Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thai-Cambodia border 'normal' but Thai military on high alert

Source: Mcot. Net

BANGKOK, July 31 -- The Thai-Cambodian border situation remains normal but Thailand's military is on high guard after a United Nations agency agreed to postpone discussions on the disputed management plan around the Preah Vihear temple proposed by the Phnom Penh government to 2011.

Thai troops are now posted some five kilometres from the historic temple on its eastern approach.

They are guarding the disputed area contested by the two neighbouring countries round-the-clock to ensure that Cambodian soldiers do not encroach the Thai territory.

In an attempt to boost morale of Thai soldiers guarding the border, Col Nirut Ketsiri, commander of 16th Infantry Battalion, visited them.

Thailand's foreign minister said Friday that the country is not disadvantaged after UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) on Thursday postponed its scheduled discussions on the management plan to next year's meeting in Bahrain.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromyat praised the Thai delegation at the meeting, led by Suwit Khunkitti, minister of natural resources and environment, for voicing and explaining the Thai perspective on the impasse to heritage committee members until they decided to postpone discussion of the issue.

He said that Thailand should now find a way to resolve the Thai-Cambodian border demarcation problem and submit it to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The immediate challenge, Mr Kasit said, is that Thailand wants to refer to the temple as Phra Viharn, while Cambodia calls it Phreah Vihear. If it is agreed by Phnom Penh then both countries could move jointly to resolve their territorial disputes.

The Thai government wants to resolve the problem according to the 2000 land boundary demarcation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cambodia agreeing not to change any environment in the frontier zone, pending the survey and demarcation of the common land boundary.

Thailand will not allow its territory to be lost and the disputed, overlapping boundary must be settled by negotiation, he said, adding that the next round of talks should be done in a friendly atmosphere as the two countries are close neighbours. (MCOT online news)

Cambodia says it is winner in battle over UN review of border temple management plan

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia declared victory Friday in a diplomatic standoff with Thailand after the U.N. cultural agency agreed to consider its plan for managing a temple that is on land claimed by both countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said that Cambodia had achieved its goal when UNESCO's World Heritage Commission agreed on Thursday to consider its plan for the Preah Vihear temple on the border with Thailand.

However, UNESCO's decision to defer the matter to its meeting next year takes pressure off both countries.

Thailand, which claims the plan jeopardizes its claim to disputed territory, had threatened to quit UNESCO if the plan was endorsed at Thursday's meeting in Brazil. Thai officials said they viewed the postponement of the plan's consideration as progress.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled the 10th-century border temple belongs to Cambodia, rejecting Thai claims. UNESCO — over Thai objections — named Preah Vihear a World Heritage site in 2008, after Cambodia applied for the status. Cambodia's World Heritage bid reignited Thai resentment over the earlier ruling, and there have been small and sometimes deadly armed clashes in the area during the past few years.

Leaders of both countries have used the issue to stir up nationalist sentiment and shore up domestic political support. In Thailand, nationalist pressure groups demonstrated this week for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a hard line against Cambodia and UNESCO. The two sides' military leaders spoke about strengthening their respective forces at the border in preparation for any incursions from the other side.

Sok An led the Cambodian delegation at the UNESCO meeting, and spoke by satellite from Brazil live on television.

"UNESCO has officially accepted our management plan documents, so there is no need to have a further discussion or voting," Sok An said. "The result of the meeting is a big victory for Cambodia, a result we have been waiting for."

Thai officials insist that demarcation of the disputed land must come before UNESCO endorses any management plan.

"How we're going to move forward is a matter to be discussed by both sides," said Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova released a statement earlier this week calling for dialogue between the two countries. "It is our common responsibility to make these sites emblems of peace, dialogue and reconciliation," she said.

Tourism firms eye Cambodia market

31 July, 2010

HA NOI — The domestic tourism industry plans to focus on attracting holidaymakers from traditional markets in the world to meet its target of drawing 4.5 million foreign visitors to the country this year.

Figures from the General Statistics Office show that the number of Cambodian holidaymakers coming to Viet Nam has grown markedly in the first six months of this year, reaching 117,000 – a year-on-year rise of 36 per cent.

HCM City leads the nation in terms of attracting Cambodian visitors, who make up 60-70 per cent of the total number of visitors from the country to Viet Nam. The southern city is followed by the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang and the southern province of Binh Duong.

Industry insiders said visa exemptions, high-quality goods, attractive tourist destinations and convenient travel arrangements are the main draw for Cambodian holidaymakers.

Transport firms such as Mai Linh and the Sai Gon Passenger Transportation Company (Sapaco) are cashing in on regional demand for travel. Everyday, about 80 coach trips are made between Viet Nam and Cambodia.

In a recent interview, He So Somara, the secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, said Cambodians used to prefer travelling to Thailand but that Viet Nam had become more attractive because it was closer, there were numerous entry points, it was inexpensive and the food was similar.

He also said the country now offered a variety of attractions, from beach holidays to health tourism.

Phan Thanh Hai, director of the HCM City-based Medic centre, said about 100 Cambodians come for check-ups daily, accounting for about 10 per cent of the total number of the centre's patients. Other hospitals such as Cho Ray, Traditional Medicine and Vu Anh are also regular stops for Cambodian travellers.

However, tourist firms attributed the rise in the number of Cambodian visitors to tourism fairs showcasing Vietnamese products and visits to the country by Vietnamese medical staff. — VNS

Susan Sarandon Speaks Out Against Child Sex Trafficking

Susan Sarandon and Somaly Mam

Susan Sarandon’s career has surged this year. She’ll appear in Oliver Stone’s coming movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” just wrapped the Duplass Brothers comedy “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” and will begin work this coming Monday on the HBO pilot “The Miraculous Year” with director Kathryn Bigelow. She also received an Emmy nomination for her performance opposite Al Pacino in HBO’s April telefilm “You Don’t Know Jack.” In addition to her acting work, she’s lending her voice to causes she finds important, such as the eradication of child sex trafficking.

At a press conference this afternoon at the Morgans Hotel Penthouse, Sarandon talked about the importance of educating the public about the issue, saying that “unless you demand a change, governments won’t suddenly have a consciousness raising and decide to change a system that is so deeply rooted into these countries and our country, too.”

An estimated 1.2 million children annually are exploited in the U.S. and international sex trade, according to ECPAT, a network of groups and individuals working to end the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes. Starting August 2, ECPAT is helping to support a petition on the subject at The Body Shop stores and online calling for new legal protection for children under age 18.

“I chose very carefully the groups that I talk about and will put my reputation on the line for,” Sarandon said. “You get a big bang for your buck with this group because you know where the money is going.”

Also at the press conference was Somaly Mam, a Cambodian human rights activist who was abandoned as a child in the mid-70’s during the Pol Pot regime and sold into prostitution. As an adult, she has rescued, rehabilitated and provided shelter, education and medical care for thousands of girls in Southeast Asia through her self-named foundation.

Mam was profiled as Glamour magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year by Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl. She was also lauded as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 by Angelina Jolie (who portrayed Mariane Pearl in the 2007 film “A Mighty Heart”). “My support, my energy, everything comes from the girls [that she rescues] and also my great staff at the Foundation,” Mam said.

Of her friendship with Sarandon, Mam said, “Susan always make me laugh when we have lunch. She takes care of me and protects me.”

About Mam, Sarandon said, “I’m grateful for her example. When I’m freaking out about some stupid little thing and I get a call from her about something that really is a big thing, it puts my life in perspective.”

In addition to Sarandon, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Dern, Rob Lowe and Uma Thurman also support efforts to stop child sex trafficking.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Shame on the UN

Dear Editor,

I was one of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. I really want justice for 73 members of my family, the majority of them executed without evidence of wrongdoing.

But personally, I don’t have faith, and I don’t believe or count on the United Nations’ tribunals obtaining justice for Cambodian victims.

The tribunal is focusing on Tuol Sleng prison (S-21) for the majority of the evidence to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders, including Duch, Ieng Sary, Kieu Samphan, Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea.

But it is forgetting or ignoring a key player, former Khmer Rouge head of state Norodom Sihanouk.

Shame on the UN for wrongly focusing on S21, which was a prison for higher-ranking cadres of the Khmer Rouge’s revolution members. It had little to do with the real victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. S21 prison spilled only a little innocent Cambodian blood.

Again, shame on the UN. In 1979 there were at least a million Cambodians, I and my family included, who fled Cambodia after the Vietnamese invasion.

Many refugees had told the UN that the Khmer Rouge regime was a killing machine. But the UN ignored them and instead harboured the Khmer Rouge by allowing them to retain a seat at the UN from 1979 through 1991, even though they were no longer in power.

Justice has yet to be served 31 years after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The Vietnamese installed the same Khmer Rouge cadres as puppet leaders, and about 85 percent are still ruling Cambodia today.

Savun Neang
Seattle, Washington

UNESCO finds compromise on Preah Vihear temple issue

By Luc Citrinot, etn
Jul 30, 2010
Source: Eturbo News

It is a rather sad story for Preah Vihear temple, a 11° century jewel of Angkor architecture which unfortunately lies on a tip of a promontory just on the border line between Cambodia and Thailand. For decades, the temple has been the witness of a war of words, skirmishes and even sporadic fights between Cambodian and Thai troops due to territorial claims. Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia since 1907, a decision which was confirmed by an international judgment in 1962. Two years ago, Preah Vihear was finally listed as a World Heritage Site.

This week, the meeting of the World Heritage Commission in Brasilia was supposed to endorse Cambodia’s management plans for the temple area. But Thailand voiced its strong concern, threatening to withdraw from the Heritage Committee as it complained not to have been consulted.

According to Sue Williams, UNESCO spokesperson, Preah Vihear Temple is listed as a Cambodian World Heritage Property and is therefore administered by Cambodia. But to complicate things, parts of the temple’s surrounding and access are on Thai territory. Both Cambodia and Thailand claim a 4.2 km² buffer zone under their sovereignty. Thailand discovered that Preah Vihear management as presented by Cambodia would have integrated one km² belonging to the contested buffer area…

UNESCO has been greatly embarrassed by this battle which seems to belong to another age. “The problem concerns a contested border between the two countries. This is not an issue that UNESCO or the World heritage Committee can do anything about. It must be solved by the two countries concerned”, indicates Mrs Williams. Thailand’s threat to leave would have a devastating impact for the credibility of the organisation. However, Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva remained firm on the issue and indicated that Thailand would not back any management plan for the area as long as a demarcation line between both countries has not been acknowledged.

Meanwhile, UNESCO World Heritage Committee took the decision… to take no decision! The management plan’s approval for Preah Vihear will be effectively postponed by one year until the WHC meets again next year in Bahrain. According to Director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, the first concern of the World Heritage Committee is to protect and promote mankind heritage, and this with full respect and without prejudice to the sovereignty of Member States or to any territorial claims. "Protecting and enhancing our natural and cultural heritage means building peace, respect and solidarity which lies at the heart of UNESCO's mission. It is our common responsibility to makes these sites emblems of peace, dialogue and reconciliation," she said.

Meanwhile, the tragedy is more for Preah Vihear temple itself. It has been closed to the public for a year now due to safety concerns. And instead of being celebrated as a proud testimony of Hinduism heritage by both kingdoms of Cambodia and Thailand, emphasizing together their common history and helping to a better understanding, it has been turned into an object of argument and even into a battle area. To the sake of the own private agenda of both Cambodian and Thai politicians…

Basin development plan for Mekong region reviewed

30 July, 2010
Bangkok Post

The new strategic plan for basin development for the Mekong region has gone through a major review for one last time on Thursday before being tabled before concerned ministers to approve it at the end of this year.

The review was made among invited concerned stakeholders from the riparian countries during the forum organised by the Mekong River Commission in Vientiane in Lao PDR which ended Thursday.

The plan is expected to provide guidance for future development in the region, but it is unclear at what extent commitment will be made by the concerned governments, including Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the members of the MRC, an inter-governmental advisory body.

It is the first time that the plan has tried to look into benefits and impacts of development in a more integrated way, which involves assessments on impacts of development on the environment and on socio-economic dimension.

The development has revolved around hydropower development potentials. Under the plan, major development scenarios have been developed to give a picture of how the region’s water should be developed. The 5-year period of time scenario has seen at least eight hydropower dams built in China’s river section, with an alternative of an inclusion of those dams with 26 more dams built in the river’s tributaries. The 20-year period of time scenarios have provided options ranging from the buildings of the dams under the 5-year scenarios plus 11 more on mainstream and 30 more on tributaries, and among others.

The studied impacts show that the 5-year period of time scenarios would cause changes of the river flow, and increased fluctuations of water. But it will contribute economic benefits generated by electricity produced by new hydropower, reduction of salination intrusions, and such. The 20-year period of time scenarios with 11 mainstream dams will generate highest economic benefits, but at the same time, create the most severe negative impacts on fishery, which could put up t 3.5 million people especially those in Cambodia at risk of losing livelihood.

The plan was criticised by some stakeholders as they had doubt over public participation process, and the way the plan was conceptualised and centered around hydropower development.

Jeremy Bird, the MRC’s Chief Executive Office, defended the plan, saying it has complied with the Integrated Water Resources Management Principle.

The MRC has no roles in promoting hydropower. It is looking forward to the consequences of development and provided an acceptable level for it.

“Our role is clear. We are doing an analysis and put it on the table,” said Mr Bird. “We are an advisory body, not a decision making body.”

Thai civil network demands Cambodian pushback from contested Preah Vihear zone

ANGKOK, July 30 – The “Thais Love Nation” network called on the government to push back Cambodian troops and residents from the area around the Preah Vihear temple and not to support the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage SIte until the border demarcation is clarified inline with the natural watershed.

Chaiwat Sinsuwong and Karun Sai-ngam led their civil society group to gather at Government House Friday and submitted a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva through Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The protesters called on the government to revoke all agreements that put Thailand at a disadvantage with Cambodia after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee (WHC) on Thursday postponed discussing Cambodia’s management plan for the Preah Vihear temple to its meeting next year in Bahrain.

They gave the government a seven day deadline to act on their demand and said they will come back to hear the government's answer.

Mr Chavanond said the Thai government was adamant that the border demarcation under the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cambodia must be completed before the endorsement of the management plan for the area around Preah Vihear.

He said it was not certain that the border demarcation will be finished in one year.

The issue has to be considered by Parliament and bilateral talks between Thailand and Cambodia will be arranged later.

He said the postponement of management plan consideration by the WHC would not have an impact on Thai-Cambodian relations.

One year from now, Thailand will clarify the issue to the WHC members to understand that Thailand does not want to have conflict but it asks only for fairness and opportunity to explain the matter to all sides, he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Culture Somsuda Leeyawanit, one of 21 WHC members, said from Brasilia where the WHC is meeting that all Thai related parties including foreign affairs, culture, natural resources, and environment ministries and security agencies discuss the issue seriously on returning to Thailand.

Mrs Somsuda said an operations office may be set up to consider the issue thoroughly, such as whether the map Cambodian used is correct or how Cambodia's move affects Thailand.

She said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti will lead the Thai working team as he has been monitoring the issue from the beginning.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia.

The site of the historic structure, on the disputed Thai-Cambodian border has long been a point of contention between the two neighbours.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the terms of the listing, Cambodia is required to submit a management plan for WHC approval. (MCOT online news)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vietnam calls on international airlines to add three airports

VietNamNet Bridge – Southern Airports Corporation, airlines, travel firms and representatives from provincial authorities gathered on July 27 to discuss how to get more traffic to three newly-opened international airports.

Airlines circle central region

Spanish firm to build three airports

Airports seriously overloaded with Tet flights

Phu Quoc Airport

Vietnam’s airport system includes airports in the north, south and central regions. The southern region now has eight airports, but only one– Tan Son Nhat –serves 20-25 million passengers a year. In the near future, the region will also have Long Thanh airport, which can receive 100 million passengers a year.

Meanwhile, three airports have the advantage of being located near tourist sites and will be developed into important airports. Now is the right time for Vietnam to call on air carriers to open air routes to these airports.

“There will be air routes to Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and northeastern Asia, and the strategic foundation is their advantageous position. They are located in key tourism centres,” noted Lai Xuan Thanh, Deputy Head of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV).

Phu Quoc Island is one, with Phu Quoc International Airport, which will be developed into a high-grade tourism and service centre and a regional financial zone. A casino will also be built on the island in the future.

Can Tho Airport, just seven kilometers Can Tho, will be the hub of the whole Mekong Delta.

Lien Khuong Airport is also considered advantageous for tourism, because it is located in Da Lat City, an area with cool weather all year-round.

Deputy Chairm of Lam Dong province’s People’s Committee Hoang Sy Son remarked that the province’s authorities are working with Vietnamese and Singaporean airlines on opening direct air routes on Lien Khuong-Singapore.

Vo Huy Cuong from CAAV revealed that the budget airline, Thai Air Asia, is also considering direct air routes from Lien Khuong to international fly points.

“These are all very important tourism destinations for Vietnam, so it is very important to develop international airports,” observed Nguyen Van Tuan, General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. “Aviation and tourism are considered as an airplane’s two wings and both are very important.”

Thanh from CAAV affirmed that they will create favourable conditions for airlines to open air routes. Fees on many kinds of services will be reduced by 50 percent, and the preferences will last up to three years.

* Lien Khuong airport was built in 1933. In 2009, the airport received 2.5 tourists, 10 percent of whom were foreign tourists. The airport plans to serve three million passengers in 2010. The total expenses spent on upgrading the airport is 300 billion dong.

* The construction of Phu Quoc airport started in November 2008, which is expected to become operational by 2012. The investment capital for the airport is 1100 billion dong now and the figure will be 8 trillion dong by 2020.

* The terminal of Can Tho international airport is being built which has the area of 20,700 square metre and investment capital of up to 1300 billion dong. The terminal is expected to be put into operation in December 2010.

Source: Tuoi tre, VnExpress

Situation on Cambodian border normal

29 July, 2010
Bangkok Post

The situation along the Thai-Cambodia border is normal following Thailand's opposition to Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear temple, Chalotorn Phaovibul, charge d'affaires at the Thai embassy in Cambodia, said on Thursday.

Mr Chalotorn said he believed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would not react until the World Heritage Committee decides whether to approve Cambodia's management plan for the ancient Hindu temple.

any reinforcement of troops along the border is normal, he said, adding that he has not received reports of any unusual situation there.

The Foreign Ministry has instructed him to monitor Phnom Penh's reaction and reported back to Bangkok, he said.

No matter what the WHC's decision would be, Mr Chalotorn said he believed Thailand and Cambodia would each refrain from violence and use diplomatic means to solve their conflict.

Mekong River series clinches first prize for RFA

The Cambodia News.Net
Thursday 29th July, 2010

The series was documented along almost 3,000 miles of the Mekong River.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) has taken first prize for Outstanding Online Reporting on the Environment for its 2010 multimedia series “The Last Untamed River.”

The prize, awarded by the Society of Environmental Journalists on Thursday, is in recognition of RFA’s investigative reporting trek down the Mekong River.

It will be presented in Missoula, Montana, on October 13 at the SEJ’s 20th annual conference.

“This award is a tremendous honor,” RFA President Libby Liu said Thursday. “We know from our listeners that the health of the Mekong River is of paramount importance to their quality of life, and in some cases, to their very existence.”

The Mekong River — the least developed of the world’s major rivers — sustains more than 60 million people from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea.

RFA’s series, with original reporting in English adapted into seven Asian languages, comprises 22 high-quality videos, along with blogs, graphics, slideshows, and other social media releases.

It addresses climate change and melting glaciers, urbanization and industrialization, the decline of forests and fisheries, and finally the development of China’s dams and control over water flow, as seen by ordinary citizens — from nomadic herders and fishermen — as well as regional experts and analysts. RFA’s videographers traveled for nearly 3,000 miles along the Mekong River from Tibet to Vietnam and the South China Sea.

Thailand says temple plan 'unacceptable' in dispute with Cambodia

News Desk
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date : 29-07-2010
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Wednesday (July 28) considered options to retaliate against Unesco if the World Heritage Committee approved the controversial Preah Vihear temple management plan although the United Nations agency has guaranteed that the Hindu temple's inscription has nothing to do with the disputed border areas with Cambodia.

Among the options suggested by ministers was for Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, who will be at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, to stage a walkout, and withdraw Thailand's membership from the Unesco committee.

Abhisit blamed the Unesco committee for listing Preah Vihear, which had created conflict between the two neighbouring countries. "If Unesco accepts the plan, it will create a wide rift between the people of the two countries," he was quoted by a source as saying at the Cabinet meeting.

The issue of the world heritage designation for Preah Vihear heated up after the pro-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protested in front of the Unesco regional office in Bangkok on Tuesday over its fear of losing territory.

Abhisit took the PAD line and instructed Suwit to lobby for a delay of the Preah Vihear management plan until the border dispute with Cambodia could be settled.

The Hindu temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under Cambodian sovereignty, according to a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 1962. Thailand claimed sovereignty over the areas adjacent to the temple. The two countries are now in the process of demarcating the border, but have made little progress so far.

The PAD and Abhisit are concerned that Cambodia might treat the disputed areas as a buffer zone of the listed temple.

"There are many points in the plan that we cannot accept, notably what has shown in the graphic," Abhisit said, without elaborating whether it included the disputed area. However, the premier gave contradicting information, as he also said the plan mostly focused on the areas to the south of the temple, which is under Cambodian sovereignty and over which Thailand has never made claims.

The World Heritage Committee, since 2008, has made it clear that the area proposed by Cambodia does not include the areas to the north and the west of the temple that are the subject of a territorial dispute with Thailand.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova Wednesday called for a dialogue on safeguarding Preah Vihear and underscored the role of the 1972 World Heritage Convention as an instrument for international cooperation.

Referring to her recent meetings with representatives of Cambodia and Thailand, Bokova said in her statement issued from Paris that the first concern of the World Heritage Committee was to protect and promote heritage, and this with full respect and without prejudice to the sovereignty of member states or to any territorial claims.

"Protecting and enhancing our natural and cultural heritage, means building the peace, respect and solidarity which lies at the heart of Unesco's mission. It is our common responsibility to make these sites emblems of peace, dialogue and reconciliation," she said.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Preah Vihear had already been designated as a World Heritage Site. "Whatever Thailand is doing, this cannot be changed," he was quoted as saying by The Phnom Penh Post.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said at the Cabinet meeting Wednesday that international organisations had been unfair to Thailand and not transparent. Such practice created conflicts among countries. Academics from some superpower nations have personal interests in the World Heritage designation, he said.

However, Kasit said the option of withdrawing Thai membership from the Unesco committee was not an easy one, and would take time. The idea of withdrawal was discussed widely, since it might affect Thailand's cultural and natural properties included on the world heritage list.

At the end of the Cabinet meeting, Abhisit concluded that Thailand would not accept the Preah Vihear management plan and the government would review its membership of the Unesco committee. He said Suwit would make the decision on whether he should walk out of the Brazil meeting to protest against the decision of the World Heritage Committee.

Kasit has been told to write to Unesco about Thailand's disapproval of the Preah Vihear management plan.

Pongpol Adireksarn, former chairman of the Thai National World Heritage Committee, said separately that the Thai delegation should look at the Preah Vihear management plan in detail before making any decision to oppose it.

Minister Suwit and the Cabinet should be well prepared before the meeting and should employ diplomatic ways to communicate with the World Heritage Committee rather than acting impulsively, he said.

Vietnam strives to link regional power systems

29 July, 2010

Vietnam currently has 15 power projects with ASEAN countries, said the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Of the projects, four have gone into operation, three are under construction and eight are in the making with feasibility studies already underway.

The ministry said the operating plants have ensured the stable electricity supply of the regional power system and increased its standby system.

Vietnam has sold nearly 900 million kWh of electricity since 2009 when the 220kV line from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia was connected. The electricity source provided by Vietnam has partly helped the country stabilise its power supply for socio-economic development.

The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) group regularly provides electricity to Lao and Cambodian communes located near the border with Vietnam.

Vietnam continues to actively engage in a programme to establish an ASEAN electricity grid and the first priorities are to link up its power grids with Laos and Cambodia.

Under a bilateral electricity cooperation programme, Laos expects to export 3,000 MW of electricity to Vietnam by 2015 and 5,000 MW by 2020. Both countries have started constructing transmission lines to conduct electricity from Vietnamese-invested power plants and other plants built by independent investors in Laos to Vietnam.

Thailand threatens to quit World Heritage group over disputed temple

Australia Network

Thailand is threatening to resign its membership of the World Heritage Committee if it approves Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear temple.
The Hindu temple was listed as a world heritage site in 2008. [Getty Images]

The Hindu temple was listed as a world heritage site in 2008. [Getty Images]

The Bangkok Post reports Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has sent this strong message to the current meeting of the committee in Brazil.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti is heading the Thai delegation in Brasilia.

The Post quotes him as saying that the plan to manage the Hindu temple and surrounding areas included a square kilometre of the disputed land.

Mr Suwit told the prime minister he believed Cambodia has won the backing of several committee members for its plan.

Cambodia was asked to submit the plan for approval after the Hindu temple was listed as a world heritage site in 2008.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unesco calls for dialogue

Thailand resists approval for Cambodia's plan for 11th-century Hindu temple

BANGKOK, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's cabinet meeting on Wednesday resolved to oppose the endorsement of Cambodia's management plan for the ancient Preah Vihear temple by the World Heritage Committee, the Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

According to the Bangkok Post's website, local media reports citing an informed source at Government House said the cabinet resolutions include Thailand's opposing Cambodia's management plan for the Hindu Preah Vihear temple that infringes upon the disputed border area.

Secondly, the Thai government will review its membership at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), if the international agency endorses the management plan.

Thirdly, Thailand's Foreign Ministry is assigned to send letters informing the Thai cabinet's resolutions to the UNESCO and the meeting of the World Heritage panel in Brasilia, Brazil.

Thailand and Cambodia have historically laid claim to the site, which is located on a mountain top on the Thai-Cambodia border. The disputed area of 4.6 square kilometers has not been demarcated.

In 1962 the International Court of Justice ruled that the 11th- century Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.

Editor: Tang Danlu

Hor Namhong dismisses Thai rally

Photo by: AFP
Yellow Shirt protesters hold Thai flags and placards during a rally outside UNESCO’s office in Bangkok. Thai nationalists oppose the Cambodian plan for the administration of Preah Vihear temple, which was listed as a World Heritage site in July 2008.
28 July 2010
Cheang Sokha
Phnom Penh Post

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Hor Namhong yesterday dismissed as “out of date” arguments advanced by Thai pro-government demonstrators who rallied in Bangkok to protest UNESCO’s listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site for Cambodia.

Roughly 1,000 Yellow Shirt protesters rallied outside UNESCO’s regional office in Bangkok to present a note demanding that the presentation of Cambodia’s management plan for the site – set to take place during a conference that began this week in Brazil – be delayed until disputes about land surrounding the temple are settled.

“The enlistment of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site is already done,” Hor Namhong said yesterday at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport. “Whatever Thailand is doing, this cannot be changed.”

The government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said it will oppose Cambodia’s management plan. Hor Namhong said yesterday that he had heard that a Thai delegation had voiced opposition to the plan at the meeting in Brazil, but he did not provide any details.

Spokesmen for the Thai government and foreign ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A report in the Thai newspaper The Nation quoted Yellow Shirt leader Chamlong Srimuang, said to have been one of the organisers of yesterday’s protest, expressing doubt that the move to oppose the plan would be successful.

“We are not certain that the government will succeed in opposing the temple administrative plan,” Srimuang reportedly said.

Meanwhile, more than 20 diplomats from seven foreign embassies based in Phnom Penh – Britain, Australia, Cuba, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam – visited the temple over the weekend to observe the situation along the border, a military official said yesterday.

Chea Dara, deputy military commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Preah Vihear, said yesterday that he had informed the diplomats that Thailand could no longer use “monks and laypeople” to invade Cambodia anymore.

“Thai extremists should stop bothering Cambodia, because we will not welcome them,” he said. “We will welcome them with guns.”

North Korean restaurant servers need many skills

28 July, 2010

Working as a waitress in a restaurant is generally considered a career requiring few qualifications but this apparently does not apply to overseas North Korean restaurants.

The online community has recently been stirred by a video clip showing a North Korean waitress working in a state-run restaurant in Siem Reap Province, a popular tourist region in Cambodia.

The video clip pictured her not only serving in the hall but also performing in a singing and dancing show, as most North Korean waitresses do in order to attract customers.

The woman was soon nicknamed “the North Korean Kim Tae-hee” for her appearance resembling the famous South Korean actress.
Employees perform at a North Korean restaurant in Beijing.

It also turned out that the very same waitress drew public attention back in 2008 when her picture was spread on the Internet.

The celebrity waitress, however, did not just happen to be working in an overseas restaurant by coincidence.

North Korean restaurants all over the world -- whose numbers have been increasing since 2000, are widely known for their beautiful and artistically talented waitresses.
A video still of a waitress at a North Korean restaurant in Cambodia
Usually coming from prestigious families in Pyongyang, the young women are thoroughly educated to show absolute loyalty to the North Korean regime so that they do not falter even upon contacting foreigners, especially South Koreans.

As North Korean restaurants offer total entertainment courses, including meals and entertainment, the waitresses are also required to be outstanding performers.

Linguistic abilities are absolute prerequisites.

Most of the North Korean waitresses are able to speak at least three languages -- Korean, English, and the local language of the country where the restaurant is located.

The qualifications therefore require a university degree, often a major in the corresponding country or language.

The highly qualified hall staff, together with the food, is successfully attracting an increasing number of local customers, especially in China and Southeast Asian states.

“When I visit China on business purposes, my local partners often invite me to North Korean restaurants,” said Park Yeon-jung, a Korean businessman.

“This is not only because I am a Korean but more because those restaurants offer high-quality service by beautiful, intelligent women.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (

Cabinet firm on Thailand's stance on P.Vihear

28 July, 2010
Bangkok Post

The cabinet on Wednesday made a resolution for Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti to walk out if the World Heritage Committee goes ahead to consider Cambodia's management plan for the Preah Vihear temple without taking into considering Thailand's protest, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Mr Suwit is current in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, to attend the WHC meeting which is expected to discuss Cambodia's management plan for the Hindu temple.

Mr Abhisit said the cabinet agreed that if the WHC went ahead to consider Cambodia's proposal Mr Suwit could walk out without joining the voting.

Mr Suwit could also review Thailand's WHC membership if it looked likely to endorse the management plan.

The prime minister stressed that even if the WHC endorsed Cambodia's management, it would not have any effect on the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodia would not be able to use the WHC endorsement to manage the overlapping territory of 4.6 square kilometres which is still in dispute and has not been demarcated, Mr Abhisit said.

He said Thailand would solve this problem by trying to avoid use of force although the Thai army is ready to protect the Thai sovereignty over its territory.

Mr Abhisit said it might take as long as one year to withdraw from WHC membership because the matter would require approval from the House of Representatives.

If Thailand withdrew from WHC membership, the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site would not be able to proceed, he said.

Therefore, Thailand would persist in its attempt to put off the WHC consideration of the Cambodian proposal and ask the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to adhere to its intention of promoting peace, not conflict, the prime minister said.

Deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said the cabinet made this resolution after Mr Suwit sent a message by fax on Wednesday morning asking it to confirm Thailand's stance.

Thailand has made clear its stance that it will not cooperate with the WHC if it agrees to the management plan for the Preah Vihear temple that infringes on the disputed border area.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

France to help modernise army

27 July, 2010

HANOI - THE first French Defence Minister to visit Vietnam since Communist forces defeated the French colonial regime in Indochina said his country was willing to help Hanoi modernise its military, state media reported on Tuesday.

'We understand that Vietnam wants modernised military equipment from many different sources and France is ready to meet all of Vietnam's needs,' the online news portal VietnamNet ( quoted Herve Morin as saying.

Mr Morin, who was on a one-day visit to Hanoi on Monday, said France was not only willing to assist in terms of providing equipment, but also hoped to 'develop deep, lasting relations in all sectors of the defence industry', it said. France had already sold Vietnam radars, helicopters and transport planes, he was quoted as saying, and it hoped to set up officer training classes in Vietnam soon.

France colonised Indochina - Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - from the late 1800s until 1954, when its troops were defeated by Communist soldiers at the now legendary battle of Dien Bien Phu in northeast Vietnam.

Paris and Hanoi established diplomatic relations in 1973. -- REUTERS

Kingdom's banks are 'strong and progressive'

27 July 2010
by Nguon Sovan

Phnom Penh Post

AMBODIA’S central bank painted a rosy picture of the domestic financial sector yesterday, reporting strong growth in deposits and loans among the Kingdom’s 28 commercial banks during the first half of the year.

After a hard 2009, customer deposits totalled US$3.795 billion at the end of June, up 15 percent over December, and outstanding loans increased 9.8 percent to $2.74 billion during the same period, National Bank of Cambodia Governor Chea Chanto said yesterday.

Speaking at a biannual review of the Kingdom’s banking system, he said that growth in deposits and loans came as a result of prudent banking philosophies pursued by both the central bank and the commercial sector.

“The banking system in Cambodia is strong and progressive,” he said. “The global economy is recovering faster than expectations, and so is Cambodia as well.”

Total assets in the domestic banking system were pegged at $4.99 billion on December 31, and have since climbed to $5.45 billion, he said.
Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia general manager Gui Anvanith agreed the domestic economy was headed for a rebound.

“We are reasonably optimistic about the outlook for the business environment, especially the agri-business, services and infrastructure sectors,” and the firm’s non-performing loan rate had declined to 4.73 percent from 5.65 percent in December, he said

The Foreign Trade Bank also reported $113 million in lending by the end of June, up 7.6 percent from $105 million at the close of last year.
Deposits grew by 8.4 percent to $245 million at the end of the second quarter, from $226 million on December 31.

NBC’s Chea Chanto said returning strength in construction, tourism, agriculture, and garment sectors, along with increasingly diversified private investment, would increase domestic GDP by 5 percent and 7 percent in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The overall NPL rate at the Kingdom’s commercial banks has declined 4.6 percent at the end of June, from about 6 percent on December 31 last year.

Foreign exchange reserves reached $2.9 billion at the end of June, up 18 percent from $2.45 billion a year earlier, and the level was sufficient to cover about four months of imports, Chea Chantho said.

Ramesh Chandra Baliarsingh, chief executive of the Bank of India, told the Post earlier this month that it appeared the worst was over for the sector.

Protest against Preah Vihear temple listing

27 July, 2010
Bangkok Post

Hundreds of activists led by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) core member Chamlong Srimuang handed a petition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) office in Bangkok on Tuesday against the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site and against Cambodian efforts to secure management control over the ancient temple.

"I have been following the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil and I'm not confident the Thai government will succeed at the meeting," Maj-Gen Chamlong said.

He said the activists and the PAD members had not planned to gather outside the Unesco office, but this was an urgent matter.

"We are not pressuring Unesco in any way but I cannot confirm whether we will spend a night here as we'll have to monitor the situation for now," he said.

The PAD co-leader said he would not resist if authorities arrest him for violating the emergency decree imposed in the capital.

"After considering the situation, I decide to take a risk because this is about Thailand's territory," he said.

Maj-Gen Chamlong told reporters later that Unesco Bangkok's chief administration officer Edgar Sharuk had informed him that the PAD's petition had been forwarded to the Unesco World Heritage Committee, which is meeting in Brazil this week. The committee had acknowledged receipt of the petition.

The PAD leaders would meet to discuss what to do next, he said.

The gathering outside the Unesco office resulted in heavy traffic congestion on Sukhumvit road.

In the afternoon, PAD leaders including Pibhop Thongchai, Panthep Puapongpan and Kamnoon Sitthisaman presented a protest letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at Baan Phitsanulok.

Metropolitan Police officials and Bangkok Municipality personnel were deployed to help people and ensure security at the gathering.

At the annual Unesco meeting on heritage sites this week in Brazil, Cambodia is expected to win management control over the Preah Vehear temple and adjacent areas, a proposal Thailand opposes.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site owned and managed by Cambodia. Thailand has objected and wants it jointly managed by the two countries.

Cambodia is due present its plan for management, preservation and development of the area for confirmation at the World Heritage Committee meeting being held in Brasilia from July 27 to Aug 3.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said recently that Thailand would reject the Cambodian management plan for the preservation of the 11th century temple during the meeting.

Mr Abhisit was reported have said that although Thailand accepted a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice that handed ownership of the temple to Cambodia, it maintained its right to withhold recognition of the 1904 French colonial map upon which the ruling was based.

The ancient Khmer temple is on a promontory at the centre of a disputed border area where troops of the two countries have often clashed.

K.Rouge prison chief to appeal conviction: lawyer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will appeal against his conviction by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal, which sentenced him to 30 years in jail, his defence lawyer said Tuesday.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the court on Monday.

He is the first Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal over crimes committed under the 1975-1979 hardline communist regime.

The 67-year-old was initially handed 35 years but the court reduced the jail sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years before the UN-backed tribunal was established.

"We will appeal against the (court's) decision," Duch's lawyer Kar Savuth told AFP by telephone, without elaborating.

Many survivors and relatives of victims were dismayed by the verdict, which also took into account the years Duch had already served since his arrest in 1999, meaning that he could walk free in about 19 years.

"He only apologised to the judges. Duch didn't apologise to the victims," said Chum Mey, 79, one of the handful who survived the prison because his mechanical skills were put to use repairing sewing machines and water pumps.

During his trial, Duch repeatedly apologised for overseeing the mass murder of 15,000 men, women and children at Tuol Sleng prison -- also known as S-21 -- but shocked the court in November by finally asking to be acquitted.

Kar Savuth in November said Duch wanted to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, while his other defence lawyer Francois Roux had argued for leniency based on his contrition.

Prosecutors have said they are also considering whether to appeal the verdict. They had sought a 40-year prison sentence from the tribunal, which did not have the power to impose the death penalty.

But international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley told AFP Tuesday he thought it was a "logical, well-reasoned judgement".

"You must recall that this is a man who actually acknowledged responsibility and pleaded guilty but still received a sentence of 35 years, which is actually on the high side as far as guilty pleas are concerned," Cayley said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

U.S. To Spend $187 Million on Lower Mekong Initiative


Washington - The United States will spend approximately $187 million on projects to help four nations of the Lower Mekong River basin lessen the impact of climate change on water resources, food security and the health and livelihoods of nearly 60 million people.

( - Washington — The United States will spend approximately $187 million on projects to help four nations of the Lower Mekong River basin lessen the impact of climate change on water resources, food security and the health and livelihoods of nearly 60 million people.

During the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) meeting July 22 in Hanoi, Vietnam, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described growing cooperation between the United States and the Lower Mekong countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The spending plan for 2010 covers environmental issues, health concerns, and education and training, with the largest share going to health programs.

“Managing this resource and defending it against threats like climate change and infectious disease is a transnational challenge,” Clinton told foreign ministers from the four countries at a private meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum.

“Regional cooperation is essential to meeting that challenge, to preserving the ecological diversity and fertility of the Mekong region,” she said. “We expect to continue similar levels of funding for the next two years.”

More than 60 million people in four countries live in the Lower Mekong basin, which is an area of approximately 606,000 square kilometers in Southeast Asia. The Mekong River Commission has reported that climate change most likely will increase flooding throughout the region, which will affect food production and food security.

The Lower Mekong Initiative was launched in July 2009 at the ASEAN meeting in Phuket, Thailand. The program’s objective is to promote the equitable, sustainable and cooperative development of the Mekong River, which is the world’s largest inland fishery and a transboundary resource, says Timothy Hamlin, a research associate at the Washington-based Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Project.

“The region is growing rapidly and faces many difficult decisions, especially pertaining to energy security,” Hamlin said earlier this year. “The United States can provide technology and assistance to identify and promote regional solutions to the pressing demands of energy, food and human security.”

The region faces the twin challenges of climate change and its impact on the river’s ecosystems, and the impact of expanding populations, the Mekong River Commission says.


The United States will spend more than $22 million this year on environmental programs in the Lower Mekong basin. One initiative will launch a three-year program to assist the four countries in developing cooperative strategies to address the impact of climate change.

A sister-river partnership was announced in May between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission in the United States. This partnership aims to improve the management of transboundary water resources. Work continues on the development of “Forecast Mekong,” which is a modeling tool to show the impact of climate change and some other challenges to sustainable development in the river basin.

A two-year research program has been funded among universities in the Lower Mekong countries to study persistent organic pollutants in the basin, according to the U.S. State Department.

The largest share of the funding this year is $147 million for health improvement programs that include a project targeting emerging pandemic threats in the region. The project will improve the identification of and response to new public health threats that originate in animals and aims to strengthen animal and human health systems to thwart outbreaks of infectious diseases.

A partnership is being launched to respond to infectious diseases by training health professionals and veterinarians to detect, track and contain outbreaks, and to establish a regional network to detect drug-resistant malaria. This builds on work launched at the Lower Mekong Conference on Transnational Infectious Disease Cooperation in June.

In addition to the other programs, U.S. assistance has provided HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services to more than 2 million people across the Mekong region. This has contributed to a 50 percent reduction in the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Cambodia, facilitated the provision of antiretroviral treatments in Vietnam and supported the largest clinical trial of a vaccine regimen for preventing HIV infection in Thailand, according to the State Department.

The initiative announced in Hanoi by Clinton includes $18 million for education projects that include Internet availability for poor and rural areas and a program to bring regional professionals in education, environment and health to the United States to consult with professionals in their fields.

The initiative also supports English-language training through in-country scholarships that help professionals working in the Lower Mekong region to improve communications regionally and internationally.

( This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: )

Former Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Gets 35-Year Jail Term

(RTTNews) -

Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal found Monday a former senior member of the infamous Khmer Rouge guilty of committing crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

It ruled that Kaing Khev Iev, alias Duch, the convicted person, would have to serve only 30 years as he was held illegally for five years by the Cambodian military.

Duch headed the Khmer Rouge's most notorious torture center, and was accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder of more than 15,000 persons during the communist regime's rule from 1975 to 1979. He reportedly co-operated with the tribunal after being arrested in 1999.

During the hearing of the final arguments of his war crimes trial November 27 last year, he made a surprise last-minute plea for release on the ground that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. The judges at the UN tribunal, however, rejected his plea and closed the proceedings.

Duch's plea for acquittal cast doubts about the sincerity of his earlier requests for forgiveness from the families of the victims. He faced a maximum of life term in prison if convicted of the charges, as the UN-backed tribunal does not have the authority to impose the death penalty.

Duch earlier confessed to his roles in the torture and killings of thousands of fellow-Cambodians, but maintains that he was merely following the regime's orders when he oversaw the torture and death of thousands of Cambodians at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. He also said earlier that he was full of "regretfulness and heartfelt sorrow" for those actions.

Duch is the first Khmer Rouge leader to face the tribunal. Four more of the regime's senior officers are in custody awaiting trial. He is also the first Khmer Rouge leader to have confessed his role in the atrocities, and expressed remorse.

The four other Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial are: Nuon Chea--the group's former deputy supremo known as "Brother Number Two"; former foreign minister Ieng Sary, his wife and former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, besides former head of state Khieu Samphan.

Duch was arrested in 1999 after British journalist Nic Dunlop discovered him in the Cambodian countryside. He was a member of the Cambodia's infamous Khmer Rouge regime that took over the country in 1975 after ousting a US-backed government shortly after the U.S. pullout from neighboring Vietnam.

It is believed that the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot executed over two million fellow-Cambodians in its efforts to forcefully create a peasant society based on Maoist principles before the Vietnamese army ousted it in 1979. The group's top leader, "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, died in 1998.

by RTT Staff Writer

Sunday, July 25, 2010

ASEAN urges Myanmar to hold free, fair election

The Associated Press
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Southeast Asian foreign ministers gave Myanmar's military-run government an "earful" while demanding that it hold free and fair elections _ a rare stand by the cautious group often accused of overlooking rights abuses in member nations.

Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations ended their annual meeting Tuesday in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where they tackled a diverse agenda _ from setting up a European-style economic community by 2015 to bolstering ties with the West and regional powers China, Japan and India.

But at a dinner on the eve of the conference, Myanmar took center stage as diplomats vented their concerns about planned elections, which the junta has said will be held this year, without giving a date.

Many ministers told Myanmar's that the junta should hold "free, fair and inclusive" elections. Such straight talk is unusual given ASEAN members' bedrock policy of not interfering in one another's domestic affairs.

"Myanmar, I think, got an earful last night that ASEAN is very much concerned," ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on the sidelines of Tuesday's meetings. The ministers also offered to send observers to the elections.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win, in keeping with his government's typical secrecy, did not give a date for the vote. "The responsibility is for the ... elections commissioner, not the foreign minister," he said.

Some ministers expressed hope for some change within the regime, while continuing to press for the release of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, who has spent 15 birthdays in detention over the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. She is the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.

"Once the generals take off their uniforms and they've got to win votes and kiss babies and attend to local needs, the behavior will change and the economy will gradually open up," Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo told reporters on the meeting's sidelines. "We suggested quite strongly to our Myanmar colleagues that they consider having ASEAN observers at the elections."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters that Nyan Win has agreed to inform the ASEAN members whether their offer to help is approved by the government.

In a joint statement after their meeting on Tuesday, the ASEAN ministers devoted one of 73 paragraphs to repeat their call for free elections in Myanmar. It did not mention demands to release Suu Kyi and other prisoners, reflecting efforts to avoid embarrassing Myanmar officially.

Critics have dismissed the election _ the first in two decades _ as a sham designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Suu Kyi is not allowed to participate in the election, and her party is boycotting the vote and has been disbanded.

"The way that the military regime is treating political prisoners led by Aung San Suu Kyi even makes the ASEAN countries embarrassed," said Trevor Wilson, a Myanmar expert at the Australian National University in Canberra. "And they're pretty good at treating political prisoners badly themselves."

On Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya also raised concerns about allegations that Myanmar may be interested in developing a nuclear weapons program with help from North Korea. Myanmar has denied those claims.

The ministers also discussed North Korea's nuclear program. The Philippines has proposed that a group be formed to persuade the North to return to stalled talks aimed pressuring the regime into giving up its nukes, according to a diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press.

Tensions between the Koreas are high following the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors in the sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang earlier this year. The North has denied involvement.

"We deplored the incident of the Cheonan ship sinking," the ministers said in their statement, referring to the South Korean ship. "We urged all parties concerned to exercise the utmost restraint."

The North's top diplomat is expected to arrive in Hanoi on Wednesday and attend an ASEAN security forum later in the week with all members of the disarmament talks, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The last talks, which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, were held in Beijing in 2008.

ASEAN, founded in 1967, includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


Associated Press writers Tran Van Minh and Margie Mason contributed to this report.

‘I hope to start the world’s first female spy franchise’

Mumbai, July 25, 2010
Hindustan Times

Action star Angelina Jolie talks about upcoming movie Salt, denies retirement plans.

How much of the character, Evelyn Salt, was in the script and how much did you shape and mould it?
We shaped a lot of it. The essence of it, a person in the CIA being accused of being a Russian spy, was in the original. But that is pretty much all that was in the original because he was a man. It ended very differently. And there was a wife and a child. We had to re-write most of it.

You get badly beaten up in the film. As an actor, is that harder to do, or is emotional abuse more exhausting?
Emotional abuse is more exhausting. And it’s different. Salt gets beaten up in the film, but she is by no means an abused woman, because she is so aggressive that she beats up more people. She deserves it in some way. By the end, she has killed so many people, they have to beat her up a bit! (Laughs)

AngelinaNow critics have suggested that your good performances in films like A Mighty Heart or in Changeling, have been undermined by your celebrity status. Do you agree with that?
I don’t. I don’t think so... I don’t know... I suppose you just can’t pay attention to it. You just try to do the best work you can and then you hope that audiences like it.

You hinted at retirement in a recent interview. Is there any truth in that?
No, just that, in years to come, I will probably do less and less work. I’d like to do fewer films for the next few years and then maybe just less, a lot less.

I just have other things I want to do in life. You know, and as my kids get older, I think it will be good to just work less.

So you’re going to start the world’s first female spy franchise and quit?
No, I am not quitting, just less movies. Just less. I think if you do two a year, then maybe one a year, then maybe you do one every three years and then you just eventually do less. But I hope to start, as you said, the female franchise first.

What’s the most important lesson you want to impart to your children as they grow up?
To have compassion. I would like them to be compassionate and thoughtful people. To be aware of the world around them.

And is that the main reason that you are thinking of less and less work. Do you think it’s important to be there (for your children)?
No, I am there a lot. I only work a few months out of the year, and I am there all the time. I just… I don’t love movies… I’d like to do other things. I’d like to live in Africa for six months. I’d like to live in Cambodia and spend time working on my projects there. There are just other things to do.

In India too, maybe?
Yes, and in India. I would just like to open things up. But nothing drastic… you know, things are blown out of proportion. I will be working for a little while.

PM Abhisit orders Suwit to UNESCO ‘heritage’ meeting on Preah Vihear temple

BANGKOK, July 25 - As the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Brazil starts Sunday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had ordered Thailand’s to attend the session and to also object to Cambodia’s unilateral management plan for the disputed environs of the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

His order that Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti, leading the Thai delegation to the 34th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) world heritage committee meeting ending August 3 in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, came after the Yellow Shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) activist group urged the government to boycott the meeting.

Cambodia is scheduled to submit its management plan expected to include the disputed 4.6-square kilometre overlapping claim area near Preah Vihear temple to the WHC during the meeting.

The PAD also demanded that the Thai government take further action against listing the temple as a World Heritage site.

Mr Abhisit said during his weekly TV and radio address that his government has been following the issue closely and the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have to lodge a protest if it is found that its neighbour Cambodia is violating Thai territorial sovereignty.

He said his government would not recognise the Cambodian map expected to be submitted to the WHC during the session, as the 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice which awarded the 11thcentury Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia did not demarcate the border between the two countries.

The two countries have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand would not gain anything by boycotting the heritage meeting as the international community would then be able to hear only Cambodia’s explanations on the issue.

If the heritage committee allows Cambodia to apply its proposed management plan, Thailand still has the right to object and has mapped actions to systematically oppose decision, Mr Abhisit said.

He gave assurances to the Thai people that his government will do its best to protect the country’s interests. (MCOT online news)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cambodia awaits verdict

24 July, 2010

'That night, for the first time ever, I had a dream about him,' said the 34-year-old, adding the court, despite its flaws, has helped her deal with her grief. -- PHOTO: AP

PHNOM PENH - HAV Sophea's father was killed by the Khmer Rouge just after she was born and she's spent a lifetime trying to make him feel real. She even took the single photo she had of him - a black-and-white mugshot snapped at the regime's notorious prison - and used a computer to insert him into a family portrait.

But nothing helped as much as testifying before a UN-backed war crimes tribunal, which will issue a landmark verdict in its first trial on Monday.

'That night, for the first time ever, I had a dream about him,' said the 34-year-old, adding the court, despite its flaws, has helped her deal with her grief. 'He was holding my hand and we were running out of Toul Sleng prison.' Cambodians are just emerging from more than 40 years of extreme violence - including US carpet bombing before the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese military occupation and a bloody coup d'etat after.

Many have long tried to bury memories about the 1975-79 genocidal regime, when more than 1.7 million people - roughly a quarter of the population - died from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions.

It wasn't until the monthslong trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, that the traumatised nation started to speak out publicly about those atrocities. More than 28,000 people attended the hearings in the capital, Phnom Penh, and millions more watched on TV.

As part of outreach programs in the countryside, emotional villagers have gathered beneath coconut trees to tell stories about lost loved ones. Some angrily ask for answers: Why did Cambodians turn on one another and where was the international community then? Others complain about migraines and dizzy spells. -- AP

Thai PM: Cambodia continues pushing management plan for ancient temple


BANGKOK, July 24 -- Thailand is still objecting to Cambodia's move to proceed with its unilateral management plan for the environs of the ancient Preah Vihear temple at next week's World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting, scheduled to be held in Brazil beginning Sunday July 25 and extending through August 3, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Saturday.

Mr Abhisit’s remarks were made after Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti, leading the Thai delegation to attend the 34th meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's heritage committee in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

He said Mr Suwit phoned him from a stopover in Paris where he met the UNESCO director Friday, telling him that the Cambodian government is still determined to attend the WHC session and propose that it should be allowed to conduct its management plan for the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia's plan does not show the border demarcation between the neighbouring countries and the Cambodian government had insisted that it would not involve the northern and the western parts of the temple, Mr Abhisit said.

Mr Suwit told him he would not accept the Cambodian plan. Now Thailand must inform the international community on the issue and also follow the meeting in Brazil closely, said Mr Abhisit.

Mr Abhisit said he informed Mr Suwit that the temple issue would be discussed in Brasilia on Wednesday and that if the Thai delegation needs support the Cabinet canto issue a resolution.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status. The site was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962 in a decision that rankles most Thais.

In another development, Mr Abhisit said Thailand has proposed to host a WHC session in the next two years and Cambodia is expected to make a similar request. (MCOT online news)

Asia Pacific, Western Representatives Hold Regional Forum

24 July, 2010

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem (front left) stands next to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she greets other delegates at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi on July 23, 2010. /AP Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem (front left) stands next to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she greets other delegates at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi on July 23, 2010. /AP

North Korea and Burma are high on the agenda as Asia Pacific and western nations meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, for talks on regional security and cooperation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum is meeting Friday for annual talks among representatives of 26 nations and the European Union. Security issues, rights abuses by Burma and alleged aggression by North Korea are expected to be the key topics of discussion.

Burma, a member of ASEAN, is under fire for rampant human rights violations and plans this year to hold elections, the first in two decades. Burma's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is banned from the elections, which critics say are designed to keep the military in power.

North Korea is seeking diplomatic support at the forum over the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors.

Washington and Seoul say the North torpedoed the ship and plan joint military exercises this weekend as a show of force. Pyongyang denies it was responsible and a North Korean spokesman at the forum warned Washington to call off the exercises if it wants a nuclear free Korean peninsula.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending the forum. She told ASEAN ministers Thursday America's future was intimately tied to the Asia Pacific.

"The United States is a Pacific Nation and we are committed to being an active partner with ASEAN and with all of you," she said. "Our partnership is rooted in common interests. We are committed to assisting the nations of Southeast Asia to remain strong and independent and that each nation enjoys peace, stability, prosperity, and access to universal human rights."

Clinton noted the region is the sixth largest market for U.S. exports and has more American business investments than China.

The United States, under President Obama, has become more active in Southeast Asia and has begun a policy of engaging Burma while maintaining economic sanctions. Clinton on Wednesday announced new sanctions against Pyongyang and U.S. lawmakers Thursday voted to renew sanctions against Burma for human rights violations.

But ASEAN, which includes several authoritarian governments, is against sanctions and is more reluctant to criticize member Burma and North Korea.

ASEAN ministers issued a statement this week urging free, fair and inclusive elections in Burma. The ministers also deplored the sinking of the South Korean ship, which they called an "incident," and rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

But their statement stopped short of criticizing Burma and did not even mention North Korea, saying only that it supported efforts for a nuclear weapons free Korean peninsula.

ASEAN members are Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

VOA News / Jul. 24, 2010 09:27 KST