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Thursday, April 14, 2011

International community condemns Thailand's use of landmines on Cambodia border

These cluster munitions have already robbed two men of their lives, two more have lost their arms and a further five were injured", said Sr Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia.

Based on two separate on-site investigations, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) has concluded that Thailand used cluster munitions on Cambodian territory during the February 2011 border conflict. Thai officials confirmed the use of cluster munitions in a meeting with the CMC on April 5.
This is the first use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force and became binding international law. The CMC, of which the Jesuit Refugee Service is an active member, condemns any use of cluster munitions, and urges Thailand and Cambodia to immediately accede to the global treaty banning the weapons.

In February and April of this year, CMC members conducted two separate missions in cluster-munition contaminated areas in Cambodia including in Svay Chrum village, Sen Chey village and around the Preah Vihear temple hill. Members found unexploded submunitions, as well as fragmentation damage caused by cluster munitions. Norwegian People's Aid confirmed that unexploded M42/M46 and M85 type DPICM submunitions have been found.

"These cluster munitions have already robbed two men of their lives, two more have lost their arms and a further five were injured. The area must be cleared immediately to prevent more suffering. Cambodia must make every effort to ensure the safety of civilians", said Sr Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, who took part in the first mission.

"It's appalling that any country would resort to using cluster munitions after the international community banned them. Thailand has been a leader in the global ban on antipersonnel mines, and it is unconscionable that it used banned weapons that indiscriminately kill and injure civilians in a similar manner", said Laura Cheeseman, director of the CMC.

In a meeting on 5 April, the Thai Ambassador to the UN in Geneva confirmed the nation's use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions. The Ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions "in self-defence" as a response to the alleged heavy use of rocket fire on civilians in Satisuk, the Khun Khan district of Thailand by Cambodian forces.

The ambassador alleged Thailand's use of cluster munitions were used according to the principles of "necessity and proportionality and were in compliance with the military code of conduct".

"There are around 5,000 people living in Sen Chey village that are at risk from these unexploded weapons. Thailand must supply information to help clear affected areas and make them safe for civilians to return home", said Atle Karlsen of Norwegian People's Aid.

The CMC has urged Thailand to provide detailed information on the results of its inquiry, specifically including the location of all cluster munition strikes. With such information, civilians can be adequately warned of the dangers and steps can be taken to remove submunition remnants, which are as dangerous as landmines.

Cambodia and Thailand are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, both joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and participated in the "Oslo Process" to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions and attended its First Meeting of States Parties in neighbouring Lao PDR in November 2010.

"This conflict should spur both countries to take urgent action to denounce the weapons and join the ban treaty," said Cheeseman.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010, banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, while requiring states to destroy stockpiles, clear contaminated land and assist victims and affected communities. Of the 108 countries that have signed the Convention since it opened for signature in December 2008, 55 states have already ratified.

Both Thailand and Cambodia possess stockpiles of cluster munitions, but little is known about their status or composition. The Cambodian government has in the past cited an ongoing review of its defence and security situation as the reason for a delay in joining the treaty. Thailand has cited concerns over its ability to destroy its stockpile as a roadblock to joining the Convention, as well as security concerns. Thailand announced in 2008 that it had no intention of using the weapons in the future.

Cambodia and Thailand are States Parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and Cambodia will host that treaty's 11th Meeting of States Parties in November 2011.

Southeast Asia is more heavily contaminated by cluster munitions than any other region after the United States dropped large numbers of cluster bombs on Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.


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Cambodia celebrates traditional New Year's night with fireworks, concerts

PHNOM PENH, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Colored explosion of fireworks has lighted up the sky over Wat Phnom, the capital's historical and cultural tourism site at Thursday's night to celebrate the first day of the traditional Khmer New Year.

The fireworks had been shot for about 15 minutes, catching the eyes of hundreds of thousands of the New Year revelers.

Meanwhile, concerts have been performed at three different places - one at Wat Phnom, another at Wat Botum Vatey Park near Independence Monument and the other at the Prime Minister Hun Sen' s Park at the riverside in order to entertain the New Year revelers at night.

Cambodia observes Khmer New Year for three days on April 14-16. It is one of the country's most important cultural festivities and is a holiday that's a nice reunion between relatives, close and distant alike.

During the occasion, families bring food, cash, and praying things to offer to Buddhist monks in pagodas in order to dedicate to their ancestors and wish for longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in the New Year.

Also, the New Year celebration is the time for young girls and boys gather and enjoy playing a variety of traditional games, dancing and singing in vicinities of pagodas and tourism sites throughout the country.
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Sumner Redstone Donates $500,000 to Cambodian Children’s Fund

The fund “can provide hope and a path to a new life for thousands of young lives,” he said of his latest donation.
NEW YORK - Viacom and CBS Corp. chairman and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone on Thursday announced his second donation of $500,000 to the Cambodian Children's Fund via his Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation as he continues to donate some of his money.

The non-profit program, to which Redstone donated the same amount in 2007, provides health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

The fund was founded by executive director Scott Neeson, a former Sony executive who knows Redstone, a spokesman said.

Redstone’s initial 2007 commitment established CCF's child rescue center. The latest grant will help fund continued operations.

"The Cambodian Children's Fund is bringing life saving services to innocent children who live in a world of poverty, sickness and ignorance," said Redstone. "With this additional funding, the CCF can grow their programs to serve a wider range of children and to help sustain its operations for the long term. Through the consistency and expansion of its health care and education services, the CCF can provide hope and a path to a new life for thousands of young lives."

Redstone added that "I hope this gift will encourage others to join me in supporting the amazing work of the Cambodian Children's Fund."

Said Neeson “On any given day, our center provides food and health care to over 300 of the country's most vulnerable population. As the demand on our services has increased, so have the costs.”

Last year, Redstone donated $1.5 million to schools he attended and also made a $1 million contribution to advocacy group Autism Speaks. The latter was his largest donation to the group that he has supported in the past.
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OZ may pull out of Cambodia gold search

By Berry Fitzgerald

OZ Minerals is reviewing its Cambodian gold exploration program, which has failed to find the 2 million-ounce resource base that could have become a starter project there.

The latest drilling at the Mesam prospect has failed to excite.

Mesam is adjacent to the Okvau deposit, which OZ last year ranked as a 605,000-ounce gold find.

Advertisement: Story continues below It was hoped Mesam would get OZ closer to the 2 million-ounce threshold. But managing director Terry Burgess said yesterday that results to date had ''not been particularly spectacular.

''We have three or four holes to go but I guess like all these exploration endeavours, you're always waiting for the successful hole,'' he said. He confirmed that the gold assets could be sold after the review was completed.

Apart from the lack of a major discovery in Cambodia, gold assets in the country have fallen dramatically in overall importance to OZ.

After the group's drastic restructuring in 2008, its mining portfolio was reduced to ownership of the Prominent Hill copper/gold mine in South Australia and the Cambodian gold play.

Analysts have previously valued the Cambodian assets at between $40 million and $120 million, with the higher amount dependent on the so-far-elusive additional exploration success. Prominent Hill is now well established as a 100,000 to 110,000-tonne-a-year copper producer.

Cambodia also became less important for OZ after the miner's recent acquisition of the undeveloped Carrapateena copper/gold/uranium deposit in South Australia.

Carrapateena has the potential to be a similar sized copper producer to Prominent Hill. But its development is some way off. A pre-feasibility study could start in 2012 and would take at least a year.

This would lead to full feasibility studies, which take another 18-24 months. After allowing for mine construction time, first production would be in 2017 at the earliest.

Mr Burgess dismissed the suggestion the Carrapateena acquisition meant the group's acquisition hunt to replenish its mining portfolio would be reined in. OZ is holding $750 million cash.
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