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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cambodia International Conference of Asian Political Parties: Quest for a Better Tomorrow

By Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos

MANILA, Philippines – Upon Cambodia Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen's invitation, FVR attended the 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Centrist Democrats International (CDI)-Asia Pacific in Phnom Penh last 01–04 December.

The Philippines has maintained close diplomatic ties with Cambodia for more than 50 years, with bilateral relations between them being strengthened over the years with high-level visits among their leaders. Following an official visit to RP by then Cambodia Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ung Huot on 6-8 August 1996, FVR offered to help promote the English language in Cambodia, and develop its agriculture and social health services to facilitate Cambodia's entry into ASEAN.

The Philippines-Cambodia Business Council under the leadership of (ret.) Gen. Jose Magno Chairman of CITRA Metro Manila Tollways Corporation, has been recently reactivated and provides important channels for bilateral networking through trade missions, business matching, trade shows, friendship roundtables, and similar activities.

Tenth Anniversary of ICAPP

In his letter-invitation, PM Hun Sen emphasized ICAPP's theme: "Asia's Quest for a Better Tomorrow," with special emphasis on economy, energy, and environment issues.

This international event marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of ICAPP and presented the opportunity for Cambodia to showcase its substantial progress after decades of Khmer Rouge genocide, internal turmoil, political reconciliation, democratic restoration, and membership in ASEAN.

PM Hun Sen delivered the inspirational remarks for the four-day event.

Initiated by Lakas-CMD in September 2000, ICAPP was established "to promote exchanges and cooperation between political parties from different countries and strengthen Asia's regional cooperation through the channel of political parties."

The founding meeting of ICAPP was held on 17-19 September 2000 at the Manila Hotel hosted by the Lakas-CMD (with FVR as Chairman Emeritus and former Speaker Jose de Venecia as Secretary General), and counted delegates from 46 political parties from 20 Asian countries in attendance, including the Communist Party of China. Since then, four more ICAPP General Assemblies have been held in Bangkok, Beijing, Seoul, and Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Today, there are now more than 320 Asian political parties — emanating from 52 Asian countries and one territory — with varying political and ideological backgrounds who participate in ICAPP assemblies and related Asia-Pacific activities. ICAPP's Standing Committee is co-chaired by former Speaker De Venecia and National Assemblyman Chung Eul-yong of the Republic of Korea.

The Centrist Democrats International Arising out of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the Centrist Democrats International (formerly known as Christian Democrats International) was formed in Chile in 1961. It is dedicated to the promotion of Christian democracy and anchored on the legacy of Christian democrats who sought to create a Christian-inspired alternative in governance and people empowerment.

Former Chile President Patricio Alywyn and FVR are the two lifetime Honorary Presidents elected by the CDI General Assembly in Madrid in 1999.

The CDI has now more than 100 member-parties, including ruling administrations in Germany and other European countries. The European People's Party is Europe's largest political aggrupation, with the Christian Democrats Organization of America as its Latin American equivalent.

The US Democratic Party maintains links with CDI through its National Democratic Institution for International Affairs. Current co-presidents of the CDI are Italy's Pier Fernando Casini and Mexico's Vicente Fox.

The Kingdom of Cambodia

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy of 14 million people with King Norodom Sihamoni as Head of State since 2004. It was a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, though occupied by the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. Under King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia gained independence from France on 9 November 1953.

While visiting Beijing in 1970, Sihanouk was ousted by Prime Minister (General) Lon Nol with US support. This development led to a four-year civil war between Cambodian government and US-backed forces versus the combination of the Communist Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge guerrillas — which resulted in massive loss of lives and destruction of property.

The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot eventually gained power in 1975 and changed the country's name to "Democratic Kampuchea." This Communist regime attempted to rebuild the country by evacuating the cities and making the population work on rural agricultural projects. Anything considered Western-oriented was discarded and eventually destroyed. In the process, more than one million Cambodians out of a population of 8,000,000 died from executions, overwork, and disease.

The country thus became deeply impoverished, but in October 1991, thru a comprehensive peace settlement administered by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), reconciliation and reconstruction came about. Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia in 1993.

CDI in the Asia-Pacific

To carry out CDI's expansion in the Asia-Pacific, CDI-AP was founded in Manila in January, 2006, with Lakas-CMD as its core group and six other Asian political parties as co-founders: Indonesian Golkar Party, Thai Rak Thai Party, Funcinpec Party, and Cambodian People's Party, Kazakhstan's Oton Party, and Pakistan Muslim League. Then Speaker De Venecia was elected President of CDI-AP.

It will be recalled that when the controversial merger of the Lakas-CMD and Kampi parties took place in June, 2009, FVR declined to assume its Chairman Emeritus position offered to him by then Philippine President/Chairperson Gloria Arroyo of the "merged Lakas Kampi CMD." Ramos flatly refused said position, asserting: "The merger was done with undue haste, and by dictation and not consultation."

Moreover, in his letter to President Arroyo dated 17 August 2009, Ramos made it clear that he continues to be the elected Chairman Emeritus of Lakas-CMD (of which he was the co-founder and elected Chairman earlier in December 1991).

At that time, FVR emphasized: "For the record, I wish to make clear that I have not relinquished the position of Chairman Emeritus of Lakas-CMD, which political party still exists in the COMELEC roster, and continues to maintain strong connections with the Centrist Democrats International and other political aggrupations worldwide."

From CDI Asia-Pacific to CAPDI

One important development in the Cambodia International Conference last week was the restructuring of the CDI Asia-Pacific in order to deepen its role and broaden its scope in Asia's fast-changing political, security and economic environment.

To highlight its new aspirations and greater regional reach, the original CDI-AP was renamed "Centrist Asia-Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI)." It is the first organization in the Asia-Pacific that brings together political parties and key democratic institutions of civil society — people's organizations, think tanks, academe, business leaders, media, women/youth sectors, and other eminent groups.

While its predecessor was a limited platform for Asia's centrist political parties, CAPDI now strives for a more comprehensive role and greater outreach. Thus, it becomes an institutional bridge between governments and common people represented by leaders of non-government sectors.

As the result of extensive consultations among member political parties and newly emerged leadership groups, CAPDI intends to mobilize mainstream moderates — whether political or non-political — to work for good governance, mass poverty alleviation, elimination/reduction of corruption, empowerment of women/youth/disadvantaged groups, and environmental protection.

On the global front, CAPDI totally supports the UN Millennium Development Goals, Inter-Faith/Inter-Civilizational Dialogues, and Debt Relief for the 100 most heavily indebted nations. CAPDI strongly stands against international terrorism/political extremism, and provides viable mechanisms for peace, particularly in the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan Straits, Chechnya-Caucasus, Pakistan-Kashmir-India, Palestine-Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mindanao.

CAPDI's affairs are governed by an Executive Council led by a Chairman, President/CEO, Secretary General, and Vice Presidents/Directors representing specific regions and functional sectors. It will be initially headquartered in Manila for East Asia and Islamabad for South and Central Asia. It is scheduled to convene a General Assembly every other year, with functional conferences in between.

PM Hun Sen and FVR were elected as CAPDI Chairman Emeritus and Honorary Chairman, respectively, last 03 December in Phnom Penh.

People empowerment and a higher quality of life

Does the CAPDI look like a United Nations for Asia-Pacific? Of course, it does.

And why not? Because the world of the 21st century cannot and will no longer tolerate hegemonic powers, much less one single economic-political-military superpower in our family of nations.

In due time, empowered peoples around the world not only will clamor with greater force than ever — but will also mobilize with truly universal people power — for equal opportunity, justice, good governance, quality population, prosperity, and a better future for all.

Kaya Natin Ito!!!

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Cambodian prince re-enters politics

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned to politics Saturday with a vow to reinvigorate the flagging royalist movement, taking the helm of his former party which has re-adopted his name.

Two years after quitting politics, Prince Ranariddh, who was Cambodia's first elected prime minister in 1993 after years of civil war, was re-instated as president of the party he created during a meeting in the capital.

Party members also agreed to re-name the Nationalist Party the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

The 66-year-old son of former king Norodom Sihanouk said in a speech that he was returning to politics to re-unite royalists ahead of 2012 local elections and a 2013 general election.

"I have seen that the royalists are hopeless, separated, I want them to be one family," he said.

Ranariddh called for an alliance with fellow royalist party Funcinpec, with him as leader.

"The prince wants to create a new party called Funcinpec 81 before 2012," party spokesman Pen Sangha told AFP. "The ball is now in the court of Funcinpec."

Ranariddh has been off the political scene since late 2008, when he said he was quitting the opposition after receiving a royal pardon on fraud charges and returning from self-imposed exile in Malaysia.

The prince's political career had begun with great promise when he won Cambodia's UN-sponsored election in 1993 as head of the royalist Funcinpec party.

However, he was forced to accept Hun Sen as co-prime minister, who then staged a coup in 1997.

In following elections, Ranariddh's voter appeal diminished as he entered into coalition agreements with Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.

In 2006, he was ejected from Funcinpec over fraud allegations involving the illegal sale of the party's headquarters. He formed the NRP shortly afterwards.

The prince was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in jail over the fraud charges the following year but was later pardoned.

The NRP won just two parliamentary seats in Cambodia's 2008 general election, as did Funcinpec. The NRP then changed its name to the Nationalist Party.

Both parties have in the past expressed an interest in merging to improve the royalist movement's flagging fortunes.

Hun Sen warned the prince earlier this week that if he was coming back to politics, he would not be able to stay on as an adviser to Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, Ranariddh's half-brother.
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15 years for Kent man who traveled to Cambodia to have sex with girls

Stephanie A. Clark; staff writer

A 59-year-old Kent man who sexually exploited children overseas was sentenced in Seattle’s U.S. District Court Friday to 15 years, fined $11,000 and ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution to his victims.

Craig Carr traveled to Cambodia to have sex with underage girls, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones told Carr "you prey on the most vulnerable of victims... very young girls. What you were doing satisfying your fantasy one night, leads to a lifetime of nightmares for them." The judge imposed the fine saying it was the same amount of money the defendant spent on his trip to Cambodia.

Carr told the judge, “I’ve ruined my life for a very troubled part of who I am. I have no one to blame but myself.”

According to the facts admitted in his plea agreement, Carr made contact over the Internet with a person in Cambodia who agreed to find young girls for Carr to have sex with during a visit in January of this year.

He said he paid this person approximately $8,000 for sex during the week-long trip. He specified that the girls be about twelve years of age. He even sent sexually explicit photographic examples of the approximate age he was seeking. He requested to take nude photographs of the girls and planned to send them from a FedEx store in Phnom Penh to his home in Kent. After his arrest on Jan. 22, he told investigators that he had sex with three young girls over his eight-day stay. His camera contained pictures of them. He agree to pay $8,000 in restitution to them.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with assistance by law enforcement agencies in Cambodia.
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