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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thai PM: UNESCO shall not proceed with Cambodia's temple plan

A villager cleans his damaged house in Sri Sak Ket on the Thailand-Cambodia border, Feb. 12, 2011. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday said UNESCO could help alleviate the border tension between Thailand and Cambodia by not proceeding with any decision on administering a disputed area around a centuries-old temple. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)

BANGKOK, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday said UNESCO could help alleviate the border tension between Thailand and Cambodia by not proceeding with any decision on administering a disputed area around a centuries-old temple.

Abhisit said the tension arose as Phnom Penh tried to push through with UNESCO, or the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and World Heritage committee its administering plan of a disputed area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

He claimed that Cambodia needed to have its administering plan endorsed now as Phnom Penh unilaterally has the temple enlisted as a World Heritage site on July 7, 2008.

Both countries lay claim to a 4.6-square kilometer plot of land around the temple. "In the meantime, UNESCO or World Heritage should alleviate any pressure on either Cambodia or Thailand by not proceeding with any administering plan on the area disputed by Thailand and Cambodia," Abhisit said in his weekly national televised address.

He said Bangkok and Phnom Penh shall first settle the demarcation of the troubled area through an existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the two nations in 2000 and a Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC)

He said Bangkok could not pull out its troops from the area before a demarcation settlement, a move seemed to be preferred now by his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

Abhisit said Hun Sen had tried to raise the border tension as an international issue by calling for the attention of the UN Security Council.

He insisted that the issue be resolved bilaterally through the MOU and JBC.

Bangkok will be explaining its position on the issue to the UN Security Council, which calls a meeting on the border tension in New York on Feb. 14, and UNESCO and World Heritage, Abhisit said.

The premier said though the border area remained peaceful in the past week, Thai soldiers were still closely monitoring the situation.

A series of crossfire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers earlier this month caused some casualties on both sides and thousands of local Thais had to be evacuated from their homes.
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Ambassador from Cambodia: Who is Heng Hem?

Cambodia’s ambassador to the United States is Heng Hem, a diplomat with more than 30 years of experience working in foreign affairs.

Hem was born in Kampong Cham province on November 8, 1951. He graduated from the Agricultural School of Prek Leap in Phnom Penh in 1970.

His diplomatic career started in June 1979, following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, when he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

From 1983 to 1985, he worked as the bureau chief in the ministry’s Protocol Department. Following this duty, his first foreign assignment took him to Hanoi, Vietnam, where he served as second secretary in the Cambodian embassy.

He returned to the Protocol Department in 1989, and then shifted to the Department of Information (bureau chief) from 1990-1992.

He was made deputy director of the Economic Cooperation Department in 1992 and served in this role for four years. During this period he attended the Royal School of Administration in Phnom Penh, earning a Certificate in Public Administration (1993).

In 1996, Hem was promoted to deputy director general of the ASEAN Directorate for the foreign ministry.

Two years later, he was posted to India, serving as minister counselor in the Cambodian embassy. While in New Delhi, he attended the Indian Academy of International Law and Diplomacy, earning a degree in 1999 in international law, international organizations and diplomacy. He also received his Master of Arts in political science from the University of Delhi (2001).

He returned to Cambodia in 2001 to serve as director of the Asia 2 Department.

From 2004 to 2006, Hem was Director of Information and Documentation for the foreign ministry and concurrently was an advisor to the deputy prime minister until October 2008, when he was appointed ambassador to the United States.

Hem speaks English and French. He is married and has three sons.
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Thai "reds," "yellows" rally on Bangkok's streets

By Manunphattr Dhanananphorn

BANGKOK Sun Feb 13, 2011

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thousands of Thais held color-coded "red" and "yellow" protests in Bangkok on Sunday, underlining persistent anti-government sentiment and deep political divisions ahead of an election planned this year.

The "red shirts" called for the release of 18 of their detained leaders and their rival "yellow shirts" demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's resignation over his handling of a long-running border dispute with Cambodia.

The rallies were staged ahead of an election that Abhisit says could take place in the first half of the year. On-off anti-government campaigns since 2005 by two groups with a history of, at times, violent protests point to a rocky road for Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

The two rallies also took place in defiance of the Internal Security Act (ISA) invoked last Tuesday and banning protests in main government and commercial areas.

There was a heavy presence of riot police, but no attempt was made to block the demonstrators, who protested peacefully.

Last year saw some of the worst political violence in modern Thai history during a 10-week protest and sit-in in Bangkok by "red-shirts," most of whom support ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Gunmen clashed with soldiers on the streets and eventually the military crushed the protest. Ninety-one people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded.

Eighteen "red shirt" leaders have been detained since then and their supporters massed on Sunday outside the Criminal Court, which will make a ruling on a bail appeal on February 21.

"We are here to call for justice," 'red shirt' leader Thida Thavornseth told reporters outside the court.

"We're not planning to break into the court. We just want to show our support to all the leaders who are still in prison."


They later moved to the Democracy Monument in the city's old quarter, just over a kilometre (half a mile) from a small, two-week protest held by the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The government agreed to use the ISA following concerns the PAD might try to take over its offices. However, its support appears to be dwindling.

The PAD was once an ally of Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party but has turned against him in the past few months over what they see as his failure to act decisively, in particular over a border dispute with Cambodia.

Four days of clashes between Thai and Cambodian forces erupted on the border early this month.

The "red shirts" are angered by the slow progress of an investigation into last year's violence and they have submitted a petition to the International Criminal Court asking for it to intervene, concerned the inquiry will be a "whitewash.

Abhisit, whose term comes to an end in December, said last week he planned to dissolve parliament and hold elections by June, if the country was peaceful.

Analysts say financial markets would welcome polls which could restore stability in Thailand and its $265 billion economy.

But a big risk is that one or both of the rival main parties rejects the result and turbulence returns, bringing the possibility of more violence or even military intervention.

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