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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thai 'Yellow Shirts' rally against Cambodian border agreement

BANGKOK: About 2,000 Thai royalist "Yellow Shirts" rallied on Tuesday in front of parliament to protest against an agreement that they say will recognise an unfounded Cambodian land claim.

A 750-strong police presence was on hand in Bangkok as the Yellows, known as the People's Alliance for Democracy, shouted "Traitors!" as lawmakers and senators inside debated memorandums of understanding with Cambodia.

Ties between the neighbouring countries have been strained since July 2008 by a series of deadly border clashes over land surrounding an 11th century Cambodian temple after it was granted UN World Heritage status.

"We today come to show our stand against the MOUs which will make the country lose 4.6 kilometres to Cambodia," Sondhi Limthongkul, the Yellow Shirt leader, told reporters during the seven-hour demonstration.

The group would like to see Thailand regain control of the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which the World Court ruled in 1962 belonged to Cambodia, although the main entrance lies in Thailand.

Parliamentarians set up a joint committee on Tuesday to further discuss the pacts over the border, which has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

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

Their 2006 rallies helped trigger a coup that unseated the now-fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, hero of the mostly poor, working class "Red Shirts", whose Bangkok protests this year culminated in deadly clashes with troops.

The Yellows also held a crippling airport siege in 2008 against the then pro-Thaksin government that left thousands stranded.

- AFP/de
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Mixed Munitions Messages

Officials have denied that the government scrapped plans to send a delegation to a meeting of nations that has ratified a convention banning cluster munitions, insisting that a Cambodian delegation will attend.

The meeting, set to begin next Tuesday, will bring together governments, United Nations officials, civil society representatives and cluster-bomb victims to discuss the merits of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The convention came into effect in August but Cambodia is yet to sign it.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said a Cambodian delegation had been planning to attend the meeting all along.

“It will be someone from CMAC,” he said, referring to the Cambodian Mines Action Centre. When asked whether the government had originally declined to attend, he said: “No, what I heard is that Cambodia has committed to sending a delegation to the meeting.”

Last week, Leng Sochea, the Cambodian Mines Action Authority deputy secretary general, said Cambodia would not be sending a delegation to the meeting following orders from “high-level” authorities.

Cambodia was instrumental in the drafting of the Cluster Munitions Convention..
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Cambodia to record history of all pagodas

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian government has advised all provincial authorizes across the country to record the history of all pagodas to better oversee and know their backgrounds.

Dauk Narin, secretary of state of Ministry of Religion and Cult said Tuesday that his ministry has already advised all provincial and municipal authorities to record the backgrounds of all pagodas such as when they are established, how many monks are staying in those pagodas, and how many clergy men and clergy women.

The move was taken at the order of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen who is eager to get a clear and accurate data.

According to the statistics provided by Ministry of Religion and Cult, by April 2010, there were 4,392 pagodas and more than 50, 000 monks in all the country's 24 provinces and cities.

About 90 percent of 14 million Cambodian populations are Buddhists and the rest shared by Christians, Muslims as well as other ethnic believers.

According to Cambodian constitution, Buddhism is the state religion.

However, Cambodian government has told its people not to discriminate or insult other religions.
Earlier this year, the government ordered all televisions and radios to not broadcast or air any comments that insult religious beliefs of other religion.

In an advisory sent out all televisions and radio stations across the country, the Ministry of Information said there was one radio station airing comment saying only Christians who always distribute relief stuff to prisoners, the victims by typhoon and flood or earthquakes.

The advisory which was signed by Khieu Kanharith, minister of information said Buddhists are in great help of others when they are in need.

The advisory, however, said it was fine any televisions and radio to broadcast and air anything relating to all kinds of religions, but not to insult others.

It noted with appreciation that many programs that touch on religious affairs that help the society through the respect of morality, culture and tradition.
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Infrastructure Developments Prepares for Major Military Exercise in Thailand

HERNDON, VA, Nov 02, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Infrastructure Developments Corp. announced today that its Thailand based subsidiary, Intelspec, LLC (Thailand), is pursuing several logistics related Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA) to service the large scale "Cobra Gold" joint US-Thai military exercises scheduled for the first quarter of 2011 in Thailand.

Intelspec participated in the Cobra Gold 2011 Vendor Conference held in Bangkok on October 26, 2010 and is targeting the capture of contracts in transport, logistics, and supply of pre-fabricated buildings for the 2011 exercise. Final proposals are due in December 2010.

Intelspec has successfully performed BPA contracts for the US Army in Cambodia in 2010, and was awarded the design build contract for the Close-Quarters Battle training facility in Lop Buri, Thailand that was opened during Cobra Gold 2010. The facility is reputed to be one of the finest training facilities of its kind in Southeast Asia.

Infrastructure CEO Thomas R. Morgan said, "Our performance record and experience in 2010, building for the US Military in Thailand and Cambodia as well as completing the BPAs in Cambodia for the US Army, makes us very competitive in our pursuit of the contracts for the 2011 Cobra Gold exercises."

About Cobra Gold: Cobra Gold is a regularly scheduled joint/combined exercise in the continuing series of US-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace and strengthen the ability of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to defend Thailand or respond to regional contingencies. The 2011 program marks the 30th year of the Cobra Gold exercise series, and it remains the largest multilateral joint military exercise in the Pacific region.

About Infrastructure Developments Corp.: Infrastructure is an engineering and construction services company that services an underserved niche in the global project management spectrum, targeting specialized projects and subcontracts that are too small to attract giant multinational firms, but which still require world class engineering expertise. Staffed by key personnel with decades of experience in performing work for the US Department of Defense and the US Department of State, Infrastructure is familiar with the complex requirements of government contracts and the unusual challenges of performing high standard work in challenging environments. The company is also expanding its project management services into the oil and gas industry.

Forward-Looking Statements: A number of statements contained in this press release are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties including Infrastructure's ability to procure design and management projects, competitive market conditions, and Infrastructure's prospects for securing additional sources of financing as required. The actual results that Infrastructure may achieve could differ materially from any forward-looking statements due to such risks and uncertainties. Infrastructure encourages the public to read the information provided here in conjunction with its most recent filings on Form 8-K, Form 10-Q and Form 10-K. Infrastructure's public filings may be viewed at
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Cambodia closer to exchange launch

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA moved a step closer to setting up a national stock exchange on Tuesday after 15 securities firms were granted licences to operate on the twice-delayed bourse, officials said.

'This clearly reflects the strong willingness of the government in putting the securities market into operation,' Finance Minister Keat Chhon said at a ceremony in Phnom Penh.

The licences were awarded to seven underwriters, four brokers, two investment advisers and two dealers.

Officials were working hard to ensure the stock exchange would open by July 2011, said Keat Chhon, who is also the chairman of Cambodia's securities and exchange commission.

Cambodia signed an agreement in 2008 with representatives from South Korea's stock exchange, the Korea Exchange, Asia's fourth-largest bourse operator, to establish a stock market in 2009.

But the southeast Asian nation delayed the launch when the global financial crisis struck. The government said at the time it would aim for a 2010 start, but recently pushed that back to next year. -- AFP
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Cambodia Deals a Blow to Thaksin

Hun Sen may tilt towards Abhisit

Thais and Cambodians alike are puzzled following the abrupt shift of Phnom Penh's policy toward Bangkok. This new policy is more amicable, more compromising and less confrontational.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, in particular, is seen to have enthusiastically welcomed a renewed relationship with his former enemies across the border – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, with potentially ominous personal implications for Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed Thai Prime Minister who continues to lead protest inside the country from afar.

In Hanoi last week at the sidelines of the 17th Asean Summit, Abhisit met with Hun Sen and engaged in a 15-minute discussion. Abhisit later told the media that Hun Sen had accepted a request from Thailand to investigate reports that some red-shirt leaders with outstanding arrest warrants for terrorism were hiding in Cambodia. Abhisit also said Hun Sen had assured him that Cambodia is ready to throw its support behind Thai authorities if they officially requested it.

On the surface, this friendly development seems to suggest that Thai and Cambodian leaders have forgiven one another for what they did to each other in the past and now want to put differences aside. In his interview with Singapore's press, Kasit declared, "Thai-Cambodian relations are on the mend, especially after the return of our respective ambassadors to their posts. We may have our differences, but I think this is not uncommon for neighbouring countries sharing a common border."

But such flowery diplomatic language fails to shed light on what has really driven Hun Sen to U-turn his country's policy.

In my interview with a self-exiled UDD leader, he admitted that the entire strategy of the current pro-democracy red-shirt movement, which included the UDD, independent groups inside and outside Thailand, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his team, and possibly some members of the Puea Thai Party, has not been uniformly conceived.

This condition could open the door for the radical elements to exploit the movement's ambiguous agenda and strategy. The interviewee also hinted that Hun Sen himself might not be able to confirm that so-called red shirt militants are being trained on his soil. In fact, Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said over the weekend that he did not know if Arisman Pongruangrong, presently charged of terrorism in connection with political violence during the red-shirt protests, is in hiding in his country. And this could explain why Hun Sen was willing to cooperate with the Thai authorities, to find out the truth himself.

It may also explain why Hun Sen has lately been distancing himself from the red-shirt movement and instead befriending the Abhisit government. Back in October 2009, Hun Sen publicly offered his support to Thaksin and the UDD. He stated, "This is just moral support from me. As one million Thai people of the red-shirt group support Thaksin, why cannot I, as a friend from afar, support Thaksin?"

But it becomes clearer now that the red-shirt movement, and to some extent the Puea Thai Party, have been in serious disarray. The fragmentation within the red-shirt camp, partly because most of its core leaders are under detention, has compelled Hun Sen to reconsider whether supporting the red shirts is still in his country's interest.

It is unlikely that the Cambodian government would sacrifice itself or be exposed to such risks without any coherent or winnable strategy on the part of the red-shirt movement. After all, Hun Sen is known to be a calculating political leader and therefore would not play the game if there was no sure bet available.

The red-shirt UDD is not the only casualty in this perplexing diplomatic game between Cambodia and Thailand. Thaksin, too, has become Hun Sen's estranged partner. At the peak of Thai-Cambodian conflict last year, Hun Sen said out loud that Thaksin was his protégé. Hun Sen even made an emotional plea, "Though I am not Thai, I am hurt by what has happened to him. My wife even cried on learning about it and has an idea to build a home for Thaksin to come and stay honourably." As a consequence, Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as a special economic advisor to his cabinet, apparently to irritate the Abhisit government and further complicate Thai politics.
However, the political situation in Thailand has changed drastically within the past six months, precisely after the violent crackdown on street protesters in Bangkok in May 2010. Some red-shirt members were accused of engaging in terrorist acts. Thaksin, increasingly politically marginalized, has been labelled by his opponents as the chief operator of a terrorist network.

Hun Sen may only now realise that Thaksin, once perceived as Cambodia's long-term interest, is slipping away and that it will be very difficult for him to return to power anytime soon. At the same time, he may also observe that Abhisit's Democrat Party, despite currently fighting for its continued existence in the dissolution case, appears to have become much stronger, not so much because it has crafted new political strategies, but because the Puea Thai and the UDD are both becoming weaker and the channels of communication between them have broken down.

As Prime Minister's Office Minister Ong-art Klampaibul said in early September this year, "Hun Sen has voiced confidence that Abhisit will stay in the post for a long time and that the prime minister has grown stronger and proved his leadership skills."

Critics of this government may not want to hear this, but it is highly possible that, under the present political circumstance, the Democrat Party stands a good chance of winning the next election, with the help of certain personalities, like Newin Chidchob. Thus, in the short term and perhaps for the next 4-5 years, the Democrat Party would still be around. The traditional elite are determined to keep the Democrat Party so that it could watch over any major political event or transition within the political domain or key institutions.

Hun Sen might not have the patience or does not want to wait until the day Thaksin comes home. In actual fact, this might not happen at all. Hence, the disintegration of Thailand's opposition and the slim chance of Thaksin's political survival could form the basis of Hun Sen's changing attitude toward Thailand.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a former Thai diplomat and now a Fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
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