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Monday, November 30, 2009

Cambodia-Vietnam joint commission meeting to be held later this week

Cambodia and Vietnam are set to hold a joint commission meeting later this week in Cambodia's southwestern province of Sihanouk.

In a statement released on Monday, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said the 11th Meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission for Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Cooperation will be held in Preah Sihanouk Province from Dec. 3-4, 2009.

It said that Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem will lead a delegation to attend the meeting.

During his stay in Cambodia, Pham Gia Khiem will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hun Sen, and sign with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong on the agreed minutes of the meeting.
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Cambodia to consider bail request for Thai engineer on Friday

BANGKOK, A Cambodian court will hear Thailand's bail request bid on Friday for the Thai engineer in Phnom Penh on espionage charges and affirmed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had done its utmost to help him, according to MFA Department of Information director-general Vimon Kidchob.

Siwarak Chutipong, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was arrested by Cambodian police November 12 on charges of passing to Thai diplomatic officials what the Cambodian authorities considered as privileged information regarding the flight of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra when he made his recent visit.

Ms Vimon said she believed that Simarak na Nakon Panom, Mr Siwarak's mother, understood the procedure and had made an appointment with the Thai officials to go to Cambodia again next Monday (December 7 to hear the court's verdict) on the next day but she may want to visit him sooner.

However, Ms Vimon said that the mother had not informed the ministry of her desire to visit her son earlier than planned.

Mrs Simarak on Monday met former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama at Thailand’s opposition Puea Thai Party headquarters, seeking his assistance to get bail for her son and permission from Cambodia to visit him again.

She claimed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had moved too slowly for her to help her son.

Mr Noppadon, a legal adviser to convicted ex-premier Thaksin, said he would help her on a humanitarian basis by using his old connections in Phnom Penh to help Mrs Simarak see her son again and he did not want his move to be seen as a political issue. (TNA)

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US says to continue help Cambodia to fight HIV/AIDS

PHNOM PENH: The United States said on Monday that it will continue to help Cambodia in fighting against HIV/AIDS.

"The United States looks forward to continuing our support of successes like these and we are committed to furthering efforts that curb the spread of HIV in Cambodia," it said in a statement released here on Monday by its Embassy.

The US is considered as the largest bilateral HIV/AIDS donor in Cambodia, committing US $18 million in 2009 as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The US helped Cambodia cut its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate by half among the general population and by two thirds among brothel- based sex workers, a remarkable success story in the global fight against the disease.

The US assistance is also helping to provide life-saving antiretroviral medication to more than 31,000 Cambodians living with HIV/AIDS, reaching over 90 percent of those in need, the statement said.

Over the next five years, the United States will place a renewed emphasis on partnering with Cambodia to build the country' s national HIV/AIDS response, it added.
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Thaksin and Chavalit's Cambodia plan badly misfired

By Avudh Panananda
The Nation

After their best-laid plan went awry, two cunning schemers now find themselves left high and dry. Thaksin Shinawatra and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh have fallen off the political stage.

Until the two can come up with a new ploy to reclaim pole position, the role of playmaker has now been taken up by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In the next couple of months, Abhisit has a rare opportunity to rectify ailing politics. If he succeeds in his mission, then there is a glimmer of hope for overcoming Thaksin's gravitational pull.

Just a few short months ago, Thaksin and Chavalit acted and talked like they already had the world in the palms of their hands.

Chavalit stepped out of retirement to accept the Pheu Thai Party chairmanship. He confidently outlined his game plan designed to boost Thaksin's political standing.

He believed that he could overcome political polarisation if the pro-Thaksin camp could outshine the Democrat-led coalition.

Thaksin pulled strings with the red shirts and opposition lawmakers in order to orchestrate a showdown to dislodge the coalition.

It so happened that Thaksin and Chavalit found Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with a receptive ear to get involved in Thai politics and risk the good neighbourly ties.

Under the plan, the involvement of Hun Sen in the Thai political equation was supposed to be proof of Thaksin's superiority over Abhisit. But the plan backfired.

Friends and foes alike saw Thaksin and Chavalit as traitors, serving as Cambodian lapdogs instead of protecting Thai interests.

The very plan designed to destroy the prime minister yielded the opposite result. Abhisit received an all-time-high popularity rating.

Regardless of his experience as the longest-serving prime minister in Southeast Asia, Hun Sen picked two wrong horses to stage an entrance into the Thai political scene.

The Cambodian government had to switch on damage-control mode by dispatching Defence Minister Tea Banh, seen as Hun Sen's closest ally, to Bangkok on a fence-mending mission last week.

The pro-Thaksin camp fell into disarray. Chalerm Yoobamrung, the leader of the Pheu Thai MPs, became "conveniently" ill so he could sit on the fence and watch how the game played out.

Although some 30 Pheu Thai MPs and hardcore supporters went to meet Thaksin in Siem Reap, much greater numbers of opposition lawmakers followed Chalerm's lead to keep their cards close to their chest.

Even Chavalit tried to salvage his image by back-pedalling from Thaksin's Cambodian card. He turned down Thaksin's offer for him to fly to Phnom Penh to pick up the Thai engineer who is expected to be released from the legal wrangling for spying.

As if adding insult to his own injury, Thaksin made controversial and offensive remarks against the monarchy when he tried to apportion the blame for his predicament.

It came as no surprise that the red shirts were forced to postpone their mass rally, billed as a final showdown with the government. Thaksin is doing everything he can to win back trust in his loyalty.

As Thaksin and Chavalit will likely spend months trying to pick up the pieces of their own undoing, the limelight has shifted to Abhisit.

With the lull in street protests, Abhisit now has a fighting chance to steer mainstream politics to overcome the turmoil.

The key is how to accommodate and appease opposition lawmakers in order to stop them from gravitating toward Thaksin.

Three key events may be the decisive factors in reshaping Thai politics. The anticipated Cabinet reshuffle. The upcoming censure debate. And the twisting and turning of the process to amend the charter.

If Abhisit plays his cards right, then voters will likely go to the polls next year. The polarisation may not end completely with one round of voting, but at least the animosity is likely to dissipate.

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Mother wants Pheu Thai to help free her son

It came as a big slap on the government's face when Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, mother of Siwarak Chutipong - a Thai national being detained in Cambodia - asked the opposition Pheu Thai Party for assistance yesterday.

She complained that the Foreign Ministry was being too slow in getting her son out of prison.

She went to the party headquarters yesterday to ask former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama to help free Siwarak, who is being held on charges of spying on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule.

"The Foreign Ministry is too slow and my son and I can't wait. I will do anything to get him out," Simarak told a press conference.

Noppadon said he had used his connections in Phnom Penh to help Simarak visit her son again in a couple of days.

Simarak also thanked Thaksin for offering to help her son even though he had done something bad against the former PM.

Siwarak admitted that he had passed Thaksin's flight information on to a Thai diplomat who later was expelled from Cambodia, but Simarak said her son did not know that Thaksin was on the plane.

Siwarak was arrested on November 12 while Thaksin was in Phnom Penh to deliver a speech on economy. His visit intensified tensions between Thailand and Cambodia, especially since Bangkok was already angry with Cambodian PM Hun Sen for appointing Thaksin as his economic adviser. Simarak also called on Pheu Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, asking for help yesterday.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, said he understood that Simarak is a mother and would do anything for her son.

"But the Foreign Ministry is doing what it can to help her, too," he said.

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Hun Sen rules out normal ties with Abhisit government

By Rasmei Kampuchea

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attacked Thailand again yesterday, saying the Thai government was derisive about his country and that Abhisit Vejjajiva was the most difficult Thai PM he had ever worked with.

Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh that bilateral relations, which have been sour for months now, would only be normalised if Thailand had a new government. He added that his country would "have no happiness" while Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya were still in power.
"I'm not an enemy of the Thai people ... But, these two people look down on Cambodia," Hun Sen said.

"Cambodia will have no happiness as long as this group is in power."

Hun Sen claimed that Abhisit called him over the weekend after Phnom Penh sent a note last week telling Bangkok that it was cancelling its request for a Bt1.4-billion loan to construct a road from the Thai border to Siem Reap.

"Abhisit called me, for the first time, asking me to withdraw the note. He said Thailand is still willing to give the loan," Hun Sen said.

However, Abhisit was told that Cambodia needed an official letter from him, but though the Thai premier agreed he failed to send the letter at the time it was promised.

"Abhisit is the most difficult person to work with when compared to other Thai PMs," Hun Sen said, adding that from now on Cambodia would not accept any aid from Thailand.

"We have decided to stop receiving any assistance from Thailand. Cambodia cannot allow itself to be humiliated," he added. "I told Abhisit that my people and I were hurt when we heard you talk about halting aid and loans. Now stop talking like this - it is cheap and childish."

The Cambodian leader also hit back about Thailand's threat to close the border between the two countries, saying: "If you are [an] idiot, if you want losses, please go ahead."

Bilateral relations between the two countries soured when Hun Sen appointed fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and refused to extradite him to Thailand.

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