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Thursday, June 23, 2011

US-Cambodians Begin Signing Landmine Petition

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 156 countries have signed an international mine ban and 108 have signed a convention against cluster munitions.

Cambodians living in the Seattle, Wash., area have begun putting their names on a petition asking the US to join an international landmine treaty.

Organizers of the petition, including a Cambodian landmine victim and Nobel Prize laureate, Tun Channareth, say they want to collect 1,000 signatures before sending the petition to US President Barack Obama.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 156 countries have signed an international mine ban and 108 have signed a convention against cluster munitions. Neither the US nor Cambodia are among them.

Henry Ung, a manager at the World Financial Group in Seattle, said he met with Tun Channareth and decided to support the cause and sign the petition. “I support him 100 percent in this field,” Ung said.

Ung fled the Khmer Rouge over the Dangrek mountains in 1979, crossing a mine field to get to Thailand. “That’s why I understand this,” he said.

Warya Pothan, who has lived in Seattle since 1975, said she supported the petition because “there are a lot of landmines in our country of Cambodia, and the casualties are so many.”

Millions of landmines remain in Cambodia, although the annual fatality rate has dropped from 1,154 to 185 over the last decade.

Moly Som, who came to Seattle in 1977, said she too supported the petition “to make peace in the world.”

Many signatories to the petition were moved by Tun Channareth’s work. He lost his legs to a landmine in 1982 while fighting in Cambodia’s post-Khmer Rouge civil war.

“He is very brave,” said Dani Morton, a grassroots activist in Seattle who also signed the petition. “He does wonderful work, and for those of us with both hands and legs, indeed, he hasn’t asked us for anything but our signatures.”

Morton arrived in the US in 1981, via a Thai camp, but she saw many family members perish to landmines along the border. “We should help each other,” she said, “and make President Obama participate.”
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Minister Lashes Out at Wasted Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday upbraided government agencies and non-government groups for failing to cooperate against human trafficking, saying the lack of a clear strategy was adding to the

Sar Kheng, whose ministry oversees a special anti-trafficking unit, said the lack of cohesion meant a a waste of resources. He spoke at an anti-trafficking workshop in Phnom Penh to about 80 participants from the government and NGOs, including provincial authorities.

The US lists Cambodia among those countries that need to do more to combat trafficking—which generally means Cambodians being trafficked abroad.

“In the past, activity has been conducted at a distance, with no clear goals or strategies and no compromises, which has caused overlaps in work,” he said.

Government and non-government units need to combine their resources and expertise with law enforcement officials and other to better curb human trafficking, he said.

Last year, the government interceded in 160 cases of human trafficking, smuggling or labor exploitation, according to official figures. Those cases involved nearly 700 victims of trafficking, including nearly 300 juveniles.

Chou Bun Eng, who chairs a government committee to suppress trafficking, said the government is working with a plan that improves awareness of trafficking and provides legal support and alternative

“We think that the three-point strategy can help Cambodians be free from more danger,” she said.

However, Lim Mony, head of the women’s unit for the rights group Adhoc, said that while she supports the strategy in principle, it is not moving forward in reality.

“If there is no will in the implementation of this strategy, with strength and fairness, it’s still useless and won’t provide a positive result for our society,” she said.
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US 'worried over Thai succession'

American diplomats have expressed concern over Thailand's royal succession, according to leaked cables.

The lese majeste law provides protection to the monarchy from defamation, insult or threat

The documents suggest Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who is next in line to the throne, is suffering from health problems. US officials are also worried about how the Thai public regards him.

His father, 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has been in hospital for much of the past two years.

Thailand has strict laws prohibiting any criticism of the monarchy.

Offences under lese majeste laws are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The concerns of the US embassy officials were publicised by journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall in several British newspapers.

He left his job at Reuters news agency because they would not publish the claims.

He told the BBC: "The Thai people - most of them - genuinely love and respect King Bhumibol. It's not fake.
"They really do love him and they are very protective of him and that, I think, has caused people to be against anybody saying anything that appears to attack the monarchy."

But he said that the military and palace courtiers had been meddling in politics for years.

"And they have somehow allowed themselves to hide under the same umbrella of lese majeste as the king," he said.

The documents, publicised just days before Thailand's general election, were reportedly written by US diplomats over several years.

They air concerns about the prince and how he is perceived in the country, suggesting that Thailand will face "a moment of truth" when the king dies.

One embassy cable in 2009 is quoted as saying: "It is hard to overestimate the political impact of the uncertainty surrounding the inevitable succession crisis which will be touched off once King Bhumibol passes."

Many of the issues raised in the cables are known about and discussed privately in Thailand.

But there is a taboo around their public discussion in the country.

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