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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

2000 Border Agreement a Disadvantage: Expert

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington

A 2000 border agreement signed between Cambodia and Thailand is not likely to yield results in longstanding disputes, a former minister told VOA Khmer.

The agreement put Cambodia at a disadvantage, and border negotiations will face endless crises, said Sean Pengse, former Minister of Industry and a border expert.

After Cambodia regained peace and the reintegration of Khmer Rouge fighters into society, border trade flourished, and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2000.

However, it would have been better for Cambodia to negotiate on the border from a position of a 1962 international court decision, which “set a clear border with no white zones,” Sean Pengse said. “Why are there now white zones? Why should Cambodia neogtiate? I believe Cambodia’s voice in the negotiation is useless, because we beg aid form them. Our country is small, and we should use international law, from which we previously had an advantage.”

The 2000 agreement led to the white zones, or disputed areas, he said, giving Thailand the chance to argue against rebuilding a market near Preah Vihear temple.

The temple is at the center of a military border standoff that has claimed seven lives so far. The market was destroyed in fighting earlier this year.

“The Phnom Penh government claims that I speak groundlessly about the MOU,” he said. “Now Thailand isn’t allowing us to rebuild the market that they burned down. They have warned us against rebuilding it, citing contradiction to the MOU. The Cambodian government didn’t realize the MOU contradicted our interests. If Cambodia wishes to develop anything at Preah Vihear temple, [the Thais] warn us it is a white zone.”

However, Var Kimhong, chairman of Cambodia’s border committee, denied the 2000 agreement included areas of Preah Vihear temple as white zones. The agreement was over cooperation on border demarcation for 805 kilometers from the Dangrek mountains to the sea, he said, adding that Sean Pengse’s claims are contradictory to the facts.

“He shouldn’t make comments if he doesn’t know the truth,” Var Kimhong said.

Thailand “warned us against rebuilding the market, claiming we were violating Article 5 of the 2000 MOU,” he said. “We responded to Thailand, explaining that we are rebuilding the market on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in honor of Article 5 of the MOU to keep the status quo before the MOU. The MOU was signed June 14, 2000. The market had been there since 1998.”

Many Thais objected to Cambodia’s bid to enlist the temple as a Unesco World Heritage Site. When it was listed in July 2008, pro the current military standoff began.

Sean Pengse said that Thailand has in the past and is now currently using negotiation time for its own interests.

“Thailand doesn’t want us to file a complaint with the international court,” he said. “The 2000 MOU states that the border dispute should be discussed. This deprives us of our right to file a complaint.”

However, Var Kimhong said the agreement has not lost groud for Cambodia and honors the 1962 agreement.

“If you read the 2000 MOU, you would see that it refers to all previous treaties, conventions and maps since 1907,” he said.

The government was seeking joint cooperation on border demarcation as its primary choice, in the name of being a good neighbor, he said. It has not deprived itself the right to complain on border demarcation contrary to a map signed between the French and Thailand.

Sean Pengse worries that negotiations will drag on and more serious incidents will ensue.

After regaining independence from France in 1954, Cambodia reclaimed Preah Vihear from Thailand, after regaining several lost provinces, such as Battambang and Siem Reap. Disputes over the temple escalated, including a severing of diplomatic ties between the two in 1958. Cambodia lodged a complaint with the international court, which decided in 1962 Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.

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Cambodia Angkor Air receives Airbus A321

Cambodia Angkor Air, the new national carrier, has just received its first Airbus A321 to join its fleet of two ATR 72 planes for services between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.

Launched with the help of Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air started operations late in July this year after the collapse of former national carrier Royal Air Cambodge in 2001.

“In operating the new aircraft, we will triple return flights between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City - so now 21 flights a week - and double return flights between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh,” said Soy Sokhan, Secretariat of Civil Aviation Undersecretary of State, to local media.

Flown in a two class configuration, Cambodia Angkor Air intends to seat 16 in Business Class and 168 in Economy Class for its Airbus A321-184 aircarft.

Cambodia Angkor Air has previously said it aims to increase its fleet to ten aircraft by 2015.
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Cambodia invests in packaging to boost rice exports

Cambodian rice farmers are turning to new packaging facilities to help boost export sales, according to local media.

Cambodia is looking to begin exporting 200,000 tonnes of milled rice next year and has invested in new facilities to help achieve that goal. Milled rice is said to have a higher value and more markets than unmilled rice.

The Phnom Penh Times reported that the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Association had invested $7.8m in a milled-rice packaging plant in Battambang province.

The plant is 90% complete and is scheduled to go on line in December. It uses Japanese technology and will be able to pack 720 tonnes of rice a day.

Federation president Phou Puy said: "We hope that when the plant is finished, it will play an important role in supporting Cambodia's plant to export in a more competitive manner."

The new facility echoes Clifton Packaging's scheme to improve the packaging of food in Africa to secure better prices on the export market. For more on the 'Buy African, Build Africa' scheme.
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Thai Parliament approves gov't talks of boundary demarcation with Cambodia

The Thai Parliament approved Wednesday reports of Thailand-Cambodia joint boundary commission, which will give a go-ahead to boundary demarcation at the disputed border area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The joint session between the Thai lower and upper house in a closed-door meeting voted in favor of the reports 306 against 6, The Nation newspaper's website reported.

The Thai cabinet submitted for the parliament approval the three agreed-minutes of Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC), which is required by the article 190 of Thailand's Constitution.

The JBC was activated to clear the boundary line and set provisional arrangement to jointly run the disputed area as long as the border demarcation has not finished yet.

In November last year and February and April this year, the JBC met to set frameworks for the boundary demarcation and provisional arrangement at the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple.

However, the Thai government needs to report to the parliament approval prior to any further discussion with Cambodia.

The two neighboring countries had a brief military conflicts in the disputed area adjacent to the temple this year.

Source: Xinhua
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US official applauds Cambodia for arresting paedophiles

US official praised Cambodia Wednesday for its efforts against foreign paedophiles but urged the government to work on prosecuting more sex traffickers.

Luis CdeBaca, director of the US state department's office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, told reporters he had asked Cambodian officials to go after those "who had provided the victims to the foreign paedophiles".

He said the US hoped to work with the Cambodian government to investigate and prosecute sex traffickers, after the two countries cooperated to fly home three American men accused of sexually abusing children in Cambodia.

"We applaud the government for the action that they have taken so far," he said during a press briefing.

"Another party to that crime remains here in Cambodia and that would be the brothel owners who were selling the children to these paedophiles," CdeBaca added.

Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, and Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, both from California, were arrested along with 75-year-old Jack Louis Sporich from Arizona by Cambodian police in February.

Authorities in the US said Tuesday that the trio had been flown home and would be charged, vowing a renewed effort to stop US paedophiles from going to Cambodia.

The Southeast Asian country has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes or deporting them to face trial in their home countries since 2003.

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Unique Cambodian Mototaxi Driver

Cambodia is well known for its taxis and Tuks Tuks, but it’s a small motodop that Um Chanthon drives. She’s one of the few females in the world of mototaxis, an industry traditionally dominated by male drivers.

Um became a motodop driver nine years ago, after her marriage ended in divorce.

She started working to support her family, including her mother, her two sons and a nephew.

[Um Chanthon, Motodop Driver]:
"Each morning I get up early to clean my motorbike and prepare the gears for my daily work.”

And it doesn’t faze Chanthon in the least that she’s one of the only women doing it. Her male colleagues even praise her for it.

[Chan Ti, Motodop Driver]:
"She is more courageous than us that she can do our work. I praise her heart that she can do this work to support her family after being separated from her husband."

Chanthon gets more female customers than her male counterparts, as they trust her driving skills and want to help her.

[Von Sreyneang, Customer]:
"She is stronger than me because she can take more than one person, while I cannot even drive just myself properly.”

She gets about six customers a day, which allows her to earn an average of ten U.S. dollars per day.
Read more!