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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cambodia blasts Thailand over Red Shirt accusations

by Michelle Fitzpatrick Michelle Fitzpatrick

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia on Wednesday accused Thai authorities of playing "dirty games" and concocting evidence that anti-government "Red Shirts" had received weapons training on its territory.

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said that 11 Red Shirts picked up in the northern province of Chiang Mai this month had confessed to receiving three weeks of training in Siem Reap to assassinate politicians.

"When they came back to Thailand, they were sent to Chiang Mai to prepare for assignment. They told us that they were trained for sabotage and assassination," DSI chief Tharit Pengdit told AFP on Monday.

The 11 men, who are reportedly part of a larger group of 39 militants, will not face charges but will serve as witnesses in efforts to prosecute the people who organised the training, he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he had been in touch with his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva about the allegations and asked him to clarify Bangkok's position.

In a speech at a university graduation ceremony, Hun Sen said Cambodia had a "responsibility to fight against terrorism" and that it would "not interfere in Thailand's internal affairs".

The government-owned Thai news website MCOT quoted Police Lieutenant Colonel Payao Thongsen as saying that the men were taken by Red Shirt leaders to Cambodia without passing legal immigration processes.

The Cambodian government strongly rejected the allegations, saying it would not allow foreigners to set up training camps on its territory.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers accused the Thai authorities of engaging in "malicious political manoeuvring" to link the country to Thailand's internal problems.
Cambodia "strongly demands that Thailand DSI put an end to the dirty games of concocting evidences to deflect Thailand public opinion from Thailand's own internal political and social problems," he said.

Mass anti-government rallies by the Red Shirts in the heart of Bangkok in April and May left 91 people dead -- mainly civilians -- in clashes between demonstrators and armed soldiers.

The Thai government has blamed the movement for a recent string of bomb blasts, but the Reds deny any involvement and have accused the authorities of a conspiracy to justify tough security powers and tarnish the Reds' image.

Ties between Thailand and Cambodia have been strained since a long-running dispute over a border temple flared up in 2008, and the Red Shirt row threatens to reverse a recent thaw in relations.

In another statement, Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the "unsubstantiated and malignant claim made by the DSI is causing greater harm to the Thai-Cambodian relations".

Thailand was outraged when Cambodia hired ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a hero to many of the Reds, as an economic adviser in November 2009.

The move led to both countries withdrawing their ambassadors and relations were not fully restored until Thaksin resigned in August of this year.

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Japanese man guilty of buying underage sex

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has sentenced a Japanese man to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of purchasing sex from a 13-year-old girl in August last year.

Atsushi Kato, 40, was arrested in September 2009, one month after police raided a Daun Penh district brothel where he paid for sex with the girl on multiple occasions.

His arrest was carried out after he visited the government-run rehabilitation centre where the victim was held following the raid.

He said he paid the victim a visit because he wanted “to know how well she was being treated there”.

In addition to handing down the jail term, Judge Din Sivuthy ordered Kato to pay 400,000 riels (US$94) in compensation, and said he would be deported at the end of his sentence.

Kato told reporters after the verdict was announced that he planned to appeal.

“I am not happy with the conviction, and I will ask my lawyer to appeal the conviction at the Appeal Court,” he said.

Defence lawyer Kao Soupha said the sentence was “acceptable” because it was the minimum called for under the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.

He added, though, that the guilty verdict itself was unjust.

“My client was not aware that the prostitute was 13, because she was wearing makeup and it was not necessary to ask her for her identity card,” he said.

“This is my question to you court officials and government officials: When you go to have sex with girls, have you ever asked them to show identity cards?”

Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided to the victim by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said the compensation awarded to his client was “too small”.

“The court’s conviction is acceptable and just for my client, and is in the right accordance with the law,” he said.

“But the compensation is too small relative to the damage inflicted on the victim.”
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Court Upholds Verdict for Sam Rainsy in Border Marker Case

A guard separates Prum Chea, left, and Meas Srey, right, as they wait at the Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Both were released later with time served on charges related to the uprooting of markers along the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province.

The Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a two-year jail sentence against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, while releasing two villagers with time served on charges related to a Vietnamese encroachment demonstration.

The court upheld the verdict of Svay Rieng court against Sam Rainsy, who was found guilty of destruction of property and racial incitement for uprooting markers along the Vietnam border, where Cambodian villagers said they had lost land to encroachment.

Sam Rainsy's lawyer, Chu Choung Y, said he would appeal the verdict with the Supreme Court.

Arrested for the October 2009 incident were Prum Chea, 41, and Meas Srey, 40, who lived in Chantreay district where the posts were uprooted.

Both have been held ever since, but the Appeals Court said Wednesday they could be released with time served. Both said they were grateful for the decision.
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