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Monday, May 30, 2011

Cambodian Complains of Thai Aggression Before World Court

Cambodia's Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, right, and Franklin Berman, member of the English Bar, left, talk at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, May 30, 2011

Cambodia's foreign minister has told the International Court of Justice in The Hague that Thai aggression is to blame for a recent series of deadly border clashes between the countries.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong urged judges in the Netherlands-based court on Monday to settle a territorial dispute over land around the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which led to clashes that killed at least 10 people in February. Another 18 died in fighting last month near another ancient temple complex about 150 kilometers farther west.

Hor Namhong is asking the court during the two-day hearing to rule that a 4.6-square-kilometer area around the temple is Cambodian territory. The same court ruled in 1962 that the temple itself is in Cambodia, but remained vague about the surrounding land.

Bangkok officials say Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, backed by an international team of lawyers, will tell the court later Monday that Thailand has never questioned the 1962 ruling itself. But he is expected to argue that by agreeing in 2000 to establish a joint boundary committee, Cambodia has admitted that the border itself is unclear, and that the boundary committee should settle the issue rather than the court.

Cambodia is also asking the court to order an immediate withdrawal of Thai forces from land around the temple and to ban Thai military activity in the area. A ruling on that request could come within two to three weeks, while a final decision on the case is not expected until early next year.
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Cambodia-Thailand border dispute at UN court

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong is seen at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, May 30, 2011. Thailand and Cambodia will face off at the United Nations' highest court Monday, in the latest move to settle a decades-old battle for control of a disputed border region that has erupted into deadly military clashes. Cambodia is asking the court to order Thailand to withdraw troops and halt military activity around a temple at the center of the dispute between the Southeast Asian neighbors. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

Thailand and Cambodia traded barbs Monday at the United Nations' highest court, accusing each other of launching illegal cross-border attacks around a historic temple in a disputed border region.

The competing claims came as Cambodia appealed to the International Court of Justice to order Thai troops away from Preah Vihear temple — Thailand responded by claiming the court has no jurisdiction to intervene.
Opening the hearing with an emotional speech, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong claimed Thai forces had mounted "murderous armed incursions" into Cambodian territory.

Thailand's ambassador to the Netherlands, Virachai Plasai, hit back by alleging that unprovoked Cambodian attacks on Thai territory amounted to "a blatant and deliberate violation of" the rules of war.

"This portrayal of Thailand as a big bad wolf bullying the lamb of Cambodia is totally wrong," Plasai said.

Fighting between the two nations has cost some 20 lives, wounded dozens and sent tens of thousands fleeing since 2008, when the 11th-century temple was given U.N. World Heritage status, overriding Thailand's objections.

In a fresh attempt to settle the dispute that has simmered for decades, Cambodia is asking the world court for a new interpretation of its 1962 judgment that gave it control of the temple.

But Thailand's lawyer James Crawford said the 16-judge panel has no jurisdiction to intervene now because Thailand accepts the 1962 ruling that the temple is on Cambodian territory. He said the border dispute is not part of the ruling.

He was responding to Hor Namhong's assertion that Thailand is using an erroneous reading of the 1962 ruling "to provide legal cover for armed incursions into Cambodian territory."

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the two countries are still in talks to settle the border dispute.

"We do not understand why we have to come here when there is already an existing mechanism" for negotiating a border, Kasit told reporters outside the courtroom.

The court could rule on Cambodia's request for a Thai troop withdrawal order within weeks, but will likely take years to settle the underlying dispute if it accepts it has jurisdiction.

Tensions along the border have been exacerbated in recent months, in part by pressure from influential Thai nationalist groups that have protested in Bangkok, urging the government to take back disputed border territory. Hardcore nationalists insist a 1962 World Court ruling awarding the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia was unfair.

"Thailand does not merely challenge Cambodia's sovereignty in this region, but is imposing its own interpretation by occupying this zone by murderous armed incursions," Hor Namhong said.

The flare-up also comes as the Thai military raises its profile in domestic politics ahead of a general election scheduled for July 3.

According to its World Heritage listing, the temple dedicated to Shiva "is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation."

Talks mediated by Indonesia's president in early May between the two countries' prime ministers failed to hammer out a lasting cease-fire.

"The two armies confront one another on a daily basis and new Thai aggression could arise at any moment," Hor Namhong told the judges. "It is time for international law to speak loudly."

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Start of Cambodian share trading delayed to end-2011

May 30 (Reuters) - Trading on Cambodia's long-awaited stock exchange, which was scheduled to start in July, has been delayed yet again until the end of the year because companies planning listings need more time to comply with regulations, operators said on Monday.

Ek Sonn Chan, director general of state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA), said there were many details still to be ironed out but his company was going ahead with plans for a $20 million flotation.

"It's going to be a small offering, about 15 percent," he said, adding the company did not need the money for expansion. Rather, its listing was to help set ground rules for other companies wanting an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Han Kyung-tae, managing director of Tong Yang Securities (Cambodia), which is helping PPWSA and state owned Telecom Cambodia to prepare listings, said the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) already had systems and a platform in place, and there would be a "soft launch" on July 11.

"It's not going to be an easy task but as an underwriter, I am positive for a first IPO at the end of this year," Han Kyung-tae said.

In a statement posted on its website on Monday, the Finance Ministry said it was following the experience of other countries that had launched their market first so that it would have time to prepare for securities trading later.

At least 10 private companies want to list on the bourse besides state-owned PPWSA, Telecom Cambodia and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, according to a government official, who declined to provide further details.

The stock exchange will quote share prices in the local riel currency , despite pleas from foreign investors who would prefer dollars because that would make it easier to assess risk.

The bulk of Cambodia's financial transactions are in dollars, which make up 90 percent of deposits and credits in the banking system in one of Asia's poorest countries.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia has granted licences to 15 securities firms to operate on the CSX -- seven underwriters, four brokers, two investment advisers and two dealers, most of them partly or wholly owned by Malaysian, Vietnamese, Japanese, South Korean or U.S. companies. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould)
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