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Friday, August 06, 2010

Cambodia, Iran Plan Energy Cooperation Deal

Cambodia's foreign minister is expected in Iran next week seeking investment and technical know-how to help develop his country's offshore oil fields.

A spokesman told VOA Khmer Service that Hor Namhong and other senior officials expect to sign an agreement on petroleum cooperation. They hope the visit will also boost diplomatic relations, trade and tourism.

Oil exploration is under way off Cambodia's coast and production could begin by 2012.

However the visit, scheduled for August 10 and 11, comes at a time when the United States is trying to rally support for international sanctions on Iran's oil and gas industry.

New U.N. sanctions approved in June target Iran's military and its ability to procure equipment for its nuclear program. The U.S. and EU have imposed additional sanctions aimed at deterring investment in Iran's energy sector.

U.S. diplomats have been traveling in Asia this month seeking additional support for the sanctions.

But a senior Cambodian official, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary of State Koy Kuong, told Reuters news agency that Cambodia is a "non-partisan" country and that it is "friends with everyone in the world."
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Thai 'Yellow Shirts' plan Bangkok rally

BANGKOK — Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirts" said Friday they would rally in Bangkok this weekend to pressure the government over a territorial row with Cambodia, in a show of strength by the movement.

At least 2,000 people are expected to attend the protest on Saturday, organisers said.

But the Yellows agreed to change the venue to a stadium in the city to avoid confrontation with the authorities, who earlier warned they would not be allowed to protest outside Government House as planned.

The compromise came after two hours of talks between Yellow representatives and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, a spokesman for the movement said.

Under a state of emergency imposed in Bangkok in April during mass anti-government protests, political gatherings of more than five people are currently banned.

The Yellows, formally called the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), have previously allied themselves with the current Thai political leadership but the spat is the latest sign that relations have soured.

Key PAD figure Sondhi Limthongkul accused Abhisit on Friday of "lying to the entire Thai nation" about the territorial issue.

The PAD has criticised the governing Democrat party of signing up to a deal with Thailand's neighbour in 2000 that the Yellows believe paved the way for recognition of a Cambodian land claim.

The group has demanded that Thailand tear up the memorandum of understanding, eject Cambodian citizens from the disputed 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) area, and try to regain control of the Preah Vihear temple.

Relations between the neighbouring countries, already strained by Cambodia's refusal to deport fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have been further tested by the dispute.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Friday dismissed a Thai compromise proposal for the temple as "a dream".

The Yellow Shirts, who are backed by the Bangkok-based elite, are a force to be reckoned with in Thailand's colour-coded political landscape.

The group's rallies in 2006 helped trigger the coup that unseated Thaksin, the hero of the mostly poor, working class "Red Shirts", whose mass protests in Bangkok in April and May culminated in deadly clashes with troops.

The Yellows also mounted a siege of Bangkok's two main airports in 2008, which stranded hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists and helped to topple a government allied to Thaksin.

Many Red Shirt leaders are in jail for their roles in this year's protests, and the movement has complained that the lack of charges against Yellows showed a double standard of justice.

This week prosecutors again postponed a decision over whether to indict individual Yellow Shirts over the airport siege.

Red supporters plan a small demonstration of their own in Bangkok on Sunday to protest at the May crackdown on their rally, during which about 90 people died and nearly 1,900 were injured.
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British man wanted over murder arrested in Thailand

A British man wanted in the UK over the 2008 murder of his south London landlord has been arrested in Thailand, police said.

Stuart Scott Crawford, 44, was picked up on Tuesday after an extradition warrant for the fugitive was issued.

Thai authorities also announced the arrest of a second Briton, David Fletcher, on charges of sexually assaulting children in Cambodia.

Crawford is wanted in connection with the murder of Michael Ryan at the pair's home in Sutton, Surrey.

The 67-year-old's body was found at the address on September 10, 2008, but it is thought he had been dead for a number of days. The corpse had been rolled in carpet and pinned under a bookcase to conceal it.

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Ryan died as the result of a heavy blow to the head from a blunt instrument.

Crawford, who lived with the victim, fled the UK after the murder. Before leaving, it is alleged that he withdrew £6,500 from Mr Ryan's bank account.

Police in Thailand said the suspect had been living in the country for almost two years. He was arrested at an apartment in the resort of Pattaya. Crawford is now set to be extradited. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "Proceedings continue to return him to the UK."

Meanwhile, Fletcher could be extradited to Cambodia, where he is wanted over child sex offences. He had been awaiting deportation from Thailand after being arrested on June 27 on immigration charges. The sex offender had failed to inform the Thai authorities of a conviction in the UK for raping a 16-year-old girl, a crime he served 18 months in prison for.

Whilst awaiting deportation, Interpol in Cambodia notified the Thai authorities that he was wanted in connection to child sex offences.
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