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Monday, May 11, 2009

Cambodia demands compensation from Thailand for losses caused by Thai troops in Preah Vihear

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian government presents its complaints to Thailand on Monday, demanding compensation for the damage and losses caused by Thai troops' attack early April on its market located in front of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

"The attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops against Cambodian territory in the area close to the Temple of Preah Vihear on April 3 caused numerous damages and set a blaze the Cambodian market located in front of the temple," a note from Cambodian foreign ministry to Thailand foreign ministry said.

"A total number of 264 stands within this market were completely destroyed, causing great hardship and misery to 319 Cambodian families who have lost their livelihood," it said, adding that "the material loss incurred on these families amounts to 2,150,500 U.S. dollars."

"The Royal Government of Cambodia demands that the Royal Thai Government take full responsibility for these damages caused by Thai soldiers and to appropriately compensate the above losses," the ministry statement said.

The Preah Vihear temple became a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in July 2008. Although the International Court in Hague decided in 1962 that the temple and its surrounding area should belong to Cambodia, Thailand has been claiming its archeological value and sovereignty.

Both troops built up within the border area since July 2008, and brief military encounters in October 2008 and April 2009 have sparked concern of possible war between these two countries. Gunfire exchange during the armed clashes also led to bullet pits and other slight wound of the temple.
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Cambodia, S Korea to sign bilateral co-op agreements

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian and South Korean governments will sign six agreements during the official visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to the South Korea in late May, national media said on Monday.

The six agreements will include grant to Cambodia, loans for Cambodia's road rehabilitation, waste water treatment, Siem Reap River's development and cooperation in the fields of construction, energy, mines and communications, according to Cambodia's state-run news agency AKP (the Agence Kampuchea Presse).

Premier Hun Sen will also attend the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit and make a speech on the occasion during his stay in South Korea.

According to Lee Youn-joon, South Korean deputy minister of foreign affairs, the South Korean foreign minister will visit Cambodia in July, while the South-Korean president will pay a state visit to the country in October.

South Korea became the largest foreign investing country in Cambodia in 2007, according to official statistics.
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Son recalls LI veteran held captive in Cambodia

Left, Vietnam POW Captain David Baker holds his son, David Baker Jr., 3, and chats with his father in 1973. Right, David Baker Jr. today. (Newsday File Photo / Bill Senft)


BY MARTIN C. EVANS

The photograph hangs in the dining room of the Bethesda, Md., home of David Baker Jr. It shows a little boy looking up with curious wonder at a father he was too young at the time to remember.

The photograph was taken at Kennedy Airport on March 16, 1973, when Baker was 2 and his Air Force pilot father had just been released after nearly a year in a prisoner-of-war camp in Cambodia. The son's memories were so slim that he actually asked the man if he really was his father.

Now, nearly four decades later, the son is preparing to bury his father, retired Brig. Gen. David Baker Sr., at a ceremony scheduled for Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where the nation's military heroes are laid to rest.

But as he does, memories return of a father who survived captivity in the snake-ridden jungles of Southeast Asia, then spent much of the rest of his life nurturing a family and a military career that fate had nearly snatched from him.

Huntington High grad

The senior Baker graduated from Huntington High School in 1964, and from Hofstra University four years later. He retired in 1997 as a deputy director for military education to the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff. He died of heart failure on Jan. 29 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington. He was 62.

"Absolutely, it's comforting to me," Baker said of the photograph, taken by Newsday photographer Bill Senft, who is now retired. "I was able to grow up with a dad; whereas, looking at the photograph, it could have been quite different. He was able to come back to his family.

"There will be a flood of emotions," said Baker, anticipating what his feelings will be at the Arlington ceremony. "Missing him, wishing we had had more time together, thinking that my daughter didn't have the chance to get to know him better."

Baker's daughter, Emily, was born in 2002.

The elder Baker lived a storied military life. On June 17, 1972, he was a 25-year-old Air Force captain serving in Southeast Asia. His wife, Carol, and their toddler son were back home in Huntington. Assigned a target-spotting mission, he boarded a single-prop Cessna and flew low and slow over the jungles of Cambodia.

A surface-to-air missile sliced through the airplane's tail, forcing him to parachute 4,000 feet to the jungle floor, where the Viet Cong waited for him. Shot in his right leg and right hand, he was captured within minutes of reaching the ground.

He spent the next eight months in captivity, alternately dragged on display through remote villages, bound and interrogated by his captors, or held in cramped, half-buried cages that were hidden from view by the jungle's canopy.

He told Newsday in an interview after his release that water would partly fill the cages during monsoon downpours, and poisonous snakes would slither in during the night. To the very end of his life, he avoided movies in which snakes appeared.

But he seized life anew when a 1973 accord with the North Vietnamese government led to the release of some 140 American troops held as prisoners.

He returned home to his family - landing at Kennedy Airport, where Senft took the picture of Baker Sr. walking down a long corridor with his young son. He had received several medals including the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The elder Baker went on to get master of business administration degree at the University of Hawaii in 1974, then resumed an Air Force career that eventually saw him become the only Air Force POW from the Vietnam era to fly missions over Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. He did so while serving as deputy commander of operations for two tactical fighter wings operating out of Saudi Arabia.

In 1994, he was promoted to brigadier general and appointed a vice director of operational plans to the Joint Chiefs. His son said the time in captivity had been so stressful that his father continued to have nightmares until the end of his life.

Although General Baker was often reluctant to share some of his more painful memories, his son said he always found ways to remain open to his family.

He juggled a military career in which he flew jet fighters, then came home to play baseball with his grade-school son. Later, father and son worked together to restore a 1977 Camaro, and frequently traveled to car races. After retiring from the military in 1997, General Baker began a second career with a financial consulting company to help provide for his younger son, Christopher, who is now 30.

Thoughts of family may have helped

"I have to believe that there were times while he was in that cage when he said, 'If I ever get out of here, that is what I want to do,' " said Baker, 38.

Gen. Baker will be buried with family keepsakes - a favorite watch, a heart-shaped necklace that was one of his first gifts to his wife, who lives in Mitchellville, Md., and a crayon drawing by Emily depicting herself and family members holding hands.

Baker said he believes his father maintained an appreciation for the second chance at life that his wartime repatriation offered.

That feeling was driven home a few years ago when the younger Baker hung Senft's photograph on his dining room wall.

"He was silent looking at it," Baker recalled of his father's reaction. "I have to think he was thanking his lucky stars that he was able to come home and be a part of that picture."

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Britain garment manufacturer moves operations to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, A major garment manufacturer will move its product development center from the United Kingdom to Cambodia, a sign, according to some experts, that despite the effects of the economic crisis, the Cambodian garment sector continues to remain internationally competitive, local media reported on Monday.

Britain company New Island Clothing is setting up "a high level standards product development center," making the company one of the first to conduct the whole garment-production process -- from development to the placement of orders -- in Cambodia, New Island General Manager Kevin Plenty was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying.

The company, which has been in Cambodia for nine years and produces up to 75,000 men's shirts per week, had decided to set up the center here because it makes "the whole production process quicker for our customers," as the majority of materials come from the ASEAN region, said Plenty.

Kaing Monika, external affairs manager of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said New Island's strategy showed the factory's "long-term vision and commitment in Cambodia," adding that most Cambodian factories only do "cut, make and trim" -- a production formula in which raw materials and designs are supplied and factories only really stitch the clothes together.

Tuomo Poutiainen, chief technical adviser for the International Labor Organization's garment sector program Better Factories Cambodia, said New Island's decision was "very positive for industry" and showed there was "enough confidence in the Cambodian garment sector to invest even in bad times."

Hundreds of factories have constituted the backbone of the garment sector of Cambodia, which used to generate above 70 percent of its total annual export volumes.

However, due to the global financial crisis and rising labor disputes, at least 60 garment factories have been closed and more than 50,000 garment workers lost their jobs since late 2008 and the sector's export volumes have also seen an obvious slide in the first quarter of this year.

But Plenty said he believed that the industry will see an economic turnaround within six months, and that he is not the only one within the garment industry to feel that way.


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