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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prawit rejects GBC meeting in Indonesia

Defence minister wants bilateral talks

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha will not attend the 8th General Border Committee meeting with Cambodia.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha greets a boy as he presides over the opening ceremony of two 20-floor condominiums in the background built for families of soldiers. The 2.1-billionbaht residence is located in the compound of an old military prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok’s Kiakkai area. WASSANANANUAM

Referring to the meeting, scheduled for Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8, Gen Prawit said: "No, I'm not going. Why should I go for the meeting in a third-party country? [Thailand and Cambodia] know each other well enough and don't want any other party to get involved."

A military source said Gen Prawit had also decided not to attend an earlier GBC meeting in Indonesia proposed by Cambodia and the Asean chair.

Gen Prawit cited the same reason then, saying relations between the Cambodian and Thai armies were good enough for the border dispute to be resolved through bilateral mechanisms, said the source.

According to the source, Gen Prawit said he would seek to have talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh, but was concerned the latter would not agree, since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had made it clear he would not allow any new bilateral discussions with Thailand.

Gen Prayuth also said Cambodia's proposal to set up 15 joint border checkpoints in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple was unnecessary, as he believed the dispute could be solved through military talks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that Unesco would push for Thailand and Cambodia to attend a meeting on border issues in May.

He was speaking after a meeting with Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The May talks are aimed at improving the understanding between the two countries before Unesco holds its World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris a month later.

There, the WHC will discuss Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear.

The meeting was scheduled for Bahrain but switched to Paris when political unrest erupted there.

Mr Abhisit also said bilateral talks through the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) remained crucial to deter attempts to turn the border issue into a multilateral matter.

To allow the JBC mechanism to move forward, the parliament's endorsement on the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues was needed, he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said it would petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Mr Abhisit and the other concerned people over allegations they had violated Sections 157, 119 and 120 of the Constitution by not revoking the MoU.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said the alliance would also petition the Constitution Court to interpret if the MoU was in breach of the charter.

The health of Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid, jailed for eight years in Cambodia after being found guilty of espionage and illegal entry to the country on Dec 29, is said to have vastly improved.

His younger brother, Preecha Somkhwamkid, visited Veera at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Monday and reported that his condition was much better after a recent bout of ill health.

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Retired CF teacher raises money to build Cambodian school

Donna Martin interacted with students while visiting a school in Cambodia that she raised money to build. Martin, a retired Chippewa Falls High School teacher, raised the $13,000 needed to build the school by substitute teaching and seeking donations.

By Jon Swedien Leader-Telegram staff

Retirement was frustrating Donna Martin.

"I didn't feel like I was doing anything important," said the former Chippewa Falls High School teacher, who retired in 2003.

But about a year ago, Martin found a new purpose while reading a magazine article about a charity program that works to open new schools in poverty-stricken rural Cambodia. If she could raise $13,000, it would finance a new school.

"I thought, ‘Well there's no reason I can't do that,' " she said.

And so Martin went to work. She set aside money she earned substitute teaching, saving up about half the money needed. To raise the other half, she sought donations from friends and colleagues and church groups in Chippewa Falls.

Martin thought it would take three years to meet her goal, but within a year she had raised $13,000. The money was used to build a new middle school in the Cambodian village of Khan Sar, which serves 84 students who previously had to walk or bike several miles to attend school.

When Martin was asked to name the school, she christened it Chippewa School after the community that helped her meet her goal.

"You get a lot for your money in Cambodia," Martin said with a laugh on Friday, a day after she returned from a trip to Southeast Asia.

On March 1, Martin visited Chippewa School, along with friends Virginia Metzdorf and Sue and Gene Decker.

Students lined up to welcome Martin, and local and regional dignitaries came to the school to thank her and speak about the importance of education, said Sue Decker, a former colleague of Martin's at Chi-Hi.

"It was a pretty moving experience," she said. "I was very proud of my friend."

Decker said rural Cambodia lacks the basic infrastructure - electricity, running water and paved roads - that is taken for granted in the U.S. One of the major features of Chippewa School, in addition to its four classrooms, is its well that provides the school with running water.

She said it was evident many of the students came from humble means.

"The kids don't really have much. Most were barefoot," Decker said.

Martin made a similar observation when she and her friends handed out packets of school supplies.

"One boy said he'd never seen a globe before," Martin said. "You wonder what their view of the world is when they've never seen a globe."

And while Chippewa School may be built, Martin said she's not done raising money.

"When I saw the school, I thought, ‘I don't think this project is finished,' " Martin said. "Their needs are so incredible.'"

Martin next hopes to raise money to bring an English teacher to the school or to buy computers. Decker said Martin's continued philanthropy is good for her friend's morale.

"She's a very goal-orientated person," Decker said. "She wants to give of herself."

Meanwhile, Martin said she hopes her efforts motivate others to take up altruistic causes.

Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214 or .

School Program

The program that Donna Martin participated in is the American Assistance for Cambodians' rural schools project. The program has built more than 300 schools, according to the association's website. The organization was founded by former Newsweek Cambodian Bureau Chief Bernie Krisher.

To learn more go to

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Cambodia permits 33 companies to send workers abroad

PHNOM PENH, March 22 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has permitted 33 private companies to send laborers to work in foreign countries, according to a government report.

The report released Tuesday by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training said that in 2010 the ministry permitted 33 companies who arranged Cambodian laborers to work in several Asian countries.

It said 20 private companies were permitted to send workers to Malaysia with a total of 16,394, among them 13,872 are females.

Thailand is the second country where 11,224 Cambodian workers were sent by 10 permitted companies to work there in 2010, among them 4,920 are females.

South Korea was the third country for Cambodian laborers to work there with 2,116 workers.

Other sources, however, said the number of Cambodian workers in those countries is higher than the official record, especially, if accounted with those working illegally in Thailand.

According to the government's report, Cambodian laborers working in Thailand and Malaysia earn about 200 U.S. dollars per month, whereas in South Korea and Japan is between 800 and 1,000 U. S. dollars per month.

As of date, Cambodian workers are only sent to these four countries, but more targeted nations such as Kuwait, Qatar, Canada and Singapore are being negotiated.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a crackdown on labor trafficking to Thailand, saying salary for workers status is no different for those being employed locally.

"We've had been a shortage of laborers recently, therefore, I would like to appeal to our people that there are many job opportunities in Cambodia," he said.

Hun Sen said people who chose to work in Cambodia could avoid abuse and mistreatment from employers in Thailand or would not risk arrest when crossing the border for working illegally.

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Local Cambodian Freedom Fighter gets jail for tax evasion

Cambodian Freedom Fighter Sentenced to Additional 37 Months for Tax Evasion

A self-appointed commander of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a Long Beach-based group formed to seize political control in the southeast Asian country, was sentenced Monday to a concurrent term of 37 months in prison for tax evasion.

Yasith Chhun, a 54-year-old United States citizen, was previously sentenced last June to a life term for conspiring to kill in a foreign country and other federal counts stemming from his 2008 conviction.

The same year, Chhun pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false tax returns and aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns. Chhun admitted operating an accounting service that filed false tax returns for numerous taxpayers, resulting in a loss of more than $400,000, according to court papers.

Before he was sentenced to the life term last summer, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson expressed some sympathy for the defendant, who told the judge he formed the 200-strong Cambodian Freedom Fighters partly to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

"I don't think Mr. Chhun is an evil human being," the judge said. "I think he's had a tragic life -- and had the misfortune of being born in a place where terrible things were happening."

Chhun, a former Long Beach accountant who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1982, was found guilty in 2010 after a two-week trial of the four charges against him -- conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States and engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.

Jurors were told Chhun planned "Operation Volcano" to overthrow the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The failed attempt resulted in the deaths of at least six people, including a 15-year-old boy killed in a grenade attack and a young man who was shot by a stray bullet, Pregerson said.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Chhun as a callous, cowardly, incompetent leader of the CFF, who held group meetings at his Long Beach business, CCC Professional Accounting Services, located in the 2700 block of East 10th Street.

Chhun also met with former members of the Khmer Rouge military at the Cambodia-Thailand border in October 1998 to plan Sen's overthrow, prosecutors said.

The Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The Communist organization was blamed for the deaths of more than 1 million people through execution, forced labor and starvation in what became known as the country's "killing fields."

After raising money in the United States -- including staging a May 2000 fundraiser at the Queen Mary -- the CFF launched "popcorns," or small-scale guerrilla attacks in Cambodia against gas stations, coffee shops and other targets, according to the U.S. government.

The judge also noted that the CFF "was probably infiltrated, so had no realistic chance of succeeding."
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Amnesty Possible Without Premier Request: Analysts

While some ruling government officials maintain that opposition leader Sam Rainsy can only receive a royal pardon with a request from the prime minister, legal observers say that practice is only a matter of courtesy.

Opposition lawmakers and other legal professionals say a royal pardon is up to the king himself, Norodom Sihamoni.

The king was sent a letter this week by opposition party lawmakers seeking a reprieve for their leader, Sam Rainy, who was removed from parliament this month.

The letter, signed by 24 Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers, comes as the party faces the prospect of the 2012 and 2013 elections without its leader, who is in exile and facing criminal convictions in Cambodia. Some political analysts have warned that elections will have less legitimacy in the eyes of the international community if they are held without the leader of the opposition.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told VOA Khmer that a royal pardon, by law, need not be requested by the prime minister. Such a request has only become a practice, he said.

“It’s because the prime minister has the power,” he said. “That’s why generally there is a request from the premier—and because [Sam Rainsy’s] case is political, whether or not there is amnesty might depend on the approval of the premier of Cambodia.”

The request from the Sam Rainsy Party to the king was not outside the law, he said, but it could put some political pressure on Norodom Sihamoni, who has remained relatively outside the political arena since taking the thrown in 2004.

“I would say that the king would have some consequences, because in Cambodia the political situation, the issue of politics, needs approval from the prime minister,” he said. “So it may be that the king has to wait for a sign from the prime minister.”

In recent weeks, ruling party officials have said a request from the prime minister can provide amnesty for criminals who have served at least two-thirds of their sentence, a reference to a law distinct from the constitutional provision for general royal amnesty.

Kao Supha, a Cambodian lawyer, said the king does have a right to pardon criminals, although he “always” waits for a request from the prime minister as a matter of course.

“If [a request for pardon] is directly submitted to the king, the king will send a letter to the prime minister, to allow the prime minister to submit a request back to His Majesty,” he said.

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld decisions by lower courts that found Sam Rainsy guilty of racial incitement and destruction of property, for destroying markers near the Vietnamese border. With no further legal recourse, the National Assembly removed him from his seat as a representative of Kampong Cham province. That means the only way he can regain his parliamentary seat is to be pardoned.

The constitution, in Article 27, stipulates: “The king shall have the right to grant partial or complete amnesty.”

Son Chhay, a National Assembly lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, said this means the king has individual authority, even if in practice a request typically comes from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“As a habit, so far, His Majesty gives special favor to the prime minister, in order to offer the premier the honor of making a request for amnesty,” he said.

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Cambodia to host 10th ASEAN taekwondo championships next month

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Cambodia will host the 10th taekwondo championships of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on April 7-9, Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), said Tuesday.

"It will be the first time Cambodia hosts the international taekwondo tournament event," he said. "We hope that it will go smoothly and we will plan to host other international sports events in the future."

There will be around 300 athletes and coaches from seven countries in ASEAN taking part in the event including Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, except Indonesia, Brunei and Myanmar.

The tournament will be held at Olympic Stadium with the support from ASEAN Taekwondo Federation.

The tournaments are classified into two categories-underage athletes and adult athletes.
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