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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cambodia's coastline awarded as world most beautiful bay

PHNOM PENH, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Club of the World's Most Beautiful Bays has officially recognized Cambodia's coastal areas as its member, the minister of tourism, Thong Khon confirmed Tuesday.

The recognition was made after Cambodia's proposal in May last year.

"With the club's recognition, we have optimism that our clean and well-preserved beaches will attract more foreign tourists,"he said, adding"it will also be an impetus to encourage more investors to the areas."

Cambodia's coastline is stretching in the length of 450 km in four provinces of Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep.

It is the country's second most popular destination for tourists after Siem Reap's Angkor Wat temple, the world heritage site.

The club was established in March 1997, in Berlin, Germany. Including Cambodia, it has 27 countries as member with 33 bays to be recognized as the most beautiful bays in the world, said the minister.

According to the club's criteria, to be listed as the world's most beautiful bay, a bay must be under protection project with a wildlife and flora area. Also, it must be recognized by both local and regional level, and it must possess at least two features recognized by UNESCO in the cultural or natural assets categories.

Tourism industry is one of the main four pillars supporting Cambodian economy. In 2010, the sector received 2.5 million foreign tourists generating the total revenue of 1.75 billion U.S. dollars.
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Thailand pushing for WHC understanding on temple dispute

Khmer Preah Vihear damaged from Thai shelling
 BANGKOK, May 31 - Thailand will speed its attempt to inform the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee (WHC) to understand Thailand's stance on Preah Vihear temple, while planning to hold further talks with Cambodia before the 35th session of WHC annual meeting to start on June 19, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti said on Tuesday.

Mr Suwit who is also Thai government's chief negotiator notified the cabinet about the result of special meeting between Thailand and Cambodia on May 25 to 26 on the ancient temple dispute at Paris-based UNESCO, mediated by its Director-General Irina Bokova.

He said the Thai delegation stood firm that the Cambodian management plan for Preah Vihear temple had caused problems between the two countries and the Thai representatives would go ahead with Thailand's plan to inform the 20 WHC member countries to understand that possible problem may arise in the future if the WHC accepts the Preah Vihear management plan proposed by Cambodia at the 35th WHC meeting being held June 26-29.

However, Mr Suwit admitted that the move was not easy as many WHC member countries had provided assistance to Cambodia in the past but he was confident that those countries would understand the problem.

During the Paris meeting, UNESCO demonstrated a better understanding of the issue and towards Thailand’s rationale for proposing that the WHC postpone consideration of Cambodia’s management plan in the area of the Preah Vihear temple pending finalisation of the boundary negotiations between the two countries.

This also included the proposal that in the long-term, Preah Vihear temple should be inscribed as a transboundary property.

However, at this stage, Cambodia continued to insist that its management plan be considered at the WHC meeting.

Mr Suwit said further discussion on how to proceed would therefore be needed and he expected Thailand and Cambodia would hold talks again before the start of WHC meeting on June 16.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962 and the temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

Since then, both sides have built up military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened, resulting in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.

Regarding the Cambodian request to the ICJ to interpret judgment on the case of Preah Vihear temple, including its request for indication of provisional measures, Mr Suwit said Thailand had to await the result of the ICJ hearing.

Thai legal team led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya now in the Hague, Netherlands on Tuesday is scheduled to present the observation on Cambodian request on provision measures to ICJ for the second day at 10pm Thai time.

The result of hearing should be known within 1-3 weeks. In any case, the provisional measure is a separate case from Cambodia’s request to interpret the court’s 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear. Should the provisional measures be issued or not, it will not affect the interpretation case.

As for the interpretation of the court’s 1962 ruling, it was expected that the court would require official statement from both sides about September or October and would take one or two years to consider.

On the first day of the hearing, Thai legal team had told the court that Thailand had accepted and complied with a 1962 ICJ ruling that the temple belonged to Cambodia. However the court has no jurisdiction to judge the Cambodian request.

Meanwhile, Cambodia had also accepted without protest the line drawn by Thailand demarking the area that encompasses the Preah Vihear temple compound following the 1962 Court decision.

After being silence for 40 years, Cambodia started to challenge the perimeter limits of the temple only recently when it wanted to list the temple as a World Heritage site and wanted the area as buffer zone to manage the temple under the management plan of the ancient Hindu temple.

Cambodia has also admitted that it had yet to demarcate the border - including the area where Preah Vihear temple is located - when it signed the memorandum of understanding with Thailand in 2000.

Thailand wished to live in peace, develop good relations and cooperation with Cambodia, so that there is no reason for any conflict, said the Thai legal team. (MCOT online news)
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OZ denies Cambodia blunder

                                                 OZ Minerals' Century Mine in Queensland. Photo: Reuters

OZ MINERALS and the Cambodian government have been forced to deny allegations of impropriety over reports that a transaction by Oz Minerals in 2009 led to hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid to the relatives of government officials.

The news comes as the US Securities and Exchange Commission continues investigations into Cambodian bribery allegations involving BHP Billiton.

BHP has yet to confirm - or deny - that the investigations relate to a $US1 million payment by the company to the Cambodian government in 2006 to secure bauxite leases.

According to yesterday's The Cambodia Daily, Oz Minerals bought out its partner in a Cambodian gold mine in 2009, Shin Ha.

More than $A1 million of the proceeds went to three women on the partner's board who were reportedly closely related to officials from government departments including the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME).

According to the newspaper's investigative reporter, Douglas Gillison, the trio were appointed in 2006, just before Shin Ha concluding a joint venture agreement with the Owen Hegarty-lead Oxiana.

The company was later named Oz Minerals following a merger with Zinifex.

Oz Minerals spokesman Natalie Worley told BusinessDay an investigation by the company did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

''Wherever we operate, we act in accordance with local regulations and with international standards.

''We deny any allegations of inappropriate business practices,'' Ms Worley said.

According to the report, Cambodian Minister Suy Sem said no ministry officials had received any payments and the ministry had strictly observed the law.

Government officials are not allowed to have business interests and must declare assets, but this disclosure does not extend to relatives.

Oz Minerals has only recently put another controversy behind it.

Last month it paid $60 million to settle two lawsuits which claimed shareholders lost hundreds of millions of dollars when the miner failed to disclose its true debt position during the global financial crisis.

OZ Minerals was forced to sell all its operating mines, except Prominent Hill, to China Minmetals in June 2009 for $US1.39 billion after it could not reach an agreement with banks to pay back this debt.

It survived only after Wayne Swan blocked the sale of Prominent Hill - a copper and gold mine in South Australia.

Oz Minerals also retained the gold exploration rights in Cambodia, which could provide more disappointment. In April, the company said it was reviewing its gold exploration in the country after exploration efforts failed to find a large enough resource base to justify the commencement of production.

Meanwhile, BHP said yesterday that its internal investigation into the Cambodia bribery allegations was continuing and that it had passed on to US authorities ''evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials''.

''The group is continuing to co-operate with the relevant authorities. It is not possible at this time to predict the scope or duration of the investigation or its likely outcomes,'' BHP said.

BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers effectively pre-empted the findings of two investigations in April last year by saying he expected only modest fallout for the company.
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