Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cambodia's opposition leader accused of "betraying Cambodia"

The Nation

Phnom Penh - The deputy head of Cambodia's armed forces has accused the country's exiled opposition leader of conspiring with Thailand to destabilise the nation, national media reported Wednesday.

General Chea Dara, who is posted at the flashpoint Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai border, made the allegations in a two-hour speech to a crowd of 1,000 students and government officials in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.

"The betraying opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has colluded with Thailand and sold himself to Thailand to let Thais invade Cambodia," Chea Dara was quoted as saying.

Chea Dara was referring to events in mid-2008 as tensions rose at Preah Vihear after the 11th-century temple was registered by the UN cultural body UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. That move angered some Thai nationalists who claim the temple for Thailand.

The general's comments came two weeks after a court in Phnom Penh formally charged Sam Rainsy with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation in an ongoing argument with the Cambodian government over the border demarcation process under way between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Those charges could see him jailed for 18 years and would add to the two-year sentence he received late last year in a related border dispute with Vietnam.

Sam Rainsy, who is in France in self-imposed exile, was sentenced in absentia after he removed wooden posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The opposition had claimed the posts were intruding into Cambodian territory and costing farmers their land.

Vietnam is a key investor in Cambodia with significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking and an important political ally of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

An opposition party spokesman rejected the general's comments wholesale and said under Cambodian law the military must stay out of politics. Yim Sovann told the newspaper that Sam Rainsy's loyalties were to the Cambodian people and were beyond question.

"Please do not serve any political party," Yim Sovann said, referring to the military. "Otherwise, democracy in Cambodia will be jeopardized."

Chea Dara's comments came on the 13th anniversary of a grenade attack at an opposition gathering in Phnom Penh, which killed 16 people. Sam Rainsy was injured in the attack, which killed his bodyguard.

The attack was widely blamed on forces loyal to current Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who at the time was in an increasingly unstable coalition with the royalist party.

Book Sets Record Straight on Vietnam

The Vietnam War was the first U.S. armed conflict with unprecedented television access. Yet no American war “is as shrouded in obfuscation and myth,” writes Phillip Jennings in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.

This new book attempts to set the record straight, bludgeoning past faulty broadsides from the press, Hollywood and historians alike.

Vietnam starts with a brief history of the country, detailing its evolution from a French-occupied country to a tortured, but functional, democratic nation threatened by Communism.

President John F. Kennedy once said South Vietnam was “the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia.” And what one Democratic President started via talk and limited action, a second -- President Lyndon B. Johnson -- continued with military muscle.

And it was Johnson’s inability to set up a strong, coherent battle plan which set the war on the wrong path from the start, Jennings writes. The President envisioned a fight against “a reasonable enemy,” one which could be fought with a modicum of restraint.

That didn’t happen, but it also hurt the war effort that major military campaigns occurred with erroneous information delivered to the public. Three major bombing campaigns --Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Barrel Roll and Operation Steel Tiger -- all got seriously misconstrued by the press so as to make U.S. efforts appear ill-conceived and monstrous.

Numbers involving the bombing amounts were used to feed the anti-war fervor, and reports routinely mischaracterized the goals of each campaign to make them look like failures.

The North Vietnamese quickly latched on to the anti-war movement—both the student revolution and the press’ willingness to distort the truth. It also helped to have willing accomplices like actress Jane Fonda to hammer home their propaganda stateside.

Perhaps the media’s biggest mistake came with the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong assault which gave the press all the raw material required to set its anti-war narrative in stone. Burning buildings. Dead soldiers scattered across city streets. Crumpled neighborhoods.

And yet the real story behind the attack wasn’t told. The viciousness of the Viet Cong could have shown the public that the war was a noble one against a savage foe. But that meme never emerged. More importantly, the plan came at a huge cost for the Viet Cong—starting with the loss of up to 80,000 men.

“From a military point of view, the Tet Offensive was a massive Communist defeat,” he writes. Tell that to trusted news man Walter Cronkite, who reported after the offensive that victory for U.S. forces was no longer an option.

The ideological underpinnings of the war were quickly forgotten, then buried, in subsequent years.

“Vietnam started as a liberal’s war, fought … in a liberal way (with innumerable constraints on the use of force, civilian micromanaging, and the export of Great Society programs to South Vietnam). And yet liberals themselves led the charge to repudiate their own war and all the people who conducted it for them.”

Another missed narrative involves the years between 1969 and 1972, a time when American forces began a major withdrawal plan and left 90% of the country pacified.

Yet history books rarely delve deeply into this historical chapter. It’s no wonder the public’s image of the war is what it is.

President Richard Nixon’s involvement in Vietnam was routinely vilified, but his “Vietnamization” set the stage for potential victory. Anti-warriors would blast him as a modern-day monster for the so-called expansion of the war into Cambodia, even though the move was meant to cut off supplies, secure South Vietnam’s Eastern border and bring a quicker resolution to the conflict.

The book brings many other media mistakes regarding the war into crystal focus. While journalists mocked the military press briefings detailing enemy body counts as mere farce, the post-war examination of the numbers showed them to be more accurate than the press clippings from the era.

The media’s biased war coverage hit a new low with the 1972 Christmas bombing, an event press outlets dubbed an indiscriminate strafing of civilians on a major scale. The attack proved a military victory, killed far fewer innocents than previous air campaigns in past wars and made the North Vietnamese capitulate at the Paris peace talks.

“You didn’t need to read Pravda to get the Communist propaganda spin—you could read The New York Times,” he writes.

The war might have ended better for the South Vietnamese if only Congress hadn’t shattered promises made in the war’s waning time and, more importantly, kept up air campaigns against re-invigorated North Vietnamese forces.

But America, weakened by Nixon’s resignation and battered by an anti-war movement magnified by the press, didn’t have enough fight left in it. That left Communist forces free to run roughshod over Vietnam without fear of reprisals from the air.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Vietnam War (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company) offers much more, from an anti-war movement eager to embrace a vile enemy to the stigma veterans unfairly faced after serving their country with honor.

The historical record requires a significant reboot, and Jennings’ book offers a guide to just how much misinformation needs correcting.

Mr. Toto is a freelance reporter and film critic for Movies in Toto, the movie community at His work has appeared in People magazine, MovieMaker Magazine, The Denver Post, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and The Washington Times. He provides movie commentary for the nationally syndicated Dennis Miller Show and runs the blog What Would Toto Watch?

Officials protest building ‘swap’

31 March 2010
Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post

MPLOYEES of the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals (NCONIF) due to be forced from their offices today have protested the scheduled move.

The outcry followed the announcement earlier this month that their offices had been sold to local development company Pheapimex.

In a March 19 letter from Cambodian People’s Party lawyer Khiev Sebphan, workers at the NCONIF were told to vacate offices on Daun Penh district’s Sisowath Quay by today and move to the fourth floor of the General Inspectorate for the National Buddhist Education of Cambodia, the building that once housed the Foreign Ministry. Committee officials say, however, that these facilities are inadequate, with just five rooms for 57 staff members.

A committee employee who asked not to be named said Tuesday that staff members submitted a letter last Friday to NCONIF chairman Kong Sam Ol protesting the move, demanding compensation and several more weeks to prepare for the move. “It is a party matter – we have asked to delay the move until May,” said Chea Sokhom, first deputy chairman of the committee, declining to comment further on the contents of the letter.

Khiev Sebphan said workers would be granted an extra month to move, and that the relocation site could be expanded after consultations with Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin, who helped broker the sale of the NCONIF building.

Don't blame women for men's lack of self control

Dear Editor,

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Protesters rally on Sunday to urge women, particularly students, to wear less-revealing clothes and not compromise Khmer culture.
The article “Teachers, students to march against short skirts” (March 25) brings a disturbing feeling to me. It is important to preserve our tradition and culture.

However, this preservation must be for both men and women, and it should not be forced on only one or the other.

In reality, there are almost no Khmer traditional dresses worn in public. If one walks along the streets of Phnom Penh, what one generally sees is a diversity of clothing for both men and women. Of course, there are several traditional dresses that are worn for official functions, mostly by women.

The views of the few students in the article reflect that it affects male students and teachers when female students wear short skirts. It brings out the lustful feelings of these men who cannot help themselves and cannot behave decently in an academic setting.

We are witnessing that women and girls are blamed for being raped and sexually harassed for the kind of place they decide to go, the kind of dresses they decide to wear and the length of those dresses.

Instead of calling for women to stop wearing short skirts, the Khmer Teachers Association could have marched against male perpetrators who rape women and girls, men who commit violence in the family, male teachers who sexually harass their students.

The bottom line is that we need to respect the choice and freedom of both men and women.

It is not acceptable for women and girls to be controlled and oppressed in any form in the name of preserving Khmer culture and tradition.

The Khmer Teachers Association could mobilise for other positive actions that will enhance the quality of education, which is the most important and real need for Cambodia today.

Sim Socheata
Phnom Penh

How Errol Flynn's son was lost in Cambodia – all but a pile of bones


Sean Flynn's life as a war photographer had no Hollywood ending. Forty years after he vanished, Andrew Buncombe reports on new claims that his remains have been found.

REX FEATURES:Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Indochina who disappeared on an assignment for Time magazine

Sean Flynn could have done anything he wanted. For a while he tried to be an actor like his swashbuckling father, Errol. But the passion that drove him was to work as a photographer covering America's deadly wars in Indochina.

The dangerous, chaotic assignment brought him excitement and fame, but it also led him to his death. Forty years ago next week, Flynn and another journalist, Dana Stone, disappeared without trace after encountering a hostile checkpoint south-east of Phnom Penh.

Now, forensic tests are to be performed on remains that have been dug up in rural Cambodia by two amateur "bone hunters" who claim they have finally answered the mystery as to what happened to the two men, among three dozen journalists to have lost their lives during the war in Cambodia. John Johnson, a spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh, said the remains had been sent to the Pentagon's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) located in Hawaii where the tests will be conducted.

"Last Friday, the possible remains were delivered to us and we have taken action," he said. "It is hard to speculate how long the tests will take. All these cases are individual."

Yet the possible discovery of the remains of Flynn, who was aged 28 when he disappeared, has sparked controversy. Not only are the two men who made the find seeking to sell their story to the highest bidder, but a former colleague of the journalists believes the excavation of the burial site was conducted unprofessionally and may have disturbed a larger grave in which the remains of other journalists may lie.

The remains handed over to the US authorities in Cambodia were found by Briton Keith Rotheram and Scottish-born Australian David MacMillan more than two weeks ago. Reports say they were alerted to the location in Kampong Cham province in eastern Cambodia by a local man who claimed to have been a witness to the execution of a tall, blond foreigner. The witness claimed the foreigner had been forced to dig his own grave before he was battered to death.

The two men hired bomb disposal experts, a bulldozer and teams of local people to excavate the site in the village of Phka Dong, where they uncovered clothes, bone fragments and teeth. Contacted yesterday by The Independent, Mr Rotheram, who runs a guesthouse in the town of Sihanoukville, refused to answer any questions about the discovery, the full story of which, he said, would "be for the highest bidder".

Mr MacMillan claimed elsewhere that the four-month search had been partly funded by Flynn's half-sister. Yet the excavation of the site has been criticised by a colleague of the journalists who has led the search for them almost ever since they went missing. Tim Page, a British photographer celebrated for his work in Vietnam and other conflicts, said he believed a number of other foreign journalists may have been executed and buried at the same site.

Mr Page, 64, who is featured in Michael Herr's classic memoir of the Vietnam war, Dispatches, said he had led an excavation of the same site last year and found glass vials, bone fragments and teeth that he had handed to JPAC, along with GPS co-ordinates. He said it was vital a thorough examination of the site be conducted as local people claimed it held the remains of more than one foreigner killed by the Khmer Rouge.

"I have had hundreds of people contact me over the years about Sean and I'm always interested in what they have to say," Mr Page, who now lives in Brisbane, told The Australian. "But there is a very strict procedure to be followed when digging at a site of possible human remains, and in this case that has not been followed... It was not a forensic dig. They used an excavator and uncovered a full set of remains, which they removed from the site."

Sean Flynn was the child of the famed leading man and his first wife, Lili Damita, a French actress who spent huge sums of money to search for her son after he disappeared. Eventually, the photojournalist was declared officially dead in 1984, more than a dozen years after he was seized at a checkpoint and handed over to Khmer Rouge rebels. His mother died in 1994.

The 1970-75 conflict in Cambodia, a spillover of America's war against the North Vietnamese, pitched the US-backed government headed by Lon Nol against Khmer Rouge insurgents supported by the government in Hanoi. The war was eventually won by the Maoist-influenced Khmer Rouge forces, which then put in place a murderous four-year regime that caused the death of up to 2 million people.

Flynn and Stone went missing on 6 April 1970, the former on assignment for Time magazine and his colleague for CBS News. The two men were part of a larger group of journalists who had driven out of Phnom Penh on Highway One, heading toward the Vietnamese city then called Saigon, for a press conference organised by the government. One of the last Westerners to see the men was Stephen Bell, a reporter with ABC News, who would later go on to anchor Good Morning America. Speaking last night from Indiana, Mr Bell, who is now retired, said most of the reporters had travelled in large limousines, previously used by tourists but later taken over by the press corps. However, Flynn and Stone had been travelling by themselves on motorcycles.

"Afterwards we all headed back to Phnom Penh, but they said they wanted to go forward. They had heard there was a checkpoint that was manned by the Viet Cong. It was thought that you could see the Viet Cong there," said Mr Bell, who took a photograph of the two men as they set off on what would be a final journey. "We headed back to Phnom Penh and no one ever saw them again... I think they were among the first to go missing. It had not reached the point where we knew quite how dangerous it was."

Commission updates the list of airlines banned from the European airspace

Source: Travel Daily News

The European Commission has adopted the thirteenth update of the Community’s list of airlines banned in the European Union to include all air carriers of two additional countries: Sudan and the Philippines, on the basis of safety assessments by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). With this update, restrictions placed on Air Koryo from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and TAAG from Angola are partially lifted under certain conditions, while the operations of Iran Air will be restricted.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said: "Safety comes first. We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation. But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards."

With this update, the Air Koryo licensed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, subject to an operating ban since March 2006, is allowed to resume operations into the EU with two aircraft which are fitted with the necessary equipment to comply with mandatory international standards and following appropriate oversight by its authority. The rest of its fleet remains barred from operating into the EU.

The Commission recognises the improvements in the operations of TAAG Angola Airlines by allowing the air carrier to operate under certain strict conditions with specific aircraft to all destinations in the EU, not only to Lisbon.

The civil aviation authority of Angola is urged to intensify its oversight in relation to all carriers and continue the recertification of the other Angolan air carriers which remain banned from operating into the EU.

The Commission imposes an operating ban on all operations of Sudanese air carriers, due to a poor safety performance of the civil aviation authority of Sudan resulting from persistent non-compliance with international standards in the area of oversight.

The Commission acknowledges the recent efforts launched by the competent authorities to reform the civil aviation system in the Philippines and steps taken to address safety deficiencies reported by the FAA and ICAO and measures taken by two carriers – Philippines Airlines and Cebu Airlines – to ensure safety of operations. It is ready to support the Philippines to overcome serious safety deficiencies.

In view of the significant safety concerns identified by ICAO in relation to the authorities, the Commission with the unanimous support of the Air Safety Committee is forced to follow the principle of precaution and impose an operating ban on all air carriers licensed in the Philippines. The Commission is ready to support the Philippine authorities and conduct a visit to the country.

Following an examination of the safety of Iran Air's operations into the EU through ramp checks of its aircraft in the Community, evidence of serious incidents and accidents suffered by the carrier and insufficient oversight from the authority over the past year, the Air Safety Committee concluded unanimously that the operations of Iran Air to the EU should be restricted. The carrier will only be allowed to use certain aircraft for flights to Europe. The Commission will visit Iran over the next months to verify the oversight of the Iranian civil aviation organisation and the safety situation of Iran Air.

The results of a recent visit by the European Aviation Safety Agency to Albania indicate that the competent authority needs to strengthen its capabilities to ensure the oversight of the air carriers it licences. The authorities have been urged by the Commission to take prompt action to address these issues. The Commission will closely monitor the situation.

The Commission follows closely the performance of Egyptian air carriers. A visit to Egypt to verify the oversight functions of the civil aviation authority and the performance of certain air carriers showed that this authority is carrying out its responsibilities correctly. The Commission will continue to cooperate closely with this authority to ensure that proposed improvements can be implemented.

Today, the Community’s list has three carriers whose operations are fully banned in the European Union – Ariana Afghan Airlines from Afghanistan, Siem reap Airways International from Cambodia and Silverback Cargo Freighters from Rwanda.

All carriers from 17 countries – 278 companies in total – are banned: Angola, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, (with the exception of three carriers which operate under restrictions and conditions), Indonesia, Kazakhstan (with the exception of one carrier which operates under restrictions and conditions), the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Swaziland and Zambia. 10 air carriers are allowed to operate under restrictions and conditions - Air Koryo from the Democratic People Republic of Korea, TAAG Angola Airlines, Air Astana from Kazakhstan, Iran Air from Iran Gabon Airlines, Afrijet and SN2AG from Gabon, Air Bangladesh, Air Service Comores and Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines from Ukraine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Foreign adoptions by 2011

30 March 2010
Mom Kunthear and Irwin Loy
Phnom Penh Post

AMBODIA plans to reopen the door to foreign adoptions by the end of March 2011, officials said Monday, meaning the Kingdom has one year to meet strict international guidelines put in place to prevent child trafficking.

The announcement comes after the National Assembly passed a law aimed at governing international adoptions last December. Observers say the law is crucial to ending the allegedly widespread practice of “baby-buying”, but some have raised questions about the government’s ability to enforce it.

At a workshop Monday, Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said authorities want to finalise a system for foreign adoptions of Cambodian children by the end of March 2011.

“The government will start to receive adoption proposals from ... other countries who want to adopt Cambodian children,” Ith Sam Heng said.
“We have one year – 12 months – to implement and enforce the inter-country adoption law.”

Despite the proposed timeline, it remains to be seen whether the law will be stringent enough to ensure compliance with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, which sets strict terms on who should be eligible for international adoptions and how those adoptions should be regulated.

Though Cambodia has ratified the convention, countries including the US, Australia, France and Canada have effectively placed moratoriums on adopting children from Cambodia, citing concerns about the Kingdom’s ability to comply with the guidelines.

Rights groups have long raised allegations that adoptions in Cambodia have fuelled child trafficking.

A 2002 briefing by rights group Licadho raised alarms over what it said were “clear patterns and networks” aimed at purchasing babies and young children for adoption. Licadho alleged that impoverished women were coerced into giving up their children and said that some orphanages and adoption facilitators profited from the exchanges, often with the help of corrupt local officials.

Problems persist despite the government’s attempt at reforms, said Licadho President Pung Chhiv Kek.

“The fact remains that illegal adoptions are still an issue,” said Pung Chhiv Kek, who wondered whether authorities will be equipped to enforce the Hague Convention – and whether other jurisdictions will determine that Cambodia has sufficiently met its obligations to lift their moratoriums.

“It is to be seen that this convention is strictly enforced,” Pung Chhiv Kek said, linking the issue to corruption. “Adoption will always remain a concern as long as birth certificates and other documents can be forged or purchased easily.”

Organisations that work with children have also expressed concern. In a briefing submitted to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December, the NGO Friends International urged countries to “refrain from lifting their respective moratorium until Cambodia fully complies with the requirements set forth by the Hague Convention”.

“Private orphanages continue to exist without proper monitoring in the country, and so does the commerce of children,” the NGO said in its briefing.

December’s law provides a framework for how children can be adopted, but authorities still must flesh out the tools that will allow its implementation.

Authorities have proposed capping the number of adoption agencies allowed to operate in the Kingdom and are debating whether to charge prospective parents a US$5,000 fee, Ith Sam Heng said Monday.

From 1998 until 2009, more than 3,500 orphan children were adopted by foreign parents, he said.

State President affirms close ties with Cambodia


Vietnam wants to strengthen the traditional friendship, fine neighbourliness and cooperation with Cambodia, State President Nguyen Minh Triet told co-prosecutor Chea Leang at a reception in Hanoi on March 30.

Mr Triet acknowledged the positive developments in cooperative relations between the two countries through regular exchange of high-level visits, especially a Cambodia visit by Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh last December.

He noted that bilateral ties in economics, trade and investment have grown and flourished recently and that Vietnamese businesses have increased investment in telecommunications, energy, mining, rubber plantation and waterways transport in Cambodia.

He welcomed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, laying a legal framework for increasing cooperation between the two agencies. He proposed that the two agencies implement the MoU effectively to help elevate bilateral relationship.

Ms Chea Leang briefed Mr Triet on the outcome of her working session with the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and said both sides will work and build a mechanism for exchanging information and expertise.

She said her agency wants to make further contributions to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Cambodia opposition asks to halt Vietnam border demarcation

Source: Malaysia

Cambodia's main opposition party on Tuesday asked the government to suspend demarcation of a contentious border with neighbouring Vietnam, according to a letter seen by AFP.

Lawmakers from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), whose leader lives in exile in France, urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a review of border markings to "properly and fully respect the territorial integrity of Cambodia".

The Cambodian premier 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.

"We, the lawmakers... would like to request the government to suspend the process of planting markers along Cambodian-Vietnamese border," the letter said.

The move follows a government lawsuit filed last month against Sam Rainsy accusing him of publishing a false map on his party's website that disputed delineation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

The opposition leader was in January sentenced in absentia to two years in prison in Cambodia for intentionally uprooting temporary border posts and inciting racial unrest.

Two villagers were also found guilty in the October incident in which Sam Rainsy led protesters to uproot six border markers in southeastern Svay Rieng province, alleging they had been illegally placed by Vietnam.

Vietnam condemned the saboteurs' act as "perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries".

But the SRP's letter to Hun Sen on Tuesday asked that independent experts, lawmakers, journalists, and civil society representatives be allowed to monitor and verify the demarcation process between the two countries.

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

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

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thai PM to hold second round of talks with Red Shirts

Bangkok Post

Red Shirt leaders were set to meet Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday for the second day of talks to press for elections following weeks of protests that have rocked Thailand's capital.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (R) walks with anti-government protest leader Veera Musikapong (L) prior to their meeting in Bangkok Sunday. Red Shirt leaders were set to meet Prime Minister Abhisit on Monday for the second day of talks to press for elections following weeks of protests that have rocked Thailand's capital.

A first round of negotiations -- carried live on television -- ended without resolution late Sunday after Abhisit refused to bow to demands from the protesters, who are loyal to fugitive deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"House dissolution can only happen if we see it is not only the way out for the Reds but for the whole country also," Abhisit told three Red leaders in the three-hour meeting.

The Red Shirts, who draw their support mainly from the poor rural north of Thailand, accuse Abhisit's government of being undemocratic because it came to power on the back of a parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin's allies from power.

On Sunday they told Abhisit he had two weeks to dissolve the house, but agreed to meet again Monday at 6:00pm (1100 GMT) to resume discussions.

Key dates: Thailand unrest Their populist political icon, former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, made one of his regular impassioned speeches by videolink following the talks, urging the rally of thousands to get behind the movement's leaders.

"Some say it was negative for the Reds because Abhisit is a good speaker but he lacks all sincerity," said Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and currently lives in Dubai to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

"We have to unite, keep fighting and stay to help each other," he told them.

The Reds began rallying on March 14 after a court ruling seized 1.4 billion dollars of Thaksin's fortune.

Their demonstrations have peaked at the weekends, with 80,000 protesters joining the Bangkok rally on Saturday, forcing troops to retreat from security posts in the heart of the capital.

They have staged a series of dramatic stunts in their bid to force Abhisit to call snap elections, picketing the army barracks where he is holed up and throwing their own blood at his office gates.

The Reds say the British-born, Oxford-educated Abhisit is only able to lead his six-party coalition with military backing.

Abhisit had ruled out talks while the protesters remained on the streets, but made an about-face on Sunday, a move analysts said might hint at a weakening of his support.

"How united is the military in bolstering Abhisit? Could this be why he is meekly agreeing to negotiations?" said Thailand analyst Paul Chambers of Germany's Heidelberg University. "One wonders what he has to gain from it."

While the demonstrations have passed peacefully, security forces have taken few chances, putting a 50,000-strong force on the streets and using a strict security law to police the rallies.

The capital was hit late Sunday by the latest in a series of explosions at politically significant sites and army buildings.

A woman was injured by the grenade attack at the home of ex-prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, police said.

A dozen people were hurt over the weekend when grenades were lobbed at the gate of the barracks where Abhisit has been living and working during the protests.

Groups seek Asean support for refugees

Bangkok Post

JAKARTA :Human rights advocates in Southeast Asia are calling on the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to do more to protect the region's refugees.

About 40 human rights organisations will forward a request today to the AICHR in Jakarta so that the issue can be taken up at its first meeting in Hanoi on April 8-9 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

The advocates agreed the first AICHR meeting in Vietnam should improve protection for the rights of refugees as the movement of people across borders had become one of the most important issues facing the region.

The issue was highlighted by the forced repatriation of Lao Hmong from Thailand's Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun last December, the treatment of the Rohingya boat people, and Burma's continued suppression of its ethnic minority groups, especially the Karen.

Thailand is presently home to 368,800 refugees. The majority of refugees in Southeast Asia come from Burma, a member of the Asean grouping.

Cambodia and the Philippines are the only two Asean countries to have ratified the United Nations convention on the recognition of refugees.

Khin Ohnmar, the coordinator of Burma Partnership, a network of Burmese and regional civil society groups, said the worst human rights violations were taking place in Burma, where military officers were using rape "as a weapon of war" to get rid of hundreds of ethnic minority women. Some were gang raped, she said.

Over the past 13 years, 3,300 villages in Karen state in eastern Burma opposite Thailand have been burnt and destroyed by the Burmese army. The dispossessed have been forced to live in the jungle, flee to the Thai-Burmese border or cross into Thailand, she said.

"This is a very common situation inside Burma," she said.

The families of Filipino journalists slaughtered in the Nov 23, 2009, massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, are also seeking help from the AICHR.

Fifty-seven people were killed, including the family members of a politician, journalists, lawyers, aides and motorists who were witnesses or identified as part of the convoy, when they were ambushed by a gang believed to have been headed by a political rival. "They want the AICHR to intervene and press the Philippine government to ensure justice is given to the victims as well as to provide them with compensation," said their lawyer, Harry Roque Jr.

"Justice must be done for all. That's why I want the AICHR to help us," said Noemi Parcon, the wife of slain journalist Joel Parcon.

"Our Philippine government has never shown any responsibility for what happened to us."

Practical Stints In Rural Schools Proposed For Trainee Teachers

MIRI, March 29 (Bernama) -- Practical stints in small schools in rural areas should be included in the training at teachers training institutes, Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said Monday.

He said such stints would better prepare the trainees to have the right attitude should they be required to serve in rural schools upon completion of their training.

"They can see the actual condition of the small schools in the remote areas (while training) so that they will be prepared," he told reporters after opening a workshop on Pedagogical Strategies for Improving the Performance of Small Schools here.

A total of 56 participants from Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei took part in the three-day workshop organised by the Education Ministry in collaboration with the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and the World Bank.

Dr Mohd Puad said a programme requiring trainees to undergo practical training in rural schools had already been started in Colombia and he felt that the teacher training institutes should explore the possibility of emulating such initiative.

He said that sending teachers to serve in rural areas was one of the challenges in managing small schools in the country.

According to him, there were 2,518 small schools with each having student enrolment of less than 150 andd 2,402 of them were located in rural areas.

In Sarawak there were 728 small schools, the biggest number in Malaysia.

With students of varied age groups in each class, he said, teachers serving in rural small schools were having difficulty to carry out their teaching tasks.


China denies responsibility for Mekong’s severe depletion

(, Mar28, 2010) As Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia which together make up the Mekong River Commission (MRC) prepared to meet Apr 3-5 in the Thai coastal town of Hua Hin to discuss serious depletion in the river’s water level, China has denied that the series of dams it had built in occupied Tibet had anything to do with the crisis. Chen Dehai, counselor at the Chinese embassy in Thailand, has said the dams in the Lancang River were not the cause of the falling water level that has victimized not only downstream countries along the Mekong River, but also China itself, reported China’s official Mar 26.

Still, the Mekong River Commission countries are expected to press China to release water from the dams.

Water levels in the Mekong, Southeast Asia's biggest river flowing 4,350 km (2,700 miles) from the glaciers of Tibet to the rice-rich delta of southern Vietnam, have dropped to as low as 0.33 of a meter (13 inches) in places, bringing a severe blow to the downstream countries’ agriculture and fishery sectors.

China maintains that the Lancang River contributes only 13.5 percent of the annual flux of the Mekong; that the river is mainly sustained by tributaries outside China.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Border markers with Cambodia erected

Source: Vietnam News

TAY NINH — The Vietnamese and Cambodian Governments yesterday started work on planting eight border markers between the two countries.

The markers will be built from Mark No 80 in Tay Ninh Province's Tan Hoa Commune, which is contiguous with Kampong Cham Province's Caro Vien Commune of Cambodia.

Tay Ninh has determined 51 border mark locations in the province so far, 21 of which border with Kampong Cham Province. Thirteen of them have been planted.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, the border marking steering committees of the two provinces held a conference to assess the demarcation and marker planting process.

The two parties said the difficult terrain was the main problem during the process as there was no vehicle access to some of the border mark locations.

Both countries plan to complete the officially marked border in 2011 and the legal documents in 2012.

The two provinces' border marking steering committees have agreed to continue co-operating closely. They will provide assistance to the border marking teams and information to local residents about the importance of the work. — VNS

Thai government building hit by blast ahead of protest

Bangkok Post

Riot-police and soldiers are seen standing guard during a 'Red Shirt' anti-government protest in Bangkok, on March 26. A small blast hit Thailand's customs department compound on Saturday, authorities said, ahead of a planned street protest by tens of thousands of anti-government campaigners.

A small blast hit Thailand's customs department compound Saturday, authorities said, ahead of a planned street protest by tens of thousands of anti-government campaigners.

The explosion was the latest in a series of about a dozen blasts, mostly caused by grenades, that have been set off in Bangkok and surrounding areas since the rolling demonstrations began on March 14.

Police said an explosive went off outside the government building in central Bangkok, shattering windows and damaging a van parked nearby, but caused no injuries.

"The bomb went off at 3:45 am, we still don't know type of bomb it was, we will have to wait for a forensic examination," said a district police officer.

Red-shirted supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra were massing Saturday before setting off on a new street parade as they continued their campaign to push for fresh elections.

The "Red Shirts", largely from poor northern areas, say the government is illegitimate because it came to power with army backing in a 2008 parliamentary vote, after a controversial court ruling removed Thaksin's allies.

Laos asked to grant access to Hmong

Bangkok Post

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says he will ask Vientiane to give "free and unfettered" access to Lao Hmong repatriated from Thailand.

He would talk to Laos during the Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting in Hua Hin early next month.

Mr Kasit unveiled his move after meeting European diplomats, including the envoys of the EU, Switzerland, UK, the Netherlands, and Canada yesterday.

Earlier, the European diplomats raised concerns about the fate of the 4,500 ethnic Hmong deported from Thailand to Laos last December.

The diplomats called for free and unfettered access to the Hmong returnees.

"It is now March and we have not been granted free and unfettered access, especially to the 158 Lao Hmong from Nong Khai.

"The Netherlands, the US, Canada and Australia have offered them resettlement," said EU ambassador David Lipman.

"Concerning these 158 refugees, we want to ask them about their needs, including their wishes for resettlement."

Mr Kasit said he had spoken to Lao authorities about access, but would raise the matter again at the MRC meeting.

Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, which share the Mekong River, will meet in Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan between April 2 to 5 to discuss water resources management and other development matters.

Vientiane yesterday took about 20 diplomats, mostly based in Laos, including the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) representative and US ambassador, and a group of foreign journalists to visit the Hmong resettlement village in Borikhamxay, about 225km from the capital.

The excursion was also joined by Thai diplomats and UN officials.

Lao representatives told visitors about how the government was resettling 4,500 Hmong in the village.

Foreign diplomats asked questions to see if the Hmong would be allowed free and unrestricted contact with the outside world, including relatives, said a diplomatic source.

"The Hmong indicated that they wanted to leave Laos. Some were crying, but there was not enough time to talk in depth with the individuals."

Another diplomatic source said the visit by Western diplomats had given the Hmong hope that they would be allowed to resettle overseas.

However, he believed it was unlikely that repatriation of the 158 Hmong with so-called person of concern status would come about. "Laos has tried to put in place the necessary infrastructure and wants to see them living here rather than going elsewhere," the source said.

Cambodian party leaders meet secretary of CPC Shaanxi Provincial Committee

Source: Xinhua

China and Cambodia on Friday agreed to further strengthen comprehensive partnership of cooperation as well as party exchanges.

Nhiek Bun Chhay (3rd R), secretary general of FUNCINPEC party, meets with Zhao Leji (3rd L), secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC) Shaanxi Provincial Committee, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 26, 2010. China and Cambodia on Friday agreed to further strengthen comprehensive partnership of cooperation as well as party exchanges.(Xinhua/Lei Baisong)

This was reached when Say Chhum, member of the Permanent Committee of the Central Committee of Cambodian People's Party ( CPP) and Nhiek Bun Chhay, secretary general of FUNCINPEC party held separate meetings with Zhao Leji, secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC) Shaanxi Provincial Committee.

During the meetings, they briefed each other on economic and social development, and had an in-depth exchange on further strengthening the cooperation between the two countries on various fields.

Say Chhum and Nhiek Bun Chhay, on behalf of their political parties, thanked Chinese government's long-term assistance and supports to Cambodia's social and economic development, and spoke highly of the achievements made by Chinese government.

Moreover, they reiterated that Cambodia would adhere to the one- China policy, and continue to support Chinese government's stance on its most important issues such as the stance on Taiwan and Tibet.

Zhao Leji, also member of CPC Central Committee, said he was glad to see that Cambodia has undergone enormous economic and social changes, and also played active role in the regional and international affairs.

Say Chhum (3rd R), member of the Permanent Committee of the Central Committee of Cambodian People's Party (CPP), meets with Zhao Leji (3rd L), secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC) Shaanxi Provincial Committee, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 26, 2010. China and Cambodia on Friday agreed to further strengthen comprehensive partnership of cooperation as well as party exchanges.(Xinhua/Lei Baisong)

Zhao said China and Cambodia share long-time friendship. The two countries are strengthening political trust and cooperation, benefiting the two peoples. China wishes to work together with Cambodia to push forward Sino-Cambodian relations to a new high.

Zhao and his delegation arrived here Friday to pay a three-day goodwill visit to Cambodia at the invitation of the Cambodia People's Party.

'Government-military nexus' decried

Army said to manipulate prime minister in 'too cosy' relationship

"The People's Parliament", where many opposition Pheu Thai MPs launched a "censure debate" on the red-shirt stage at Phan Fa Bridge, yesterday put the military in the firing line for allegedly manipulating the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.

"We are witnessing the completion of a hidden coup," said Sathaporn Maneerat, Pheu Thai MP for Lamphun province, adding that the military deploying barbed wire at Parliament for two days earlier this week clearly demonstrates this.

Sathaporn said because the current government coalition was formed in an Army base - the official residence of Army chief General Anupong Paochinda - the relationship between the government and the Army was "cosy".

Pol Lt-Colonel Somchai Petchprasert, chairman of the House committee on military affairs, said the government had been silent about much military-related corruption due to the government's dependence on the military.

"Why are you so afraid of the Army?" Somchai asked Prime Minister Abhisit.

"The military has now become the decision-maker as to whether this government will stay or go, and the government dare not touch their budget requests."

Somchai cited the controversial Sky Dragon airship purchased by the Army for Bt350 million - and which apparently is not functional - as an example.

The MP said there appeared to have been no test-run of the airship prior to delivery.

"So how can we trust this government and the armed forces?" he added.


Another Pheu Thai MP, Thongdee Manitsa from Udon Thani, said the special allowance of Bt400 per day per person for the 47,000 soldiers dispatched to contain the red-shirt protesters in Bangkok was absurd.

He pointed out that soldiers risking their lives in the deep South were given only Bt120 to Bt180.

Pheu Thai MP Witthaya Songtham from Chiang Mai said the Army received a lot of budget for work on "national reconciliation", only to have ended up having "a million" red shirts on Rajdamnoen Avenue.

A dozen Pheu Thai MPs who boycotted the parliamentary session earlier this week spoke on other topics on the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship rally stage yesterday.

They were attempting to expose what they said was the Abhisit administration's corruption and abuse of power.

Their accusations ranged from alleged corruption in the healthcare budget to mismanagement of foreign policy.

On healthcare, Pheu Thai MP Surawit Konsomboon alleged that as much as 40 per cent of the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng health budget had been lost to corruption.

He cited the Bt500,000 budget for new flag poles for every tambon-level hospital as overpriced.

"I think Bt50,000 is enough," he said.

"Ask any grade-two or -three students, and even they will recognise that this is corruption."

Torphong Chaisarn, Pheu Thai MP for Udon Thani and chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, called Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya "foul-mouthed" and said he had caused much tension between Thailand and neighbouring states, such as Cambodia and Burma.

Sathaporn added that the fact those taking part in the seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008, like Kasit, were rewarded with a ministerial portfolio was clear proof of "double standards" in Thai society and politics.

Regarding the attack on the Interior Ministry, Thongdee alleged that the ministry had mobilised 25 people per village throughout the Kingdom and paid them Bt100 to rally and accuse the red shirts of being anti-monarchist.

Poll: Brunei bests Indonesia, Philippines in IT readiness

Goh De No Mar 27th, 2010


BRUNEI has bested Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia among Southeast Asian countries surveyed for their readiness in using information communication technologies, according to a poll by the World Economic Forum.

According to the Global Information Technology report, Brunei retained its ranking from last year at 63 out of 133 countries outranking the other three Southeast Asian countries.

Amongst the regional neighbours, Singapore was the most networked economy scoring 5.64 cornering the second spot in the index, followed by Malaysia at 27th place.

Vietnam placed at 54 and Indonesia trailed closely behind Brunei at 67. The Philippines and Cambodia finished with rankings of 85 and 117.

A teacher guides students during an ICT camp in Belait in this file photo. Picture: BT/Jefrisalas

Sweden was ranked as the world’s most networked economy for 2010.

The so-called Networked Readiness Index looks at how prepared countries are in using information communication technologies by measuring the general environment for the technologies, the readiness of individuals to use them as well as their actual usage.

Brunei’s bid to improve its government agencies’ capabilities and to ensure effective public service delivery moved into high gear in 2008 with the opening of the e-Government National Centre.

After starting its operation, the centre will provide services in the aspects of operations, acquisition and human resource development in the field of information and communication technology, which are related to e-Government initiatives especially in the civil service, a previous statement from the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

The centre will assist government agencies in setting up their own ICT infrastructure and system that will further enhance their capabilities via the Internet.

Preparations for the setting up of a paperless government by various ministries and the drive towards achieving this goal will then be centralised and enhanced through the set-up of this new department.

Through this, government ministries and departments will be able to develop their own infrastructure, test and implement their initiatives with the assistance and guidance of the centre’s capabilities to ensure more reliable and efficient services.

Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Paduka Eusoff Agaki Hj Ismail, who is also the chairman of the e-Government Leadership Forum in 2008, also welcomed private sector initiatives in leveraging on public-private partnerships to further enhance the delivery of e-Government services which would certainly expand the access and the delivery of public services to benefit citizens, businesses and employees.

The private sector was also urged to support and collaborate in ensuring the successful implementation of Brunei’s long-term e-Government strategic Master Plan.

The index is based on a few key points, including market and infrastructure environment, business readiness, government readiness, individual usage, business and government usage.

The Brunei Times

Friday, March 26, 2010

Diabetes a disaster for Indigenous Australians


TONY EASTLEY: Aboriginal leaders say diabetes is the number one health issue affecting Indigenous Australians. Half of all Australia's Indigenous people either have type-2 diabetes or they have a condition known as pre-diabetes.

An Indigenous diabetes forum begins in Melbourne this morning, which aims to get corporate Australia engaged in new ways to prevent this disease.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The United Nations released a report earlier this year on the state of indigenous communities worldwide.

Australia topped the list for the worst health in the world and diabetes was listed as a major factor.

WARREN MUNDINE: I'd consider this the number one health issue. This is a massive disease that is creeping across Indigenous communities.

BROWNYN HERBERT: Warren Mundine is the chairman of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.

WARREN MUNDINE: I know people with diabetes and that but it really hit me when I went into the town camps last April last year in Alice Springs and I just looked around and I seen people with one leg, no legs, struggling around, and I thought I was in, say, Cambodia or something like that where you've got land mines, people have lost their legs. You know, you see the statistics and just sort of go what the hell is going on here?

BRONWYN HERBERT: The statistics might shock.

Professor Paul Zimmet is a director of the Baker International Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.

PAUL ZIMMET: Diabetes is rampant in many communities and indeed even in the Australian general community it is over 7 per cent. We're talking up to 30 per cent of adult Indigenous people have got diabetes and probably another 20 per cent have what we call pre-diabetes which means that inevitably they are going to get type-2 diabetes. So it is very much a disaster.

BRONWYN HERBERT: That's half of the Aboriginal people of Australia.

PAUL ZIMMET: That's a fearful figure. Alice Springs has the largest renal kidney dialysis unit in the southern hemisphere because of the very high rates of kidney disease due to diabetes.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Indigenous diabetes forum starts in Melbourne today. It brings together leading Australian business figures, Indigenous leaders and health experts.

Warren Mundine says it'll take more than dialysis machines to fight this disease.

WARREN MUNDINE: It's got to that stage that we have to turn up to work, we sit there and you go, okay this is how you do your accounts, this is also how you look after yourself in regards to how you eat and drink.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Professor Zimmet says eating health food is important but there's an opportunity to make communities as a whole healthier.

WARREN MUNDINE: Involving urban planners to design environments for healthy towns and town camps and such like that will provide infrastructure for green space, parklands, walking paths, cycle ways, public transport, better community facilities in terms of health.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The forum will reconvene in Sydney next month to take in more ideas.

TONY EASTLEY: Bronwyn Herbert reporting.

College student hits six continents, 33 countries

College student likes out-of-the-way places as she travels around the world


GAYLORD -- -- Meg Miner prefers to travel off the beaten path, which made achieving her goal of visiting six continents by her 25th birthday all the more challenging.

Her trek through the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador early this year came just a few weeks past her birthday, but put her in the small group of travelers who have touched ground in six continents -- visiting 33 countries in the process.

"Ecuador is one of the more accessible places to go and see what the rainforest really looks like," said Miner, who considers herself a science nerd.

The Gaylord High School graduate attributes her love of travel to growing up in Newfoundland and southern Spain while her dad served as a physician in the military, plus the semester she spent in South Africa working toward her degree in environmental science and aquatic ecology at the University of Michigan.

While studying in Africa, she visited her favorite place in the world -- Mozambique.

"It is totally not what you expect from Africa. There is an amazing coastline with great scuba diving and a real Latin sort of vibe," said Miner, who spent four months after graduation backpacking around the world.

"I just liked the feel of being on the road and not knowing what is going to happen the next day," said Miner, who was drawn to third-world countries including Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Nepal.

Now studying for her masters in environmental journalism at Boston University, she hopes to be able to incorporate travel into her preferred career path.

"Maybe I will even make it to the seventh continent, Antarctica," she said.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PetroVietnam, Total paid govt $26m in Jan

24 March 2010
Steve Finch and Nguon Sovan
Phnom Penh Post

Oil and gas revenues mark huge increase on previous month

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Motorbikes fill up at a Total petrol station on March 14 in Phnom Penh.
THE Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, better known as PetroVietnam, and French energy firm Total together gave the Cambodian government US$26 million in signature bonuses and social funds in January, an energy official confirmed Tuesday.

Declining to be named, the official from the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) told the Post that PetroVietnam had paid money to the government following the signing of an exploration deal for onshore Block 15. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed the deal with PetroVietnam officials on November 12 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Phnom Penh, according to press reports.

Block 15 is located north of the southeastern edge of Tonle Sap lake and mostly covers areas of Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.

The CNPA official was unable to break down the total amount given by each company, but the revenues marked a huge rise on the $800,000 the government received in December, according to a presentation by Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary General Hang Chuon Naron, who spoke at the Cambodia Outlook Conference in the capital March 17.

The payment by Total related to the 2,430 square-kilometre Area III, the official said, an offshore block in an overlapping zone with Thailand that was supposed to have been agreed on in mid-2009, but has been subject to unspecified delays.

Area III lies within a disputed 27,000 square-kilometre area that cannot be explored until Phnom Penh and Bangkok agree on a production-sharing deal.

Last year Total officials told the Post that the firm would also sign with the government a 10-year conditional agreement for onshore Block 26, which covers a huge area of 22,050 square kilometres that extends southeast, from the capital to the Vietnamese border.

It remains unclear why Total made a signature payment to the government in January while deals for Block 26 and Area III are “still under discussion”, Jean-Paul Precigout, the main negotiator for Total in this case, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

Precigout did not respond on Tuesday to further questions on the issue.

According to Hang Chuon Naron’s presentation last week, the $20 million in combined revenues from the two companies related to signature bonus payments, while the remaining $6 million were for social funds, according to a disclosure cited as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard for openness within the energy industry.

Vietnam trade expo

24 March 2010
May Kunmakara

VIETNAMESE traders will open a five-day products exhibition in Phnom Penh April 7, seeking to boost bilateral trade with Cambodia after a drop in 2009.

The “high-quality products” exhibition, to be held at Mondial Centre, expects 200 companies and 300 booths, continuing a biannual convention that began in 2002, Le Bien Cuong, Vietnam’s Commercial Counselor in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday.

Asian countries launch swap agreement

By Kevin Brown in Singapore
Published: March 24 2010
March 24 2010

Thirteen Asian countries on Wednesday launched a $120bn currency swaps agreement to provide emergency US dollar liquidity to nations facing a foreign exchange crisis.

The Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation agreement, 80 per cent financed by Japan, China and South Korea, is a multilateral extension of a network of bilateral swaps deals reached after the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

However, economists said it was unlikely to pave the way for an Asian Monetary Fund that could provide a regional alternative to the International Monetary Fund.

“There is certainly no harm in it, but it is quite a long way from here to any form of AMF,” said Michael Buchanan, Asia chief economist at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.

“If you want to have true objective conditional lending, that is quite hard for neighbouring countries. It is much easier to rely on the IMF for that,” he said.

The agreement allows the three main financing countries and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations to seek emergency dollar funding of between 0.5 and five times their contributions to the fund.

However, 80 per cent of any swaps approved will be subject to IMF conditions, such as economic reform programmes of the kind imposed by the global lender in 1997/98.

This leaves only 20 per cent of the fund subject to a purely Asian decision-making process. As a result no member country will be able to receive more from the fund than it has contributed, unless the IMF approves.

Officials say this restriction may be eased once a proposed regional surveillance unit is established to monitor economic trends and supervise the use of disbursements from the fund.’

However, much of the urgency behind the drive for a broader Asian financial institution has dissipated in the wake of the huge foreign exchange reserves accumulated by many Asian countries since 1997/98 through large and sustained trade surpluses.

The initial proposal for an AMF was made in 1997 by Eisuke Sakakibara, then Japan’s deputy finance minister, but it was never established because of strong opposition from the US.

The idea continues to surface in policy discussions, notably in Japan. Supporters such as Masahiro Kawai, dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, say an AMF could promote exchange rate stability, encourage regional bond market liquidity and project an “Asian voice” on financial matters.

It also retains some traction in south-east Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand that were angered by tough conditions attached to emergency loans extended by the IMF in 1997/98.

The Asean members of the multilateral agreement are Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Brunei and Laos. Hong Kong participates as a self-governing Chinese territory.

Cambodian PM to pay working visit to Thailand next month

Posted on: 24/03/2010

Cambodian PM to pay working visit to Thailand next month

PHNOM PENH, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will make a working visit to Thailand next month, Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said that at the invitation of Thai Prime Minister Abhsiti Vejjajiva, Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a delegation to attend the First Mekong River Commission Summit which will be held on April 4-5 in Thailand.

The visit will mark Hun Sen's first trip to Thailand in 2010 in spite of border conflict is yet solved.

Hun Sen made his last feet in Thailand in October last year.

According to the statement, Hun Sen will be accompanied by Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Environment Mok Mareth, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun and Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and meteorology.

The statement said that at the end of the Summit, there will be an adoption of a Declaration on Meeting the Needs, Keeping the Balance: Towards Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin.

Cambodia and Thailand have faced off with border conflict since 2008 and since then there have been three rounds of military clashes, and there remains military presence from both sides along the border until today.

At the same time, the relations between the two neighbors went on further strain since Thai former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed as Cambodia's economic advisor of Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen on last October.

(c) 2010 Xinhua News Agency - CEIS. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

Cambodia army says 88 Thais dead in two-year border clashes

By Agence France-Presse,
Updated: 3/24/2010

A senior Cambodian army official said Wednesday his troops have killed at least 88 Thai soldiers over the past two years in clashes near an ancient temple on a disputed frontier.

General Chea Tara, a Cambodian deputy commander-in-chief who oversees military operations in the area near the Preah Vihear temple, said that 38 Thai soldiers were killed in October 2008 and another 50 in April 2009.

"We helped them to find the bodies but they still hide the figure," he said at a briefing of government officials and lawmakers about developments in the border spat. He said only two Cambodian soldiers were killed in the clashes.

The Thai military has previously said that only three of its soldiers were killed in the 2009 gunbattle. Thai army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd denied the new claims.

"The information is not true. If that many Thai soldiers were killed, it would have been big news since then," he told AFP.

Chea Tara said that soldiers on both sides have remained on "high alert", but added that the situation near the temple was now quiet.

"Cambodian troops have enough ability to protect the territory and we have all kinds of modern weapons to counter Thai soldiers," he added.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia, which ended in 1998.

Earlier this month Cambodia mounted a rare public test of rockets to protect against "invaders", while Prime Minister Hun Sen has made several fiery speeches accusing Thai leaders of infringing on his territory.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute.

Relations deteriorated further in November after Hun Sen appointed ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and refused to extradite him to Thailand, which he fled to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Mr. Huynh Ba’s Trial: A Mockery of Justice

By Charlie Thach
Source: Khmer Krom.Net

Mr. Huynh Ba, a Khmer-Krom peaceful activist from Soc Trang, has been sentenced to 2 years prison. Mr. Huynh was amongst a group of Khmer Krom people who have been conducting peaceful demonstration to demand for the return of his ancestral farmlands. On May 30, 2009 Vietnamese authorities arrested Mr. Huynh and he was detained until his trial recently on March 19, 2010.

After almost a year of being detained without any concrete charges, the Vietnamese government found the perfect excuse to charge Mr. Huynh. He was sentenced to serve two years in prison under the Vietnam Penal code of Article 258, which states, “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.” During the trial, Mr. Huynh did not have a lawyer to represent him and like the five Khmer Krom monks that were defrocked in 2007, he could not defend himself in this mockery of a trial.

The outcome of Mr. Huynh Ba’s case is one of the many prime examples of Vietnamese governmental hypocrisies and oppression today. At the United Nations, Vietnam proudly tells the world that according to its Constitution, “The citizen shall enjoy freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, the right to be informed, and the right to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations in accordance with the provisions of the law.” And yet when Mr. Huynh exercises this right and acts peacefully to hold demonstrations for the return of his ancestral lands, he is charged for “Abusing democratic freedoms”.

Ironically, in a country that is controlled by one single party- Vietnamese Communist Party- the Vietnam Penal Codes and Vietnam’s Constitution are just mere tools that are implemented to legitimize their “crimes against humanity”.

Vietnam policies are unilateral. They are written to protect the drumbeaters of their political party. Those who oppose them often find themselves prosecuted and imprisoned like in the case of Mr. Huynh. They are taken away to a secret location, beaten, tortured and detained for as long as a year or even longer. The detainees then find themselves charged for crime they did not commit.

The case of Mr. Huynh Ba is not merely punishment for a crime that he did not commit, but it also demonstrates the type of oppression that is inflicted on individuals who dare to speak their minds and stand up for their rights. Instead of solving the problem at hand, e.g the land confiscation issues, the Vietnam government cracks down on activists in attempt to avoid the issue all together. Mr. Huynh Ba’s case is then used to set an example for other Khmer-Krom people so that they do not conduct future demonstrations.

When the government targets to abuse and oppresses the human rights, “the mass psychological transformation of the oppress group becomes paramount to the goal of the oppressor. When that psychological transformation is complete, the resistance is broken and the power transfer is complete.”(Reicherter, The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination, pg 200, KKF 2009) And sadly, Mr. Huynh Ba has been victimized, not for “Abusing democratic freedoms”, but for being a Khmer-Krom who dared to challenge the government by demanding for his land rights.

Mr. Huynh Ba’s case is a sad reminder to all people of what would happen if the Khmer-Krom tried to stand up for their fundamental human rights.

Read more on his story here

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Late Mass. monk's poems recall Khmer Rouge horrors

Source: Sify. Com

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2008 file photo, Samkhann Khoeun holds at the Glory...

During Buddhist monk Ly Van Aggadipo's final days, he wrote often in a notebook. Temple followers knew the nonagenarian spiritual mentor to many local Cambodian refugees was recording some sort of personal history, but they weren't sure what.

"He told me, 'When I'm gone, make sure others read this so people don't forget what happened,'" follower Sokhar Sao said. "I didn't really understand until he was gone."

Next month, friends and followers will release a book of poetry by Ly Van, who survived the brutal communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and later led the Glory Buddhist Temple in Lowell from 1988 until his death in January 2008. The book, entitled "O! Maha Mount Dangrek," is a collection of two lengthy poems: one an autobiographical piece on the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, the other about a friend's story of love in the time of genocide.

The title in English means "Oh Mighty Mount Dangrek" and refers to the mountainous plateau between the Cambodia-Thailand border that refugees were forced to climb in order to escape the Khmer Rouge regime.

Organizers plan a 14-city tour to promote the book with readings and accompanying musical performances by two young Cambodian artists. The tour will begin April 1 at a Middlesex Community College reading in Lowell and continue with stops in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and Long Beach, Calif.

The publication of Ly Van's work, printed in its original Khmer and in English, completes a two-year project by followers. The day he died, a follower found the poetry tucked under stacks of old Buddhist texts inside the temple.

On worn pages were handwritten, carefully crafted poems describing Ly Van's memories of labor camps, starvation and infant executions and his dreams of escaping to America.

"We all said, 'Wow ... we have to publish this,'" said Samkhann Khoeun, who studied under Ly Van and served as the book's editor. "Here was something so beautiful describing something so horrible. It brought tears to our eyes."

Khoeun then went on a campaign to get the book published. The Glory Buddhist Temple and local nonprofit groups Light of Cambodian Children and Cambodian Expressions agreed to help with the publication cost, while Khoeun worked on translation with other refugees.

Ly Van was born in 1917 in a small Cambodian village where he and his family lived through the 1970s rule of the Khmer Rouge regime, which perpetrated one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.

An estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease and executions due to the group's radical policies. According to the temple's biography of Ly Van, he was forced to work on farms and public projects 14 hours a day. It was during this time that he witnessed mass executions and large-scale starvation.

In early 1979, when Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia, Ly Van and thousands of others fled to Thailand through dangerous terrain where he and others ended up at refugee camps while hoping for asylum to the U.S. with the help of the U.N.

He and his family were granted asylum and resettled in Lowell, an old mill city less than an hour's drive northwest of Boston.

Today about 20,000 Cambodians live in or around the city, making it second only to Long Beach for the largest number of Cambodians living in the United States.

As a refugee in Lowell, Ly Van helped establish the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, which promotes educational, cultural, economic and social programs for Cambodian-Americans and other minorities, before leading the Glory Buddhist Temple until his death of old age at 90.

But while counseling his fellow refugees and performing volunteer efforts, Ly Van quietly worked and reworked his long poems about horrific moments in his life that he rarely shared.

Besides the epic poems, the new book also features photos of Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia and of refugee camps in Thailand.

Some of the photos are from the collection of photojournalist Jay Mather, whose images helped earn him a 1980 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting with reporter Joel Brinkley while at The Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville, Ky. Others come from refugees' personal collections and the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has documented Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Khoeun said he wanted readers to see images related to Ly Van's poetry.

"We have to face it," said Khoeun, 47. "This is what we went through."

Sao, who has a bullet wound on one of his calves from being shot at a refugee camp, agreed.

"It's painful to see and remember," said Sao, also 47. "Every time I hear the words Khmer Rouge I get a little emotional. So you can imagine what's going on when I read this poetry and see these images."

Around 3,000 copies of the book are planned for the first printing, with proceeds going to costs for a planned second printing, Khoeun said.

The goal is not to make money, Ly Van's followers said, but to share the story of Cambodian refugees with others.

"I think my own children don't believe what we went through to get here," said Sao, a father of four children who were born in the U.S. "I don't talk about it much and can't put it into words like this."

Cambodia: Stepping back in time at Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Daily Mail
By Mark Palmer
21 March 2010

There were no photocopy machines in Cambodia until about 1990. In those days, not even fearless entrepreneurs with Xerox contracts in their suitcases would dare venture to this beleaguered, war-torn part of Indo-China.

So, change has come fast. Cambodia is now firmly established in the tourist firmament, and offers far more than a popular diversion for backpackers looking for thrills and spills (and cheap beer) on their gap year.

Even so, I could not get the bloody image of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge out of my mind as our guide, Vin (not his real name, for reasons that will become apparent) introduced us to the 21st-century charms of Siem Reap, in the north-west of the country.

Angkor Wat

Beautiful: The Angkor Wat temple took 37 years to build and was one of the jewels of the Khmer Empire

Those scenes in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, in which men, women and children are photographed by their captors before being executed and their bodies dumped in mass shallow graves, were no Hollywood exaggeration. They happened — and not so very long ago.

Vin seemed to pick up on my unease. 'Terrible things have gone on in my country and we are sorry for that,' he said, totally unprompted.

'But now we are a peaceful people and the situation is different. I wish you a pleasant stay in Cambodia.'

It turned out to be very pleasant indeed. And Vin was right about the people: wherever we went, they were indeed peaceful and unfailingly courteous.

Siem Reap is enjoying its second coming. Following the 'rediscovery' of the temples of Angkor by French archaeologists in the 1860s, the town became a beacon for wealthy travellers.

It continued that way until the late Sixties, when the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy came to call. Then war, famine and fear kept outsiders well away right up until 1999.

Mark Palmer with his wife Joanna

Awe-struck: Mark Palmer with his wife Joanna, who were given a rare glimpse of the temple's reclining Buddha

Everyone says you have to see Angkor Wat at sunrise to capture its full glory, but we felt relieved when Vin said we would start our tour at 10am. We were then amazed to find we practically had the place to ourselves.

'Where are all the people?' I asked as we drove around the massive moat. 'On the other side,' he replied.

He meant we had approached via the East Gate, a grand ruin of a lodge leading to a gravel drive that takes you up to the main temple.

With dappled sunlight foraging through the swaying trees and a crumbling building in the distance, we could almost have been visiting a stately home past its best in Gloucestershire.

What took me by surprise was the perfect symmetry, the motifs, the detail on the bas-reliefs — and we hadn't even set foot inside yet.

Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider

Action-packed: Angelina Jolie starred in movie Tomb Raider which was filmed at Angkor Wat

Vin ushered us into the shade and asked us to sit on giant pieces of sandstone.

We didn't move for the next 40 minutes as he went about his lecture, producing maps and plans and dealing patiently with interruptions from us that tended to start with: 'But how...?' or 'So, why...?'

Our questions were all trying to make sense of such an extraordinary feat, one that took 37 years to complete and involved stone either being dragged from a quarry 50 miles by elephant or on bamboo rafts 100 miles by river.

No wonder King Suryavarman II is such a hero.

As we moved from one level to the next, getting closer to the central shrine, Vin pointed at some scaffolding and explained that tourists had not been allowed access to the highest point for two years.

He said the reclining Buddha was a sight to behold — but sadly one that would elude us.

'Do people ever just climb up when no one's looking?' I asked, adding: 'There doesn't seem to be too much security.'

'You want to go up?' he said. Vin made a call from his mobile. Ten minutes later, a man with a walkie-talkie and bad teeth appeared. 'Come,' he said.

We made a dash for the scaffolding, ducking under some tarpaulin and climbing the steep steps. And then we climbed some more.

My new guide had two lookout men posted near the top. 'We have five minutes,' he said. 'Come.' We rushed here and there and, yes, I got to see the reclining Buddha looking majestically calm and serene.

It was almost 2pm by the time we got back to our hotel in the centre of town. La Residence d'Angkor, part of the Orient-Express group, is the place to stay. Lush and luxurious, it's recently benefited from a brand new spa, and the swimming pool is a decent size.

But Vin didn't give us much downtime.

On our first day, he wanted us to see Ta Prohm (the jungle temple where Tomb Raider was filmed) and the mysterious Bayon, where the shapes of gigantic faces are etched into stone towers, before taking our positions high above the plain to watch the sunset.

Angkor Wat

Eerie: Many of the temples, built between the 9th and 12th centuries, are slowly being reclaimed by nature

We ate spectacularly well at La Residence, but we also came up trumps at a new restaurant called Rina Rino on Pub Street. The most expensive item on the menu was £2.

We then spent an hour in the night market, where I resisted the chance to try a 'fish massage', which involves dangling your legs over the side of a plastic swimming pool while fish nibble dead skin from your feet.

Next morning, we did watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat — along with a few thousand other spectators.

The earth didn't move for me, but I liked the camaraderie of the experience: the standing and waiting at 5.30am with visitors from all over the world, the offer of cheap coffee from locals, the scent of expectation.

Later that day, we drove 45 minutes out of town to Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia and home to entire villages built on stilts.

Houses are erected on rafts that can be towed to different areas depending on water levels. Families can move ten times a year.

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Spectacular: Tonle Sap is the biggest freshwater lake in South-East Asia, covering up to 16,000 sq km during the wet season - it is home to traditional floating villages

We hired a dragon boat and explored some of the channels leading to the main lake. It was utterly enthralling — and shocking. Men fish at night and spend most of the day beating the whitebait from their nets before selling it for next to nothing.

Life is hard. Average income is £300 per year and a 46 per cent literacy rate is well below the national average. At least 12 per cent of the children die before they reach the age of five.

We stopped at a floating shop where crocodiles are kept in captivity while being fattened and sold to the highest bidder.

We also came across naked Vietnamese children floating in washing-up bowls with pet snakes wrapped around their necks. They were fishing for money.

On the way back to the airport, we passed some of the hotels that have sprung up in the past five years.

If relative stability persists in Cambodia, Siem Reap will expand still further and struggle to retain its charms.

Which means if Angkor Wat is on your list of places to see before your final boarding card is issued, then you might want to do it sooner rather than later.

Travel facts

The Ultimate Travel Company (020 7386 4646, can arrange a tailor-made nine-day stay in Cambodia from £1,895 pp.

This itinerary includes three nights at La Residence D'Angkor, two at Raffles Le Royal Phnom Penh and three on the beach at Knai Bang Chat, plus private guided sightseeing at the temples of Angkor and breakfast, Thai Airways flights from Heathrow, flights in Cambodia and private transfers.