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Monday, August 09, 2010

Cambodian PM warns of 'bloodshed' over Thai border

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's premier warned Monday that a border dispute with Thailand was "very hot" and could result in violence, reiterating his call for international assistance to end the row.

"Cambodia would like to ask for intervention to have an international conference on the issue of the Cambodian-Thai border dispute," Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a ceremony attended by foreign diplomats.

"The issue is very hot. It may cause bloodshed," he added.

He said bilateral efforts to resolve the conflict with Thailand would not work and called on the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries to help resolve the spat.

Tensions between the two nations over the disputed border have flared up following protests in Bangkok by the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement over the issue.

Thai media quoted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as saying over the weekend that he was ready to use both diplomatic and military means to settle the dispute.

Thailand's opposition has accused the government of using the spat to fuel patriotism and boost its domestic political support.

Hun Sen wrote to the United Nations on Sunday accusing Thailand of violating UN rules by threatening to use military force against Cambodia.

Cambodia reserves its "legitimate rights to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in case of deliberate acts of aggression," Hun Sen wrote in the letter, which was distributed to the media.

Abhisit said Monday that the letter was based on incorrect information.

"Cambodia wants to give an image of Thailand as an intruder or using force, which is not true," he told reporters.

"We are Thais, whatever the problem we should talk."

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when the ancient Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Troops from both countries exchanged fire briefly on their border in June, the latest in a series of clashes between the neighbours.
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Torture Center Marks First Year as ‘Memory of the World’

Tuol Sleng museum, the former Khmer Rouge torture center, marked its first anniversary as a Memory of the World Monday, as officials set a giant stone on the southern side of Building A.

More than 12,000 people were sent to their deaths at Tuol Sleng under Kaing Kek Iev, the Khmer Rouge prison chief who was sentenced to a commuted 19 years by a UN-backed tribunal last month.

Known as S-21 to the Khmer Rouge, the former high school now goes by the official title of the National Museum of Tuol Sleng, following its Unesco Memory of the World listing on July 31, 2009.

The museum holds an archive of 4,186 prisoner confessions, 6,226 prisoner biographies and 6,147 photographs.

“Its significant and outstanding value were a part of the Memory of the World, stemming from its testament to man’s inhumanity to man, women and children, and from the documentation of one of the most extreme examples of crimes against humanity of the 20th Century,” Unesco’s representative to Cambodia, Teruo Jinnal, said during a ceremony Monday morning.

The anniversary comes just two weeks after the sentencing of Kaing Kek Iev, better known as Duch.

Chuch Phoeun, a secretary of stat the the Ministry of Culture, said the archives will be protected but that will require some technical assisance.

Van Nath, who survived the torture center under Duch, said he was satisfied that his former prison was now a Memory of the World.
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Hun Sen Issues Missives to UN After Thai Border Threats

Letters over the weekend from Prime Minister Hun Sen to key UN officials may be an attempt to prevent Thailand from resorting to violence over the border issue near Preah Vihear temple, a local analyst said Monday.

On Sunday, Hun Sen wrote the heads of the UN Security Council and its General Assembly, claiming Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had threatened to use military force to resolve the longstanding border issue.

Hun Sen was responding to Thai media reports that quoted Abhisit telling a pro-government rally that Thailand could walk away from a border agreement signed in 2000 and “use both democratic and military means” to settle a standoff.

“I think this is a sign of alarm to the United Nations Security Council to prevent the border dispute not going toward war and bloodshed,” Chheang Vannarith, the president of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, told VOA Khmer Monday.

“Cambodia is a small country” that needs multilateral support, “particularly the UN,” he said. “So these letters are diplomatic politics from Cambodia to put pressure on Thailand to not use illegal military force.”

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over a 4.6-kilometer stretch of land west of Preah Vihear temple, which was made a Unesco World Heritage site under Cambodian protection in 2008. Thousands of troops on each side are amassed on the border, where skirmishes since 2008 have left at least eight soldiers dead.

Both sides severed diplomatic ties last year after Cambodia hired ouster Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to Hun Sen.

“I think the letters to the UN are a step toward peaceful resolution with UN intervention,” Cheang Sokha, director of the Working Group for Peace, said Monday. “The letters are a call for the help from the international community on the Cambodia-Thailand border problem and provide information to UN about the possibility of Thailand using military force to invade Cambodia.”

Hun Sen discussed the letters in a public speech on Monday, saying Cambodia would “fight against a warlike Thai invasion inside Cambodia” and “call an urgent [UN] meeting on the Cambodia-Thai border situation” if Thailand were to resort to military violence over the border.

The Bangkok Post reported Monday that Thai Foreign Ministry officials are preparing a response to the UN that claims, “Thailand had never changed its position, of wanting to cooperate with its neighbor and share common interests.”
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