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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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