White Building. It is being exhibited through Saturday at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre in Phnom Penh. Among other revelations, the project illustrates how Cambodia’s urban poor share resources and in some cases flourish.

Some photographers working on “The Building” have come to the medium through another visual art: painting. At the same time, a number of Cambodians trained as photojournalists see themselves primarily as artists. Mr. Mak’s solo shows at Phnom Penh’s Java Café and the McDermott Gallery in Siem Reap, for example, featured close-ups of colonies of ants carrying fish. According to an old Khmer proverb, “when the water rises, the fish eat the ants; when the water recedes the ants eat the fish.”

“I love these fluctuations,” said Mr. Mak. “In this case, which species dominates the other depends on the changing situation of nature.”

Mr. Mak, who has won multiple awards, dreams of setting up his own school to train independent photographers. He complains of government indifference and little progress since the era when photography was used largely as a propaganda tool. At the Phnom Penh festival the Ministry of Culture went so far as to ban Mr. Vink’s images for Magnum of the funeral for the murdered union activist Kem Sambo, an act that could hardly have helped assuage suspicions of the government’s involvement.

Sensitivities over subject matter are not confined to the state. “It’s easy to find suffering in Cambodia and even easier to photograph it,” said Maria Stott, the founder of On Photography Cambodia, the organization behind “The Building.” Visiting photographers’ voyeuristic images of monks, sex workers, amputees and AIDS sufferers don’t always tell the truth or contribute to the debate, she said.

Many foreigners have set up shop in Cambodia at a time when many locals wish they would stay away. The difficulties of a small market and struggling media outlets has made the scene increasingly competitive. “Exposure to other people’s work can be challenging and motivating,” said Ms. Stott, a Polish photographer and curator. “The first Phnom Penh festival demonstrated that photography really functions in Cambodia and has been a valuable educational tool, but the medium can also be discriminatory, disrespectful and dangerous.”
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Hwang-DBS to start Cambodia bank ops soon

HWANG-DBS (Malaysia) Bhd (HDMB) is a step closer towards operating a commercial bank in Cambodia.

HDMB said Cambodia's Minister of Commerce had on June 26 issued a certificate of incorporation of HwangDBS Commercial Bank Plc (HDCB) which is effective from June 19, 2009.
As required by the National Bank of Cambodia, HDCB targets to start operations in Cambodia by July 31, subject to a final licence to be issued by the National Bank, HDMB said in announcement on Bursa Malaysia.

HDCB is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the HDMB and will operate as a commercial bank in Cambodia.

Currently, HDCB has an issued and paid-up capital of US$2 comprising two ordinary shares of par value US$1 each.

The issued and paid-up capital of HDCB will be increased to US$20 million, comprising 20 million ordinary shares of par value US$1 each, all to be issued to HDMB before the start of business operations. - Bernama .
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I ate insects to live, says Pol Pot torture survivor

Former Khmer Rouge prisoner tells of haunting memories of 'killing fields'
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent

One of the few survivors of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture centre from which thousands of people were despatched to their deaths has revealed how he and the other inmates scrabbled to find insects to eat to avoid starvation and ate their paltry meals alongside the corpses of those who had died. At times he thought about eating the remains of the dead.

Van Nath, an artist who dodged death only because of his ability to produce a portrait of the regime's leader, Pol Pot, told a genocide trial in Cambodia that although he escaped with his life 30 years ago he was still shackled by his memories. Wiping away tears as he launched into a series of harrowing recollections, the 63-year-old said: "My suffering cannot be erased – the memories keep haunting me."

As he gave his testimony the white-haired survivor was face to face with his jailer, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as "Comrade Duch", the head of Tuol Sleng jail where Mr Nath was held between January 1978 until January 1979. Duch is one of five former regime members being tried by the joint UN-Cambodian inquiry.

"We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling. We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards," said Mr Nath, who lost two children during the four years the Maoist-inspired regime controlled the country. "We ate our meals next to dead bodies, and we didn't care because we were like animals. The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little. I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal."

In a country where 1.7 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge either by execution, starvation or disease, Mr Nath is that rare thing: a survivor. Of the estimated 14,000 people sent to Tuol Sleng to be tortured and interrogated before being dispatched for execution at "killing fields" on the edge of Phnom Penh, barely a dozen are known to have lived through it, and just six are still alive today. Mr Nath said the only reason he survived was because Duch learned that he was a trained artist. He was quickly asked to produce portraits of Pol Pot, the regime's leader who died in 1998. "I survived because Duch felt good when he walked into my workshop," he said.

But he also revealed details of the torture suffered before Duch learned of his talents. He was beaten, electrocuted, had his fingernails pulled out, and also underwent a form of "water-boarding". Prisoners, he said, were fed six teaspoons of rice porridge a day.

Duch, who showed little reaction as he watched Mr Nath give evidence, is the first former Khmer Rouge leader accused of crimes against humanity to go on trial. The others are deputy leader or "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the former foreign minister Ieng Sary; the former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith; and the former head of state Khieu Samphan. Duch, now 66, was arrested in 1999 after a journalist found him working for a Western aid group in northern Cambodia, having converted to Christianity. Earlier this year as final preparations were being made for the long-awaited tribunal, The Independent interviewed Mr Nath in his gallery in Phnom Penh. Almost every painting was starkly produced in dark colours. Many showed torture and execution.

"I cannot escape from being a witness," he said at the time. "It is so hard for me to tell you. I suffered so much from that prison; that is why I have been so sick."

Mr Nath said he had either witnessed everything he painted or else was told about it by other prisoners. "Now I have the ability to testify before this chamber. This is my privilege, this is my honour," he told the court. "I do not want anything more than justice."

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Kids as young as four are sold and then raped

CAR boss Peter Vardy was so traumatised by child sex trafficking in Cambodia that he couldn’t sleep at night — and now he’s vowed to help tragic victims.

The 31-year-old visited the Asian country several years ago and was shocked that families were selling their kids as young as FOUR to pimps.

He’s now teamed up with Swiss-based charity Hagar International to launch a campaign tomorrow to raise cash for forgotten victims.

The charity — which has taken a battering in the recession — needs £40,000 to build a new shelter in the country, and Peter is aiming to raise another £60,000 to help it survive.

Peter, from Durham, said: “I was left numb with horror. It’s hard to understand just how bad the poverty is.

“I was aware of children being sold by their families to pimps just to buy a fridge. That child is then at the mercy of rape and torture. If you walk onto the streets of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, within seconds you will be offered the chance to have sex with a girl or boy of any age.

“The damage done to these kids is immeasurable. That’s why we need to keep this organisation alive.

We want to help Hagar build a new shelter for the abused kids, to protect them so they get the chance to be educated.”

Peter — grandson of car magnate Reg Vardy — has started a new Vardy empire in Scotland with showrooms in Motherwell, Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh and Perth.

Last year Vardy’s showrooms raised £35,000 to help build water filters for 1,400 communities in the country, estimated to save one child’s life every month.

He even returned to Cambodia to help build the water filters. And now he’s urging employees to back the new campaign.

Peter added: “Colleagues throughout the dealership will be involved in sponsored events. They have really enjoyed being part of the process.”
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Cambodia, Bahrain to sign joint agreement of diplomatic establishment

The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Bahrain will sign a joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations to expand the cooperation between a country in South East Asia and a country in the Middle East, a Cambodian official said on Monday.

Hor Nam Hong, Cambodia's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, and his Bahraini counterpart will sign the joint communiqué of creating the official diplomatic ties, said Koy Khong, under secretary of state and spokesman for Cambodia's Foreign Ministry.

"It is the first time for the two countries to mend the diplomatic ties," he said, adding that in future the two countries will expand cooperation on tourism, investment, trade, and economy.

According to a press release from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, Hor is to join the first ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council Ministerial Meeting, to be held from June 29 to 30, in Manama, Bahrain.

At the meeting, "we will talk about the cooperation on the global economic and financial crisis, combating terrorism, poverty reduction, sustainable development and economy," Koy Khong said.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Gulf group includes Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
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Gillings lab at UNC wins $8.5M for USAID clean water initiative

A clean water program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has won a new award worth up to $8.5 million, the university announced Monday. The program traces its origins to a gift made by Quintiles founder Dennis Gillings and his wife, Joan.

The funding will be used to expand a project to bring clean drinking water and improved sanitation to homes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The five-year award comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The program is called Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development – or WaterSHED. It is a joint effort between UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Kenan Institute-Asia.

UNC says in a statement that its researchers will search for ways to increase the use of water filters in homes that lack clean drinking water in order to help reduce diarrhea and related diseases that kill nearly 2 million children a year. They will also investigate ways to achieve financially sustainable, scaled-up access to safe water sources. These include harvested rainwater, improved sanitation and greater practice of personal hygiene.

The USAID award will be managed by UNC’s public health school. The principal investigator is Mark Sobsey, the Kenan Professor of Environmental Sciences and


The award grew out of the Carolina Global Water Partnership, one of the first Gillings Innovation Laboratories funded through a $50 million gift to the public health school from Dennis and Joan Gillings.

Dennis Gillings, a former UNC professor, launched and built Durham-based Quintiles into the world’s largest contract research organization. CROs run clinical trials on drug candidates for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

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Pol Pot artist weeps at jail horror

One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture center wept yesterday as he told Cambodia's war crimes court how he was only spared because he painted propaganda pictures of Pol Pot.

Van Nath described how hunger drove prisoners to eat insects that fell from the ceiling at the communist movement's Tuol Sleng prison, and said he was so famished he dreamed about eating human flesh.

The 63-year-old is the first survivor to testify at the UN-backed trial of jail chief Duch, who is charged with overseeing the torture and extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through the notorious facility.

"The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Van Nath said. "I thought even eating human flesh would be a good thing for me at that moment."

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, slumped in his chair while the former inmate recalled how he was photographed, stripped and then shackled with other prisoners after being taken to Tuol Sleng.

Prisoners had three teaspoons of gruel for each meal and some ate insects, Van Nath said, although he could not as they fell too far from where he was chained.

"I lost my dignity. Even with animals they would give enough food," Van Nath said. "If they (guards) found out we were eating insects we would be beaten, so we could only do it if we avoided being seen by the guards."

Inmates shackled next to him died during his first month and at one point, too weak to walk by himself, he was summoned downstairs and thought his own death was imminent.

But he was instead told to paint a portrait of Pol Pot, the leader of the 1975-1979 regime, whom Van Nath did not recognise.

"I knew that if I did not paint very well, I would be in big trouble. I was so nervous," Van Nath said.

"I only had the feeling that I had to paint very good portraits so that he (Duch) would be happy," Van Nath said. "When he did not show good feelings in his facial expressions, I was scared and anxious."

Guards strung one prisoner up in the yard at Tuol Sleng when he was found to be a poor sculptor, Van Nath added.

Van Nath went on to become one of Cambodia's most famous artists. The court was shown his paintings of torture methods including prisoners being whipped, plunged in water and having their fingernails pulled out with pliers.

"Even though I've tried my best to forget, it still haunts me," Van Nath said. "I never imagined that I would be able to sit in this courtroom today to describe my plight, my experience."

Sketches showed how he was taken from his family and tortured with electricity, while a painting showed Tuol Sleng guards whipping prisoners and seizing their babies.

Earlier in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch, 66, begged forgiveness from victims of the regime after accepting responsibility for running the jail. He faces a life sentence.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Killeen couple cares for Cambodian children

By Jade Ortego

The Tuckers say they feel happy. They're lucky. They're blessed. They have more than 1,000 Cambodian children infected with the human immunodeficiency virus who rely on them for medication, food and sometimes shelter, schooling and companionship.

John and Kathy Tucker of Killeen went to Cambodia in the January 2000 as Catholic lay missionaries. They became involved with a hospice program for Cambodians infected with HIV, Seedlings of Hope. Cambodia has one of highest rates of HIV in Asia.

It soon became clear that there were no programs to help children in Cambodia infected with HIV. Because of widespread ignorance about the nature of the virus, those children were frequently cast off, left to die in the street. None of the 200 orphanages in Cambodia at the time would accept any HIV-positive child.

"Assume your sister died of AIDS and you take her children, and find out one of the kids has AIDS. You're afraid that child may infect your biological children … even though it's almost impossible to transmit from child to child," John said. "People don't know that and they want to protect their own children so out of ignorance they abandon these other children," he said.

Their own clinic

In 2006, the Tuckers began New Hope for Cambodian Children (NHCC), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, which includes an outreach program, a transitional home for intensive care for infants and the very ill, a day care, and most recently, a village for abandoned children infected with the virus.

Neither John nor Kathy has any medical background.

"There was no (antiretroviral) medicine. The choice was to learn about the medicine or let the kids die," John said.

The Tuckers got a manual about HIV and learned about the medicine and found out it was available in Thailand. They bought it, imported it and hired local doctors to help them start their own clinic.

The NHCC outreach program now covers five provinces and attends to the medical needs of 850 children still living with family members. NHCC provides antiretroviral medication, medical transportation expenses and food for these children.

Antiretroviral medication suppresses the virus enough so that the immune system can reconstitute itself. After taking the medication, some children can be tested and come back with a negative result. The children will become sick again if they miss dosages, however, and can develop resistance to the drugs.

The Clinton Foundation donates money for the medicine for all of these children involved with NHCC, and has gotten the cost down to $12 a month for one child. The same medicine is about $1,000 a month in the United States.

NHCC now includes a village, an almost-sustainable commune of abandoned children on 20 acres about 45 minutes from capital city Phnom Penh.

Building a community

New children arrive every week, kicked out of orphanages or abandoned at hospitals, but the current number is 180.

The kids, age 2 to 19, live in a family and community. NHCC pays a married man and woman $50 a month each to live with and raise eight children in the village. These households are in groups of three, and they eat together; these groups of homes are part of a close-knit larger community.

The Tuckers are working to make the village sustainable. They use only three and half hours of electricity a day, and make their own bio-diesel out of waste vegetable oil from local restaurants. They make methane gas from pig waste, and use solar panels to power water pumps. The village has 250 pigs and 2,200 chickens.

Many orphanages in Cambodia have children make postcards or other crafts to pay for the cost of running it. The NHCC village is funded entirely by private donations, many from the Killeen area, especially St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Church in Harker Heights.

"These are children and they're going to be children and they're going to go to school, they're not going to work in the afternoon," John said.

No splitting families

The orphans all attend the local provincial school. Their studies are supplemented by tutoring in every class, largely to make up for a lack of education before their entrance into the program. The village also has art, music and dance classes, and a computer class and basketball court that non-infected children from the provincial schools are allowed to sometimes use.

This year, a 19-year-old is graduating out of the village and will move to Phnom Penh to go attend a university there. The boy isn't infected with the virus; he is one of the 27 non-infected siblings of a child with HIV who lives on the village. "We don't split up families," Kathy said.

Next year, the first HIV-positive child will graduate, and the year after, 12 will. The Tuckers want to rent a house in Phnom Penh for graduates to live in while they attend college or vocational school, where they can still receive care and medication, and remain a part of their family.

NHCC is a secular organization, and doesn't proselytize to the children. "Our kids are Buddhist and they stay Buddhist," John said. "But they do all wear rosaries because they glow in the dark," Kathy said.

Kathy also started a daycare program for HIV positive children that provides their widowed mothers with local, living-wage jobs making quilts, which got media coverage by the BBC and the New York Times. Those quilts, which look like baby blankets decorated with elephants and other animals, can be purchased at St. Paul's.

People can volunteer to work at the village or donate to NHCC online at

"We get to take care of sick kids and get them healthy. We found something at the end of our lives that gives us real meaning. We love what we're doing," John said. "We sleep very well," Kathy said.
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Cambodian ruling party CPP marks 58th anniversary

PHNOM PENH, Thousands of members of Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on Sunday gathered to celebrate the58th anniversary of the founding of the party (1951-2009) in the central headquarters in Phnom Penh.

"We celebrate this event in order to express profound gratitude to our beloved compatriots, soldiers, and people in all generations for their resolute struggles and sacrifices for the cause of nation and fatherland," Chea Sim, president of the CPP told the ceremony.

"In its name as the political force that is leading the country, the party must double efforts to achieve its supreme objective that is guaranteeing sustainable peace, stability and national security, maintaining independence, sovereignty and territory integrity, accelerating socio-economic development to catch up with other countries in the region," he said.

"At the same time, people's poverty, good governance, fight against corruption, extension of public services with quality and confidence, are some of the priority areas that require more efforts," he said.

"We have a firm belief that Cambodia will continue to achieve positive growth this year despite currently being affected by the global financial crisis and economic downturn," Chea Sim said.

"I would like to express my respect for army and police and soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and national police who have been heroically fulfilling their duties defending our fatherland and along the border," he said.

Cambodian People's Party was initially called the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), which originated in the longstanding people's struggle movement for national independence. CPP won 90 of 123 seats in general election in July 27, 2008.

Representatives from CPP's coalition partner FUNCINPEC and other small political parties as well as some foreign diplomats, including Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng, also attended the celebration.
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Lightning kills five Cambodians in a day: newspaper

Lightning strikes killed five people in Cambodia in a single day, a local newspaper reported Sunday.
Two people were killed in Kampot province, in Cambodia's south, while three were killed in the central provinces of Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu, according to the newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily.

It said four of the victims, all killed on Friday, were farmers working in the fields -- a group especially at risk when they continue to work during rainstorms.

Around 50 Cambodians were killed by lightning in the first four months of 2009, while the official toll for last year was 95 deaths.

Experts say the tropical Southeast Asian country, with its many rivers and lakes, is particularly prone to cloud formations which generate intense lightning storms.

These formations can lie just 50 metres (164 feet) above the earth, and anyone underneath is vulnerable to lightning strikes.

Cambodia's government is trying to raise awareness in the provinces of measures to protect against such natural disasters, according to Long Saravuth, weather expert at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

"We hope there will be fewer deaths as more and more people become well-informed about safety during lightning storms," he said on Sunday.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cambodia PM meets Thai minister on border dispute

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted one of Thailand's deputy premiers at his home on Saturday in an attempt to diffuse a long-standing border row with friendly chat.

Hun Sen's wife cooked lunch for Suthep Thaugsuban and Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon at his residence in southern Kandal province, Suthep said, after tensions recently escalated over the UNESCO listing of an ancient temple.

Troops from both sides have built up on the Thai-Cambodia frontier in recent days near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.

Thailand's decision to ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider listing the temple has angered Hun Sen, but despite claiming the issue would not be discussed Saturday, Suthep said they had agreed to reduce tensions at the site.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to our Prime Minister Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions (along the border) to assist economic cooperation between the two countries," Suthep told reporters after returning to Thailand.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Suthep also announced that a dam would be constructed in Cambodia to channel water to Thailand's eastern seaboard.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kuoy Kong said the pair had simply had a "friendly talk".

Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.

Unrest flared in July 2008 after UNESCO granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.
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Q+A-Preah Vihar temple and Thai-Cambodian tensions

BANGKOK, (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met behind closed doors on Saturday with Thailand's deputy premier, Suthep Thaugsuban, as tensions simmered over the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent his right-hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Hun Sen to explain why Thailand was challenging a U.N. decision to make the 900-year-old temple a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia. [ID:nBKK469181]


Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as the Thais call it, was completed in the 11th century and pre-dates Cambodia's more famous Angkor Wat temple complex by 100 years.

Many say its stunning setting atop a jungle-clad escarpment overlooking northern Cambodia also eclipses its celebrated cousin as the finest of all the ruins left by the mighty Khmer civilisation.

The temple has in recent years been accessible mainly from Thailand. Landmines and Khmer Rouge guerrillas kept it off-limits from the Cambodian side for decades.


Both sides have historically laid claim to the temple but a 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, by a vote of 9-3.

Thailand and Cambodia have since squabbled over the demarcation of the border and jurisdiction over the 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of land around Preah Vihear has never been settled.

For generations, the temple stirred nationalist passions on both sides. Before the court in the Hague made its ruling, Thailand's government organised a fundraiser in which every citizen donated 1 baht to pay for the legal team.


Cambodia's bid last October to list the ruins as a World Heritage Site sparked a flare-up in which one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in a gunfight.

In the most recent flare-up in April, two Thai soldiers died in an exchange of rocket and rifle fire with Cambodian troops.

Both countries have sent more troops to the border and security analysts say minor skirmishes are always a possibility.

A military standoff would further strain ties between the two historic foes and only exacerbate a long-running dispute that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.


The two countries routinely pledge cooperation over the temple issue, give guarantees their border troops will not engage in hostilities and agree to delineate the border once and for all, but the quarrelling never seems to stop. Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the Hindu temple which could one day be a lucrative tourist site. However, the temple debate is often used as a tool to gain popular support or to distract the public from other issues at home.

"This challenge by Thailand has more to do with the political situation in Bangkok," said Chanthana Banprasirichote, a political science professor at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University.

"They know this is a good way to boost their credibility and get support from the public." (Compiled by Martin Petty; Editing by Sugita Katyal)
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Four Teens With East Texas Ties Have First H1N1 Cases in Cambodia

DALLAS (AP) - Four American teens who went on a mission trip to Cambodia to help the needy, wound up needing help as they became the first cases of swine flu in that Southeast Asian country, officials with the youth ministry said Thursday.

Whether they contracted the new strain of influenza in the United States, on the plane or in Cambodia remains a mystery.

The teens came down with fever after arriving in Phnom Penh on June 18, according to a statement from Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania, the Christian youth organization based in Garden Valley that sponsored the group.

The four were released from a Cambodian hospital Thursday but remain in isolation.

They were among 40 American students in Cambodia participating in a Teen Mania summer work project known as global expeditions.

They went to volunteer in orphanages, do home repairs and yard cleanup in slums but were soon sidelined by sickness.

The youths are from across the U.S.

Teen Mania said the stricken high school students were not from Texas, but declined to say where they were from. The World Health Organization and other health officials are monitoring their condition.

All 40 flew out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on June 17.

Everyone in the group has been quarantined and expected to remain in a lodge in Phnom Penh for another three or four days, Luce said.

Organizers say the teens are anxious to get back to work. When not working on crafts for orphans or writing letters of encouragement to missionaries in Cambodia, Luce said they've passed the time singing, laughing and praying together as well as planning what they hope to do for the community once they're released.

Half the group is scheduled to return to the states July 7 while the rest will travel to Thailand to do more work projects there.

Teen Mania has about 700 students volunteering in service projects in 13 countries. This is the third time the organization has taken youths to Cambodia since its founding in 1987.

"This group raised money for months and months to go to Cambodia and serve the lord Jesus ... and they're stuck in a house in Cambodia," said Ed Hale of Escondido, Calif., whose nephew is one of their hosts in Cambodia. "They can't do what they were sent to do. It's a tragedy."
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Four Cases of Swine Flu in Cambodia

Cambodia has confirmed an additional three cases of swine flu after reporting its first case this week. All four flu patients are U.S. nationals.

Cambodia’s first confirmed case of the H1N1 virus was reported on Wednesday.

A 16-year-old American girl developed symptoms after arriving in Phnom Penh last Friday. She sought medical care at a private clinic on Monday and was immediately placed in isolation.

The girl was visiting Cambodia as part of a student group. Other members of the American group were put under voluntary observation.

Three more cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday among the student group but all four are said to be in a stable condition and recovering well.

The World Health Organization has declared the H1N1 virus spread a global pandemic and has been advising governments to prepare for a long-term battle.

There have been more than 50,000 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus and at least 237 people have died since it emerged.
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Cambodian editor sentenced on 'disinformation' charge

New York, June 26, 2009--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the sentencing today of Hang Chakra, editor-in-chief of the opposition Khmer-language daily Khmer Machas Srok, to one year in prison stemming from his reports on alleged government corruption.

According to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a Cambodian court ruled that Hang Chakra violated criminal disinformation laws by publishing a series of articles that accused officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption. The court also fined the editor 9,000 riels (US$2,250), according to SEAPA.

Cambodia's National Assembly decriminalized defamation in 2007, a move many hoped would end the legal harassment of journalists who reported critically on government affairs. But journalists still risk criminal prosecution and maximum three-year jail terms on disinformation charges, which are outlined in the penal code that was enacted under the former United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Cambodian newspapers, including the Phnom Penh Post, denounced the verdict, and quoted Hang Chakra as saying "this is the cruelest thing to happen to me."

In a June 4 article in the Phnom Penh Post Hang Chakra said he stood by the story. "When the prosecutor asked me to show them more information, I told them that I stood by the information published in my newspaper and told them that I could not reveal the source of the information."

The paper pointed out that under the Press Law, publishing "false" information, while a criminal offense, carries only a fine of up to 5 million riels (US$1,250). "But the UNTAC criminal code contains much harsher punishments," the paper noted, "with offenders facing a prison term of between six months and three years, and a fine of up to 10 million riels."

UNTAC's legal authority expired with the promulgation of a new national constitution in 1993; the 1995 Press Law broadly protects press freedoms. But since the decriminalization of defamation, Cambodian officials have resorted to the UNTAC-era criminal code to clamp down on media criticism.

"We urge the relevant Cambodian authorities to release journalist Hang Chakra," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia Program Director. "Cambodia's 1995 Press Law broadly protects press freedom, and rulings such as these run counter to the letter and spirit of that legislation. The court should not rely on outdated laws to prosecute journalists who report on government corruption."

It is not clear whether Hang Chakra will appeal. The ruling comes amid a wider crack down on free expression in Cambodia that has targeted government critics including two opposition politicians who have been stripped of their parliamentary immunity so that defamation charges may be brought against them.
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Thai official to avoid temple issue in Cambodia

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand's deputy prime minister said he would steer clear of a dispute over an ancient temple on the Cambodian border when he meets the neighbouring country's leader this weekend.

Troops from both sides have built up on the frontier in recent days near the the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said he is sending his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, to Phnom Penh on Saturday to explain Thailand's decision to ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider listing the temple.

But following a warning by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Thailand must respect his country's sovereignty, Suthep said he would now avoid the issue.

"I will not discuss any topic that could trigger conflict," Suthep told reporters in Bangkok.

"But do not jump to conclusions that my mission will not achieve anything. I am confident that bilateral talks will enhance a better understanding that Thailand will treat its neighbours cordially," he said.

Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.

Unrest flared in July 2008 after UNESCO granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.

Thai army chief General Anupong Paojinda said on Friday that troops from both sides wanted to avoid clashes and were regularly speaking to each other to ease tensions.

"We will not be the first to start fighting," Anupong told reporters.

"The local commander told me the situation is still calm. Forces from both countries deployed at the temple are constantly in contact with each other and there is no indication that it could lead to confrontation," he said.

The Thai government will protest the listing of Preah Vihear at a UNESCO meeting which is continuing in Seville, Spain until June 30.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

KRouge prosecutor denies row sparked resignation

By Patrick Falby

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The international prosecutor at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes court denied Wednesday that his sudden resignation from the tribunal was due to a dispute with his local counterpart.

Canadian prosecutor Robert Petit insisted he was quitting for family reasons and hit out at "conspiracies" which suggested the real cause was a row with Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang over whether to pursue more suspects.

The UN-backed court's long-awaited first trial has seen Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, accept responsibility for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the 1970s regime's main prison.

Asked whether his departure had anything to do with the disagreement with Chea Leang, Petit said he was resigning due to private personal family matters "totally unrelated" to his work at the court.

"Those conspiracies might indeed seem like an attractive angle for a story, but they wouldn't be the truth," Petit, who initially announced his resignation on Tuesday, told a press briefing at the court.

Four other Khmer Rouge leaders are also in detention awaiting trial by the court, but while Petit has sought to bring more cadres to justice Chea Leang has disagreed.

Lawyers for detained former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea have alleged Petit has knowledge that his co-prosecutor was ordered by the Cambodian government not to pursue more former regime members.

The court has faced controversy over a series of government interference allegations and claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Petit indicated to reporters Wednesday that he thought the court must confront Cambodian government attempts to control the tribunal.

"I think it is very disturbing that anyone other than judicial officials -- be they elected officials or anyone else -- think they can legitimately tell any court what to do," Petit said.

"Of course, that goes to the very legitimacy of the process and must be addressed," he added.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly stated he would rather the court failed than pursue other former cadres, warning further prosecutions would plunge the country back into civil war.

Critics have accused the administration of trying to protect former cadres who are now in government.

Petit told reporters his departure was an "inconsequential topic" for the court since the prosecution was always a "team effort".

Cambodian civil society groups, however, issued on Wednesday a statement that they were "disturbed" by his departure at a time when his office needs to "establish its leadership role in the trial and the court."

Proceedings focused Wednesday on operations at S-24, a "re-education centre" which former Duch also oversaw as part of his responsibilities in addition to his main job as head of the regime's main Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21.

Duch told judges it was possible that some of his staff at S-24 interrogated prisoners without his knowledge, but denied reports his subordinates flayed skin of inmates through torture by electric shock.

"Electrocution was a separate matter. I do not believe that there were such incidents there, because there were limited generators," Duch said.

The tribunal was created in 2006 to try leading members of the 1975-1979 regime, which killed up to two million people as it emptied Cambodia's cities and enslaved the population on collective farms.
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Canadian prosecutor quits Khmer Rouge trial

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The departing foreign co-prosecutor for Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal expressed concern Wednesday about graft allegations and tight funding that is threatening to derail the trial of Pol Pot's top cadres.

Speaking to reporters a day after he quit for personal reasons, Canadian Robert Petit said the tribunal was in urgent need of funding to prosecute those responsible for 1.7 million deaths during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge era.

"The court is still under-funded and under-resourced for the tasks that it is supposed to accomplish," Petit, whose last day is September 1, told reporters.

"Obviously, allegations such as the corruption and administration must be addressed and put to rest finally," said Petit, who has served on international genocide tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal has been fraught with problems since it started work three years ago and some payments to the court have been delayed due to allegations of graft.

Petit also urged politicians and senior officials not to meddle in the tribunal, and said attempts to interfere with the running of the court were "very disturbing."

The court admitted in January that a bid to go after more suspects was brushed aside by Petit's Cambodian co-prosecutor, who argued it would not be good for national reconciliation.

The government has denied meddling in the court, but rights activists have long suspected Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen does not want to dig too deep for fear it will unearth secrets about senior Khmer Rouge figures inside his administration.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, is currently being tried for his role as the chief of the torture center S-21, where more than 14,000 prisoners died.

The other four who were indicted -- "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the regime's ex-president, Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife -- have denied knowledge of any atrocities during Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist revolution.
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Democrat Endorsed Cambodia Invasion

Nixon Papers Cite 1970 Conversation

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer

Five days before U.S. and South Vietnamese troops made their surprise move into Cambodia on April 29, 1970, then-President Richard M. Nixon got the approval of the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee for that action, according for documents released yesterday by the Nixon library.

The unexpected U.S. incursion into Cambodia came as a surprise to the American public, most members of Congress and the new Cambodian government. What followed were a series of public demonstrations in Washington and later Kent State University in Ohio, which, in turn, expanded opposition to the war.

In an April 24, 1970, telephone conversation with Sen. John C. Stennis (D-Miss.), who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Nixon said the administration was going to provide arms to the Cambodian government to prevent its overthrow by a pro-communist element, and continue secret B-52 bombing raids, "which only you and Senator Russell know about." Richard Russell (D-Ga.) was the former committee chairman.

"We are not going to get involved in a war in Cambodia," Nixon reassured Stennis. "We are going to do what is necessary to help save our men in South Vietnam. They can't have those sanctuaries there" that North Vietnam maintained.

Stennis replied, "I will be with you. . . . I commend you for what you are doing."

Several days earlier, in a memo to then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, CIA Director Richard Helms proposed a plan to covertly deliver thousands of AK-47s and other military equipment to the Cambodian government with help from Indonesia.

Yesterday, about 30,000 pages of documents were opened to the public at the National Archives facility in College Park and the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, Calif., part of a staggered declassification of papers and tapes from the Nixon years.

The memos and tapes shed light on fateful moments of Nixon's second term, the Associated Press reported, among them a peace deal with North Vietnam, sea changes in domestic and foreign policy, and management of the Cold War.

They also give insights into a well-known characteristic of Nixon and his aides -- a hair-trigger sensitivity to political rivals and quick resort to machinations against them.

A 1972 meeting between Nixon and his chief of staff produced an informal directive to "destroy" Democratic vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton, according to scribbled notes among the documents released yesterday that referred to Eagleton as a "pip-squeak."

In a 1969 memo, Nixon's staff assistant describes placing the movements of the Kennedys under observation in Massachusetts after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy drove off a bridge in an accident that drowned his female companion.

The materials show Nixon as sharp-witted, crude, manipulative and sometimes surprisingly liberal in comparison with mainstream Republicans today. In one letter, he solidly endorses the Equal Rights Amendment, saying that for 20 years "I have not altered my belief that equal rights for women warrant a constitutional guarantee." The amendment failed.

The library posted online more than 150 hours of tape recordings. The tapes cover January and February 1973, spanning Nixon's second inauguration, the peace deal with Hanoi, and the trial and conviction of burglars whose break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex precipitated the coverup that wrecked Nixon's presidency. He resigned in August 1974 under threat of being forced out by Congress.
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Cambodia: The Government Must Combat Torture

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Between 1975 and 1979 the Cambodian people suffered one of the world’s most brutal regimes, the Khmer Rouge, which used, among things, torture as a means to assert its rule. In its notorious Tuol Sleng Torture Centre in Phnom Penh, some 16,000 Cambodians died horribly by the systematic use of torture by the Khmer Rouge to extract confessions during the four years of its reign. Now, the man who ran that centre, Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch”, is being tried by the UN-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal for torture and other crimes.

Due to this experience, in 1992, upon the end of the war that had followed the ousting of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia did not hesitate to adhere to the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and has since taken measures to combat torture. Surveys among a sample of inmates conducted by a human rights NGO, LICADHO, in 18 different prisons across the country have shown a decline of alleged torture cases, from 450 in police custody and 49 in prison in 1999, to 124 and 78 respectively among the 2,556 inmates interviewed in 2007, and to 78 and 7, respectively among 1,983 inmates interviewed in 2008.

In order to show its commitment, Cambodia ratified the Optional Protocol to this convention or OPCAT in 2007. Unfortunately the Cambodian government has failed to honour its obligations under this Protocol and it has not created, within the OPCAT-prescribed one year period, an independent National Preventive Mechanism to visit places of detention; it has simply pledged to do so by the end of 2010.

For many years the Ministry of Interior has authorized NGOs access to prisons but not to police stations, especially to LICADHO, to provide medical treatment and conduct surveys on the treatment of inmates. Recently, it authorized, on a long term basis, the field Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct visits to prisons, which is going to contribute to the prevention of torture on inmates and the improvement of prison conditions and the treatment of inmates.

For his part, in 2009, the Prosecutor General of the Court of Appeal, with whom the Code of Criminal Procedure enacted in 2007 entrusts the task of inspection prisons and police stations, started a programme of inspection of all prisons and major police stations across the country. One purpose of this programme is to prevent torture in those places of detention. The Court of Koh Kong province has lately convicted a police officer for torture.

The Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor General’s Office are supporting training for prosecutors, police officers and prison personnel to get them to comply with UNCAT and OPCAT, prevent and combat torture and all forms of ill-treatment in all places of detention, and cooperate with the future National Preventive Mechanism.

Cambodia has no anti-torture law, but torture is criminalized and punishment for it is provided for in the final draft Penal Code which the government is reportedly going to approve and send to the Parliament for adoption in the near future.

However, torture, though in decline, is still being used, mainly to extract confessions. The surveys conducted so far may not reflect the extent of its use when inmates, interviewed in the presence of prison guards, are inhibited by fear of reprisals to tell about the torture they or their fellow inmates have been subjected to. In the first five months of 2009, there were reportedly five deaths in police custody against three for the whole of 2008. The families of the dead and human rights monitors have suspected torture as the cause of death. The concerned authorities have denied the use of torture and usually claimed suicide. But no independent investigation into those deaths has been ordered, and medical personnel called upon to certify such deaths in police custody are known to be reluctant to contradict what the police have said.

For their part, prosecutors before whom the police bring suspects for charging are themselves inhibited to inquire whether those suspects have been subjected to any torture. They do not want to order new investigations into the alleged crime. Nor do they want to investigate torture should they suspect it as they do not want to create any friction with the perpetrator who might be none other than the police themselves. For the same reasons they are not willing to conduct any prompt investigations into torture complaints as called for under the UNCAT.

The Cambodian government must now make greater efforts to honour its obligations under the UNCAT and OPCAT and its commitment to combat torture and protect people’s absolute right to freedom from it more effectively. It should seek expertise and advice from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to create a National Preventive Mechanism that meets the OPCAT requirements without any further delay. It should speed up the enactment of the Penal Code under which torture is criminalised.

Considering that the judiciary has a constitutional duty to protect human rights, the Prosecutor General of the Appeal Court should also do more to protect this absolute right. He should create within his office a torture complaint unit to receive complaints from victims or their families. Upon receiving a complaint, he should order the prosecutor under whose jurisdiction the incident has occurred to conduct a prompt investigation, and to report to him any legal action he or she has taken. The prosecutor should also receive such complaints and likewise conduct prompt investigation.

The prosecutor should exercise the power conferred upon them by the Code of Criminal Procedure to inspect prisons and police stations under his or her jurisdiction. Like the Prosecutor General, he or she should be well equipped with adequate expertise, including visit methodology, to avoid negative repercussion of the inspection on persons detained in police custody or in prison such as reprisals against them for telling the truth.

The Prosecutor General should issue a directive to all prosecutors to check whether suspects brought before them bear any physical or mental sign they have been tortured before laying any charge against them. If there is any such sign, they should conduct prompt investigation and take legal action against the perpetrators.

The current Code of Criminal Procedure has not stipulated this examination for sign of torture and legal action by the prosecutor. It should be amended forthwith to stipulate such examination and action not only by the prosecutor but also by the investigating judge and the trial judge. This amendment should also affirm the suspect’s right to legal counsel, medical treatment and contact with his or her family upon his or her arrest. He or she should be promptly informed of this right. His or her counsel should be present during all police interrogation. Currently, the suspect cannot have access to legal council until 24 hours after the arrest and then only for 30 minutes. As to medical treatment and contact with the family, he or she is very much subject to the discretionary decision of the prosecutor and the custody officer.


About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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Vietnam opens bank in Cambodia to promote bilateral trade

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua News Agency) -- Vietnam's commercial bank Sacombank opened its first branch in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, bringing the total number of commercial banks in Cambodia to 30, local media reported on Wednesday.

Bank officials say that Cambodian operation will not compete with local banks, but will assist cross-border transactions between Cambodia and Vietnam.

"We are here to improve cross-border business, especially between Cambodia and Vietnam," John Vong, deputy CEO of Sacombank, was quoted by the Chinese language newspaper the Commercial News as saying.

The bank's Chairman Dang Van Thanh said that "the bank is aiming to provide loans to Vietnamese enterprises investing and operating in Cambodia, overseas Vietnamese, especially those running small and medium-sized enterprises."

The government figures showed that bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam is projected to rise to two billion U.S. dollars in 2009, up from 1.62 billion U.S. dollars in 2008.

Chea Chanto, governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), said at Tuesday's launch that "the investment of Sacombank in the Cambodian market is an expression of confidence by Vietnamese investors in Cambodia's banking sector."

"Cambodia is a good location for banking because it is an economy open for investment from other countries," he added.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Private Island Cambodia Set to Soar for Investors

(OPENPRESS) In Cambodia’s untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, an Australian company is setting a new standard for environmentally sensitive luxury resorts in what’s been described as one of the world’s last true tropical paradises.

The resort, when complete in 2010, will be located on Koh Ouen and Koh Bong - two pristine islands off the coast of Sihanoukville. The islands lie side by side and are known affectionately as Song Saa, which is Khmer for ‘The Sweethearts’.

Song Saa Island Resort was launched today and has five luxury two-bedroom villas on offer to likeminded investors seeking their own rare piece of paradise.

“Song Saa will really be at the top end of the market for luxury resorts in Cambodia and will offer the unique experience of an exclusive private island hideaway,” said Martin Foster Investment Risk Analyst for DSR Asset Management Ltd

DSR Asset Management , the company behind the resort, is showing how private operators can play a critical role in the protection of important marine environments.

DSR has established Cambodia’s first fully policed and privately funded marine protected area around the islands’ reefs . The area, protected since 2007, covers 1,000,000 square metres and takes in important coral species and habitat for a number of critically endangered sea horses, turtles, stingrays, anemones, giant clams, countless reef fish and many other marine species.

The resort has also employed a full-time marine biologist to monitor the health of the reefs and to help teach local communities more sustainable fishing methods.

“This has been great for both the environment and the community but also provides the added attraction of having an expert on hand to take guests and villa owners out diving or snorkelling on the resort’s own reef,” Mr Foster said.

“The knowledge that the waters around the island are protected from fishing adds to the magic of this unique location. Guests and villa owners have their own thriving reef to explore literally right on their doorstep,” he said.

Unlike the islands of Thailand, which have seen rapid development over the past decade, Cambodia’s islands remain largely undeveloped. Many are deserted, offering stunning scenery, abundant marine life and secluded white sandy beaches.

With the recent opening of the international airport at Sihanoukville, well-managed tourism in this tropical paradise offers tremendous potential for investors. “Imagine Thailand 40 years ago and you get an idea of the potential of Cambodia’s islands,” Mr Foster said.

“But we can learn from the Thai experience, and ensure this region never loses its incredible appeal through irresponsible development.

“Song Saa is a tremendous opportunity to secure a piece of this unspoiled paradise on a 99-year lease while contributing meaningfully to its protection.”

The villas are being built with a strong focus on sustainable construction materials, low emissions and waste management systems, including a water recycling system to ensure nothing harmful ever reaches the ocean.
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Former Cambodian king beats cancer for third time

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk has been successfully treated for a third bout of cancer, according to a handwritten royal letter posted on his website.

The 86-year-old, who left for Beijing in July last year to receive medical treatment for other illnesses, thanked his "most eminent" and "devoted" Chinese doctors who have been treating him there.

"Indeed, the terrific result of their (incomparable) care is here: my third cancer (B-cell lymphoma) has completely disappeared," Sihanouk said in the letter dated Monday.

The former monarch announced the discovery of the new cancer in late December.

Sihanouk was first diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting blood cells crucial to the immune system, in 1993. The cancer began in his prostate and recurred in 2005 in his stomach.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of other ailments including diabetes and hypertension.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, Sihanouk abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favor of his elder son, Norodom Sihamoni, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to comment on matters of state.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Khmer Krom in asylum talks


62 refugees arrested by Thai police on June 12 say they are holding discussions with UN officials and Thai authorities in order to avoid deportation .

KHMER Krom detainees languishing in a Thai detention centre since their arrest last week say they have held meetings with officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Thai immigration officials in an attempt to avoid being deported back to Cambodia.

On June 12, Thai authorities arrested 62 Khmer Krom who claim they were seeking political asylum after fleeing persecution in southern Vietnam.

"At the moment, UNHCR is interviewing Khmer Krom people who are detained at the Thai immigration centre," said Soeun Savang, 50, one of the detainees captured in the June 12 sweeps.

Originally from Vietnam's Ca Mau province, Soeun Savang took refuge in Takeo before fleeing to Thailand in March 2007, after being accused of fabricating legal documents in an attempt to form a Khmer Krom group in the province.

"I have already received refugee status from UNHCR, and I am looking for a third country that will grant me political asylum. But the Thai authorities don't recognise the UNHCR letter - they still arrested and detained us."

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Association, said he would travel to Thailand in July to speak with Thai authorities and UNHCR officials about the detainees.

"We will request that the Thai authorities do not deport these people to Cambodia or Vietnam," he said Sunday.

"If they do, these people will not feel safe. They fled from Kampuchea Krom because of political pressure and human rights violations ... by the Vietnamese authorities."

Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn, who fled to Thailand in April after being briefly released from his Vietnamese house arrest, said he was still awaiting the result of his own refugee application amid the crackdown by Thai immigration officials.

"After a mass arrest of Khmer Kampuchea Krom by Thai police, I am concerned about my security even though I have a grant from UNHCR to stay in Thailand. I am living under Thai law," he told the Post.

Kitty McKinsey, public information officer for UNHCR Asia, could not comment in detail, except to say that the Bangkok office was "closely following up this issue with the Thai government".
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PM halts market development

A directive signed last week temporarily bans market projects amid protests by vendors fearing eviction, but not all are happy.

FOLLOWING a string of high-profile evictions of inner-city market vendors, the Council of Ministers has issued a directive temporarily halting all market-development projects in the capital, earning a mixed response from vendors, some of whom say they are happy with the move, while others remain fearful of future evictions.

The directive, signed on June 15 by Prime Minister Hun Sen, says both he and City Hall call for a halt to market developments, allowing vendors to continue their operations.

"I was very happy when I got this news. Now I am dancing," said Lay Silo, a vendor at Serei Pheap Market in Prampi Makara district.

"By doing this, it means he [Hun Sen] cares about us, and that he wants us to have good feelings when we do our business."

Lo yuy, the governor of Chamkarmon district where the Russian Market is located, said he was also relieved to hear about the government's decision.

"It will be very comforting for vendors when they are doing their business," he said.

On June 12, vendors from the Russian Market went on strike after rumours circulated that the popular tourist site would be turned into a 12-storey shopping mall. The district governor had to promise the protesters that City Hall had no plans to rebuild and modernise the site.

After initial scepticism, Russian Market vendor Chhun Leng said, vendors are now more optimistic that the market is not slated for development.

"Now I feel confident to do business because I am not afraid I will be moved. When my district chief promised us, I didn't believe it 100 percent, but now, I believe it 100 percent," he said.

However, according to an Olympic Market vendor, doubts remain with some stall owners.

Muth Phong told the Post that Hun Sen's decree was designed to stop people from protesting market-development projects, which he says are inevitable.

"Developing countries can't keep their old markets ... so they will continue," he said.
"The reason they stopped the market-development project was because vendors always protest when authorities want to develop.

"I do not believe the news [that development of markets has been stopped]. They just do this to make us feel confident for a while and later, they'll start [developing] again," he said.

In 2009, vendors have protested at Serei Pheap Market and Russian Market and at Boeung Chhouk Market and Mong Russey Market in Battambang after hearing about development plans.
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Tensions mount on border


Thai PM refuses to back down over Preah Vihear comments.

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday defended his request that UNESCO reconsider its listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site after being harshly criticised by Cambodian officials and accused of bolstering Thai military forces along the border.

"We are concerned that the moves by UNESCO may speed up conflicts, tensions or a border clash," Abhisit said during his weekend television programme.

But Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said that if UNESCO's World Heritage Committee decides to de-list the Preah Vihear temple complex, it would heighten border tensions, where gunbattles between Thai and Cambodian soldiers have left at least seven people dead over the last year.

"We don't understand these comments, whether they want to threaten Cambodia or want to send a message to the UNESCO committee, which will meet on June 23 in Spain," Hor Namhong told reporters at a press conference on Saturday. "I do not understand whether these speeches were made with a lack of thought or out of ignorance or because they want to cause trouble."

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre-long shared border, in part because the area is littered with land mines.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told Thai media Saturday that Thailand's objection to the unilateral World Heritage listing of the 11th-century temple is an issue between Thailand and UNESCO, and does not involve Cambodia.

Abhisit also said on Friday he would send his deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to explain their objections.

Hor Namhong said that the Thai comments have been backed up by a Thai military buildup, and that if the border dispute requires a military solution, Cambodia is ready.

"I heard that the Thai commander of Region 2 added more troops along the border, and they are on alert. I would like to stress that Cambodia is also prepared. If they want to seek a political resolution peacefully, if they want to use international laws, or if they want to seek a military resolution, we are already prepared in all ways." he said.

"Border fights have occurred twice, and if they want to send their troops to Cambodia for a third time, we welcome it," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An departed for Seville, Spain, on Saturday to attend the UNESCO meeting.

Colonel Om Phirom, chief of Heritage Police for Preah Vihear temple, said Sunday that tensions were growing along the border as Thai soldiers prepared heavy weapons and tanks.

"We can't conclude what will be happen at the front line because both sides are full of heavy weapons and ammunition. We are concerned that the explosions will be bigger this time, if a clash does occur," Om Phirom said.

"We are worried about the temple's safety because it was damaged by Thai soldiers' bullets in many places in the clashes between Thailand and Cambodia over the last year," he added.

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of military Region 4, said the activity started about two weeks before Abhisit's request to delist the temple.

"The Thai military right now at the front line and behind their front line is busy in their territory. Their activities for the last two weeks have been strange in this area, but we know what they want to do here," Sao Socheat said.

The World Court in 1962 ruled that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia, but 4.6 square kilometres of land surrounding the ruins remains in dispute.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cambodia FM: Thailand threatens Cambodia and UNESCO over Preah Vihear temple

Top Thai leaders are using the words to threaten Cambodia and UNESCO over listing Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site, a senior Cambodian official said on Saturday.

Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation told reporters at a press conference at the ministry that Thai prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister are using words of lack of thoughts on the matter of the belongs of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple and sending a threaten message to UNESCO before the meeting of World Heritage Committee to be held in Spain on June 23.

UNESCO agreed to register Perah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site of Cambodia in July 7, 2008. But since then from July 15, troops from both Cambodian and Thailand have confronted at the border near Preah Vihear temple.

Hor added that Thai leaders wanted to review about registering Preah Vihear temple (of Cambodia) with the Committee of World Heritage of UNESCO and also wanted to register jointly for Preah Vihear temple. "Preah Vihear temple and land surrounding areas belongs to Cambodia not Thailand according to the verdict of World Court's rule in 1962," Hor stressed.

"It is big mistake and serious one that were created by Thai leaders," he said, adding that they have spoken without thoughts.

"If they want to have armed conflicts for third time, we welcome," he said, adding "today we have known that Thai command for second region put their troops on alert, our troops also is ready for fighting, but so far the situation there is calm."

Moreover, Hor Namhong said "the border tension was caused by Thai side. We (Cambodia) want to resolve the border issue peacefully and friendly. But our effort made no result."

"Military tension has not occurred yet today, but tomorrow I do not know," Hor said, adding that Preah Vihear temple already registered as cultural and humanitarian matters for all people.
"We are ready to deal border issue with Thailand by using peaceful resolution, international law, military, or diplomatic ways," he noted.

According to Thai newspaper The Bangkok Post on Wednesday, that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit would request that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee review last year's decision to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site when the body convenes its annual meeting later this month in Spain. He would also request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia.
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Exploring Temples Outside Angkor

The crumbling ruins of Beng Mealea are a 90-minute drive from Angkor but a world away from the better-known area's tourist crush. (By John Burgess For The Washington Post)

Getting to Banteay Chhmar from Angkor takes about four hours, maybe longer. And in Cambodia you need to be game for some adventure, or at least for some delays. But other ancient sites beyond Angkor can be reached more quickly.

The 12th-century temple complex of Beng Mealea lies about 1 1/2 hours by road -- a good road -- east of Angkor. Being so close, it has some tourist bustle, but nothing like Angkor's.

The temple was built at roughly the same time as Angkor Wat and shares many of its style characteristics. Perhaps Beng Mealea was a trial lab for the better-known temple's style. Visit and you may wonder: If the ancient Khmers had Beng Mealea, why would they need Angkor Wat?

It's a mysterious maze of dark corridors and hidden chapels, of crumbling libraries and courtyards. For a true grasp of size, walk the temple's eastern causeway: You'll have to go close to half a mile, crossing a moat and passing holy ponds, before you come to steps and the remains of a platform that mark the temple's farthest limits.

Another site, Koh Ker, lies an hour and a half beyond Beng Mealea by a generally rough road. If you go, make sure to stop at the first bridge you come to, just a few hundred yards beyond Beng Mealea. In the streambed below is an ancient quarry; you can see the outlines of blocks of sandstone that were cut away, probably to be floated downstream to Beng Mealea.

Koh Ker is an area, not a single temple, that for centuries was a center of provincial culture. In A.D. 928, when its prince became King Jayavarman IV, the capital came to him, rather than vice versa, for reasons perhaps related to his feuding with the previous king.

Today Koh Ker has dozens of stone creations, some large and imposing, some small and intimate. The most spectacular is a complex that is three temples in one, including the Prang, the largest pyramid that Khmer architects built. Faced in sandstone, it has seven levels and stands about 115 feet tall. This was Jayavarman IV's state temple.

From that complex, we drove a circuit through wooded land, coming to smaller but still remarkable temples every few hundred yards. Prasat Krachap has many images of the god Shiva. Banteay Pichean has two brick towers standing in front of a collapsed central sanctuary. At those places and others, I encountered only a guard who was posted there to prevent art theft.

Without question, the most spectacular of the Khmer monuments outside Angkor is Preah Vihear, built atop a 1,700-foot cliff. The visitor ascends a long stone-paved avenue, arriving at ever-larger holy buildings. At the top is the main sanctuary and, a few steps beyond, a jaw-dropping view of Cambodian countryside.

But for now, Preah Vihear is best left off your schedule. Situated in Cambodia right at the border with Thailand, it has since last year been the scene of a military standoff between the two countries' soldiers. This is the latest flare-up in a long feud over the temple, which the World Court ruled in 1962 belonged to Cambodia.

But if on a future trip the soldiers have left, give thought to a visit. Going from Siem Reap is daunting: perhaps five hours each way over very rough roads, then a hike or motorcycle taxi in the heat up the cliff. Accommodations are minimal. The more comfortable and common way to reach the temple, assuming the border is open, is from Thailand. Thai tour companies can make the arrangements.
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Preah Vihear appeal 'targets UN, not Cambodia'


Thailand's objection to the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site is directed at the World Heritage Committee and Unesco and not at Cambodia, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

He said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, who will attend next week's World Heritage Committee meeting as an observer, would brief the panel's chairman beforehand regarding Thailand's objection to unilateral listing of the temple, which sits on the border between the two countries.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters yesterday that soldiers would be ready to defend their territory again if necessary.

"Cambodia welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations," Hor Namhong said. "[Border fighting] has happened twice ... If they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, they are welcome to," he said

"I hear the Thai second in command on the border has put his troops on alert, and I'd like to tell him that Cambodian soldiers are on alert too," Hor Namhong added.

The World Heritage Committee is part of the United Nations' Educa-tional, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

"This issue is between Thailand and the World Heritage Committee and Unesco, and not between Thailand and Cambodia," said Kasit, noting that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said that Cambodia was not involved.

Kasit declined to say whether the Thai action would affect the decision last year to register Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Hindu temple because it was up to the committee and Thailand was attending not as a member but as observer.

He said the meeting also had other matters on its agenda and might also act on Thailand's proposal of other historical sites for World Heritage status.

Abhisit said yesterday that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban would meet Cambo-dian Prime Minister Hun Sen next week in order to clarify Thailand's objection to the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple ruins as a World Heritage Site.

Abhisit said that he did not expect conflict between the two countries to worsen. The Cambodian leader last week expressed "deep regret" after Thailand announced its intention to ask the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, next week to review last year's decision.

Hun Sen said the issue had not been raised when Abhisit met him in Phnom Penh last week.

The Thai premier, however, expressed hope yesterday that after meeting Suthep in Cambodia Hun Sen would better understand Thailand's stance.

"I haven't talked to [Hun Sen] or the Cambodian ambassador, but I do not think this will worsen the situation and believe the discussion will clarify the matter," Abhisit said.

Suthep is also expected to discuss with Hun Sen the Thai-Cambodian demarcation of overlapping sea areas during his visit to Phnom Penh, according to Abhisit.

Unesco approved Cambodia's application for Preah Vihear to be designated a World Heritage site last July. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but armed clashes have since then occurred periodically near the temple, especially in a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Govt stands by renewed temple bid

Tea Banh on the attack, Hun Sen 'regrets move'


Newspaper section: NewsThe government has defended its renewed campaign against Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple, saying it could talk Phnom Penh into understanding Thailand's stance.

Thailand's decision to maintain its objection to the unilateral listing of the Khmer ruins as a World Heritage site has upset Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said he deeply regretted Thailand's position.

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday took the Thai government to task for raising the matter which he said was likely to mar bilateral attempts to resolve border disputes.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the government has "ways" to communicate with Cambodia to avert border tension and he believed that Hun Sen would understand.

"The cabinet has widely discussed the matter because we do not want any conflict. Still, we have to defend what we believe to be our legitimate rights," Mr Abhisit said.

"If he knows our intention, there is nothing for him to regret," he said of Hun Sen's comment.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand felt the need to renew the objection because the proceedings undertaken by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to manage the site were deemed to threaten Thailand's approach to mitigate border disputes.

"We understand that the World Heritage Committee mission is to preserve heritage sites so people have a chance to appreciate them, and that involves peace. Its objectives will not be met if its proceedings will lead to conflicts," the prime minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the matter was now between Thailand and Unesco, not between Thailand and Cambodia. "Unesco isn't doing it right. It is not about Cambodia," he said.

Mr Suthep said he would try to hold talks with Hun Sen. There would be no fresh disputes, he added.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Unesco to inform the organisation that it should seek permission from the Thai government if it wished to conduct any activities in the area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple.

After that, reports emerged that Unesco officials had inspected parts of the 4.6 sq km disputed area near the World Heritage site.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian defence minister said Thailand's renewed bid to oppose Phnom Penh's unilateral listing of Preah Vihear temple has left him at a loss.

"I cannot get myself to understand why the Thai government has to do this," he told the Bangkok Post.

Gen Tea Banh said Phnom Penh had not got wind of the Thai government's move, and that Mr Abhisit did not raise the issue during his visit to Cambodia last Friday.

He said the Thai government's move would only compound the border disputes both sides have long tried to resolve.

He declined to comment if the issue was related to Hun Sen's alleged close ties with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Gen Tea Banh also refuted the Thai government's claim that Cambodia had brought artillery and soldiers to the World Heritage site.

Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said the Thai-Cambodian border situation remained calm and both sides had agreed to adjust troop deployments to avoid violent confrontation.

He refused to comment on Hun Sen's dissatisfaction with the Thai government's stance, saying it was not his business to judge the Cambodian leader's remarks.

Second Army commander Lt Gen Wibulsak Neepal told troops in positions along the Thai-Cambodian border to stay alert.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said he would lead the Thai delegation to a World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, next week, to reiterate Thailand's objection to Cambodia's unilateral listing of the temple.

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Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam forge economic pact

Ministers from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) nations have endorsed a comprehensive plan of action to expand and strengthen cooperation in key areas, including energy and human resource development.

In a joint statement delivered at the 15th GMS Ministerial Conference in Petchburi province, Thailand, the ministers, from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, noted that despite current economic turmoil the six countries are making significant progress on a wide range of initiatives to advance economic development in the sub-region.

In the energy sector, the ministers endorsed a road map for the expansion of the existing cross-border energy trade, and for broader integration in the power sector, beyond electricity. The plan seeks to extend modern energy access to all GMS communities, not just through rural electrification schemes and off-grid power systems, but by enhancing cross-border energy integration, allowing countries to tap the sub-region’s diverse energy resource base that includes hydro, oil, gas and coal.

A more integrated energy system will help lower investment costs, reduce external dependence, improve energy security, diversify supply, and lower carbon emissions. The road map calls for supply side actions such as promoting energy efficiency and accelerating the development of renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources.

The ministers also endorsed a new human resources development plan that includes measures to promote safer labor migration; to strengthen communicable disease control; to bolster education and skills development across the subregion, and to combat human trafficking.

"The agreement to accelerate action on cross-border power trade and the development of renewable energy resources will boost energy security, through improved efficiency of energy use, while contributing to reduced greenhouse emissions in a subregion which is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change," said ADB Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood.

Mr. Greenwood congratulated the ministers for the progress made to date in controlling the spread of communicable diseases, and for strengthening the capabilities of the subregion to respond to the threat of disease outbreaks. He noted that improvements have been made against a backdrop of increased physical connectivity in the world, and the emergence of new global health threats.

Mr. Greenwood also noted that ADB would continue its support for improving the capacity of mid and senior-level civil service officials, and for strengthening subregional research institutions, both of which are critical to the GMS development agenda.

Over the next three years, GMS ministers said they will aim to implement the GMS cross-border transport agreement and other transport and trade initiatives, turn transport corridors into full-fledged economic zones, and target environmental improvements.
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