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Friday, July 03, 2009

Tensions Reportedly Rise at Preah Vihear Border

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer

Military sources said Thursday Thai troops have reinforced their positions along the contested border near Preah Vihear temple, adding tensions to a military standoff that has resulted in several skirmishes over the past year.

“A clash could have happened this afternoon, at 3 pm, but finally tensions were abated,” one officer stationed in Preah Vihear province said Thursday.

On Wednesday night, Thai soldiers arrived in five trucks at the entry of Preah Vihear temple, which is at the center of the disputes that were sparked when the temple was added to a Unesco World Heritage list in July last year.

Cambodian soldiers barred about 10 Thai soldiers from entering an encampment near Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, which has been occupied by Thai soldiers since July 15, 2008, the officer said, requesting anonymity.

“They came with their truck lights switched off,” he said.

Other military sources said Thai soldiers had reinforced positions near Ta Thao gate, at the entry of the 11th-Century temple, near two areas where fighting occurred in 2008, namely Sambok Khmom and Veal Intry, or Eagle Field.

Gen. Pol Saroun, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, downplayed the rising tensions between the military.

Lt. Gen. Chhom Socheat, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Defense, said the situation on the border was “normal” on both sides.

In meetings between regional military commanders Wednesday, the Cambodian side urged the Thais to withdraw troops from nearby the pagoda, Sambok Khmom and other areas around the temple, Chhom Socheat said.

Thai commanders said they would take the request under consideration, he added.

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Opposition Seeks Visit of Jailed Journalist

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday made a request to Phnom Penh court to visit a jailed opposition journalist who arrested following a verdict last week he had printed false information about a senior official.

Hang Chakra, chief of the Khmer Mchas Srok newspaper, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined $2,195, after publishing reports in April and May that implicated Council Minister Sok An in corrupt practices.

Sok An, who is responsible for some of the nation’s most important matters, including the Khmer Rouge tribunal and offshore oil exploration, filed suit, alleging the articles could affect political stability, as they were written about government leaders.

Police arrested Hang Chakra immediately after the verdict was announced, June 26.

“We want to visit him and ask him about some affairs about the arrest,” Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann told VOA Khmer Thursday.

Chhoung Chu Ngy, Hang Chakra’s lawyer, said he had requested release on the grounds that his detention was unjust. He also said he plans to appeal the verdict.

Chiv Keng, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and judge Din Sivuthy, who handled the case, could not be reached for comment, but a court official who asked not to be named said the court was considering the visitation request.

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Thailand, Cambodia start military reduction at border

BANGKOK, July 3 — Thailand and Cambodia are starting to reduce the number of military personnel deployed along the shared border on Friday to ease tension between the two neighboring countries, according to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

Mr. Suthep asked the villagers not to panic about the border situation and affirmed he is quite confident in Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's affirmation to do everything possible to ease border tensions.

The Thai deputy prime minister visited Cambodia last Saturday and met with Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, who asked him to convey the message to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai people that Cambodia would try to ease tensions along the border to create a good atmosphere to foster bilateral economic cooperation and good relations.

Mr. Suthep said starting Friday, Thailand and Cambodia would begin to readjust their forces near the ancient Preah Vihear temple to avoid confrontation.

The Thai deputy prime minister said he would visit Cambodia again on Saturday, and expects to meet Mr. Hun Sen for further talks.

"Both governments are responsible to run their countries,” Mr. Suthep said, “so we should trust in each country's affirmation, or what they say, as we are sincere with each other. We have a strong determination to make the people of both nations have good understanding with each other.” (PNA/TNA)

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Cambodia says it gave UN a plan for Preah Vihear in April

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Cambodian authorities have dismissed a claim by Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti in the dispute over the drawing up of a plan to "safeguard and develop" the Preah Vihear Temple. Cambodia says Phnom Penh submitted the plan in April.
Suwit said earlier, after the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Spain, that the committee had delayed its decision to take up the Preah Vihear issue since Cambodia had not yet completed its management plan.

Hang Soth, the general director of Cambodia's Preah Vihear National Authority, said Cambodia had submitted conservation plans to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on April 4.

"We don't understand why Thai leaders have said Cambodia has until next year to submit the plan," Hang Soth was quoted as saying by the Phnom Penh Post as seen yesterday on its website.

"We have already submitted our projects … Cambodians made the temple. Why can't we conserve it?" he said.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Thai statements were meant to cover up their failure at the Unesco meeting in Spain, where they were unable to get their challenge to the Preah Vihear plan on the agenda.

"The Thai leaders' comments are just to hide their failure to review the listing," he said.

The World Heritage Committee meeting in Spain on June 23-30 issued its decision 33COM 7B.74, which has been seen by The Nation and does indeed say that Cambodia submitted its report for the safeguarding and development of the temple in April and the committee reviewed it on April 24.

The committee made a request to the State Party (Cambodia) to submit to the World Heritage Centre by February 1, 2010, a report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations by the committee in its decision 32COM 8B.102, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.

In fact there is no extension of a timetable, as February 2010 was mentioned in the previous decision in the 32nd session in Quebec, in paragraph 16, saying: "further requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Centre by February 2010, for submission to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010, a full management plan for the inscribed property, including a finalised map".
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Khmer Rouge henchman denied bail

Judges rejected the former Khmer Rouge head of state's appeal for release from jail before his trial at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court.

Khieu Samphan, 77, who is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, is one of five top cadres being held by the tribunal over atrocities committed during the regime's 1975-1979 rule.

The former leader appealed in April to be let out of jail but judges ruled his detention was necessary to protect his security and preserve public order.

"There continue to be well founded reasons to believe that the charged person may have committed the crimes with which he has been charged," said the pre-trial chamber ruling.

"The charged person attended at least one meeting where the situation of traitors and their potential execution was discussed," it added.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the Khmer Rouge regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling the population to vast collective farms in its bid for a communist utopia.

The ongoing first Khmer Rouge trial began in February, when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

Khieu Samphan was arrested in 2007 but no date has been set for his trial with three other leaders, which is expected to take place next year.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of fractious talks between the Government and United Nations over how to prosecute the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

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