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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cambodia takes over Thailand-run company as row deepens

Cambodia has taken over the running of the country's Thai-owned air traffic control firm, in a deepening row between the two neighbouring countries.

Cambodia also barred all Thai employees from turning up for work and put a Cambodian national in temporary charge.

The move comes a day after a Thai engineer working for the firm in Phnom Penh was formally charged with spying.

It is said he passed on details of last week's flight to Cambodia by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin, who is wanted in Thailand to serve a jail sentence for corruption, spent five days in Cambodia in his new role as an economic adviser.

'Seizing firm'

On Thursday, the government in Phnom Penh appointed a senior Cambodian civil servant in temporary charge of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (Cats) - a Thai-owned and Thai-operated firm.

It also suspended all Thai nationals from performing their duties.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya urged Cambodia to respect bilateral deals, regulating the running of Cats.

"The ministry is waiting for reports from the Thai embassy and we will also have to get clarification from the Cambodian government. If it violates bilateral agreements, then we will find way to proceed," the minister told reporters.

"Cambodia is a market economy. Just seizing (a firm) would not seem right," he added.

Internal politics

Phnom Penh's move is said to be temporary pending the outcome of a legal case against a Thai engineer who works for the company, the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok reports.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, a Cats employee, was on Wednesday charged with spying.

He is currently under arrest, accused of passing the flight details of Mr Thaksin to a Thai diplomat.

Mr Thaksin's presence across the border infuriated the Thai government, which claims he should have been extradited to serve a two-year jail term.

The former Thai prime minister was ousted in a coup in 2006, and subsequently found guilty in absentia on conflict of interest charges.

Local newspaper reports in Thailand suggest the current Thai government and Mr Thaksin are now competing to offer help to the detained engineer and his family, our correspondent says.

Rachel Harvey adds that this is an indication that the row is as much about the internal politics of Thailand as it is about cross-border rivalries.
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U.N. says Cambodian troops to aid in Chad

N'DJAMENA, Chad, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The United Nations said Thursday 42 Cambodian troops have arrived in Chad to provide security and humanitarian help there and in the Central African Republic.

The United Nations said in a release that in addition to facilitating humanitarian aid in the African countries, the Cambodian troops will help protect civilians and help in the relocation of U.N. personnel and logistic assets.

The eastern portion of Chad is serving as a refuge for 160,000 displaced Chad residents and nearly 250,000 refugees from the Sudan's Darfur region,.

A number of refugees also fled armed conflict in Darfur in the northern part of the Central African Republic.

The United Nations has been helping the refugees since 2005.

The international organization said equipment difficulties encountered by some participating countries have left the U.N. mission operating at 53 percent of its authorized strength, or 2,750 troops.
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Thailand and Cambodia are not enemies : Panitan

By The Nation

Thailand should re-establish diplomatic ties with Cambodia for the country's interest, it was agreed at yesterday's seminar on bilateral ties.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, the caretaker government spokesman, said that the current spat between the two countries was merely political. The two countries were no enemies and there should be no concern of a war between them, he added.

"The relationships in other aspects, including trade and investment, remain unchanged. At present, Thailand is Cambodia's seventh largest trading partner," he said.

He was speaking at a panel discussion on "Stop, pull in or open a battle: Thai-Cambodian ties amidst the Thai political conflict", which was organised at Chulalongkorn University.

Panitan, formerly a lecturer at the university, said the current conflict required cooperation from the two countries in order to solve it in a diplomatic way.

Former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisang said during the panel discussion that the new round of conflict was caused by "a severe wave of nationalism" in both countries.

"All the parties involved should find out a common solution in order to protect the country's interest," he said.

Chaturon, an ally of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said the government's decision to cancel a bilateral agreement on maritime overlapping area with Cambodia would cause Thailand to lose rather than gain. He said it was a wrong strategy to freeze Thailand's aid to Cambodia.

Surachai Sirikrai, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University, agreed that Thailand should retain good ties with Cambodia at a time when East Asian is consolidating economically.

"But the problem is that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has interfered with Thailand's politics, which is against the rules of Asean," he said.

The academic said it appeared Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as his government's economic adviser intentionally to coincide with Cambodia's renewed border conflict with Thailand involving the listing of the Preah Vihear temple ruins as a Unesco World Heritage site.

General Waipoj Srinuan, former deputy permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, told the seminar that Thailand should prevent the conflict with Cambodia from expanding and try to normalise the relationships with the neighbouring country.

He blamed Thailand's "weak foreign policies" for Cambodia's latest "attack" on the country's politics.

The retired general said that Cambodia, which has long been viewed as undeveloped, appeared to be trying to win acceptance from the world community.

He asked Thailand not to use developed countries' bullying tactic with Cambodia but instead should treat the neighbouring country with respect. "To bully them will cause the conflict to expand," he said.
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PM: Cambodia, Jatuporn sharing info

The Cambodian government and opposition Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Prompan could be sharing information, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core member Jatuporn earlier claimed that he had an audio tape of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering the Thai embassy's first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, to find out Thaksin's flight schedule.

"I believe Mr Jatuporn and Cambodia have constantly been in contact. I hope the person behind this will regain a sense of conscience and won't trade off the country's interests to Cambodia," the prime minister said.

"If Thaksin crosses the border into Thailand through the Northeast, he must be face his punishment if the law is to be preserved."

He said the government had no intention of playing political games with the red-shirts, and he was confident the UDD's anti-government rallies would not turn violent.

"I believe the UDD's plan to topple the government by Dec 3 will not succeed, because people want peace," he said. "The government will evaluate the situation again before deciding whether to apply the Internal Security Act during the protests."
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Spread of artemisinin resistance may hinder efforts to control malaria

As resistance to the antimalarial drug artemisinin increases, efforts to control malaria may be threatened, according to experts who spoke at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's 58th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Currently, the bulk of artemisinin resistance has been observed near the border between Cambodia and Thailand. But experts are warning that it could soon spread throughout Southeast Asia, hampering malaria control efforts in the region and elsewhere.

"Artemisinin combination therapies are the most rapidly and reliably effective treatments for malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is responsible for the vast majority of malaria-related illnesses and deaths," Pascal Ringwald, MD, director of antimalarial drug resistance surveillance at WHO, said. "The loss of artemisinin derivatives to resistance could have a devastating effect on health in tropical countries and would threaten current global efforts to eliminate malaria."

Ringwald said WHO officials first noticed evidence of artemisinin resistance in Cambodia and Thailand after receiving reports about increases in clearance times in patients with malaria treated with artemisinin combination therapies. "These drugs are designed to kill the parasites within 24 to 48 hours, but we are finding that it sometimes takes four or five days to kill them," Ringwald said. "In some studies, half of the parasites are not killed within 72 hours after the beginning of treatment, which indicates a growing resistance problem."

Ringwald added that artemisinin resistance is particularly problematic because there are few antimalarial drugs currently in development that could, if necessary, replace artemisinin in terms of effectiveness.

However, Ringwald also stressed that although artemisinin resistance is a growing concern and health officials are monitoring of the situation, the "vast majority" of patients with malaria throughout the world are still being treated and cured with artemisinin-based therapies.

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