Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ask Thai govt. to stop migrant’s crackdown


MANILA, Philippines—An alliance of Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East urged the government to formally ask the Thai government to stop the on-going crackdown of migrants in its territory.

“The state parties to the United Nations Convention for the Protection of Migrants and members of their Families, especially those governments that have ratified the said Convention (including the Philippines) should speak out and to formally ask the Thai government to stop the crackdown of migrants,” said John Leonard Monterona, a Saudi-based OFW who serves as the regional coordinator of Migrante International in the Middle East.

Migrante-Middle East made such call amid the impending crackdown of migrant workers, mostly from Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, by the Thai Royal Government in implementing its so called national verification scheme.

“The governments that signified and ratified the UN Convention for the Protection of migrants and members of their families are not only responsible in bringing the UN Conventions into effect in their respective countries by adhering to the principles and norms set forth by the UN Conventions for Migrants but they too are also expected to defend it and urge other non-state signatory to observe and pay respect to the said UN Convention for Migrants,” Monterona averred.

The following countries have ratified the Convention as of March 2007[update]: Argentina, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda and Uruguay.

In addition, several countries have signed the Convention. This means that their government has expressed the intention of adhering to the Convention. These are: Bangladesh (in 1998), Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone (in 2000), Togo (in 2001), Cambodia, Gabon, Indonesia, Liberia, and Serbia and Montenegro (in 2004).

“The Philippines is a state signatory to the said UN Convention, thus it is expected from the RP government to speak out against the impending crack down of migrant workers in Thailand especially if there are OFWs that will be affected by this,” Monterona added.

“Not only that, the RP government must also work for the legalization of thousands of undocumented and illegal migrants along side with receiving host governments, but sad to say we have not heard any effort from the Arroyo administration,” Monterona continued.

Monterona cited for instance that in the Middle East there are about 3,000 undocumented and illegal stayers. He added every day Migrante chapters are receiving cases of undocumented OFWs asking how could they be home since they are already illegal migrants after they have ran away from their abusive employers.

Cambodia aided to address climate change


Cambodia and a number of international organisations on February 27 jointly launched a multi-donor initiative to cope with climate change.

The initiative, called the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA), received US$8.9 million in funding from various countries and international organisations worldwide.

The CCCA aims to help the Cambodian National Climate Change Committee to develop and coordinate policies on responding to the impact of climate change on agriculture and energy production and developing coastal areas in a sustainable way.

The initiative will raise the awareness of the Cambodian people on global climate change while providing senior government officials and representatives from social organisations with training and instruction on ways to deal with the threats posed by it.

At the launch ceremony, Cambodian Environment Minister Mok Mareth said the CCCA is a turning point in Cambodia’s roadmap toward mitigating the impact of climate change.

According to the United Nations, Cambodia is one of the countries that will suffer most from the first impact of global climate change.

In recent years, Cambodia has been hit by abnormally severe floods, droughts and storms, which occur more frequently than in the past.


Hmong returnees look life in eye in barren land


BORIKHAMXAY, LAOS : Hmong people repatriated from Thailand to start a new life at a resettlement village in Laos are unsure whether their lives hold out the prospect of much improvement.


Ban Thonekhan village, 150km east of the capital Vientiane, is in the country's mountainous centre. It is home to 2,768 Hmong repatriated from Ban Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun on Dec 28 last year, and 155 Hmong from Nong Khai who had persons of concern status.

They were among 4,350 Hmong sent from the Thai camp over international objections.

More than 500 Lao people live in the village already, but the Lao government is hurriedly redeveloping the area to settle the new arrivals. It has built 400 of the 600 houses that will be needed, with the rest due to be completed next month.

The Thai government _ which regarded them as illegal economic migrants _ insisted they left voluntarily. However, it kept the media at a distance as soldiers, armed with riot shields and batons, shepherded the asylum-seekers into buses and trucks for the journey back across the border last year.

Among the Hmong are 155 who were held at a detention centre in Nong Khai, and have ''persons of concern'' status. Some had been promised resettlement in third countries including the United States, which says it will accept 70 from this group.

The Lao government invited the Thai delegation, including journalists, to visit the resettlement village last week. It wants to allay reports that the Hmong had left Thailand under duress or were mistreated. Nipat Thonglek, head of the Royal Armed Forces' Department of Bor der Affairs, led the delegation.

It was the first official Thai visit to the village since the repatriated Hmong left the camps. The Hmong people who met them at the village sang a native song of welcome. The lyrics confessed their guilt at having left the motherland, and asserting their happiness at having returned. However, the optimistic message of the song was at odds with how many of the Hmong really feel.

Va Kia, 50, originally from Xaisomboon, was detained at Nong Khai immigration centre until Feb 28 last year.

The United Nations gave her a card attesting to her ''person of concern'' status, which she believes gave her entitlement to resettle in the US.

However, no one has followed up on the promise, so she faces the prospect of spending life at the village instead.

''They said that after 30 days back in Laos, they would take us on to the third countries. But it's been nearly two months now, and nobody has come.''

The isolated village is on former forestry land. The Lao government won't say how much it has spent on resettling the Hmong so far, but says a total of US$8 million (264.3 million baht) will be needed to build schools and put up basic infrastructure. It is appealing for foreign support.

A Hmong man, 32, also given person of concern status, said he, too, faces an uncertain future. He left a jungle home near the Vietnamese border in Borikhamxay province several years ago with five other family members.

''Because we do not have Lao citizenship, somebody said we should go to Thailand. I paid him the equivalent of nearly 6,000 baht.

''We were afraid to stay in the jungle, so we crossed the border. We heard during our stay in Bangkok that the UN would protect us, so we contacted them. Our family is being resettled in the Netherlands, but at the moment we do not know what lies ahead.'' Hmong woman Pai Seya, 40, said she was not happy. ''While in Thailand I could speak my feelings, but here I cannot,'' said Pai, from the Ban Huay Nam Khao camp.

Earlier in Vientiane, Jo Luo, 20, refused to comment on claims that she had been raped by Lao soldiers. ''I don't want to further talk about this, especially before TV cameras and a huge crowd.''

She was among four people from Nong Khai detention centre to which the US has paid special concern. The other three were siblings, aged between seven and nine years. The family of a Lao reporter has now adopted two girls, and a boy has been returned to his Hmong father.

Jo Luo said she left home alone hoping for a better life in Thailand, but ended up cleaning dishes at a Bangkok restaurant. She was rounded up, and eventually sent to Nong Khai.

Lt Gen Nipat said Thailand had repatriated 7,780 Hmong in 22 trips since November 2006.

Thaksin to lodge appeal


Bangkok Post

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is preparing to appeal against the ruling by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on the seizure of his 46.37 billion baht assets.

"I've instructed my lawyers to look into it [the appeal]," Thaksin said in a message on Twitter yesterday. "This case is not a normal case. It has been tried in a single court under the coup laws. They gave me no justice."

Thaksin remained upset by the court's verdict on Friday as he bombarded his Twitter page with messages condemning the ruling and the judicial system.

"What serious crime had I committed that made them seize up to 46 billion baht from my family?" he said.

He repeatedly complained that he was treated unfairly and said the confiscation of his assets was "inhumane".

Earlier in the day, Thaksin sent SMS messages to his followers hoping they would "enjoy democracy within next month".

He did not elaborate but the timing coincides with a rally planned by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

The red shirts will mobilise their supporters on March 12 for a demonstration in Bangkok on March 14.

Thaksin's legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama, said lawyers for the ousted premier are studying the ruling.

"We see that there are legal facts [in the court's verdict] to be discussed and considered further," he said.

The verdict can be appealed within 30 days on condition that the respondent has come up with new evidence.

Thaksin's legal team planned to distribute copies of the study to the public to draw attention to points by the former prime minister, he said.

"We'll keep fighting for justice.

"We won't allow [the state] to seize even a single baht if we don't get justice," Mr Noppadon quoted Thaksin as saying.

Thaksin's daughter Pinthongta yesterday said on the internet television station,, that she was disappointed with the court verdict and said the ruling would not deter her from fighting for justice.

Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh yesterday expressed concern over the consequences of the court's ruling, saying it could spur people to protest against unfair treatment against Thaksin.

"Today, we have not only the red shirt group and the Puea Thai Party, but also many more groups who are making their moves," he said.

Supporters of Thaksin and the opposition party should adhere to peaceful means of protest. He was certain they would lead to the return of true power to the people soon.

Gen Chavalit believed the court's verdict on the seizure of Thaksin's assets was masterminded by an influential figure whom he did not name.

Col Apiwan Wiriyachai, deputy House Speaker and Puea Thai MP for Nonthaburi, said the court's ruling was part of a plan backed by the coup-makers for destroying the now-dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party and the Shinawatra family, and at the same time conspiring with the elite bureaucrats to help a big political party take the helm of government.

Thaksin should have known better

Bangkok Post

At last, Thaksin Shinawatra is sorry for his family for the fact that they are now 46 billion baht poorer. He also accused the Supreme Court of being unfair in handing down the verdicts that resulted in confiscation of part of his assets.

Upon entering politics a decade ago, Thaksin should have hired trustworthy managers to take care of his business and financial affairs, and concentrate only on administering the state as entrusted upon him by the overwhelming majority of Thai voters. Mixing business with politics, as he should have known, is an absolute no-no.

But he unforgivably failed the country, and ultimately his family. Now it is harder for the literate Thai public to call him a trustworthy bloke _ let alone a statesman.

Chavalit Van

POST BAG Hun Sen's Double Standard

Bangkok Post

A story in Friday's Bangkok Post (''Sam Rainsy must serve time, then run'') reports that Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the leader of his country's main opposition party would not be permitted to participate in the next general election unless he serves a pending jail sentence. Hun Sen is reported to have said: ''This time the court sentenced him to jail _ no pardon this time ... You must be jailed first, if you are brave enough to come and be jailed.''

Should not the whole of Thailand shout a loud chorus of ''double standards''? Hun Sen is giving succour to another fugitive from justice, who has been ''sentenced to jail''. Sorry I forget, silly me. Cambodian justice is of course far superior to that meted out in Thailand.

Professor L A Damani

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thaksin: I do not accept the verdict

Bangkok Post

Fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his statement that he does not accept the court’s verdict to seize his 46 billion baht in assets, saying it was something like he was robbed.

Thaksin’s statement was read out by lawyer of the Shinawatra family, Noppadon Pattama, on Saturday late afternoon at headquarters of the opposition Puea Thai Party.

However, the ex-premier called on his supporters to refrain from moving to help him but to use peaceful means to bring back true democracy and to resolve problem of injustice in the country.

Mr Noppadon said a team of lawyers is studying ways to bring the Thaksin assets seizure case to the international court of justice.

He also stated that Thaksin will definitely appeal against the court’s ruling, but the details will be disclosed by Thaksin’s lawyers who handle this case.

Jeers, tears, expletives as Thaksinites absorb bitter blow

Bangkok Post

Tears, jeers, expletives, crumpled handkerchiefs and something resembling war cries greeted the fact Thaksin Shinawatra is now 46 billion baht poorer.

About 300 red shirts at the Puea Thai Party headquarters yesterday responded with anger and tears at the Supreme Court's final verdict which was delivered at 8.50pm.

Upstairs on the fourth floor, 30 Puea Thai MPs sat in anxious silence while one of the nine judges presiding over the case at the court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions read the last portion of the historically-long verdict.

One MP blurted: ''This is not acceptable.''

Fifteen minutes later in front of a screen beaming Thaksin's image, Krongthong Puengsanga, white-haired woman said: ''Red shirts from every province must now come out to fight.''

In her hands she clutched an large photograph of Thaksin sitting astride a white horse.

Although the verdict could not have come as a total shock, the red shirts maintained high spirits throughout a day that could not accurately be described as eventful. The lengthy, monotonous reading of the court's deliberations had the dual effect of inducing heightened expectations and prolonged boredom.

Loyal supporters, mostly middle-aged women, sat glued to their seats in front of the projector's screen from early afternoon until late evening, listening to every word uttered by the judges and reacting with occasional hooting.

When the day began, it was expected that the drama would be focused on the Supreme Court near Sanam Luang.

In the afternoon, a handful of red shirts showed up, followed by an appearance by Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol. The view of riot police and barbed barricades gave the high-fenced building a timely gravity.

Across the street, the Daeng Siam (Red Siam) stage in Sanam Luang was a paltry affair that only attracted a small crowd.

By the afternoon, it was clear that the ebb and flow of emotions was actually taking place at the Puea Thai head office on Rama IV Road, Klong Toey, where the mood was upbeat, buoyant, even optimistic.

The red shirts turned the steps of the building entrance into an entertainment arena. They sang and danced and shouted Thaksin's name in glorious unison. The northeastern mor lam songs were a staple that spurred people to get up and shake their hips, like a mini carnival.

Puea Thai chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh arrived and roused the crowd into great emotion. Former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat's arrival again provoked a hubbub, with a number of women clamouring to have their photos taken with him.

''We're singing because we believe that we're fighting for justice and we enjoy doing it,'' said one man.

Yet there was tension in the air. At 3.30pm, loud cheers broke out on the steps of the building when, to the surprise of reporters, someone had mistaken the court's reading of the statement from Thaksin's defence as an acquittal. Prasith Chaisriya started to cry with joy. ''I was so happy,'' he said as he wiped his face, then was stunned speechless when he realised that it was a false alarm. ''I'm singing because today we're not fighting for one man but for justice,'' another woman said.

The same woman sobbed quietly six hours later when she learned her hero was a loser in the historic court case that will determine the course of Thai politics for years.

Only 100 Thaksin supporters turned up at the People Channel station to listen to the live broadcast of the court's verdict.

They occupied seats near a large projector set up in front of the office on the sixth floor of the Imperial Department Store at Lad Phrao.

One red shirt member said he arrived at the station early to listen to the verdict, which he did not expect would favour Thaksin.

The judges' explanations were lengthy and confusing, he said.

The once-cheering crowd of Thaksin's supporters quietly dispersed once the court ruled to seize 46 billion baht of the Shinawatra family's 76.6 billion in frozen assets.

South coast corridor to boost regional sea-borne economy


The Ministry of Transport has approved a project on the construction of a 220-km corridor to connect the south coastal areas of Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces with Cambodia and Thailand.

The corridor, which is expected to begin next month in the Mekong Delta, has a total investment of US$440 million, US$75 million of which comes from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Australian government will provide US$25 million in non-refundable aid, and the Republic of Korea will provide a preferential loan of more than US$246 million.

The corridor, which reaches from the Ha Tien border gate in Kien Giang province to the Nam Can marine economic zone in Ca Mau province, will be conducted in two phases.

Phase I, including construction of a road section from Rach Gia to Ca Mau cities, is scheduled to finish in late 2013 at a cost of US$390 million.

Phase II will cover construction of road sections in Kien Luong, Hon Dat and Soc Son towns and expansion of National Highway 80 Rach Gia-Kien Giang section.

The corridor will help promote the development of the marine based economy and reduce poverty, particularly in coastal areas on the Ca Mau peninsula.

The Kien Giang provincial People’s Committee has invested in building industrial zones and trade centres along the corridor, awaiting opportunities for development, say the provincial authorities.


Viettel conquers Cambodia's mobile market

Vietnam News

HA NOI — Viettel Cambodia, a subsidiary of Viet Nam's military-run telecom service provider, now owns 42 per cent of the base transceiver stations (BTS) and 88 per cent the optic-fibre cable in Cambodia.

In terms of subscribers, it now holds the second place just six months after becoming operational.

The telecom provider aims to obtain a turnover of US$250 million this year. It also plans to have 3,000 BTS for 2G services and 1,500 BTS for its 3G network. It is also looking to increase its optic-fibre cable network to between 15,000 and 16,000 kilometres.

Viettel said it was looking to have a 46 per cent share of the fixed-line subscriber market, and 90 per cent of the mobile phone and ADSL markets.

The group is now the leading Vietnamese investor in foreign countries.

This year, it plans to invest in Bangladesh, while expanding its market share in other foreign countries.

The group said its targeted turnover this year was VND75 trillion to VND78 trillion ($4-4.2 billion), an increase of 60 per cent to 70 per cent against last year.

In the domestic market, its BTS and optic-fibre cable infrastructure has increased by 50 per cent. It has 26,000 stations for 2G and 3G services and 90,000 kilometres of cable.

The telecom provider plans to have 7,000 operational BTS for 3G services in Viet Nam.

Viettel deputy general director Nguyen Manh Hung said the group would be responsible for designing its products, while they would be assembled in mainland China or Taiwan.

Hung said his company decided to invest in producing made-in-Viet Nam mobile phone products to meet the demand of Viet Nam's 40 million subscribers. It is anticipated that there will be 50 million subscribers by the end of this year. — VNS

Vietnam provides internet system to Cambodian legislature

Nhan Dan

A delegation of Vietnam’s National Assembly has worked with the Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General on the installation of an internet-connected computer system for Cambodia ’s legislative body.

During their visit to Cambodia from February 22-27, Deputy Head of the NA Office Nguyen Si Dung held talks with Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General, Leng Peng Long, on the project.

The US$300,000 project will be conducted in two phases and completed by late 2011.

For the first phase to be completed this year, Vietnam will provide an internet application server, computers and internet subscriptions to the Cambodian NA to make the parliamentarian agency connected to the worldwide internet.

During the second phase, Vietnam will help install an intranet system for the Cambodian NA to better disseminate information and guidelines among other agencies under its aegis.

Within the visit’s framework, Cambodian NA Chairman Heng Samrin gave a cordial reception for the Vietnamese delegation stating he was delighted at the ever developing co-operation between the two legislative bodies of Cambodia and Vietnam. (VNA)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Record low Mekong River poses threat to millions

Fri, Feb 26, 2010

HANOI - Water levels in the northern Mekong River are at record-low levels, posing a threat to water supply, navigation and irrigation along a stretch of water that is home to millions, a regional official said.

Northern Thailand, northern Laos and southern China have all been affected, Jeremy Bird, chief executive officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) secretariat, told AFP.

"The flows are much lower than we've got records on in the last 20 years," said Bird, whose inter-governmental body deals with all Mekong River-related activities including fisheries, agriculture and flood management.

"Now what we're seeing is these flows are reducing even more," Bird said from Laos on Thursday.

More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for food, transport and economic activity, the MRC says, adding that it is home to the world's most valuable inland fishery.

Bird said 21 cargo boats have reportedly been stranded because of the shallow river water in southern China.

A regional drought has caused the water to drop, the MRC said.

"Severe drought will have an impact on agriculture, food security, access to clean water and river transport and will affect the economic development of people already facing serious poverty," it said in a statement.

"The northern provinces are amongst the poorest areas for both Lao PDR and Thailand."

River tour operators have stopped offering services on the river between the Laotian tourist centre of Luang Prabang and Huay Xai on the Thai border, the MRC said.

Officials in Laos have started advising people to reduce water consumption.

Bird said it is difficult to say whether global warming is responsible but the wet season in Vientiane last year was one of the worst on record, and was followed by much lower than average rain late in 2009 and early this year.

As a result, there has been very low water flow in the Mekong's tributaries.

"'The rainfall in China is also extremely low," Bird said.

Thai non-governmental groups believe the unusually low levels are caused by Chinese dams, according to reports in the Bangkok Post.

There are eight existing or planned dams on the mainstream Mekong in China, the MRC has said.

"It's difficult for us to say categorically that there's no link" between the low water levels and those dams, Bird said.

But he added it would not be normal for dams to be filled during the dry season.

The Nation newspaper in Bangkok reported that Thailand would ask the MRC to negotiate with China for the release of more water from its Mekong dams to alleviate downstream drought.

Bird said the commission has not yet received any formal request from Thailand. If it does, the MRC would discuss with China the possibility of releasing water.

"This is one area where the dams upstream would actually be beneficial," he said, because once the hydropower projects are in service they should lead to 30-40 percent more dry-season water flow.

China and Myanmar are dialogue partners with the MRC which groups Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

MRC data show that water levels on the Mekong in Cambodia are not as low as in the north, which Bird said is explained by factors such as different regional rainfall systems.

For the north, the problem is only set to get worse.

"The flows will probably continue to reduce for another month," Bird said.

Thaksin Shinawatra: from phone billionaire to fugitive ex-prime minister

Ben Doherty
The Guardian, Friday 26 February 2010
Article history

Thaksin Shinawatra, whose appointment as an economic adviser to Cambodia infuriated the Thai governmenbt. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Born to a silk-trading family in Chiang Mai, Thaksin Shinawatra began his working life as a policeman. After several failed business ventures, in 1989 he established Shinawatra Datacom, a mobile phone network business that was to become the biggest phone operator in Thailand, and make him a multibillionaire.

He entered politics in 1994, becoming foreign minister that same year. He was elected prime minister in the general election of 2001, and became hugely popular, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, enfranchising the rural poor, and offering them healthcare for 30 baht (60p) and low-cost loans. He won a second election in 2005 but was swept from power in a bloodless coup in 2006 by a military leadership that argued he was corrupt, but was increasingly fearful of his growing popularity and power.

In 2008 he was convicted of a conflict of interest over a land deal involving his wife. He was sentenced to two years' jail, but had fled the country before the verdict was delivered. A fugitive, he now lives in Dubai and serves, to the fury of the Thai government, as an economic adviser to neighbouring Cambodia.

He is best-known in Britain for his short-lived ownership of Manchester City football club.

Govts to move ahead on border demarcation

26 February 2010
Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post

AMBODIAN and Vietnamese officials say they are pushing forward bilateral demarcation efforts on northern stretches of the two countries’ 1,270-kilometre shared border.

The state-run Voice of Vietnam radio station announced on Wednesday that army engineers in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong were
gearing up for the planting of eight border markers on the frontier with Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also announced Wednesday that, by the end of 2010, the government was hoping to finish the demarcation process for the 500-kilometre stretch of border running from the northernmost point of Ratanakkiri province into Kratie province.

“To the east we are searching to plant the [border] markers. This year [we] are trying to demarcate 500 kilometres [of the border], starting from where the Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese borders meet down to Kratie province,” he said.

The demarcation of the border with Vietnam has been dogged by controversy in recent months, with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) alleging that four border markers in Svay Rieng province have been placed up to 500 metres inside Cambodia’s legal territory, as defined on French- and American-drawn maps.

Government officials deny the allegations, saying party president Sam Rainsy falsified public documents in order to demonstrate the incursions were real.

SRP spokesman Kimsour Phirith said that the party also planned to investigate the placement of border markers in other provinces, citing a lack of transparency in the placing of the Svay Rieng markers.

“It was mostly Vietnamese engineers who planted those posts – there was only one [official] from Cambodia who followed the Vietnamese experts,” he said, adding that the investigations would begin in Mondulkiri.

When contacted on Thursday, Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, did not give many details on the progress of the demarcation process in the northeast, but said they would be carried out bilaterally, with the involvement of both Cambodian and Vietnamese officials.

“We plan to finish planting demarcation posts in Mondulkiri according to the bilateral plan after we have a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial Governor Chan Yoeun and Kratie provincial Governor Kham Phoen could not be reached for comment.

Ministers differ on Internet controls

26 February 2010
Brooke Lewis and Sam Rith
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Suong Senghuot, a line supervisor for the Internet service provider WiCam, checks for data service on the corner of Monireth and Sihanouk boulevards.

ENIOR ministers on Thursday were in apparent disagreement over the extent to which the state-owned company Telecom Cambodia would be able to block access to individual Web sites if it were granted control of the country’s Internet exchange – a move both company and government officials are reportedly looking to implement as soon as possible.

An official from the company on Tuesday said it would seek to block access to Web sites deemed inappropriate for a range of reasons, a statement that drew fresh outcry from representatives of the private telecommunications sector, one of whom said it could be “very dangerous” for the government to filter online content.

However, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Thursday said the government had not told Telecom Cambodia that it could play a role in blocking Web sites.

“I don’t know what authority they’re saying that under,” he said in reference to the Telecom Cambodia official’s comments.

“The government doesn’t have any policy on that.”

Under the centralisation plan, all Internet service providers (ISPs) would be funneled through exchange points run by TC, which has indicated it will charge for the service. Currently, two domestic Internet exchange points are run by private companies free of charge.

Khieu Kanharith added that although the government is capable of blocking access to Web sites, it has no intention of doing so, and that there are unresolved questions about whether censorship policies should be implemented.

“Who should decide what should be filtered?” he said. “We have the technology, but we don’t think it’s appropriate” to filter content.

However, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said Thursday that the practice of monitoring and blocking online content would be entirely consistent with TC’s role in supporting the work of his ministry.

Referring to “inappropriate” Web sites, he said, “After we inform those Web site owners and they still don’t close their Web sites, we will tell TC, which [will have] the right to block Web sites,” he said.

A telecommunications industry representative who spoke on condition of anonymity said Thursday that the two officials’ contradictory statements could be taken as evidence that the MPTC was on the verge of overstepping its role, which is supposed to be that of a free market regulator. “The Ministry of Information is stating the law – only a judge has the authority to decide what can be censored, and they are upholding that,” he said.

So Khun did not fully endorse the statements made earlier this week by the TC’s deputy director, Chin Daro, who said the company would aim to block Web sites that featured pornographic content or material that is critical of the government.

“If any Web site attacks the government, or any Web site displays inappropriate images such as pornography, or it’s against the principle of the government, we can block all of them,” Chin Daro said. “If TC plays the role of the exchange point, it will benefit Cambodian society because the government has trust in us, and we can control Internet consumption.”

On Thursday, So Khun denied that TC would have the authority to block access to Web sites that were critical of the government, or that the government would want those Web sites blocked. “The government blocks only pornographic Web sites,” he said.

In any case, rights groups and private telecommunications sector representatives have expressed concern over the plan to funnel traffic through TC’s exchange point, with some painting it as a threat to freedom of information.

MPTC and TC officials have said that the proposal stems from national security interests and a desire to preserve cultural values, but some private sector representatives have countered that the government is attempting to mask an attempt to make money from Internet traffic.

Cambodia files new suit against opposition leader

Bangkok Post

The Cambodian government Friday filed a fresh lawsuit against the country's fugitive opposition leader over claims he forged and published a false map of the border with neighbouring Vietnam.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, was sentenced in absentia last month to two years in prison over a related conviction for uprooting border posts and inciting racial discrimination.

The new lawsuit was filed with Phnom Penh Municipal Court, government lawyer Ky Tech told AFP.

"The lawsuit involves forging public documents and publicising disinformation related to the forgery of a map in order to manipulate the public over the border issue with Vietnam," Ky Tech said.

In his January conviction, Sam Rainsy and two villagers were found guilty of intentionally damaging temporary border posts last October.

In the new case he is accused of posting a "fake map" of the border on his party's website, which the government says depicts incorrect border markings with Vietnam.

No formal map has yet been agreed between the two countries.

Sam Rainsy could face up to 15 years in prison for forging public documents and up to three years in jail for disseminating false information if convicted, the lawyer said.

Neither he nor his party spokesman could be reached for comment.

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes.

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia in rife, fuelled by resentment at Vietnam's expansion over the centuries and the feeling that Cambodia is losing some of its territory.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen maintains close relations with the Vietnamese regime and Sam Rainsy, whose party shares his name, has repeatedly accused the government of ceding land to Vietnam.

Vietnam and Cambodia share a 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border, which has remained vague since French colonial times.

French-educated former finance minister Sam Rainsy is the main rival to Hun Sen. He has promised to promote liberal democracy and human rights, raise wages and fight corruption if elected.

Hun Sen this week accused Sam Rainsy of treachery for trying to stir up problems at the Vietnamese border while Cambodia is already embroiled in a bitter border dispute with Thailand.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

China, Cambodia sign Consular Treaty to further strengthen cooperation ties

Source: Xinhua

China and Cambodia on Thursday signed here the Consular Treaty, aimed to further strengthen the cooperation relations between the two friendly countries.

Long Visalo, secretary of state of Cambodia's Foreign Ministry and Zhang Jinfeng, Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom, signed the treaty on behalf of their respective countries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and other government officials presented at the signing ceremony.

"Along with all-round development of the friendship relations between our two countries, personnel exchanges between the two countries are also increasing," Long Visalo said, and expressed his believe that the Consular Treaty will effectively protect the legitimate interest of citizens of the two countries.

Zhang Jinfeng said that China and Cambodia are good neighbors and have a good cooperation on many fields including consular, such as jointly combat illegal immigrant and transnational crimes.

She said that the Consular Treaty has established the framework of consular cooperation between the two countries, provided a legal basis for solving the problems that may arise in the consular affairs and also defined the responsibilities and obligations of both sides. She believed that the treaty will help promote the further development of bilateral consular relations.

Zhang also hoped that the two sides will exchange instruments of ratification as soon as possible, so that the treaty could come into effect as soon as possible.

At present, Cambodia has established six Consulate Generals in China, including China's Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Kunming, Chongqing and Nanning, while China has not yet set up the consulate in Cambodia.

Men detained for killing rare cattle in Cambodia


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Two hunters have been detained for killing two banteng, an endangered wild cattle species, in a protected forest in northern Cambodia, an official said Thursday.

They were arrested Monday as they were butchering the animals they shot with AK-47 assault rifles near Anlong Veng, the former stronghold of deceased Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, said Tiv Sovantha, a provincial prosecutor.

He said that Bou Hoeurn and Chin Chuon could each face a five-year prison term if convicted. A third poacher is still being sought.

The banteng, which is native to Southeast Asia, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is protected by law in Cambodia.

Indigenous rights ignored: activists

25 February 2010
Chhay Channyda and Sebastian Strangio
Phnom Penh Post

INDIGENOUS minority representatives and activists who attended a UN rights hearing in Geneva last week say that the Cambodian delegation failed to address their ongoing concerns, raising fresh questions about the government’s commitment to indigenous land rights.

Only Sun Suon, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UN, was sent to represent the government before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Thursday and Friday, activists said, adding that a more specialised delegation should have been sent from Phnom Penh.

Photo by: Pha Lina
Khann Channy, an ethnic Phnong villager from Mondulkiri province, addresses a press conference on Wednesday.

“Whatever was related to the cultural, educational and land issues of indigenous people was far from his competency to answer,” Pen Raingsey, a coordinator for the land and livelihoods programme at the NGO Forum, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“I noticed that the will of the committee was not satisfied with the answers from the Cambodian representative.”

Khann Channy, an ethnic Phnong villager from Mondulkiri province’s Bousraa commune who attended the meeting, said the government should have sent officials who were responsible for policies affecting indigenous minority populations.

“In Geneva, we raised questions for him about land titling registration for ethnic people, but the ambassador responded that no ethnic minorities face discrimination. The ambassador did not address the real situation of Cambodia, nor did he satisfy our desire for answers,” she said.

Suon Sareth, secretary general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said Cambodia’s lacklustre participation in the CERD process showed that the country had “no willingness” to protect human rights in Cambodia.

The CERD hearings centred on concerns about indigenous land rights and the apparent lack of progress on the government’s land-titling programme for indigenous people.

A civil society submission to the CERD noted that traditional indigenous land-management systems were under “severe pressure” from a proliferation of agricultural and mining concessions granted to private companies.

“As a result of the increasing number of concessions allocated, the situation regarding land security of indigenous people has regressed,” the submission stated.

“Even if only a small proportion of these projects go ahead, it could contribute to overall environmental, social and economic instability in the country.”

The submission also stated that although the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law provides for collective titling of indigenous lands, an enabling sub-decree was not adopted until last year. A framework for the Ministry of Interior’s official recognition of indigenous communities – another prerequisite to obtaining land titles – has also been subject to delays, leaving the recognition of indigenous communities to the discretion of state authorities. “No indigenous community has yet received their collective land title,” the submission said.

Indigenous rights activists said the government had taken the positive step of enacting laws, but that this meant little as long as implementation fell short.

“The concrete recognition of land rights, which is an issue of collective survival of indigenous communities, is not being implemented,” said Joan Carling, secretary general of the Chiang Mai-based Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, agreed that the process of collective land titling had been “very slow”.

Others said authorities at lower levels work in environments of legal impunity that allows them to all but ignore laws that are already on the books.

“The authorities at the provincial or district level – I’m not sure how well they understand the law. If they do something wrong, they never get punished,” said Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force. “How can the sub-decree work?”

Vann Samean, an ethnic Suoy villager from Kampong Speu province, said that a 9,985-hectare corn concession granted to the local HLH Group had ballooned out to nearly 30,000 hectares and had eaten into the farmland of five villages. With the company under the protection of the local military, she added, there was little villagers could do to stop the land-clearing that began in June last year.

“Armed forces are the ones who should be protecting people, but they are not. They protect only the company,” she said. “If the company continues to clear our land, our lives will come to an end as well as our ethnic culture.”

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Wednesday waved away criticisms that the government should have sent more officials to Geneva for the CERD hearings, saying Son Suon was tasked with representing the government.

“Our government may have a financial limit for sending officials,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak said that he did not have many details about the progress of land registration for indigenous minorities, but that such groups are treated equally under the law.

“Under Cambodian law, minorities have the same rights as ordinary people,” he said. “We do not discriminate against them. Land-titling registration is the same as with ordinary Cambodian people.”

PM to visit troops near Thailand

25 February 2010
Vong Sokheng
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Heng Chivaon
Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses graduates of the Royal University of Phnom Penh during a speech on Wednesday in which he discussed his upcoming visit to Battambang province.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen announced Wednesday that he will visit troops near the Thai border in Battambang province this week, and he denied that the trip was linked to an impending verdict in Thailand on the seizure of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets.

On Friday, Thailand’s supreme court will decide whether to seize more than 76 billion baht (US$2.3 billion) of Thaksin’s assets based on allegations that he abused his political power for business interests. Tensions are high as the antigovernment Red Shirts, with whom Thaksin is aligned, have vowed to stage massive protests in the aftermath of the decision, alleging “double standards” in the Thai judicial system.

Hun Sen used a visit to the border earlier this month as an opportunity to launch severe criticisms at the government of current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, but he insisted that his trip to Battambang on Saturday is unrelated to the goings-on in Thailand.

“It is a habitual and normal visit to the soldiers – do not try to link the problems in Bangkok on February 26 to my visit on February 27,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a ceremony for 1,000 new graduates at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

On March 5, Hun Sen added, soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will conduct military exercises in which they will launch BM-21 rockets.
Though the rockets are capable of travelling 40 kilometres, Hun Sen said troops would be shooting them less than half that distance during the

“We have kept them in the warehouse for too long, and it is time to use them,” Hun Sen said. “We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence.”

Thai troops conducted similar military exercises near the border earlier this month, Cambodian military officials have said.

Q&A: Thaksin and the red shirts

Protests by pro-Thaksin red shirts have become a frequent sight on the streets of Bangkok [EPA]

Since the 2006 ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's former prime minister, the country has been gripped by waves of political protest, some of it violent.

Here we take a look at the a key player in the turbulent Thai political scene - the so-called "red shirts".

Who are the red shirts?

Formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), Thailand's red shirt protesters first emerged as a political force in 2008.

Thaksin regularly addresses rallies of red shirt supporters by video link [GALLO/GETTY]
Most, though not all, are firm supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 bloodless military coup.

Thaksin himself, who has lived in exile since the coup, frequently addresses mass rallies of supporters via video link, statements on pro-red shirt websites, blogs and via Twitter.

To rally its cause and raise funds, the UDD operates dozens of community radio stations and a TV Channel, as well as a network of red-shirt merchandise shops.

It also claims to have around 400 regional organisations running "UDD politics schools".

Like Thaksin, the group draws the bulk of its support for the rural north and northeast of the country, although it also has backing from student groups and other activists.

Many of Thailand's rural poor benefitted from Thaksin's populist policies during his five years in power.

What do the red shirts want?

The red shirts say the current government of Abhisit Vejajiva, the Thai prime minister, is a puppet of the military and the Thai elite and came to power illegitimately.

The red shirts say the current government is undemocratic and illegitimate [EPA]
They want nothing less than for Abhisit to resign and call fresh elections, saying his government has deprived them of their democratic rights.

The red shirts say their campaign is a fight against the political dominance of the unelected Thai elite – including royalists, top businessmen, the judiciary and senior generals – who they say have conspired to corrupt democracy and overthrow elected governments.

Abhisit became prime minister in December 2008 after a Constitutional Court ruling removed the pro-Thaksin People Power Party from power, saying its leaders had committed electoral fraud.

The ruling cleared the way for parliamentary manoeuvrings that allowed Abhisit's Democrat Party to take power without holding an election.

The next general election is not due to be held until 2011.

What is the red shirts' relationship to the yellow shirts?

The anti-Thaksin yellow shirts, formally known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), are the firm opponents of the red shirts.

Although the PAD has no official ties to Abhisit's Democratshas it does have a vlose relationship to key elements within the ruling party and says it is the true defender of Thailand's constitutional monarchy.

Yellow is traditionally a colour associated with Thailand's revered monarch.

The PAD draws its support from Thai royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class and accuses Thaksin of corruption, greed and nepotism during his time in power.

A series of anti-Thaksin street protests by the PAD in 2006 set the stage for the military coup that removed him from power.

What action can the red shirts take?

Recent months have seen dozens of rallies, large and small, by red shirt supporters.

UDD leaders say the red shirts are committed to non-violence [EPA]
Most have been peaceful, but in April 2009 confrontation with the government came to a violent head when hundreds of protesters fought running street battles with troops on the streets of Bangkok.

At least two people died in a day of clashes, in what was the worst political violence seen in Thailand in almost two decades.

The clashes came after a period of escalating tensions which saw red shirt protesters blockade the prime minister's office, shut down key intersections in Bangkok and embarrass the government by forcing the cancellation of a regional summit in the resort town of Pattaya.

UDD leaders say last year's fighting was stirred up by thugs hired by the government and say they are committed to peaceful protests.

Red short organisers have said they can call on up to a million protesters to take to the streets of Bangkok for future demonstrations.

However critics have said many of these supporters are rural peasants paid to attend rallies.

Meanwhile, many business leaders complain that the string of protests and the disruption they cause is damaging Thailand's reputation, scaring off investors and tourists and stifling economic recovery.

What about Thaksin himself?

Aside from a brief return to Thailand in late 2007, the ousted prime minister has lived in exile since his ouster in the 2006 coup, rallying supporters by video links and other messages.

He has spent most time living in Dubai pursuing business deals and has also acquired passports from Montenegro and Nicaragua.

In 2009 he was appointed as a special economic advisor to the Cambodian government, further straining Thailand's already tense relations with Cambodia over a disputed border temple complex.

In 2008 Thaksin was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail after being found guilty of abuse of power in a land acquisition deal during his time in office.

Thaksin and his then wife, who had earlier returned to Thailand vowing to clear their names, had jumped bail two months previously saying they did not believe they would receive a fair trial.

Late last year red shirt leaders submitted a petition with 3.5 million signatures to the Thai king asking for Thaksin to be pardoned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Police criticised over KKrom

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Khmer Krom returnees from Thailand sit in a rental home in Boeung Tumpun commune last week.

UNICIPAL police officials on Tuesday called the representative of a group of 22 Khmer Krom asylum seekers to police headquarters in order to explain the rationale behind the decision to deny them identification cards, a move that has drawn the ire of civil society groups.

The representative, Thach Soong, attended the meeting along with the owner of the home where most members of the group have been staying since being deported from Thailand in December after a failed asylum bid.

On Friday, police informed the Khmer Krom that they could not receive identification cards, which are seen as essential for finding jobs, enrolling in schools, renting accommodation and accessing healthcare, among other things.

After the meeting on Tuesday, Min Sothet, director of statistics and information for the municipal police, reiterated that the Khmer Krom could not receive identification cards because they lacked a permanent address.

“First, the Khmer Krom live in a rented house; there is no permanent address,” he said. “The authorities will provide them family books should they have their own permanent place to live.”

He said he had advised the Khmer Krom to seek assistance from NGOs to purchase a plot of land for themselves.

“As long as the group owns the property, we’ll be able to process the family books for them, and following that they can obtain ID cards,” he said.

He added: “It’s not that we don’t want to provide them with legal documents such as family books and the ID cards. We’re more sympathetic to them ... than native Cambodians.”

Licadho, the rights group that has been assisting the Khmer Krom, has said it cannot continue paying for rent and food beyond the end of the month. Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the group, said Min Sothet’s suggestion that the Khmer Krom buy land was disingenuous.

“How can they [buy land] without having any legal documents that identify themselves as Cambodian citizens?” he said. “The Khmer Krom are poor. They have no money to buy property.”

Meanwhile, Maggie Murphy, programme director at the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation, which is based in The Hague, said the decision to deny identification cards was part of a broader pattern of discrimination against the Khmer Krom.

“Khmer Krom from Vietnam should not have to fulfil impossible conditions such as proving they were born in Cambodia, nor being expected to have a permanent address,” she said.

“Cambodia needs to resolve this issue once and for all to guarantee a fair and transparent process administered by the central government to ensure consistency and equality in the treatment of Khmer Krom. Khmer Krom arriving in Cambodia from Vietnam live in legal limbo for significant stretches of time, as they are neither treated as citizens nor as refugees.”

Kingdom should sign international Convention on Cluster Munitions

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Yoeun Sam En, a cluster munitions victim from Kratie province, signs the People’s Treaty to Ban Cluster Munitions in 2008.

Dear Editor,

Today, on Cambodia’s National Mine Awareness Day, we would like to congratulate the Royal Government for the remarkable progress it has made in addressing its land mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) problem. Casualty rates are dropping, the government has integrated mine action into its poverty-eradication strategy and thousands of deminers are working every day throughout the country to make Cambodia free from the threat of land mines and ERW. Cambodian deminers are even bringing their expertise to peacekeeping missions in Africa.

Cambodia now has an opportunity to further demonstrate its dedication to ending the suffering caused by these horrible weapons of war. On February 16, the total number of countries ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions reached 30, triggering its entry into force on August 1, 2010, when the Convention will become binding international law. Since the Convention was opened for signature in December 2008, Cambodia has stated its intention to sign, but it still has not done so. Signing this convention would be concrete proof of Cambodia’s continued commitment to peace and security.

Designed to break open in mid-air and scatter up to hundreds of smaller bombs over wide areas, cluster munitions cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians. Many do not explode on impact, thus continuing to claim the lives and limbs of innocent people long after conflict has ended. In Cambodia, millions of unexploded cluster bombs remain in the ground today – four decades after they were dropped. Children are especially vulnerable as they are often attracted by the toy-like appearance of the bomblets.

Moreover, cluster bombs, along with landmines and other ERW, seriously hinder Cambodia’s development because they prevent the rural poor from safely using land to carry out basic activities such as raising crops and building houses, roads, and schools. They also slow down major infrastructure projects and hamper efforts to preserve the environment.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years, and recognises the rights of individuals and communities affected by the weapon to receive assistance.

Cambodia was a leader throughout the two-year negotiation process to develop the Convention, but has requested more time to study the implications of signing the Convention because it retains cluster munitions stockpiles.

With the Convention’s imminent entry into force, the time to join the global movement to ban cluster munitions and prevent further harm and destruction is now. Since December 2008, 104 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including stockpilers, former users and producers of the weapon, as well as affected countries from every region of the globe. Any future use of these indiscriminate weapons will be stigmatised and generate an international outcry.

Furthermore, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic will host the first meeting of states parties to the convention at the end of this year. This comprehensive international ban on cluster munitions is the most important humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the last decade, and any country’s participation in this meeting as a state party would clearly signify its commitment to these principles.

A decade ago, Cambodia, as one of the countries most affected by land mines, ratified the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, and has become a leader in the international movement to ban land mines. Cambodia has a chance to repeat this success by becoming a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

We urge Cambodia to sign and ratify as soon as possible the Convention on Cluster Munitions to demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful and secure world.

Douglas Broderick
Resident Coordinator
United Nations in Cambodia

Sister Denise Coghlan
Country Director

Stephen Bryant
Regional programme manager
Norwegian People’s Aid

Lucile Papon
Country director
Handicap International (France
and Belgium)

Song Kosal
Youth ambassador
Int’l Campaign to Ban Landmines

Tun Channareth
Int’l Campaign to Ban Landmines

Top Chinese legislator pledges to further ties with Cambodia

February 24, 2010
Source: Xinhua

Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo on Tuesday pledged to increase cooperation and exchange between Chinese and Cambodian parliaments in a bid to further bilateral ties.

Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo meet with visiting Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in the Great Hall of the People on Feb 23, 2010.(Xinhua).

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, spoke highly of Sino-Cambodian relations during his half-hour meeting with visiting Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni.

Such a "traditional friendly" relationship "brought about tangible benefits to the two peoples," Wu said in the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing.

China appreciated the contribution to the development of bilateral ties made by the Cambodian royal family, especially by Sihamoni and his father, retired king Norodom Sihanouk, Wu said.

The royal family "always offered firm support to China on those issues that concern China's core interests, which indicated (their) good will and friendship with the Chinese people," Wu said.

Wu Bangguo(R), chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress(NPC), China's top legislature, shakes hands with visiting Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 23, 2010. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

He conveyed greetings from Chinese President Hu Jintao to the King and his family.

Sihamoni, who arrived in Beijing on Monday for a health checkup, thanked China's long-term help to his country and conveyed the royal family's new year greetings to President Hu and the Chinese people, with China's Lunar New Year festivities having just ended.

He pledged to further the traditional friendship, which was initiated by the two countries' former leaders.

Laos, Cambodia cooperate in border demarcation survey

24 Feb, 2010

VIENTIANE - Laos and Cambodia have jointly carried out a border demarcation survey in the Kaengtormorkhoi-Houai Ta-ngao area, a location sandwiched between Attapeu province of Laos and Ratanakiri province of Cambodia.

The survey started on 15 February, the Lao side was led by Mr Bounkeuth Sangsomsak, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Cambodian side was led by Mr Long Visalo, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and together with them were geological survey teams of Laos and Cambodia.

The purpose of the survey was to collect data along the border areas of Kaengtormorkhoi-Houai Ta-ngao and to seek a solution to the problem of border demarcation between the two friendly neighbours.

Laos and Cambodia expect the survey in the border areas of Attapeu and Ratanakiri to be completed by this year. (KPL)

Thai court to rule on Thaksin fortune

THAILAND'S top court is set to rule on the fate of Thaksin Shinawatra's $US2.2 billion ($A2.48 billion) fortune, threatening fresh unrest in a country still riven by the fugitive former premier's influence.

Supreme Court judges will decide on Friday whether the government should seize Thaksin's assets from the sale of his family's telecommunications company, which were frozen after a 2006 military coup that toppled him from power.

The country's anti-graft commission says Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, became "unusually rich" by abusing his power after becoming prime minister in 2001 and must forfeit his wealth.

But the run-up to the judgment has left the country on edge, with fears that the "Red Shirt" movement with links to Thaksin could resort to violence if, as expected, the verdict does not go his way.

Up to 35,000 police and soldiers have been ordered to secure Bangkok and provinces where Thaksin is popular, while guards have been assigned to protect the nine judges dealing with the case, the government says.

"Police have increased forces in Bangkok, including setting up more checkpoints and CCTV cameras to monitor the situation," said metropolitan police spokesman Colonel Piya Utayo.

"We will not block protesters from coming to Bangkok if they protest peacefully. Police will take responsibility for security and can request help from the army."

The government has said it will invoke strict laws that put the army in charge of security if violence erupts, and that it could also impose emergency regulations that would limit movement in case of riots.

Last week police defused a bomb near the Supreme Court and a grenade exploded near government offices, leading the US, British and Australian embassies to warn their citizens to exercise caution in Bangkok.

Thaksin was ousted after months of protests over the January 2006 sale by his family of 49.6 per cent of shares in his Shin Corp telecoms giant to Singapore's Temasek group, for 73.3 billion baht ($A2.48 billion).

Protesters were angered because Thaksin's family did not pay any tax on the deal.

The funds were frozen the following year and the government is now seeking to take control of them.

Thaksin is living in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year jail term relating to the sale of land belonging to his wife that was imposed in his absence in 2008.

Several other graft charges against him remain on hold in the courts.

The twice-elected former leader still bitterly divides Thailand.

His opponents accuse him of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand's widely revered monarchy, while his mainly rural fans still praise his populist healthcare and poverty alleviation schemes.

The royalist "Yellow Shirts" who first hounded him out in 2006 returned to the streets to force his allies from government in late 2008, staging an economically damaging blockade of Bangkok's airports for nine days.

The pro-Thaksin Red Shirts have waged a similar campaign against the current administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, with riots at an Asian summit and in Bangkok in April 2009 leaving two people dead.

Thaksin has stoked up his supporters with frequent video and telephone speeches, while he also sparked a diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia in December when Phnom Penh appointed him as a government economic adviser.

The Red Shirts say they will meet this week to decide on the schedule of further protests after the verdict.

But some say Thaksin's supporters are increasingly marginalised as Abhisit's shaky coalition clings on to power with the backing of Thailand's powerful military, while Thaksin's political allies have little parliamentary support.

"Until Thaksin can create some sort of lasting change in the current Thai political scene, he will continue to be sidelined," said Thailand analyst Paul Chambers, of Heidelberg University in Germany.

Planting of landmarks along the Vietnam-Cambodia border accelerated


Army engineers in the Central Highland province of Dak Nong are gearing for early planting eight landmarks along the border with Cambodia’s Mundulkiri province in February.

Dak Nong completed the first phase of plating border landmarks in 2007.

Pham Tien Dung, deputy chief commander of the dorder guard headquarters and member of the Dak Nong border landmark management board said border violations declined sharply with almost no illegal border crossings last year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No more aid for KKrom, NGO says

Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Cameron Wells and Tharum Bun
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Thach Soong, a Khmer Krom who fled from Vietnam to Thailand and was deported to Cambodia in early December, is interviewed by a police officer last week in Meanchey district.

THE NGO that has been covering rent and food expenses for the group of 22 Khmer Krom seeking asylum in Phnom Penh informed them on Monday that it could not afford to offer support past the end of February, giving them just five days to come up with new living arrangements.The news comes three days after district police and local officials informed the Khmer Krom, many of whom have been staying in Meanchey district since being deported in December from Thailand after a failed asylum bid, that their request for identification cards had been formally denied.
Am Sam Ath, a technical superviser for the rights group Licadho, which has been aiding the Khmer Krom, said Sunday that staff members there would meet Monday to discuss whether they could extend their support in light of the decision on the identification cards. On Monday, however, he confirmed that Licadho would stick to its original timetable, under which it is set to suspend its support at the end of the month. “We confirm that we can no longer provide assistance,” Am Sam Ath said.
“However, we will continue to monitor their safety.”
He said budget issues were preventing Licadho from providing more help than it already had, and he suggested in a meeting with the group on Monday that they keep requesting help from other organisations until their situation is resolved.
“We suggested they seek help from other NGOs and the [UN High Commissioner for Refugees],” he said.Thach Soong, a representative of the deportees, said many are concerned they will have no options if they cannot find another organisation to assist them.
Identification cards are seen as essential in finding jobs, enrolling in schools, renting accommodation and accessing health care, among other things.
“I appeal to local and international NGOs to continue to provide assistance so we can wait for the government to solve this problem,” he said in an interview at the Boeung Tumpun commune home where the group has been staying.
“I don’t know what to do. Being here without any legal documents [means] I have no way to find a job or live legally here,” he said.“If I return to Thailand [to seek asylum] I don’t know what will happen to me.”
Ever since the group arrived in Cambodia on December 5, government officials have stressed that all Khmer Krom are granted the right to live in Cambodia under the constitution, and that they do not face discrimination here.
However, observers have argued that the government does not always live up to this claim, most recently during a session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held in Geneva last week.
Citing other recent cases of Khmer Krom asylum seekers in Cambodia, Thach Soong said he feared ultimately being sent back to Vietnam, where members of the group have been persecuted. “Tim Sakhorn and other Khmer Krom monks were sent back,” he said, referring to a monk who was sent back to Vietnam in June 2007 but has since been given asylum in Sweden.
Thach Soong’s wife, Kim Soun, also expressed concern about what would happen to them after March 1. “After this [rent] runs out, I don’t know where I will be going,” she said. “I haven’t thought of any way to move on.”
Meanchey district officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.
No jurisdiction: UNHCR
Kitty McKinsey, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Bangkok, noted on Monday that the UNHCR does not have jurisdiction to process the Khmer Krom because they are considered Cambodian citizens.
“This has nothing to do with the sub-decree,” she said. “Our understanding is that the Khmer Krom are recognised as Cambodian citizens.”

Deal to sell local paddy to Vietnam

Tuesday, 23 February 2010
by Chun Sophal
Phnom Penh Post

TAUCH Tepich Import Export signed an agreement this month to supply 10,000 tonnes of unprocessed paddy worth US$2.3 million to south Vietnam-based firm Tri Mai, said the president of the Cambodian company.

Tauch Tepich said Sunday that it would begin delivery this week.According to the agreement, Tauch Tepich will supply 1,000 tonnes of paddy a month by water across the K’orm Samnor border crossing in Kandal province.

“We hope Cambodian farmers will get more market opportunities to sell their paddy under this agreement,” he said.

Agricultural analysts say the Kingdom should be taking advantage of rising processing power to add value to the sector rather than shipping raw materials to the likes of Vietnam – a major competitor in agricultural exports – where Cambodia-produced crops are usually processed and sold overseas.

“I think it is better if the company could export rice instead of paddy because it brings greater advantages for the economy,” said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture.

This year the Rural Development Bank (RDB) has lent $12 million to rice millers for purchasing paddy at 7 percent interest per year.“We have given loans at very low interest rates to encourage companies that wish to buy paddy to process rice for export,” said RDB President Sun Kunthor.

CERD Considers Inconsistencies in Cambodia’s Treatment of Khmer Krom

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Discrimination against Khmer Krom concerning identity documentation is addressed at Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Session for Cambodia

Last week (15th-19th February), a delegation from the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) participated in Cambodia’s review under the 76th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in the Palais de Wilson, Geneva.

Delegates from UNPO and the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), utilized the opportunity of a lunchtime NGO briefing session with experts on the Committee, as well as a meeting with Special Rapporteur Mr Pierre-Richard Prosper to draw attention to the unique situation of Khmer Krom in Cambodia who have fled persecution in Vietnam.

Mr Thach Thach, President of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation introduced the issue in his address at the briefing on 18th February, suggesting that obtaining documentation from Cambodia is when problems become apparent. He explained that whilst the Cambodian government has been clear in stating that Khmer Krom from Vietnam are entitled to Cambodian citizenship, there is a contradiction in reality leaving Khmer Krom living in legal limbo as they are neither treated as citizens nor as refugees. This affects their ability to access basic human rights since without identity papers, Khmer Krom find themselves discriminated against and unable to find regular employment, register births and marriages or own property. Mr Thach provided photographic evidence to show that in order to receive ID cards, Khmer Krom have to change their identity so that their documents no longer state they are from Kampuchea-Krom and officially they no longer have a Khmer Krom name.

This specific situation was posed to Cambodia in the Special Rapporteur’s early questions to which Cambodia replied that ‘In principle, Khmer Kampuchea Krom are recognised as Cambodian citizens without any discrimination.’ In his address at Cambodia’s review on 18th February, Mr Prosper described the Khmer Krom’s situation as both a ‘fascinating’ and ‘complex’ issue, stressing that implementation of the law, which views all Khmer Krom as Cambodian nationals, requires a procedure that renders the law ineffective. He highlighted inconsistency in policy which requests Khmer Krom from Vietnam to present a Khmer birth certificate and permanent address in Cambodia. Mr Prosper recommended that action should be taken to ‘resolve the problem of citizenship once and for all.’

This procedural issue was re-iterated throughout the interactive dialogue by other experts including Mr Thornbury and Mr De Gouttes. The debate was contextualized when Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay posed a question about Venerable Tim Sakhorn, a Khmer Krom monk who had been residing in Cambodia since 1979. He asked Cambodia to explain why despite possessing a Cambodian ID card, Tim Sakhorn was expelled to Vietnam on 30 June 2007.

Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva His Excellency Mr. Sun Suon led the Cambodian delegation and explained that he understood there were difficulties regarding the residency requirements to obtain identification cards and agreed to encourage discussion in the Cambodian government on this issue.

Cambodia needs to guarantee a fair and transparent process of administering identity documentation to ensure consistency and equality in the treatment of Khmer Krom. Guarantees need to be put in place for Khmer Krom to ensure there is no confusion about who holds the mandate of responsibility for their protection and they should not be forced to change their identity. UNPO anticipates the concluding remarks with assurances from the Special Rapporteur that recommendations regarding the difficulties faced by Khmer Krom in Cambodia will be made.

For a copy of this Press Release click here
For the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation Lunchtime NGO Briefing Paper click here
For evidence of changes made to identity documentation click here
For OHCHR Notes on the CERD session click here
For information on 22 Khmer Krom who were recently refused ID in Cambodia click here

Cambodia Warns Its Citizens Not To Travel To Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- Cambodian government has warned its citizens not to travel to Thailand amid fears of mass protests from the anti-government group, ahead of a court verdict on whether or not to seize ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen asset Friday, reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Citing a spokesman of Foreign Ministry Koy Kuong, Xinhua said that the protests by Red-shirtts or better known as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, is expected to be held from Wednesday, two days ahead of the Supreme Court to rule on Thaksin's assets.

Therefore, Kuong said the Cambodian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement alerting Cambodian people not to travel to Thailand within these few days if they are not necessarily to do so.

"For those who are already in Thailand, are advised to stay far from rally venues to avoid any unexpected risk," he said.

The protest planned by red shirts or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister--is expected to take place on Wednesday.

The United States, Australia and United Kingdom also issued similar warning to their citizens who wish to travel to Thailand during this period.The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will deliver the verdict for the 76 billion baht (US$2.29 billion) asset seizure case of Thaksin on Feb 26.-- BERNAMA

Vietnamese and Cambodian Armies boost cooperation


The Vietnam People’s Army and the Royal Cambodian Army will strengthen their cooperation in visit exchanges, training, border management and security, and the location and repatriation of Vietnamese martyrs’ remains.

The agreement came at a recent meeting between Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense, General Phung Quang Thanh, and his counterpart, General Tea Banh, who was on an official visit to Vietnam.

At the meeting, the generals discussed regional and global issues of common interest and evaluated the past cooperation between the Vietnam People’s Army and the Royal Cambodian Army.

General Thanh said General Banh’s visit has helped improve mutual understanding and promote the traditional friendship between the two countries.



PHNOM PENH — Vietnamese gamblers, who are prohibited from entering local casinos in their country, are flocking to casinos and other gambling venues in neighboring Cambodia, with the influx peaking during the Lunar New Year this month.

Vietnamese casinos are open only to foreigners and overseas Vietnamese and it is a tradition during Tet for Vietnamese to gamble. Winning is great and brings luck during the rest of the year but the popular belief is that losing just means they will be lucky at other things like love.
Cambodia, Thailand, and Macau have become beneficiaries as Vietnamese go in droves to these places to gamble.

Cambodia has nine large casinos along the Vietnam border.

The casinos operate legally and attract the moneyed lot who are willing to splurge hundreds of thousands of dollars to test their luck while enjoying luxurious service.

B., a frequent visitor to the Chrey Thum Casino — which is only a few hundred meters from the Khanh Binh border gate in An Giang Province — told Tuoi Tre that more than 100 Vietnamese go there every day.

Each brings tens of millions of dong to bet on cockfights or play Chinese dice games, he said.
The venue also has a cockfighting ring and hotel and is blanketed with cameras while a team of armed guards keep an eye on the gamblers.

Regulars to the casinos get free pickups and VIP cards that come with free meals and accommodation when they run out of money.

The Garden Stones Casino in Takeo Province attracts Vietnamese punters interested in playing poker and blackjack.

But the casinos are not the only venues attracting Vietnamese gamblers.

?If you don?t want to reveal your identity by playing at fancy casinos,? Th. a veteran gambler from Tinh Bien District, An Giang, said, ?just cross over from Tri Ton District into Cambodia and you will find a casino in a field where every type of game is available.?

Rich people from rural areas often go there to play, he said. ?There are security guards, so you don?t have to worry about anything.?

The so-called casino is an ordinary-looking house in the middle of a rice field surrounded by a metal net.

Its parking lot is packed with motorbikes with license plates from Vietnamese provinces like An Giang, Kien Giang, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, and Can Tho.

?When police in southwestern Vietnamese provinces tightened control over the operation of local casinos, a gangster named S. in An Giang teamed up with Cambodians to open this casino,? Th. said.

?More and more border residents are flocking to this place. On the first few days of the New Year, there were 400 to 500 people daily.?

The main language used at the gambling places is Vietnamese because of the high concentration of Vietnamese.

Th. said some well-heeled gamblers like U. and L. from Can Tho city often bet VND5 million ($267) to VND10 million on a single game.

?L. lost VND200 million in three days and so has come back today, hoping to win back some of the money.?

A number of people lost billions of dong, he added.

The illegal casinos charge each gambler an entry fee of VND10,000 and have security guards who keep a watchful eye.

They also have some rules: gamblers cannot play without money in their pockets, cheat, or take photos.

It is estimated that each of these illegal casino earn VND100 million ($5,333) a day while most of its Vietnamese patrons go home empty-handed.

Casinos made a considerable contribution to Cambodia?s tourism industry, the country?s second-biggest earner after agriculture.

Cambodia generated revenues of $19 million from its 29 casinos in 2008, according to its Finance Ministry.

It fell to $17 million last year, with the decline attributed to a fall in tourist arrivals and rising border tensions with neighboring Thailand, according to Reuters.

A 10th casino on the Vietnamese border is expected to open its doors on February 26.

The Titan King Casino is just a kilometer from the Moc Bai border gate, and Kith Thieng, the owner of the $100 million casino, said Vietnamese gamblers are the prime targets. — NNN-CIC