The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ASEAN to send monitors to Thai-Cambodia border


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Regional military observers will be sent to the Thai-Cambodian border to enforce a cease-fire imposed after deadly clashes erupted over disputed land surrounding an 11th century temple, foreign ministers said Tuesday following emergency talks.

At least eight people have died in the conflict, which broke out earlier this month, and thousands have been displaced.

The two sides have disagreed on everything, from who fired first and where troops were stationed to how best to end the standoff.

But Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said after a meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that Cambodia and Thailand agreed to a proposal to send up to 40 military and civilian observers to the remote, mountainous area.

The unarmed observers — all from Indonesia — will "observe the commitment by both sides to avoid further armed clashes" and provide accurate and impartial reports about complaints of violations from both sides of the borders, he told reporters after the 90-minute meeting.

They will report to both ASEAN and the U.N. Security Council.

The conflict — which involved exchanges of small arms, mortars and artillery fire — is rooted in a decades-old border dispute near Preah Vihear temple and has fueled nationalist passions on both sides.

The monument was built between the 9th and 11th centuries and sits atop a 1,722-foot (525-meter) cliff. While awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sovereignty over adjacent areas has never been clearly resolved.

Skirmishes have erupted several times since 2008, when Preah Vihear was given U.N. World Heritage status, but soldiers and locals say none has been as violent as the latest clash.

The U.N. Security Council expressed "grave concern" Monday and gave strong backing to the efforts of ASEAN — which usually refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of member states — to help end the dispute.

The regional grouping last deployed observers in 2005 — when it helped oversee a peace deal between rebels and government troops in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh — and has also participated in conflicts in East Timor and the southern Philippines.

Natalegawa made clear Tuesday that Southeast Asian countries were again ready to step in.

"I would like to make it absolutely clear that ... the option of conflict, the option of use of force, is not meant to be on the table," he told reporters ahead of talks, adding "we are waging peace" not war "so that no more guns and artilleries make a sound in our region."

The border has been tense but quiet in recent days.

Earlier Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told university graduates in Phnom Penh monitors would be welcome to all areas inside the border, from the front lines to military camps and ammunition warehouses.

"They can inspect wherever and whenever they want."

While he has tried hard to shift the debate to an international stage, asking for both U.N. peacekeepers and ASEAN monitors, his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has pressed hard for a bilateral solution.

ASEAN is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Read more!

ASEAN Mediates in Cambodia, Thailand Conflict

Thailand and Cambodia agreed Tuesday to accept Indonesian observers and avoid further clashes over a border dispute.

The agreement is a victory for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its current head the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa who took on a high profile role in mediating the dispute.After hosting a meeting in Jakarta between the Cambodian foreign minister and his Thai counterpart, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced that a unique arrangement had been reached to end the violent clashes between the two countries.

Both sides have been fighting over a territory near a historical Hindu Khmer temple on the Thai-Cambodian border.The foreign ministers, he says, have agreed to what he called an unofficial ceasefire, to allow in unarmed Indonesian military and civilian observers to enforce the ceasefire, and to hold further bilateral talks with Indonesian participation in the near future.Natalegawa says he is not concerned that the ceasefire is unofficial as long as both sides adhere to it."The statement speaks of avoidance of armed conflict and which is what our understanding of a ceasefire is.

And so there will be further meeting between the two sides to try to really solidify the present situation.

So I am not going to be trapped into legality of is there a ceasefire or not a ceasefire.

As long as the guns are silent and the artillery is not making nosies,' Natalegawa said.

'I will be quite happy then."Southeast Asia political analyst Carl Thayer is with the University of New South Wales.

He credits Natalegawa, who as chairman of ASEAN took the diplomatic initiative to visit both countries in the past month, and got involved in meetings at the United Nations Security Council in New York.

He says the successful mediation efforts gives ASEAN new credibility on issues that affect peace and stability in the region."I am very optimistic.

It is a very big step for ASEAN,' Thayer stated. 'The issue was taken before the UN Security Council and it threw the hot potato to ASEAN to follow through on.

And Indonesia as chair, its foreign minister has taken a proactive role and has got the agreement of Thailand and Cambodia to show up when Thailand was saying it could only be settled bilaterally."ASEAN has a strict policy of non-interference in member states' internal affairs and has been criticized for doing too little to resolve conflicts and preserve regional security.

But Natalegawa say when the conflict began in early February, he saw a role for ASEAN to play."This is a seminal development in ASEAN's capacity to deal with conflict situation.

When the conflict broke out last fourth of February, as head of ASEAN we were sure, certain that sooner or later this issue will come on ASEAN's lap.

So it is best that we start early and have the advantage of time and have the advantage of setting the tone," Natalegawa said.While the ceasefire is a significant breakthrough, Natalegawa says the mediation process is just beginning and finding a permanent solution to the border dispute will take more time and negotiation.
Read more!

Cambodian Govt. Closes UN Vietnamese Refugee Camp

The Cambodian government has ordered the closure of a United Nations (UN) refugee camp, which housed refugees from the ethnic Montagnard minority, fleeing from neighboring Vietnam.

This indication is contained in a report by Asia News.It ( adding that they are mostly evangelical Christians, from poorer inland areas, and have repeatedly denounced persecution for their faith and support of the United States at the time of the war.

The report noted that human rights activists are appealing to Phnom Penh, urging the government to comply with the directives of the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees.

It observed that the future of some of the exiles is in the hands of the Cambodian government, who signed the United Nations Charter maintaining an ambiguous attitude towards the Montagnards.

“At first, Phnom Penh announced the repatriation of Vietnamese refugees. It then stated that it would comply with immigration and refugee laws, not excluding the possibility of resettling those claiming refugee statuses,” it stated.

Asia News said that Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it is seriously concerned about the future of the Montagnards, who may not receive treatment "in accordance with international standards."

In his reaction, Phil RobertsonPhil Robertson, deputy director of HRW for Asia, said: "It is imperative that the Cambodian government comply with international agreements and does not return those who seek asylum to a place where their lives and their freedom will be in danger."

“However, the Catholic association Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is in favors of closing the Cambodian centre because it "was the equivalent of a detention” center, where refugees lived in the same way as prisoners,” it also stated.

According to the report, to date, the center hosted 20 people, 10 of whom were resettled in a third country (five-a-head between the U.S. and Canada). The remaining was not granted refugee status and could be forcibly returned by the weekend.

It observed that in 2001 and 2004 at least two thousand Montagnards emigrated to Cambodia to escape the violence of the Vietnamese authorities, who arbitrarily confiscated their land and persecuted them because of their Christian faith. Most of them have obtained political asylum, with the United States at the forefront of granting them visas.
Read more!

CAMBODIA: DHL opens fashion and apparel centre


Logistics company DHL has opened a new office in Cambodia which will serve as specialist fashion and apparel centre to support the country's fast-growing garment export industry.

The premises, close to the centre of the capital Phnom Penh, will house its seventh 'Fashion and Apparel Center of Excellence' in the Asia Pacific.

The new office will offer a range of bespoke and consultancy services to help firms manage the product flow further upstream in their supply chains, ranging from material purchasing to sampling, quality control and direct delivery.

"The fashion and apparel industry remains as one of our core focus areas and Cambodia is an increasingly important part of our global fashion and apparel aspirations," explains Huykieu Khau, managing director, DHL Logistics (Cambodia) Ltd.

"In the first 11 months of 2010, garments and textiles contributed nearly US$2.82bn to Cambodia, which is a 20.15% increase from the same period last year. Moreover, EU tax exemptions for Cambodia mean export growth is likely to continue to rise."

DHL already operates similar centres in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Services on offer include international and domestic cargo freight forwarding, labelling and packaging, storage and warehousing, and customs clearance.

"The new office reflects our commitment to expand our reach in the region and to continually invest in Cambodia," adds Amadou Diallo, CEO, Africa and South Asia Pacific, DHL Global Forwarding.

"We are very optimistic about the country's growth potential - gross domestic product growth stands at 5.5% in 2010, higher than the forecast of 4.9% by the World Bank. We believe that 2011 will be an even better year for Cambodia now that economic recovery is well underway."
Read more!