Friday, December 31, 2010

Aust's inner struggle over Khmer Rouge

31 Dec, 2010
by Max Blenkin

Australia finally withdrew diplomatic recognition of one the most blood-drenched regimes in human history, but not before the issue had produced deep divisions in the government of Malcolm Fraser.

Cabinet papers for 1980 - released by the National Archives of Australia under the 30-year rule - show Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock pushed for withdrawal of recognition of the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

At the start of 1979, Vietnam had booted out the Khmer Rouge regime and installed its own government, which was speedily recognised by the countries of the Soviet bloc.

But the Khmer Rouge, waging a guerrilla war from the border regions, continued to be recognised by China, the ASEAN states, the US and many other countries including Australia.

In a submission to cabinet in July 1980, Peacock said he had chosen to maintain recognition of what was euphemistically termed "Democratic Kampuchea" mainly because of the relationship with ASEAN.

"The Australian government has supported the ASEAN objective of a political settlement in Kampuchea (Cambodia) based on the ASEAN resolution adopted by UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) last year which calls for the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea and an act of self-determination by the Khmer people free from outside coercion," he wrote.

But Peacock acknowledged there was little prospect of achieving that in the short term.

He said Australia's stance would be increasingly hard to sustain because of domestic opposition to the atrocious human-rights record of the Khmer Rouge under dictator Pol Pot.

"I do not believe that the strong expression of Australian public feeling on this issue can or should be ignored in policy considerations," Peacock said.

The Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975, forcibly evacuating cities to create a brutal agrarian society in which intellectuals, professionals, government officials, ethnic Chinese and many others were murdered in what became known as the killing fields.

Estimates of the death toll go as high as three million. On Christmas Day 1978, Vietnam, finally tiring of murderous border incursions, invaded Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge government was gone within a fortnight.

Vietnam installed the government of Heng Samrin, recognised by the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern bloc.

In September 1979, the United Nations voted to maintain recognition of Democratic Kampuchea by a vote of 71, including Australia, to 34 against.

The Khmer Rouge's most ardent supporter was China, with which Australia was forging a growing relationship. Chinese support enabled Khmer Rouge remnants to sustain their guerilla campaign right through to the early 1990s.

At the same time, Prime Minister Fraser was orchestrating growing Australian opposition to the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan.

In his submission to cabinet, Peacock said domestic revulsion against the atrocities of Pol Pot should be properly reflected in Australia's foreign policy stance.

But that needed to be done in a manner that minimised damage to relations with ASEAN nations, while maintaining pressure on Vietnam to reach a political settlement.

Peacock said backing Democratic Kampuchea as the legitimate holder of Cambodia's seat at the UN was an important part of this.

Cabinet decided on September 23 to recognise Khmer Rouge credentials at the upcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly, but this recognition was to be short-term.

Australia finally withdrew its recognition on February 14, 1981.

Archives historical consultant Jim Stokes said this issue strained the already uneasy relationship between Peacock and Fraser, although the extent wasn't revealed until some time later.

Veteran journalist Paul Kelly, guest speaker at the launch of the 1980 cabinet papers, said on the afternoon of September 11, 1980, Peacock had gone to Fraser's office and threatened to resign.

The threat came just after cabinet had endorsed Fraser's decision to go to the polls on October 18 but before he could visit the Governor-General to launch the election process.

Peacock offered Fraser three options: he could resign, Fraser could have cabinet change the policy, or Peacock would stay silent in the campaign but refuse a portfolio post-election.

Kelly said Primary Industry Minister Peter Nixon sorted out the deal with Peacock whereby Australia would vote in favour of Democratic Kampuchea's credentials in the UN but later announce it planned to withdraw recognition.

Kasit back, empty-handed

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya failed to achieve the release of a Thai Democrat MP and six other people detained by Cambodian authorities for alleged trespass on the territory of the neighbouring country.

Mr Kasit made an urgent visit to Phnom Penh for talks with his counterpart, Hor Namhong, on securing the release of the seven on Thursday afternoon and returned empty-handed in the evening.

The Thai foreign Minister said upon returning from Phnom Penh that he tried to tell his Cambodian counterpart that the seven had strayed into the Cambodian territory during inspection of the border areas after receiving a petition from Thai villagers along the border.

Mr Kasit admitted to Hor Namhong that the seven Thai unintentionally crossed into the Cambodian area for 1,200 metres.

However, he failed to secure the release of the seven Thais who were charged by the Phnom Penn Municipal Court with illegal entry and illegally entering a military base along the border, crimes carrying penalties of up to six months and one year, respectively.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to press ahead with charges against the Thais, and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reportedly said after his meeting with Mr Kasit that he had said there would be "no release" of the Thais just yet.

"Let the court continue with the legal procedure as normal, the government cannot do anything," he said.

"We respect the judiciary of Cambodia. We have asked the government to complete the case as soon as possible as the charges were not severed crime,'' said Mr Kasit. (MCOT)

Cambodian Court sets no date trial of seven Thais detained for illegal entry

Source: MCOT
31 Dec, 2010

BANGKOK, Dec 31 - The Phnom Penn Municipal Court has not set a date for the trial of seven Thais who were detained by Cambodian troops Wednesday as they inspected the border of Sa Kaeo province and Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, according to Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Thani Thongphakdi.

The seven, including Democrat Party member of parliament Panich Vikitsreth, and members of the so-called 'Yellow Shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement, were charged by the Court with illegal entry and illegally entering a military base along the border, crimes carrying penalties of up to six months and one year, respectively.

Mr Thani, Director-General of the Department of Information, said that the Thai side must wait for the Court to set a date for trial and then file petitions seeking bail for them.

Until now, no date has been set by the Court, he said, adding that the visit of the detained Thais by their families could be done within one or two days even during the long New Year holiday as the request for visits had already been sent to the Cambodian authorities.

Mr Thani said that during his visit to the detained Thais on Dec 30 at Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the capital, they all said they did not realise that they had crossed the border into Cambodian territory.

They asserted that none of them had intended to intentionally break the law but strayed into Cambodian territory by accident, the director-general said.

The prison had cooperated well and facilitated the Thai authorities to provide the Thais with food, he said, adding that the ministry has ordered Thai embassy officials in Phnom Penh to visit them every day.

Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya on Thursday went to Phnom Penh in an attempt to secure their freedom, but he failed accomplish his mission.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva earlier said he had tasked Mr Panich with seeking information about the border issue. (MCOT online news)

Vietnamese banks rushing to neighbouring markets

VietNamNet Bridge – Five Vietnamese commercial banks have been setting their presence in foreign countries, especially neighbouring markets.

Foreign markets are now the targets

The fact that Vietnamese commercial banks have been trying to go abroad is not difficult to understand. some experts even say that it is a bit late to think of conquering the neighbouring markets now. The experts said that even Vietnam, a newly emerging market, has had the presence of foreign banks for the last 100 years.

By 2010, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has been present in Vietnam for 140 years, since it set its foot on Vietnam in 1870. This shows that foreign banks have been following their multi-national operation strategy for a long time.

As for Vietnamese banks, in recent years, the plans to open representative offices, branches and then 100 percent Vietnamese banks in foreign countries remain uncommon

One month after obtaining the investment license, in late December, Military Bank officially set up its branch in Laos. The bank’s plan to go abroad with the initial investment capital of $12 million is the move, following the move by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam BIDV, Sacombank, and Agribank. Sources said that Vietinbank makes similar plans.

The common destinations of the banks are the ASEAN member countries. Besides, banks are also targeting some other developed markets. Besides the presence made already in Laos and Cambodia, Sacombank is planning to enter Myanmar with the plan submitted to the shareholders’ meeting. Experts say that the markets that Vietnamese banks are eyeing are the financial markets in the first stage of development, thus promising great opportunities. In Laos and Cambodia, the capital market has gradually taken shape, while the stock market has recently opened.

2010 is a special year for Sacombank. The two branches in Laos and Cambodia now can bring profit. In early November, Sacombank Securities Company got the operation license in Cambodia. BIC, the insurer owned by BIDV, has also earned a turnover from the insurance joint venture with Laos. As for Military Bank, the preparation works have been arranged by its strategic partner – Viettel. It would not be a surprise if in the near future Thang Long Securities Company, a member of Military Bank, will also be present on the market.

Is it too late?

Vietnamese banks seem to be later than other foreign banks in making their presence in the markets. This has been explained by the fact that it is not easy to go abroad. Vietnamese banks have to meet a lot of requirements. Sacombank, for example, has to delay its plan to set up business in China because of the high technical barriers in the country.

However, experts believe that Vietnamese banks still have opportunities in then market. Though having limited operation scale, the markets are still believed to presenthigh potentials. It is not by chance that the banks from other countries like China and South Korea, are also eyeing the market, a source from Military Bank said

Viettel, a telecom company has been very successful in Laos and Cambodia. It is now leading the Lao market and ranks second in Cambodia. “Early birds can catch worms,” experts say.

Source: Thoi bao Kinh te Vietnam

Protesters rally against Cambodia

31 Dec, 2010
Source: Bangkok Post

Members of the Thailand Patriot Network on Friday rallied in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, calling on the Phnom Penh government to immediately release the seven detained Thais, reports said.

The protesters, led by core leader Somboon Thongburan, burned a coffin with a photo of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. They vowed to continue their rally in front of Government House until all the Thais are freed.

About 50 policemen were deployed around at the embassy during the protest.

Thai FM fails to free Thais detained in Cambodia

Dec 31, 2010
Source: MCOT Online news

BANGKOK, Dec 31 -- Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya failed to achieve the release of a Thai Democrat MP and six other people detained by Cambodian authorities for alleged trespass on the territory of the neighbouring country.

Mr Kasit made an urgent visit to Phnom Penh for talks with his counterpart, Hor Namhong, on securing the release of the seven on Thursday afternoon and returned empty-handed in the evening.

The Thai foreign Minister said upon returning from Phnom Penh that he tried to tell his Cambodian counterpart that the seven had strayed into the Cambodian territory during inspection of the border areas after receiving a petition from Thai villagers along the border.

Mr Kasit admitted to Hor Namhong that the seven Thai unintentionally crossed into the Cambodian area for 1,200 metres.

However, he failed to secure the release of the seven Thais who were charged by the Phnom Penn Municipal Court with illegal entry and illegally entering a military base along the border, crimes carrying penalties of up to six months and one year, respectively.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to press ahead with charges against the Thais, and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reportedly said after his meeting with Mr Kasit that he had said there would be "no release" of the Thais just yet.

"Let the court continue with the legal procedure as normal, the government cannot do anything," he said.

"We respect the judiciary of Cambodia. We have asked the government to complete the case as soon as possible as the charges were not severed crime,'' said Mr Kasit.

Reportedly having visited the seven Thais detained at Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the Khmer capital, Mr Kasit vowed to give full assistance to them. Initially, the ministry has retained a lawyer for them.

Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat Party was arrested along with six others on Wednesday in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, along the western border with Thailand.

The seven detained Thais, including Democrat Party member of parliament Panich Vikitsreth and members of the so-called 'Yellow Shirt' Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement, were apprehended by Cambodian troops on Wednesday while they inspected the border areas near Cambodian Banteay Meanchey province, not far from the western part of the border with Thailand. (MCOT online news)

Phnom Penh - A City Revitalized

Published: 31/12/2010
Source: Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh is a city revitalized. The skyline of Cambodia's once sleepy capital is being pierced by its first high-rise, and the red dirt roads, now sealed, swarm with SUVs and motorcycles. For a city that has endured more than its share of bloodshed and destruction, today's youthful exuberance and palpable energy are a welcomed by locals and visitors. Yet despite the positive change being witnessed today, any time spent in Phnom Penh must still include reflective visits to the sites of the country's horrific past. Two of the most visited places in Phnom Penh are still Camp Cheoung Ek, one of many infamous Killing Fields sites, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school that became a torture centre known as S-21.

Camp Cheoung Ek lies 15 kilometres southwest of the city and was the burial site for those tortured and killed in S-21. In 1980, 129 mass graves were found here and 8,985 corpses unearthed. Today, a large stupa contains the bones and remnants of clothing as a memorial to the victims. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is located in a suburb of Phnom Penh. The building is thought to have witnessed over 20,000 citizens pass through its doors to be tortured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge. On the ground floor, rooms with a single bed and leg irons where torture was carried out now envelop visitors in an eerie silence. One of the most haunting experiences, however, is looking at the thousands of black and white images of victims displayed on boards throughout the building. Like all regimes that committed genocide, the Khmer Rouge was meticulous in documenting those it killed.

Rediscovering Khmer arts

It's hard to comprehend but the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge wiped out so many artists and craftsmen that the country's traditional arts were almost lost. Today, following a concerted effort to retrain young people Cambodian crafts have emerged as some of the finest in the region.

Artisans d' Angkor was established in 1998 and has played a significant role in saving and promoting the country's rich cultural heritage. Originally under EU funding, the business is now totally self-financing and trains dozens of artisans each year, many of whom set up on their own. In Phnom Penh, Artisans d' Angkor have a boutique in front of the post office on Street 13, and at Phnom Penh International Airport. The shops sell lacquerware, stone carving, high quality hand woven silk, silverware and much more. Visit for further details about the inspirational projects.

The recent blossoming of Khmer arts and crafts has also seen many other boutiques open in Phnom Penh. There are several clustered on Street 240 and a host of art galleries close to the National Museum on Street 178, commonly referred to as Art Street.

One of the joys of travelling in Asia is visiting the vibrant markets. Phnom Penh is no exception and is home to the fabulous Psar Thmei, also known as the Central Market, a striking art deco building dating back to 1935. Here you can buy just about anything from shoes and clothing to souvenirs and jewellery. In Phnom Penh there are also many sprawling fresh markets to explore. Colourful, chaotic and not for the squeamish, they are the heart of the city. Check out the old market of Psar Chas on Street 9 and 11 which is open throughout the day and in the evening. For a colourful fresh market, head over Monivong Bridge in the early morning and you'll discover the wonderful Psar Chhbar Ampoeu.

Former glories

Despite wanton destructive within Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge years, much of the capital's former glories survived. The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda within its compound are well worth a visit. The complex dates from 1866 and is filled with Buddha statues, and religious and royal artefacts including an emerald Buddha encrusted with jewels. Entry is $3, plus $2 if you wish to use a camera. It is open every day from 8 a.m. - 11.30 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Nearby, the beautiful red building of the National Museum houses a wonderful collection of over 5,000 Khmer art and sculpture.

Getting around Phnom Penh

The moto-romuak, Cambodia's answer to the tuk-tuk, are an excellent way to get around, and preferable to the confines of a car. You can hire a moto-romuak and driver for between $10- 15 a day for running around town. For longer trips to places outside the city expect the fee to rise. Drivers usually wait around near hotels and the concierge should be able to assist with negotiations.

Where to stay

The InterContinental Phnom Penh was the city's first international five-star hotel. The 346-room hotel is located in the heart of the city and 20 minute's drive from the airport. Guests can enjoy luxurious rooms and suites, and excellent service. Dining includes the Regency Cafe and the Deli Cafe. There's also a spa, fitness centre, and outdoor swimming pool. 296 Boulevard Mao Tse Tung, Phnom Penh. Visit the website at

The latest addition to booming Phnom Penh is the Sofitel Penh Phkeethra. The brand new hotel occupies a riverside location in the city's old quarter and is close to many of the main attractions. Inspired by colonial era architecture, the hotel offers 201 rooms and suites with views across the Mekong and Bassac rivers.

Facilities include elegant restaurants and bars, two pools and a stylish spa. 26 Old August Site, Sothearos Boulevard, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh. Visit the website at

Getting there

Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways fly daily to Phnom Penh.

A visa on arrival is available at the airport for a fee of $20. One passport photograph is required. A departure tax of $25 is also charged.

More images of Phnom Penh can be seen at

Thais held in Cambodian jail

Dec 31, 2010
Source: Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh is refusing to release seven Thais being held for trespassing on Cambodian territory despite Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanding they be granted their freedom.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday afternoon made an urgent visit to Phnom Penh for talks with his counterpart, Hor Namhong, on securing the release of the seven who include a government MP.

But Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided yesterday to press ahead with charges against the Thais.

The defendants, including Democrat Party MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, appeared at a closed-door hearing at the court, a day after being detained near the border dividing Thailand and Cambodia.

"The court has charged them with illegally crossing the border ... and entering a military area with ill will," deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said.

If convicted on the two counts, the seven could face up to 18 months in jail. It was unclear when the next hearing in the case would be held.

A sombre Panich and the rest of his entourage were taken from the court by police officers.

Interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said they were taken to Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the capital.

The incident has rekindled diplomatic tensions between the neighbouring countries which centre on a long-standing border dispute.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday morning he had demanded the immediate release of the seven Thais and said they must not be taken to court in Cambodia as this could hurt the ties between the two countries after they were beginning to show signs of improvement.

"No matter where they were arrested, we think the seven persons should be released immediately," Mr Abhisit said.

"The two governments had held talks and agreed that if such incidents did occur, no arrests would be made and nobody would be taken to court," the prime minister said.

"Otherwise, this would only further complicate the border problems."

Hor Namhong told reporters after his meeting with Mr Kasit that he had said there would be "no release" of the Thais just yet.

"Let the court continue with the legal procedure as normal ... the government cannot do anything," he said.

The seven Thais were arrested about 10am on Wednesday near Ban Nong Jarn in Sa Kaeo's Khok Sung district while inspecting a disputed border area.

Arrested with Mr Panich were People's Alliance for Democracy co-leader Veera Somkwamkid, PAD activist Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon and three others identified only as Muay, Uan and Sab.

The PAD is a pressure group which led protests against Cambodia over the ownership of the Preah Vihear temple on the disputed border.

Assistant to the foreign minister Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said yesterday Thailand asked Cambodia to consider the case prudently as the seven Thais had no intention of encroaching on Cambodian territory.

Mr Chavanond said the two foreign ministers had examined evidence as well as the area where the Thais were arrested.

It was found the seven Thais had strayed about 1,200 metres into Cambodian territory. It was clearly marked as a Cambodian area, he said

"Foreign Minister Kasit made a visit to the seven Thais in prison," said Mr Chavanond, who accompanied Mr Kasit on the visit to Phnom Penh.

More than 100 Thais gathered yesterday at Thao Suranari Monument in Nakhon Ratchasima to protest against Cambodia's detention of the seven Thais.

They burned an effigy of Hun Sen and demanded Cambodia release the Thais immediately.

Mr Abhisit said he had instructed Mr Panich to inspect the disputed area in Ban Nong Jarn after local people had complained of Cambodian troops encroaching on their farmland.

An army source said some among the military top brass were unhappy with the incident.

Senior officers questioned whether the seven had intentionally strayed into Cambodian territory.

They also said the seven should have asked border police or soldiers to accompany them while inspecting the disputed area.

Land prices in Cambodia continue to fall.

Friday, 31st December 2010
Source : HVS International

According to Cambodia’s National Valuers Association, land prices in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are continuing to fall quarter-on-quarter.

The value of commercial and residential land prices fell by between 2% and 3% in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the same quarter in 2009.

Commercial land was estimated to be worth US$2,800 per square metre, down from US$2,850 in the second quarter of 2010.

Residential land on the other hand was estimated to be worth US$1,600 per square metre, down from US$1,650 for the second quarter of the year as well.

Visa-on-arrival facility for 4 Asean countries

NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday extended the visa-on-arrival (VOA) facility to four Asean countries, including Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia. The VOA facility will be applicable from January 1, 2011. It will allow travellers single entry facility with a validity of 30 days. Initially, it will be introduced at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata airports.

A fee of $60 will be charged for each passenger. The VOA facility will be allowed for a maximum of twice in a calendar year to a foreigner with a minimum gap of two months. The facility is non-extendable and non-convertible.

The facility is offered by several south-east Asian countries and is popular with tourists looking for a break. This is in addition to the existing five countries –– Japan, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg and New Zealand –– which were extended the facility in January 2010.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No release of seven Thais illegally entering Cambodian territory: Cambodia

30 Dec, 2010
Source: Xinhua

Mr. PANICH Vikitreth, MP of Royal Thai Parliament on car
in Dec 30, 2010. (Photo by Quoc Viet

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on Thursday that there is no any release of the seven Thai nationals arrested on Wednesday in Banteay Meanchey and they were already sent into prison.

"There is no any release of them. Let the judicial procedure to proceed the case, now the case is in hand of the court, the government cannot do anything," said Hor Namhong after meeting with his visiting Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya on Thursday afternoon. "They have intention to enter Cambodian territory and Mr. Kasit has agreed with Cambodia that they entered deeply into Cambodian territory," said Hor Namhong.

"I traveled to Cambodia in order to listen to the fact on the arrest of the seven Thai nationals," Kasit said after meeting with Hor Namhong. "Thai government respects the justice procedure of Cambodia."

He said that he was unaware that the Thais entered too deeply into Cambodian territory.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, arrived Cambodia Thursday afternoon, sought to the release of the seven Thai nationals through negotiation.

Meanwhile, Sok Roeun, deputy prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipal Court told Xinhua on Thursday that after 7-hour inquest on the arrested Thais, the court decided to charge them two cases: one is the illegal entry into Cambodian territory according to the article 29 of the Cambodia's immigration law and the other is on the bandit deed to enter military base based on the article 473 of the penal code.

He said that for the first case, they could face between 3 and 6 months in prison, and the second case from 6 to 12 months in prison and fine from 1 million to 2 million Cambodian riels (about 250 U.S. dollars to 500 U.S. dollars).

The seven Thai nationals had been sent to the Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison after the inquest.

They had been arrested on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. by Cambodian border protection army at the border pole No. 46 in Chhokchey village, Obiychhorn commune, Ochrov district, Banteay Meanchey province. The location is opposite to Norngchan village of Thailand's eastern Sa Kaeo Province.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated. And the two sides have had border conflict just one week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple was registered as World Heritage Site in July 2008.

Since the conflict started, military standoff has been on and off along the two countries' border and several military clashes have already happened with recorded small causalities from both sides.

However, the border issue has been eased as the top leaders of Cambodia and Thailand have held four meetings since September.

Source: Xinhua

P. Thai slams captured MP Panich

Dec 30, 2010
Source: Bangkok Post

Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth, one of the seven Thais held in Cambodia, should have known better than to have entered the disputed frontier area where he was captured, Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said on Thursday.

"It is quite unusal for a man like Mr Panich, who was formerly an assistant to the foreign minister, to be arrested. He should know the law and the situation between Thailand and Cambodia regarding the disputed border," Mr Prompong said.

He said it was not normal that the seven Thais visited the disputed border area without advising the Cambodian authorities first. Their trip to the border area was inappropriate and he wondered if there was a hidden political agenda.

"As an MP, Mr Panich should be more careful because his action could affect Thailand, increase the tension between the two countries and put Thailand at a disadvantage in future negotiations. His action certainly lacks maturity.

"I personally believe Mr Panich had good intentions, but the government must clarify Mr Panich's action.

"After an explanation, I think the Cambodian government would release the seven detainees," Mr Prompong said.

He said the government can ask the opposition for help, because it also has concerns for the well-being of the seven Thais.

Mr Prompong said he was worried that a certain group of people would exploit the incident. He said this nationalistic group might worsen the Thai-Cambodian situation and cause trouble for people living along the border area..

Yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid, a co-leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, is one of the seven Thais apprehended by the Cambodian soldiers.

The Cambodian military arrested MP Panich and his team on Wednesday afternoon, when they visited Sa Kaeo province to inspect the disputed border area.

Cambodian court questions Thai lawmaker over border trespass case

Source: Monsters and Critics
Dec 30, 2010

The reporters welcome MP and six other Thai in front of Phnom Penh Court in 30 Dec, 2010. (Photo: Quoc Viet/RFA)

Phnom Penh - A Thai parliamentarian and six other Thai nationals were questioned by a Cambodian court on Thursday after being arrested along the border for alleged trespassing.

Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat Party was arrested along with six others on Wednesday in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, near the western part of the border with


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said late Wednesday that the case would proceed quickly, adding that he had rebuffed requests from Thai officials to intervene.

'I think Prime Minister Abhisit (Vejjajiva) will understand Cambodian legal procedure, which no one can abuse,' Hun Sen said, adding that the group 'will face legal punishment, because Thai lawmakers cannot use their parliamentary immunity in Cambodia.'

A senior Cambodian official said the group was being held for 'trespassing under immigration law.'

'They intruded into Cambodia,' the official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

The court hearing on Thursday was closed to reporters, though it was attended by the Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh, Prasas Prasavinitchai.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was scheduled to meet with his counterpart Hor Namhong in the Cambodian capital later Thursday.

Panich, an assistant to Kasit before he won a by-election last month, was inspecting the border region after villagers complained that Cambodian soldiers were occupying the area.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been tense for more than two years with sporadic clashes between troops over disputed territory surrounding a border temple around 200 kilometres east of Banteay Meanchey.

The 11th-century Hindu temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand, belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice. But jurisdiction of 4.6 square kilometres of adjacent land is still in dispute.

The two countries are currently demarcating their border, though talks have been stalled pending a repeatedly delayed vote in the Thai parliament to approve the latest round of negotiations.

Thailand urges Cambodia to release MP in border incident

30 Dec, 2010

BANGKOK - Thailand's premier on Thursday demanded the immediate release of seven Thais, including one ruling party politician, who were detained by Cambodian troops near the countries' disputed border.

The seven, including Democrat Party lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth and members of the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement, were due to appear in a court in Phnom Penh on Thursday on charges of illegally entering Cambodia a day earlier.

"Cambodia must release all seven Thais immediately," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters. "Cambodia should not take this case to court as it will further complicate the issue."

He said the Thai foreign minister would travel to Cambodia to meet with his counterpart there later Thursday for talks on the issue.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday the seven would be charged and put in jail to await trial.

The two countries have a long-standing dispute over their border, which is not fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Relations between the two countries have been strained following a series of deadly border clashes in July 2008 over land surrounding the 11th century Preah Vihear temple after it was granted UN World Heritage status.

Deputy Thai premier Suthep Thaugsuban, however, acknowledged that the seven Thais were on Cambodian territory when arrested.

"Panich and his entourage passed the border police checkpoint and border police followed them by car to ask them to return, but they were already on Cambodian soil," he said.

- AFP/ir

Vietnam supermarket opens in Cambodia

A launch ceremony for Vietnam supermarket was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on December 29.

The 3-storey supermarket covers an area of 6300m2 on the Monivong Boulevard, a main street and thoroughfare in the country’s capital city.

23 Vietnamese businesses display their products in the supermarket, including garments, footwear, cosmetics, instant noodles, canned food, coffee and diaries.

Some other stands sell mobile phones and watches made by many famous brands around the world.

It also has self-service shops, restaurants, beauty salons, and an entertainment area for children.

Le Minh, the supermarket owner said his company has invested US$3 million into the construction work. He hoped the supermarket will help introduced high quality Vietnamese products to the Cambodian consumers.

Many Vietnamese products have caught the attention of Cambodian users. However, Vietnamese producers should concentrate more on improving the quality and design of their products to further penetrate the 14 million people market. Some other Vietnamese supermarkets are expected to open in 4 other provinces in the country, Minh added.

VOV News

New UN-Korean partnership aims to boost transfer of ‘green’ technologies

Source: UN
Posted: 30 Dec, 2010

The United Nations today announced a new partnership with the Republic of Korea’s international development agency to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to help Cambodia tackle pollution.

The agreement signed in Vienna is the first between the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Under its terms, KOICA will provide UNIDO with $900,000 to set up a trust fund that will be used for the identification, assessment and prioritization of pollution “hot spots” and transfer of environmentally sound technologies in the Cambodian section of the Mekong River.

The project will help improve the water quality of the Mekong River and reduce the negative impacts from industrial activities through the introduction of UNIDO’s integrated approach for the transfer of environmentally sound technology.

The two-year project will be implemented by UNIDO in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia.

It is funded by the East Asia Climate Partnership, which was established by the Republic of Korea in 2008 to assist developing countries in East Asia that are coping with both economic growth and climate change simultaneously.

The Vienna-based UNIDO helps developing countries to secure resource-efficient low-carbon growth, which creates new jobs while protecting the environment. It also helps them move to clean technologies and implement environmental agreements, and provides them with services and expertise to promote sustainable patterns of production.

All of this is part of the agency’s efforts to promote ‘Green Industry’ – industry that does not harm the environment.

A turbulent year for Preah Vihear, Cambodian ties

Bangkok Post
Published: 30/12/2010
Newspaper section: News

'Please don't speak Thai when you are at Preah Vihear Temple. Thais aren't allowed there," the Cambodian driver warned me while taking me and my photographer up to the temple on Dec 11.

Only a few Cambodian and foreign tourists have visited the disputed Preah Vihear temple recently. Thai and Cambodian soldiers positioned at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara near the 11th century temple have withdrawn from the area to ease border tensions. WASSANA NANUAM

The driver wanted me to speak in English as he would tell Cambodian soldiers that we were non-Thai tourists.

The 11th century temple has been off-limits for all Thais since July 2008 after the armed border clashes in the area, leading to Thai troops being stationed at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara at the foot of the temple hill.

Still with the US$20 (600 baht) entrance fee plus other top-up charges, the driver decided to take me to the temple on a three-hour ride from Siem Reap to see with my own eyes the situation on the ground there. The road is under construction by engineer soldiers and Chinese workers as part of Phnom Penh's plan to take more tourists there from Siem Reap, the major Cambodian destination for tourists who want to see Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. The road construction project faces a protest by Thailand in that it enters part of the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area.

I passed a military checkpoint and walked together with several Cambodians to the temple. Since the reopening of Preah Vihear two months ago on the Cambodian side by Phnom Penh after a minor military clash, at least 500 Cambodians visit the place a day, sometimes peaking at 1,000. Unfortunately, the Cambodian government continues to keep closed the border entrance from the Thai side in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and that means no Thais are allowed to go to the temple from the northeastern province.

I hoped that my trip would go smoothly and nobody would notice that I was not a Cambodian. I walked past "the Naga steps" and looked down to the Thai border, seeing the door dividing the two countries locked for Thais since July 15, 2008 when Thai protesters rallied near the ruins against the Cambodian move to promote Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Yet, what I hoped turned out to be wrong. Cambodian police and soldiers found out from our photographic equipment that my photographer and I were Thais and flagged us down to talk to them. "No Thais are allowed to go up here," the police chief responsible for the area told us. "No Thais have been here over the past two years because they are banned," he added.

I told him that I entered Cambodia legally through an immigration process in Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom and would like to get a chance to see Preah Vihear Temple, too.

The police chief called his supervisor and told us to wait. After 15 minutes, he came back and told us that we had been given the green light to go but four police and soldiers were assigned to accompany us. They took off their uniforms and went along with us in plainclothes.

One thing that Cambodian security authorities are very concerned about is that they do not want outsiders to see soldiers and military equipment at the temple now that it is a Unesco World Heritage site. There was a Unesco flag flying together with the Cambodian flag at the temple and several other Unesco flags were around the area.

I observed several soldiers still there but they were not armed. All artillery has been moved away from the temple. All that remains is a large military bunker behind the temple. But I knew I could not take a picture there because it was not allowed and would have got my colleague and I into trouble.

At the parking lot at the entrance to the temple, children sold several souvenirs including a VCD on the military clash between Thai and Cambodian troops which caused damage to the market there.

The Cambodian government was rebuilding the market despite protests by Thailand to suspend the project because it was in the overlapping area. Second Army chief Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon has told his Cambodian counterpart that Thailand will not open its border until the market construction stops. But Phnom Penh so far has turned a deaf ear.

On my way back, I told the driver to let me stop at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara. The small temple near Preah Vihear once had 30 soldiers from each country stationed there after the border clash two years ago. But the two armies agreed in November to move away from the temple this month.

The driver told me he could not stop because Cambodian police and soldiers had ordered him to take me and the photographer back immediately after the Preah Vihear visit. The best he could do was to slow down a bit to allow me to see whether there were any soldiers there. There are none now.

Under the November agreement, Thai and Cambodian soldiers can come to Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara only with the consent of the two countries. But the Cambodian army sets the time to visit between 9am and 3pm with no permission for soldiers to stay overnight there. Thailand now has 2,000 soldiers in the overlapping border area.

It's difficult to understand why the Thai army agreed to the condition set by Cambodia because Thailand, like Cambodia, also lays claim to the area around the temple. In July 2008, when I covered the border clash, Maj Gen Kanok Netrakavaesana, then the commander of the Suranaree Task Force, ordered Thai soldiers to go to the temple to show it was part of Thai territory. Keeping Thai soldiers at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara is important to reiterate Thailand's claim of sovereignty in the disputed area.

Today, the government and army leaders of the two countries have agreed to "adjust" their troops by moving away from the area. The agreement was to prevent possible direct armed confrontations and ease border tension. But strategically, Thailand is in a disadvantageous position because Thai soldiers now are based at the foot of the hill, while their Cambodian counterparts are on the plain only several hundred metres from the temple. Thai soldiers suspect that some, if not all, 40 monks at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara are soldiers in disguise.

What worries Cambodia most is that the presence of Thai soldiers at the small temple would give Thailand a chance to easily seize Preah Vihear, because the two locations are only 300 metres apart.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia are improving since ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra lost his position as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh. I do not want to make an assumption that the military agreement to move soldiers away from Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara was part of the deal for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to normalise bilateral ties, as the two countries celebrate six decades of diplomatic relations this month.

Anyway, improving ties led to the visit to the Cambodian capital by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Dec 20 and 21. Prime Minister Hun Sen used the occasion to hand over three Thais who had received a royal pardon from jail after the Cambodian court had sentenced them to 18 months on charges of illegal entry into the country from the border in Surin in August.

Hun Sen opted to return the three to Gen Prayuth rather than Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who visited Phnom Penh to celebrate relations on Dec 19. "Samdech Hun Sen knows how important Gen Prayuth is," a source close to the army chief said. "More importantly, we all know how the Cambodian leader feels about Mr Kasit. He is a former supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy who strongly attacked them," the source said.

Gen Prayuth knew what Hun Sen had in mind and brought along with him Thai ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasasvinitchai for the handover of the Thais on Dec 20 and to send them back through the border in Si Sa Ket the very next day.

The Cambodian strongman also proposed to Gen Prayuth the reopening of the border at Preah Vihear and to continue border demarcation talks but not allow conflict over the Hindu temple to affect their relations. The army chief did not react to his proposal.

Hun Sen agreed with Gen Prayuth that the two countries should probably have key figures of the government and army visit their soldiers in the disputed area during the forthcoming New Year break as proof to the media that their soldiers now have been moved further away from each other.

He also hoped to see ties with Thailand going forward with no turning back to the old days of conflict.

Democrat MP among 7 arrested by Cambodia

Thu, Dec 30, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network

Thailand: MP Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat Party and six yellow-shirt activists including Veera Somkwamkid will be tried and held in prison in Phnom Penh today, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly said after they were arrested yesterday while inspecting the Sa Kaeo border.

"I believe that the location where I was inspecting is under Thai sovereignty," Panich told The Nation by phone. "The 46th boundary monument that indicates the territory of the two countries is situated in the area."

Panich said his group was walking in a paddy field when eight or nine Cambodian soldiers took them into custody at 11am.

The disputed area in Ban Nong Chan village of Sa Kaeo's Khok Sung district has been claimed by Thailand and Cambodia for decades after a group of Cambodians fled from war to settle there.

Ban Nong Chan residents regard Sri Pen Road as the de facto boundary line and refrain from crossing over to the Cambodian side.

Panich, who is a member of the House committee on boundary affairs and a former vice foreign minister, said he needed to inspect the disputed area after locals complained that Cambodians occupied Thai territory.

Panich's group also included activist Samdin Lertbutr of the Dharma Army Foundation, who has close connections with Chamlong Srimuang, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

Nationalist Veera claimed Cambodia intruded on to Thai soil at many places, including the areas adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear. Veera and his group were briefly held by Cambodian authorities in August when they also were inspecting the disputed area near Ban Nong Chan.

Panich made a phone call to inform Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Democrat Party's headquarters in Bangkok about his arrest.

Maj-General Walit Rojanapakdi, commander of the Burapha Task Force, which oversees the area, assigned a team to negotiate with Cambodian authorities on releasing Panich and his group.

After the talks at the local level failed, the group was sent to Phnom Penh to begin undergoing prosecution for illegal entry, said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister. The ministry would try its best and provide legal assistance to help the Panich group return home, he said.

Hun Sen said: "They were measuring Thai territory inside Cambodian territory. So Cambodia has the right to arrest them."

He said the seven would be taken from the border in the northwestern province if Banteay Meanchey to the capital, where they would be charged and then locked up awaiting trial.

"They will be sent to the court on Thursday and when the court charges them, they will be jailed in Prey Sar prison," Hun Sen was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

He said he hoped the incident would not affect relations between the two countries.

Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over border disputes in recent years after Thailand moved to block Cambodia's proposal to list Preah Vihear as a world heritage site. The temple was ruled by the International Court of Justice in 1962 as situated inside Cambodia, but Bangkok has argued that the surrounding areas belong to Thailand.

Negotiations to settle the boundary conflict have moved at a snail's pace, as the Joint Boundary Commission cannot proceed with talks without approval from Parliament.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cambodia’s legislature passes ASEAN transport service agreements

Dec 28, 2010
By NewsDesk

The Cambodian National Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted the draft law of the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of air freight services and the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of passenger air services.

Nin Saphon, chairwoman of the commission on public works and construction of the National Assembly, said during the debate that the two agreements were to create air freight and passenger services freely, transparently and competitively with high effectiveness among ASEAN countries.

“The agreements will accelerate open sky arrangements and advance liberalization in air transport services, especially air freight services and air passenger services,” she said.

“The two agreements will help Cambodia to attract more tourists and investment through air transport services from countries in the region and in the world,” she said. “It will also build more confidence from foreign airline companies, especially airlines in ASEAN.”

Mao Havanal, secretary of state of the secretariat of civil aviation, said during the debate that the agreements were committed to deepen and broaden the internal economic integration and linkages with the world economy to realize an ASEAN Economic Community.

“The agreements are to remove restrictions, on a gradual basis, so as to achieve greater flexibility and capacity in the operation of air freight services and air passenger services in ASEAN with a view to building a single unified aviation market of ASEAN by 2015, ” he said.

The two agreements were signed on May 20, 2009 in Manila, the Philippines by the heads of the civil aviation of the 10 ASEAN countries.

ASEAN countries consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Press Release

Vietnam, Cambodia enhance cooperation in legislature

28 Dec, 2010

Vietnam and Cambodia wish to promote cooperation legislatures to fulfill their tasks.
This was stressed by Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam National Assembly Nguyen Duc Kien and Vice President of the Cambodian National Assembly Nguol Nhel during their talks in Phnom Penh on December 27.

They informed each other of their respective parliaments’ operations in 2010 and expressed their desire to enhance and strengthen the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

They said more efforts should be made by the two governments to complete land border demarcation and landmark planting by late 2012 and build a sustainable peaceful borderline between the two countries.

After the talks, the Vietnam National Assembly’s decision to ratify a project on information technology infrastructure worth VND23 billion (over US$1 million) was handed over to the Cambodian National Assembly’s Secretariat.

The project, which will be carried out in 2011, is expected to equip the Cambodian parliament with an electronic information system linking the NA to provincial NA deputy delegations nationwide.

The Vietnamese legislature presented its Cambodian counterpart with a security scanner and an electricity generator.

During his stay in Cambodia from Dec. 26-29, NA Deputy Chairman Kien paid a courtesy visit to NA President Heng Samrin and Vice President of the Senate Tep Ngorn and met with the Phnom Penh authorities.

Kien and his entourage are scheduled to visit several localities to meet with parliamentarians and inquire into Cambodia’s economic development.

Vietnam, Cambodia to open more border gates

28 Dec, 2010

CAN THO - Viet Nam and Cambodia will open three new international border gates early next year to fulfil an agreement on road transportation between the two countries.

They will be in Le Thanh (Gia Lai Province, Viet Nam) - Oyadav (Andong Pich-Rattanakiri, Cambodia), Hoa Lu (Binh Phuoc) - Trapeang Sre (Snoul-Kratie), and Bu Prang (Dak Nong) - O Raing (Mundulkiri).

The plan was agreed upon at an annual conference between the leaders of Viet Nam's Directorate for Roads and Cambodia's General Department of Transport yesterday in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

With this development, there will be a total of seven international border gates linking the two countries, a target set by a bilateral Agreement on Road Transport signed in 1998.

At the conference, officials also signed an agreement to double the number of vehicles allowed to travel through the two countries' common border gates from 150 to 300 to boost bilateral trade and tourism.

They also agreed to expand the types of non-commercial vehicles allowed to travel through the border gates, and a plan to co-operate on route management projects.

A total of 32 transportation enterprises and units with 150 vehicles currently operate on Viet Nam-Cambodia routes. Of the 150 vehicles, 60 run the four major routes from Viet Nam's provinces of Tra Vinh, An Giang, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia. VNS

Two new companies given licence to fly in Cambodia

28 December 2010
Chun Sophal
Phnom Penh Post

AMBODIA will licence two more aviation companies to fly passengers on domestic routes, according to Mao Havannall, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation authority.

Cambodia Angkor Air (Photo by Quoc Viet/RFA)

Speaking at a plenary session at the National Assembly yesterday, he said the two firms – Tonle Sap Company and Indochina Company – would be cleared to fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

“We are preparing the procedures for both private firms, and hope they will begin operating early next year,” he said.

The two companies are set to receive their licences in the next few days, he said, adding that the firms were to partner with companies based overseas, and fly medium-sized planes such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

The Civil Aviation authority has not yet released a flight schedule for the two firms.

Currently, Cambodia Angkor Air is the only firm that operates a regularly scheduled passenger service on domestic routes in the Kingdom.

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Yim Sovann said he welcomed more flights, as it would encourage competition in the domestic aviation sector.

Increased competition will result in cheaper tickers for passengers, he said.

“We support more flights in the nation because we think that it will be more competitive and provide more benefit to the Cambodian people,” he said.

Mao Havannall said that licensing the two new companies was due to speculation that the number of international tourists will continue to increase.

Cambodia has signed a number of agreements with foreign nations to operate direct flights to the Kingdom, aiming to increase the number of visitors from overseas, he said.

On Friday, the National Assembly approved two multilateral agreements with ASEAN, and eight protocols on air transportation and shipping, to contribute to the goal of a common ASEAN flight market in 2015.

Monday, December 27, 2010

ADB announces grant to set up Mekong railway coordination body

Monday ,Dec 27,2010

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Monday it would provide a technical assistance grant to support the establishment of a railway coordination office in the five Mekong nations where railways have developed independently.

The bank did not say how much the grant is, but said it aims to help the Greater Mekong Subregion countries achieve greater connectivity through coordinated railway development.

The GMS is made up of Cambodia, China’s Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The GMS countries’ national railways are not interconnected, with the exception of a connection between China and Vietnam.

File photo shows passengers at Saigon Railway Station in Ho Chi Minh City. As the Mekong countries’ national railways are not interconnected, with the exception of a connection between China and Vietnam, the Asian Development Bank says it will provide a grant to help the nations establish a railway coordination office. (Photo: Tuong Thuy)

The Philippines-based bank said its grant would assist the Mekong nations in preparing a detailed plan to set up the railway coordination office, including a business and a financing plan for its first five years of operation. The countries will jointly manage the coordination office, according to ADB.

“The initiative to establish the railway coordination office reflects the growing realization by the GMS countries of the need for an interconnected and integrated railway network in the subregion,” James Lynch, director for transport and urban development in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, said in the bank’s Monday announcement.

“Integrating railways does not only involve investing in infrastructure, which in itself is difficult due to technical and operational differences among the countries’ railways,” he added.

He also said in the statement that integration entails reconciling and harmonizing the software aspects of the transport sector such as compatible immigration, customs, and health regulations and procedures at the borders, as well as systems for fair and efficient handling of administrative functions such as ticketing and revenue distribution.

The railway coordination office will provide the venue and mechanisms for addressing such issues, according to the provider of the grant.

ADB added that recognizing an integrated railway system offers an efficient and environment-friendly transport mode to link their economies, the Mekong countries requested the bank’s assistance in undertaking a sub-regional railway strategy study in 2009.

The study led to the development of a strategic framework for connecting GMS railways, which recommends the establishment of the coordination office.

The 16th GMS Ministerial Conference held in Hanoi in August this year endorsed the GMS railways framework.

By Tuong Thuy

Cambodia: New penal code undercuts free speech

Dec 27th, 2010 | By Bikya Masr Staff

NEW YORK: The Cambodian government’s use of its new penal code against a man who shared web articles with his co-workers is a huge step backward for free expression in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said last week.

The man was quickly convicted on incitement charges and sentenced to prison.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to amend the penal code, which went into effect on December 10, 2010, to remove provisions that limit the peaceful expression of political views so that the law fully complies with international standards.

“Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Cambodia’s new penal code should have put an end to abusive practices, not encouraged new ones.”

On December 17, Seng Kunnaka, a Cambodian employee with the United Nations World Food Program in Phnom Penh, was arrested on charges of incitement under article 495 of the new penal code after he shared an article with two co-workers. While the contents of the article are unclear, it was printed from KI-Media, a website that publishes news, commentaries, poetry, and cartoons that are sharply critical of the government, including a recent series of opinion pieces lambasting senior officials regarding a border dispute with Vietnam.

On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court hastily tried and convicted Kunnaka, sentencing him to six months in prison and fining him 1 million riels (US$250). December 19 was a Sunday, when the courts are normally closed.

During the last two years, more than 10 critics of the government, including journalists and opposition party activists, have been prosecuted for criminal defamation and disinformation based on complaints by government and military officials under the former penal code.

The new penal code places greater restrictions on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Responding to media inquiries about the case, Cambodia’s information minister, Khieu Kanharith, said: “Before, using the argument of ‘freedom of expression’ and opposition party status, some people could insult anybody or any institution. This is not the case now.”

“A dubious arrest so soon after the new penal code came into effect shows that the Cambodian government is ready to use its new legal powers to criminalize peaceful expression and political dissent,” Robertson said. “And Cambodia’s pliant courts seem all too willing to throw any perceived government critic in prison after a rushed trial.”

Under the new penal code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates “serious turmoil in society” through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication that are shared with, exposed to, or intended for the public. It does not require the alleged incitement to be effective for penalties to be imposed, which include prison terms of six months to five years and fines.

The new penal code also allows criminal prosecutions for defamation and contempt for peaceful expression of views “affecting the dignity” of individuals and public officials, as well as of government institutions. It makes it a crime to “disturb public order” by questioning court decisions.

“The new penal code makes it more risky for civil society activists to criticize corrupt officials, police, and military officers who commit abuses or question court decisions,” Robertson said. “This is particularly troubling in Cambodia, where the judicial system is weak and far from independent, with court decisions often influenced by corruption or political pressure.”

KI-Media is a controversial website that describes itself as “dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia.” The website’s editors, who have never publicly identified themselves, compile information from a variety of sources, including leaked and public government documents, Cambodian-language newspaper articles, and Chinese, Cambodian, and Western wire service reports. It also posts hard-hitting commentaries, blog articles, cartoons, and poetry from its readers – most of whom are sharply critical of the government.


TCT Cyclists Training Near Thailand-Cambodia Border

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- Terengganu Pro-Asia Cycling Team (TCT)is training in Chanrai near the Thailand-Cambodia border in preparation for Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) next month.

"The three import cyclists who had been training in Chanrai since Dec 19 will be joined by nine Terengganu cyclists starting Dec 30," said assistant coach Syed Husaini Syed Mazlan.

The three import cyclists in third phase training are Shinichi Fukushima who also acts as coach and Motoi Nara of Japan and Phuchong Udomsin of Thailand.

The Terengganu cyclists are Anuar Manan, Mohd Harrif Salleh, Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin, Yusrizal Usoff, Mohammad Saufi Mat Senan, Mohamad Faiz Sharifuddin Abd Kadir, Mohd Shobry Abdullah, Mohd Nor Umardi Rosdi and Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki.

Husaini said the fourth and final phase would be from Jan 23-Feb 1 before wrapping up training here.

Focus would be on pedalling, mental strength and teamwork to make TCT all fired up for the pretigious championship.

The cyclists were also involved in the National Grand Prix Final in Jasin, Melaka yesterday, the second phase of training.

"I am satisfied with the riders who showed good team spirit," he added.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Cambodia, once-untouchable treasures await

Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom in Dec 25,2010.
(Photo: Quoc Viet/RFA)

A surge of tourism increases access not just to well-known sites such as Angkor but also temples in regions once off-limits due to skirmishes.

Two decades ago, the great ruined temple complex at Angkor in central Cambodia was an uncrowded dream destination. But as the country emerged from decades of poverty and suffering, mass tourism arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With it came sightseers by the busload and the transformation of the hamlet of Siem Reap at Angkor's threshold — an amiable but ballooning tourist trap with a new international airport, a branch of the Cambodian national museum, a trendy restaurant row and an abundance of hotels, including high-enders Raffles and Sofitel.

If the speed of transformation is any indication, 2011 is the time to visit the diminutive Southeast Asian country lodged between Thailand and Vietnam, not just to take advantage of Siem Reap's amenities but to go beyond Angkor to wonders still lost in the Cambodian jungle.

There are, for example, vestiges of the Khmer Empire as remarkable as Angkor all around Cambodia, including an older group of temples in the Sambor Prei Kuk area; Koh Ker, northeast of Siem Reap, opened to visitors since land mines, laid during the civil wars, were removed; and majestic Preah Vihear, on a mountaintop in the north where, until recently, Thai and Cambodian troops were engaged in a border skirmish.

The once-inaccessible Cambodian countryside, with its lime-green rice paddies, jungly mountains, swollen lakes and rushing rivers, increasingly is opening, thanks to adventure travel agencies that take visitors there by horse, motorcycle and helicopter. Guests at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, a new eco-resort on the Tatai River in western Cambodia, get the chance to spot secretive rhinos and elephants in the wild, while boat trips up the great Mekong River cruise through the habitat of the rare, freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin on their way to the friendly Laotian border town of Chhlong.

Nonprofit organizations abound, seeking volunteers to work in Cambodia (, and — a great way to take part in the country's cultural and economic resurgence.


LICADHO Report Details Stories from the Frontline of Cambodia’s Fight for Freedom of Expression

Phnom Penh (Dec. 20, 2010) – Cambodia took a step backwards on freedom of expression issues in 2010, and is poised to continue the trend in 2011, according to a new report from LICADHO.

The report, “Freedom of Expression in Cambodia: The Illusion of Democracy,” documents nearly 50 cases in which the government violated individuals’ expressive freedoms during 2010. The incidents, taken together, illustrate a disturbing trend: Authorities are growing increasingly bold in their campaign to silence those who speak out against the political and economic elite. As a result, Cambodians are being excluded from participating in their own democracy.

“Democracy, by definition, requires citizen participation,” said Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek, President of LICADHO. “When people are no longer able to freely speak, criticize and demonstrate their concerns, they are no longer participating. At that point, democracy becomes an illusion.”

The case studies in the report were drawn from the period of April 1 to September 30, 2010, and were collected primarily from Khmer- and English-language media. There was nothing particularly exceptional about the six-month period – no elections, armed conflicts or national emergencies. Rather, LICADHO focused on a random, brief period to illustrate the magnitude of the challenges facing Cambodians who wish to exercise their expressive freedoms.

The range of targets was impressive: The report details attacks on the expressive rights of union leaders, community representatives, politicians, diplomats, NGO staff, monks, UN personnel and countless ordinary Cambodians. The tactics utilized by authorities included beatings, threats, interference with peaceful protest, and a dazzling array of abuses involving misuse of the judicial system.

In Battambang, a community representative was murdered after he spoke out against a land dispute involving the military. In Svay Rieng, a man was beaten after he was caught listening to independent radio stations. In Phnom Penh, a journalist-author received death threats after publishing a book criticizing government corruption. And in Kampong Cham, police attempted to prevent people from leaving their village to attend a protest in the capital.

“What is striking about these stories is their diversity and scope – they range from creative to crude, and involve people from all walks of life,” said Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO. “The authorities have become quite imaginative in their drive to suppress dissent, and no one is immune from attack.”

The report also features an analysis of nine new penal code provisions which pose a threat to Cambodians’ expressive rights in 2011 and beyond. The penal code was enacted in 2009, but the substantive portions of the new penal code did not come into effect until Dec. 10, 2010. The code includes new provisions which, among other things, appear to criminalize all criticism of the judiciary.

The new code also contains a restrictive and broadly worded “incitement” provision (Article 495) which is very similar to the former code’s crime of “disinformation.” That provision was used for the first time on Dec. 19, when a convicted World Food Program employee Seng Kunnaka of incitement for allegedly printing out and distributing material from KI-Media, a Cambodian news blog that is known to take a strong stance against the government. He was sentenced to six month imprisonment and must pay a fine in the amount of 1,000,000 Riels.

LICADHO’s statutory analysis was released previously, on Dec. 10, to mark the new code’s effective date.

Finally, a separate section of the report reviews the arrests of journalists – and pseudo-journalists – during the government’s illegal logging crackdown in early 2010. During the first part of the year, over a dozen journalists were arrested by authorities for attempting to extort money from individuals they suspected of illegal logging.

A number of the cases were confirmed to involve actual extortion, and thus did not necessarily implicate freedom of expression issues. However, the timing of the spate of arrests – during the government’s carefully orchestrated illegal logging crackdown – highlighted an interesting paradox: Despite repeated claims of the crackdown’s “success,” the media reported the arrest of far more journalists than illegal loggers. This section of the report explores possible links between the illegal logging crackdown and the extortion arrests.

See additional web site highlights at

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ath Sam Ath, LICADHO Technical Supervisor 012 327 770

Ms. Pilorge Naly, LICADHO Director 012 803 650