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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thailand-Cambodia Relations Sink Further

By Staff

Thailand moved a step closer to breaking off relations with Cambodia after Phnom Penh officially refused to extradite former Thai premier and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said all relations with Cambodia are now being reviewed, a report in the Bangkok Post said.

In an effort to allay fears of military confrontation, he said Thailand had no intention of using force against Cambodia and that border crossings would not be closed.

But he also said that border authorities would discourage Thais from crossing into Cambodia to gamble, an activity banned in Thailand. He did not say what form this persuasion would take

Thailand formally requested the extradition of Thaksin under an extradition treaty signed by both countries. But a diplomatic note from the Cambodian government on Tuesday said Phnom Penh cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because they believe his conviction in 2008 was political and not criminal.

Both countries recalled their respective ambassadors last week over the issue. Thailand also said it has torn up a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia that has formed the basis for talks to settle a nagging maritime boundary dispute. A settlement of the disagreement would allow both countries to start more development of oil and gas reserves.

Thaksin was ousted from power by a military coup in September 2006 but returned to Thailand when his political allies won power in 2007. His wife, Pojaman, was sentenced in 2008 to three years in jail for tax fraud, and soon after Thaksin, 60, received a two-year sentence. He fled before handing himself in, leaving an estimated $2 billion in frozen assets.

Vejjajiva, 45, heads a large coalition government and fears Thaksin could pose a credible election threat if he returns to the country after appearing to be rehabilitated.

Cambodia has not been shy of putting Thaksin in front of the media. State television this week showed Thaksin and Prime Minister Hun Sen embracing each other. Hun Sen reportedly called Thaksin an "eternal friend."

A report in the Phnom Penh Post newspaper said today that government representatives greeted Thaksin at the airport on Tuesday, saying "it was an honor for the people and the country of Cambodia."

The report did not say from where he had arrived but did say he would be staying until Thursday at least. He was then taken to a house in the capital that was going to be his while he remains an economic adviser to Hun Sen. The Phnom Penh Post also printed several pictures of the two smiling and shaking hands.

Thaksin's relationship with his homeland could get more disputatious, thanks to a recent interview published in the British newspaper The Times.

Thaksin has ordered his lawyers to investigate what he believes are misquotes that show him calling for a revamping of Thailand's monarchy system of government and by extension the position of the king.

Such language could be used against him in a Thai court under lese majeste laws that make it illegal to speak disrespectfully against King Bhumibol, 81, who is ailing in a Bangkok hospital.

Many people including journalists and tourists have fallen foul of the law and ended up in jail. (c) UPI
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Cambodia Rejects Thailand's Request To Extradite Thaksin

(RTTNews) - Cambodia on Wednesday rejected a formal request made by Thailand for the extradition of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been convicted of corruption charges in his home country.

Earlier in the day, three Thai diplomats handed over a formal request for the detention and extradition of Thaksin to Cambodia's foreign ministry. However, the Cambodian ministry rejected the request within hours of its submission.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said in a statement later that the Thailand's request was not covered by the extradition treaty between the two countries as it considers the conviction of Thaksin on corruption charges to be politically motivated. The statement added that the toppling of the former Thai PM by the country's military came despite Thaksin being "overwhelmingly and democratically elected by the Thai people".

The Thai request for the extradition of Thaksin came after the former Thai Prime Minister arrived in Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh on Tuesday to take up a position as an economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Thaksin had served as Thailand's Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, before being toppled in a military coup. He has been living in self-imposed exile, mainly in Dubai, after the military ousted him a coup in September 2006, accusing the former PM of corruption.

The military controlled the country for a short period until new elections in 2007 December brought Thaksin's allies back into power. Soon afterwards, Thaksin returned to his home country, but was sentenced to two years in absentia for corruption after he went into exile again.
The present Thai government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came into power in December in a special parliamentary vote after the country's constitutional court ousted Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, an ally of Thaksin, from office and disbanded his ruling People Power Party (PPP) over electoral fraud.

The latest diplomatic row over Thaksin's extradition comes as relations between Thailand and Cambodia are already strained over a disputed ancient temple on their border. Both the countries claim ownership of the temple, which is located inside Cambodian territory. However, the main approach to the temple is from Thailand.

The long-standing dispute over the Preah Vihear border temple began after International Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, and escalated after Unesco listed it as a World Heritage Site recently. The dispute has led to several clashes between the armies of the two countries near the site of the border temple.

by RTT Staff Writer
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'Heroes don't want to be heroes'

Spc. Jerry Miron with his scout dog, Rebel, during the Vietnam War. - Submitted photo

by Kristine Goodrich
Staff Writer

MAPLEWOOD – Jerry Miron declined the first few invitations to give a Veterans Day presentation at Hill-Murray School. Memories of his year in Vietnam leading troops as a scout dog handler still were too raw to talk about.

“When you put your life on the line every day, when you see friends die next to you, then told to get up and start all over again, you have memories that never leave you,” he said.

Miron, a White Bear Lake resident, still refuses to talk about the air strikes, ambushes, booby traps and other harrowing experiences. Even his family hasn’t heard those details.

But after some coaxing by school leaders and family he finally agreed to share some of his memories. For more than a decade now he’s come to his daughters’ former school to share some aspects of a soldier’s experience in the Vietnam War.

“I didn’t want to talk,” he said. “But if I can help them understand what the soldiers went through and how cruel war is; then it’s worth it.”

A St. Paul native, Miron was drafted into the Army soon after high school in 1967. His two older brothers had already served in the military — one in Vietnam and one in Germany. His younger brother enlisted when he was drafted and they trained together: basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky. and advanced infantry training at Fort McClellan, Ala.

“You’re taught to kill,” Miron said.

At Fort Benning, Ga., he was paired with Rebel, a German Shepard who’d already served three tours in Vietnam and had been featured in Time Magazine. After just three months training they were deployed to Vietnam where they were dispatched into the jungles with various Army units.
Miron and Rebel walked at the head of the patrols and Rebel gave a silent warning of upcoming danger. He could detect enemy camps well in the distance, hiding Viet Cong soldiers, food and weapons caches and booby traps.

Once a commander didn’t believe when Rebel warned of an ambush ahead. The commander sent five men ahead to inspect. All five were killed.

Miron and Rebel survived the attacks and traps, as well as the monsoons, scorpion bites and other hazards.

After approximately 30 days out in the field, Miron had five days leave to rest and train his dog. Basketball and barbequing were the most popular free time activities at base camp.

Mail arrived once every 10 days and Miron subscribed to the St. Paul newspaper. He was in Cambodia when he received his first paper. It featured an article with President Richard Nixon denying U.S. troops were in Cambodia.

Like other draftees, Miron returned home after a year in Vietnam and wasn’t warmly received by the public majority, which disapproved of the war.

“We were treated like garbage,” he said. “We got kicked in the face and it wasn’t right.”

Miron went on to Mankato State College and works from home as a commercial mortgage broker.

Along with war stories, Miron tells students about his heroes.

He lauds the servicemen and women in Operation Enduring Freedom who volunteer to serve multiple tours of duty.

“I can’t imagine having to go back,” he said.

The family members at home left to worry also are heroes, he said. His mother is his personal hero. She was a World War II bride. Her husband was gone in the military two of their nine years of marriage.

Jerry Miron’s father died in a farming accident when he was a toddler, leaving his mother with six children to raise on her own, four of whom served in the military.

“Heroes don’t want to be heroes,” he said. “They don’t think they are heroes. They were thrust into a situation and just responded.”
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