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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vietnam’s investment in Cambodia doubles in 2011

HCMC – Vietnam’s investment in the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia kept surging this year, accounting for over half of the country’s total outbound investment, of which the investment in Cambodia has doubled.

As of now, Vietnamese enterprises have invested in some 100 projects in Cambodia, with the total registered capital of US$2.1 billion. This statistics was published by the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment at the Mekong Investment Cooperation Forum 2011 held in HCMC last weekend.

In 2011 alone, local investors registered the investment capital worth over US$1 billion in the neighboring country, twice as much as the figure last year.

In addition, Vietnamese enterprises have to date also invested in 200 projects in Laos, worth US$3.3 billion in total registered capital. In the January-November period this year, Vietnam’s registered capital in this country amounted to US$500 million, rising by 15% year-on-year.

Currently, Laos attracted most of Vietnam’s overseas investment, followed by Cambodia in the second place. On the other hand, Vietnam is the third biggest investor in the two neighboring countries, after China and Thailand

The majority of Vietnamese investment projects in Laos and Cambodia are in the fields of forestry, agriculture, energy, mining, telecommunication, and banking. Among those, several large-scale projects in Laos will soon start service in 2012.

Big Vietnamese investors in Laos and Cambodia include the military-run Viettel, Vietnam Rubber Industry Group, Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group, and Saigon Invest Group.
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Thaksin hogs limelight as Thai PM struggles to shine

By Natnicha Chuwiruch

BANGKOK | Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:46pm IST

BANGKOK Dec 20 (Reuters) - Thailand's jet-setting, self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is carving out a more direct political role for himself in government led by his sister, a move that could rock a fragile peace in his deeply polarised country.

The billionaire who fled in 2008 before he was convicted in absentia of power abuse has spent the past week visiting Cambodia, Nepal and also Myanmar, smoothing the way, he says, for an official visit to the former Burma by his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

According to the Bangkok Post newspaper, Thaksin said he was in Myanmar last Thursday and met President Thein Sein and retired former military dictator Than Shwe, although a source close to the fugitive tycoon told Reuters the visit was personal and no high-level meetings took place.

Despite his overthrow in a 2006 coup and his self-exile in Dubai, Thaksin, 62, has never faded from the Thai political scene and the landslide election win for Yingluck's Puea Thai Party in July has strengthened his hand.

He has been central to Thailand's six-year colour-coded crisis, backing two ruling parties led by his allies and the main focus of crippling street protests in 2007 and 2008 by anti-Thaksin "yellow shirts" and bloody counter demonstrations by his "red shirt" supporters in 2009 and 2010.

The latest moves, independent analysts say, may be counter-productive for the political neophyte Yingluck, who is trying -- with little success -- to emerge from behind Thaksin's shadow and assert herself as the real leader of Thailand.

It also risks striking a raw nerve for influential figures in the royalist establishment and the military that toppled him and crushed the subsequent red shirt street insurrections.

"Everyone knows Thaksin is the one controlling the new government from behind the scenes but no one (in the government) wants to come out and say it out loud," said Kan Yuanyong, director of the Siam Intelligence Unit think tank.


Kan said Thaksin, whose five-year ban from politics expires in May next year, had kept a low profile as a government advisor in 2008. But his latest moves to reassert himself, seemingly as representative of a country in which he is technically a criminal, could be a step too far.

"In the upcoming year, I think we could expect to see Thaksin trying even harder to come back into power," he added.

The Myanmar visit, which the Post quoted Thaksin as saying was to smooth the way for Yingluck's trip, followed a similar visit to Cambodia in September, a few days before the first official visit by his 44-year-old sister, who critics deride as his "puppet."

Yingluck held separate meetings on Tuesday with Thein Sein and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi while in Myanmar.

Thaksin remains loved and loathed in equal measures in Thailand and his latest activities follow moves by the new government to seek out legal avenues to aid his return.

Some ministers close to Thaksin have made no secret that they would like to see his conviction overturned, something that could re-ignite tensions in a country where he has powerful enemies -- who could move against Yingluck's government.

A proposed plan to amend an amnesty law that would have allowed Thaksin to return a free man was aborted by Yingluck's government last month after it prompted an outcry from the main opposition party and anti-Thaksin groups.

The opposition last week cried foul over a decision by Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul -- a distant relative of Thaksin -- to reissue his Thai passport after it was rescinded two years ago by a previous government.

Sukhum Nuansakun, a retired political scientist, said that although Thaksin was trying to assist his inexperienced sister, his prime motivation was to stay in the spotlight.

"It's not like he would be in competition with his sister," he said. "He wants everyone to see that he still has a role in this new government." (Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Lane)
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FM Surapong accused of failing to protect Thailand's interest

The opposition Democrat Party on Tuesday accused Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul of failing to protect Thailand's interests in the border dispute with Cambodia.

Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalsut said the foreign minister failed to protest when Unesco's international coordinating committee (ICC) last Wednesday inspected the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the border between the two countries.

Both Thailand and Cambodia claim sovereignty over a 4.6squarekilometre area next to Preah Vihear - known as Phra Wihan in Thai - which the World Court said in 1962 belonged to Cambodia.

Meanwhile Surapong dismissed the accusation as a Democrat attempt to distort facts for political benefit. "I call on the opposition to stop playing politics. They should avoid causing damage to the country by playing political games," he said.

Chavanond said the Cabinet in December 2008 resolved to reserve Thailand's right for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to notify the country before entering the area claimed by Thailand to examine the temple.

He said Unesco was aware of the Cabinet resolution as it was informed by Thailand's ambassador to France.

According to the Democrat spokesman, this government failed to send any representative to join the ICC examination of the Preah Vihear compound. "Thailand this time failed to abide by our own order and allowed them to pass our territory easily," he said.

Chavanond added that it was likely that Cambodia would try to take advantage of the situation when it came to the border dispute between the two countries.

Chavanond, serving as secretary to Surapong's immediate predecessor Kasit Piromya, claimed that some officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry - increasingly discontent with the foreign minister's actions - were regularly supplying him with information about what Surapong did.

"I do not call for anything more than abiding by the Cabinet resolution to protect our sovereignty," Chavanond said. "I believe [Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen loves this government the most. This government has allowed him to do whatever he likes more than any other government over the past 10 years."

Surapong said that Unesco and Cambodia invited Thailand to join the ICC examination tour but that Thailand turned it down. He added that the opposition should not try to politicise the matter.
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Thai Army Chief to Attend Thai-Cambodia General Border Talks

Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chano-cha on Tuesday said he would join Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) meeting led by Defense Minister Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa in Cambodia on Wednesday.

He said the meeting will discuss 17 key issues including peaceful co-exist between the two countries as well as the Cambodian stance in compliance with the injunction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ on July 18 ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw their troops from the newly defined demilitarised zone in disputed area around the contentious Preah Vihear temple while urging both countries to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to allow the observers to enter the disputed zone.

The army chief said the conclusion of the GBC meeting will be proposed to the cabinet and parliamentary meeting for approval as it is required by Article 190 of the Constitution, stipulating that any international treaties and agreements having effect on the country's territory must first be approved by the parliament.

At the GBC meeting, it is expected that both sides will specify the forces to replace their soldiers at Preah Vihear in accordance with the court order.

The ancient temple and its surrounding area have been frequently a flashpoint between the two countries. Although the World Court awarded the 11th century temple to Phnom Penh in 1962, a plot of 4.6 sq-km land has been claimed by both neighboring countries. Military build-up along the border and nationalism in the two countries prompted cross-border firings and shelling in February and April this year, killing at least tens of soldiers on both sides and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
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