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Friday, May 13, 2011

China, Cambodia new venues for oilmeal exports

India’s deoiled meals would remain in high demand in the overseas markets, as China and Cambodia emerge as the key export destinations for the commodity. According to the details provided by the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA), oilmeal exports from India have seen a sharp rise over the past one year, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming months.

According to the SEA estimates, China is now emerging as a key export destination for oilmeals. The neighbouring country is buying large quantities of extractions of rapeseed, soybean and groundnut from India. The total exports from India are expected to be around 500,000 tonnes per annum, valuing over Rs 600 crore.

A SEA delegation, led by its president Sushil Goenka, visited China and Cambodia during April 23 and May 3, with an objective to strengthen the relations with the end users of Indian deoiled meals (extractions). India being a producer of non-genetically modified variety of oilmeal, there were better prospects for overseas demand.

The delegation found China to be a potential market for exports of Indian deoiled meals, particularly for rapeseed. The exports can be doubled in the next three years from the present level of half a million tonne, SEA noted.

In order to promote the export of oilmeals, SEA has decided to participate in various exhibitions being held across China from time to time to create further awareness about Indian oilmeals, as well as create confidence in the minds of the Indian buyers being a serious and regular source of supply for oilmeals.
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Cambodia to postpone Thai expo slated for next week in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia decided to postpone the Thai expo planned for next week in Phnom Penh, saying it is not the right time to hold such an expo.

"Due to recent restrictions on border trade by Thai military region 2, I am of the opinion that this is not the right time to promote Thai products in Cambodia," Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said in a letter to Thai embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Cambodia's decision is a response to the 2nd Thai Army command' s order on Tuesday to halt a further exports of fuel and other products into Cambodia, claiming the Cambodian military may need them to support their troops in operations against Thai forces along the disputed border.

"The export ban will last until the border situation really returns to normal," the Bangkok Post online reported, citing the order letter of the 2nd Army command.

On Wednesday, Thailand announced that it would organize the second largest scale expo of Thai products in Phnom Penh from May 19-22.

"We cannot guarantee the reaction of Cambodian visitors to such exhibitions after Thai's behavior," Cham Prasidh said.

"Therefore, I have issued instructions to the Department of Trade Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce to contact the organizers of the Thai exhibition 2011 to postpone the said event until more favorable time comes," added the minister.

Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the Thai embassy's Foreign Trade Promotion Office in Phnom Penh, which is the event organizer, said Friday that the embassy has received the letter and agreed to cancel the event.

"We have no choice, we have to postpone the event," she said. "We don't know when it will be re-arranged."

Cambodia and Thailand has border dispute just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was listed as World Heritage site on July 7, 2008. Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 sq km of scrub next to the temple.

Since then, both sides have built up military forces along the border, and periodic clashes between the two countries' soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest flare-up occurred from April 22 until May 3 at the 13th century Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province, leaving 19 people, on both sides, killed and nearly 100, 000 civilians evacuated for safe shelters.
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Aid donor battles Cambodia over forced evictions

Poor residents fight eviction in Cambodia's capital, and the World Bank fights the government

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- A manmade sand dune looms over Cham Pothisak's tin-roof and plywood shack, left by builders who want to transform the sprawling slum-like neighborhoods on the periphery of Phnom Penh's largest lake into fancy villas and office space.

Cham and his family are among 10,000 people who face eviction because of a questionable deal turning over some of the Cambodian capital's priciest real estate to a company reportedly owned by a close associate of the prime minister.

Their predicament stems in part from a flawed $23.4 million World Bank program that was supposed to prevent such land grabs by strengthening people's title to their land. The problems illustrate how difficult it can be for well-intentioned outsiders to bring about change in developing countries plagued by corruption and entrenched interests.

The dispute over Boeung Kak lake has embarrassed the World Bank and led to an unusually tense standoff with Cambodia's government. The bank issued an ultimatum in March demanding a halt to evictions and higher compensation for landowners. A May 8 deadline has been pushed back to next Monday, though the bank is not likely to act immediately.

The 38-year-old Cham likens the situation to life under the Khmer Rouge, the ultra-Marxist regime that terrorized the country for four years in the late 1970s.

"We're angry but we can't do anything against them," he said. "It's like the Khmer Rouge all over again. We're helpless."

The root of the mess lies with the Khmer Rouge, which outlawed private property in a bid to create an agricultural utopia. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were killed or died of starvation or disease under its brutal rule and failed polices.

Since the Khmer Rouge was ousted in 1979, the United Nations and other international groups have tried to help rebuild the country and its government institutions, with mixed results. Democracy has struggled; Prime Minister Hun Sen consolidated power in a 1997 coup and has not relinquished it since. A real estate boom has driven land-grabbing by wealthy or politically connected developers to new heights, activists say.

In 2002, the World Bank, the Washington-based institution focused on development and poverty reduction, helped set up the Land Monitoring and Administration Program to build a system of paper titles and central registries. Germany, Canada and Finland helped finance the effort.

When the lands in question were marginal, the system appeared to work. Government surveyors interviewed owners, reviewed documents and issued more than 1.2 million titles, a sign of the program's success, the bank says.

But when business interests wanted land -- for logging, sugar plantations or real estate, for example -- the process actually left some more vulnerable to eviction.

That's because government officials running the program would simply reject claims from poor landowners or deny them the right to appeal, said David Pred, whose organization Bridges Across Borders Cambodia advocates for landowners.

"Meanwhile, the wealthy and well-connected have little difficulty in acquiring land title in high value areas in which poor communities reside due to their connections or their ability to pay the high 'unofficial fees,'" Pred wrote in an email.

A 2006 report done for the German government's aid agency found that 20 percent of households surveyed were refused the right to prove ownership of their property, according a land-use consultant with firsthand knowledge of the report. The consultant spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is not public.

Many landowners around Boeung Kak -- a 330-acre (133-hectare) bowl of sewage-filled water and trash-littered marshes in the shadow of high-rise banks and government ministries -- expected to have a chance to argue their claims after workers began surveying their properties in May 2006.

But in January 2007, authorities surprised residents, activists and foreign donors by refusing to acknowledge any records of the residents' properties, essentially pre-empting any ownership claims.

The next month, the government announced that a company called Shukaku Inc. had acquired the development rights to the lake under a $79 million, government-backed 99-year lease. The land was worth far more, residents say.

Shukaku's chief is widely reported to be Lao Meng Khin, a ruling party senator, reclusive businessman and close associate of Hun Sen.

By August 2008, workers had started pumping sand into the lake, creating berms like the one menacing Cham's house. Torrents of sand and water flooded some homes almost instantly, sometimes in the dead of night. The World Bank and many foreign embassies complained.

In September 2009, the government abruptly canceled the land title program, citing what Hun Sen called "complicated conditions."

Most of the lake is now filled, the sand all but destroying its ecology. More than 2,000 families have already moved. The remaining landowners complain that the compensation being offered is laughable, particularly given skyrocketing real estate values.

Authorities "aren't stupid, they're just corrupt. They just have no conscience," said Tep Vanny, who faces eviction from her house on the lake's east side. "It's a way to keep the people poor, and for them to stay in power."

Neither Shukaku officials nor Lao Meng Khin responded to written requests for interviews.

Government officials, including the Phnom Penh governor and the national government's chief spokesman, either refused to comment or take a reporter's repeated phone calls.

In an internal report released March 8, World Bank inspectors concluded the land title program was flawed in its design, violated bank social and environmental policies and may have made it easier to evict landowners.

The bank also warned that it would reconsider both current and future projects in Cambodia if the government doesn't help resolve the Boeung Kak controversy. Bank President Robert Zoellick took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the government on the day the inspectors' report was released.

Aid experts say the government does not want to be seen as being pushed around by a foreign institution and may be using the fight as a signal to keep other donors in check. For the World Bank, its credibility is at stake if a strong-arm government can ride roughshod over bank policies to protect the poor.

Sia Phearum, head of a Cambodian housing rights organization, said that people in many countries welcome development projects and the hope they bring for better lives -- but not in Cambodia.

"In Cambodia, people who have no land have no hope," he said.
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Cambodia war crimes judge threatens suit against prosecutor

Phnom Penh - A German judge who jointly heads the investigation office at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia has threatened to file contempt-of-court charges against the tribunal's international prosecutor.

The unprecedented development that two senior UN staff might face off within the tribunal's system came days after the prosecutor, Andrew Cayley, said an investigation by Judge Siegfried Blunk's office was deficient.

Blunk did not reply Friday to emailed questions, but the Cambodia Daily quoted him as saying it could 'write any story you like' after he declined to say what lay behind the contempt-of-court charges.

Cayley said Monday that he had reviewed the file prepared by Blunk's team on the third case in the prosecution of leaders of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime and would request the investigating judges do more work on it.

His comments seemed to confirm long-standing rumours that the judges have done little on the case.

Cayley, a British national, told the German Press Agency dpa Tuesday that case three still needed 'a substantial amount' of investigation and called on Blunk's office to notify the suspects they were under investigation and to interview them.

'And [there are] a number of other steps, including investigation of crime sites also originally named by the prosecution in the introductory submission, which haven't been investigated at all,' Cayley said.

Tribunal observers have long feared the investigating judges are trying to shelve the tribunal's third and fourth cases. That would suit the Cambodian government, which has repeatedly said it would not permit those cases to go to trial.

Asked whether the court was indeed trying to bury cases three and four, Blunk responded with a threat.

'The use of the word 'bury' is insolent, for which you are given leave to apologize within two days,' Blunk wrote in an email Tuesday without specifying a penalty.

Blunk's actions come at a critical time for the court as it prepares for its second case against four senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders this year.

Cases three and four involve five unnamed former Khmer Rouge, who between them are thought to be directly responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

But the investigating judges have refused to make public any details about either case, including which crime sites were under investigation, leading to accusations that they have deliberately excluded victims.

Tribunal monitor Clair Duffy of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is funded by US billionaire George Soros and monitors the tribunal, said Friday that the case-three investigation had already done substantial damage to the tribunal's reputation.

She said news of possible contempt-of-court proceedings was 'potentially very damaging.'

'The potential message is that those seeking to act independently of political will and to act with integrity in the pursuit of justice will be laying themselves open to criminal sanction,' Duffy said.

In its first case, the tribunal last year convicted the Khmer Rouge's head of security, Comrade Duch, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

More than 2 million people are thought to have died under the movement's rule of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
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Wichit offers himself as border problem solver

Army veteran seeks seat in House to end clashes
Newspaper section: News

Gen Wichit Yathip, the former deputy army chief, hopes to enter politics so he will have a chance to take part in solving the conflict at the Thai-Cambodian border.

Army on a roll
About 300 soldiers of the 2nd Army carry out an exercise at a military training field in Nakhon Ratchasima’s WangNamKhieo district. Live ammunition was used during the exercise, with six F-16 jet fighters taking part. PRASIT TANGPRASERT

Gen Wichit, who is also a close aide of former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is known to have close ties with Cambodia, said he is considering what party he will join for the July 3 election.

Last month Gen Chavalit resigned from Pheu Thai party as its chairman.

Gen Wichit, 63, told the Bangkok Post that he was ready to offer himself as a problem-solver in the Thai-Cambodian spat.
He decided to enter politics because he felt deep sorrow about the fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops.

Calling Thais and Cambodians "brothers", Gen Wichit said when Thai and Cambodian soldiers kill each other, the confrontation could escalate into long-lasting "hatred and nationalism".

Gen Wichit said the clashes were the saddest he had faced.

The two countries enjoyed a much better relationship when he served in the army and was assigned to deal with Thai-Cambodian issues, he said.

He would work with any party which appoints him to solve the Thai-Cambodian problem.

"I want to see Thais and Cambodians love each other again," he said.

He had met Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently to discuss the conflict over the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre overlapping border area near Preah Vihear temple. He gave Mr Abhisit some recommendations on the issue.

Before clashes broke out in February, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen talked to Gen Wichit and suggested a three-point solution.

They were that both countries should withdraw troops from the area, jointly manage the 4.6-square kilometre overlapping border area, and have Thai and Cambodian monks live together at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which is in the disputed area.

He believes Hun Sun was keeping a close watch on whatever government takes shape after the July 3 election.

"If the Democrats return to power, there will be further fights, but if Pheu Thai heads the government, talks are likely to go more smoothly," Gen Wichit said.

He had recently called Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh and found he was unhappy with Mr Abhisit's approach to dealing with the border conflict.

"We have to understand how Gen Tea Banh might feel, because he has to listen to Hun Sen," he said.
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Indonesia's peace solution proposal approved by Cambodia: official

JAKARTA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- An Indonesian government official said on Friday that the Cambodian government has approved the peace solution proposed by Indonesia to settle the armed conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

"Thailand government has yet to approve the package solution. The approval would wait for its cabinet meeting scheduled within the next few days," Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Micahel Tene said here.

Michael added that the package solution was in the recent trilateral meeting between Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia foreign ministers here on May 9, following tough discussions on the issue during the 18th ASEAN Summit recently.

The meeting among foreign ministers of the three countries was mandated by the previous trilateral meeting among President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia in the summit.

As the implementation of the proposal Indonesian Observer Team (IOT) would be deployed in the disputed border area according to a timeline inside the package, monitoring efforts and condition in the fields that favoring to peace solution.

Besides that the quick announcement of the establishment of General Border Committee (GBC) and Thailand's approval on the terms contained in the Terms of Reference (TOR) towards the deployment of IOT was also part of requirement to the package solution.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed that conflict between them be settled in ASEAN-facilitated measures with Indonesia, the ASEAN chair this year.

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