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Friday, December 18, 2009

Thailand preparing military action against Cambodia: Pheu Thai MP

By The Nation

An opposition MP yesterday accused the government of planning military force against Cambodia if Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thaksin Shinawatra took any action deemed to violate Thai sovereignty.

This would include establishment of a government in exile for Thaksin on Cambodian soil.

Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan said the military option was suggested in a confidential paper Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya sent to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on November 16 as a guideline for handling the conflict with Cambodia in a worstcase scenario.

"Preparation of a military option is equivalent to preparing for war against Cambodia," Jatuporn said.

"The end game is the normalisation of relations rather than regime change," Jatuporn quoted Kasit as saying in the leaked paper.

The paper called Thaksin "a major threat to the government". The fugitive expremier is using a twopronged strategy to topple the government: cooperation with Hun Sen and activity by the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship.

Thailand has already employed several diplomatic measures against Cambodia since Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as his and the Cambodian government's economic adviser. The two countries downgraded relations in late October, Thailand scrapped a maritime deal with Cambodia, and Phnom Penh rejected Bt1.4 billion in loans from Thailand.

Cambodia has also rejected Thai demands to remove Thaksin from his position and extradite him to Bangkok.

Jatuporn said the Pheu Thai Party obtained Kasit's confidential paper from a Foreign Ministry official. He distributed it to reporters during a press conference at party headquarters.

The paper suggested the government to get rid of the "major threat" (Thaksin) and bring an end to cooperation between Thaksin and Hun Sen.

It listed three possible scenarios in the diplomatic row between the two countries. Thailand could prevent Thaksin and Hun Sen from worsening the situation simply by refusing to respond to them and trying to find an influential figure or country able to persuade Cambodia to back down.

Second, if the conflict does increase in intensity, the Thai government would step up retaliation while remaining sensitive to its effect on ordinary people and the national interest.

Third, in the worst case, such as a violation of Thai sovereignty or anything resembling the establishment of a government in exile for Thaksin, Thailand would cut diplomatic relations and resort to using military force.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry yesterday would not deny the existence of the document and its content but said it would set up a committee to find whoever leaked the document to the opposition party.

The ministry will consult the Office of the AttorneyGeneral about taking legal action against Jatuporn under the Information Act of 1997, said ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdee.

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Cambodia to send 20 Uighurs back to China

WASHINGTON : Cambodia is sending 20 Chinese Muslims who fled there after July unrest in Xinjiang back to China where they face possible persecution, a US-based Uighur rights organization said Friday.

The group has been taken to the Phnom Penh airport and is about to be put on a plane to Shanghai, said Henryk Szadziewski of the Uighur Human Rights Project in Washington.

"There is a plane ready to take them away," he said, adding that his organization had received the information from local sources in Cambodia. No officials could be immediately contacted for comment.

The group arrived at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office after fleeing deadly unrest in northwest China's Xinjiang region and their presence in Phnom Penh was first made public two weeks ago.

The clashes between Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur community and China's majority Han ethnic group left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, according to an official toll.

Amnesty International urged Cambodia earlier this week not to deport the group, earlier said to total 22 Uighurs, which is seeking UN refugee status in Cambodia, saying they risked torture at home in China.

The right group's appeal came after China warned Tuesday that UN refugee programmes "should not be a haven for criminals" and said the 22 Uighurs, including three children, were involved in criminal activity.

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Cambodia in tight spot over Uighurs

Twenty-two minority Chinese Uighurs who fled to Cambodia after deadly ethnic rioting this year pose a diplomatic challenge for Cambodia, testing its ability to stand up to China, its biggest investor.

The Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group involved in rioting in western China that killed nearly 200 people in July, have put Cambodia’s leaders in an awkward position ahead of a visit by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, who arrives on Sunday.

Cambodia is one of two Southeast Asian countries that signed a 1951 convention on refugees pledging not to send asylum seekers back to a country where they will face persecution, which would almost certainly be the case for the Uighurs, according to rights groups.

They were smuggled out of China into Cambodia in recent weeks and applied for asylum at the UN refugee agency office in Phnom Penh.

China has not said publicly it is seeking their repatriation, but Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters this week they were criminal suspects who were being investigated.

The timing is tricky for Cambodia, expected to sign 14 agreements with China during Xi’s visit related to infrastructure construction, grants and loans. Cambodia has already received more than $1bn in foreign direct investment from China, which in October agreed to provide $853mn in loans to the impoverished country for dams, infrastructure and irrigation projects. Reuters
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Thai-Cambodian military relationship still good: Thai defense minister

BANGKOK, Though the diplomat tension between Thailand and Cambodia have continued, the military relationship between the two countries is still good, Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said Friday.

The militaries are responsible for the Thai-Cambodian matters, while the government and foreign ministry are in charge of the political affairs, Thai News Agency quoted General Prawit as saying.

The Thai and Cambodian defense ministers met on Nov. 27 in Thailand during a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC).

During the GBC meeting, the two sides have agreed that they will not use force to deal with the border matter.

The diplomatic problem has occurred after Cambodia has appointed ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Prime Minister Hun Sen from Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment, the Cambodian government announced the recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.
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Tribunal charges 3rd ex-Khmer Rouge with genocide

The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A tribunal charged the Khmer Rouge's 78-year-old former head of state with genocide Friday, adding new momentum to long-delayed trials against the brutal regime that ruled Cambodia 30 years ago.

Khieu Samphan was brought before investigating judges of the U.N.-assisted tribunal, who issued the charges, making him the third former Khmer Rouge leader this week to be charged with genocide, tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said.

On Wednesday, the tribunal charged two other defendants with genocide for the first time: the group's top ideologist, Nuon Chea, and the former foreign minister, Ieng Sary.

All three faced charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as homicide and torture. They are being held in the tribunal's jail with two other defendants and are expected to be tried next year.

The tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the communist group's policies during its 1975-79 rule.

Olsen said they were charged with involvement in the deaths of members of the country's ethnic Cham and Vietnamese communities.

Some Chams, who are mostly Muslims, were among the few Cambodians to actively resist Khmer Rouge rule. The Khmer Rouge brutally suppressed the rebellions in several villages.

The tribunal tried its first defendant, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, this year on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. A verdict is expected early next year.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, commanded S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and taken away to be killed. A verdict is expected next year, and he faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if found guilty. Cambodia has no death penalty.
Olsen said it would be determined later whether one of the other Khmer Rouge leaders in custody - former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, the wife of Ieng Sary - would also be charged with genocide.
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Cambodia's road deaths rise to 5 per day in 2009

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Despite a sharp increase in safety helmet use among motorbike drivers this year and a decrease in traffic accidents overall, road deaths in Cambodia now stand at five per day and rising, local media reported on Friday.

Meas Chandy, Road Safety Coordinator for Handicap Intentional Belgium, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that the number of recorded traffic deaths had risen to five deaths per day during the first eight months of this year, up from 4.5 traffic deaths per day in 2008.

Chandy said that he did not know the reasons behind the increase in traffic deaths, but added, "the majority of accidents are caused by human errors including speeding, drunk driving, overtaking without due care and not respecting the right of way."

Chandy said the recorded increase in traffic deaths, which is among the highest in the region, and findings that helmet use dropped at night indicate "we need more enforcement." Read more!