Monday, February 28, 2011

De-listing of Preah Vihear Temple Impossible: UNESCO

Web Editor: Guo

Koichiro Matsuura, special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on Monday that it is impossible to de-list Preah Vihear temple from the World Heritage List.

Matsuura made the remarks during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"Thailand has intention to ask UNESCO to de-list the temple, but I had informed Abhisit Vejjajiva (Thai prime minister) and Kasit Piromya (Thai foreign minister) that de-listing of Preah Vihear temple from the World Heritage List is impossible by all means because Preah Vihear temple is the outstanding universal value,"the Prime Minister's spokesman Eang Sophalleth quoted Matsuura as saying.

"Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage site, is under the responsibility of UNESCO, so UNESCO experts will come to evaluate and restore Preah Vihear temple in the future,"Matsuura told the premier.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen informed Matsuura that Thai troops had fired more than 400 shells of mortars and artillery at the temple which caused serious damages to the World Heritage site. The premier also asked the World Heritage Committee (WHC) not to halt the temple's management plan during its annual meeting in Bahrain in June.

"The management plan of the temple by UNESCO on the World Heritage site should not be abandoned due to the threat of Thailand,"Hun Sen said, adding "if we don't do urgent repair, Preah Vihear temple will be in danger. Moreover, it will set a bad precedent that big country's threat made UNESCO unable to manage and preserve the world heritage site."

The Bangkok Post, on Feb. 26, quoted Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as saying that Matsuura supported Thai stance to put off Cambodia's management plan of Preah Vihear temple.

Matsuura told reporters after the meeting that"UNESCO is not sided with any country, it is neutral."

Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former Chair of the World Heritage Committee, was named by Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, on Feb. 11 as the special envoy to mediate the issue of Preah Vihear temple following a deadly clash from Feb. 4 to 7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border disputed area next to the temple. He arrived here on Sunday to pay a three-day visit.

The clash unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, killed and wounded some soldiers and people of both sides, as well as caused serious damages to Preah Vihear temple.

Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008.

The conflict has occurred just a week after the inscription due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, since then periodic clashes have happened between the two countries' troops resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Army: Limits on observers’ border access

28 Feb, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The army plans to restrict access of neutral observers invited by Thai and Cambodian government to monitor the border to certain areas and information, citing national security reasons.

“We will have to restrict their access to classified information at some level . We are not going to let them see everything,’’ army commander-in-chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to invite Indonesia to deploy observers on both sides of the disputed border area at the Asean foreign ministerial meeting in Jakarta last week.

He said a detailed schedule of the observers’ visit is expected to be released after the Thai-Cambodia Joint Border Committee (JBC) meeting next month.

The Suranaree Task Force and the 2nd Army will then be commissioned to look into the details and take care of the matter.

“I want it [the Thai-Cambodian border conflict] to remain a bilateral issue and do not want any third country to step in, therefore imposing limits on access is needed,’’ Gen Prayuth said.

The commander-in-chief said the army must follow government policy and will heed the United Nation Security Council's calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

A group of military and civilian observers from Indonesia, the current Asean chairman, will visit affected areas of the border to observe the commitment of both Thailand and its neighbour to avoid further hostilities.

The observers' mandate is to assist and support the parties in respecting their commitment to avoid further fighting, by observing and reporting accurately and impartially complaints of violations and submitting findings to each party through Indonesia.

UNESCO to send experts to evaluate, repair damaged temple: special envoy

28 Feb, 2011
Source: Xinhua

Koichiro Matsuura, the special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said Monday Cambodia' s Preah Vihear temple needs to be restored urgently following the damages by the military clashes between Cambodia and Thailand over the border disputed area on Feb. 4-7.

During a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Chairman of the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, on Monday, Matsuura said that as soon as Indonesian observers arrive at the border disputed area, UNESCO will send its experts to evaluate the damages.

"Urgent restoration on the temple will be conducted after the evaluation of the damages and UNESCO will send repair-experts to restore the temple," Matsuura said, adding that "UNESCO will not involve in the border issue, but the temple."

Meanwhile, Sok An, also the minister of the Council of Ministers, presented Matsuura with internationally recognized maps about Cambodian border with Thailand, and also showed him about the maps used unilaterally by Thailand, not international recognition.

Sok An also informed him about the serious damages of Preah Vihear temple caused by about 414 mortar and artillery shells falling on the temple. "So, Cambodia has to publicize this information to the international communities."

Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former Chair of the World Heritage Committee, was named by Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, on Feb. 11 as the special envoy to mediate the issue of Preah Vihear temple following a deadly clash from Feb. 4-7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border disputed area next to the temple. He arrived here on Sunday for a three-day visit.

The clash unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, killed and wounded some soldiers and people of both sides, as well as caused serious damages to Preah Vihear temple.

Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008.

The conflict has occurred just a week after the inscription due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, since then periodic clashes have happened between the two nations'troops.

Thailand: Reuters journalist's death not solved

Hiro Muramoto AP – FILE - In this undated file photo released by Reuters, Japanese TV cameraman Hiro Muramoto smiles at …

BANGKOK – Thailand's Department of Special Investigation said Monday that a Reuters cameraman killed during political protests in Bangkok last year does not appear to have been shot by security forces, a reversal from preliminary findings that raised immediate questions about the inquiry.

In its long-delayed report into the April 10 death of Japanese journalist Hiro Muramoto, the DSI said the bullet that killed him was fired from an AK-47 rifle, which is a different weapon than those used by soldiers.

"Our investigation clearly shows that the military did not use AK-47s in their operations," DSI director-general Tharit Pengdith told a news conference. The agency is roughly the equivalent of the FBI in the United States.

Tharit, however, declined to say whether the report absolved soldiers of Muramoto's death, saying only that the finding was one piece of evidence in an ongoing investigation. The DSI report will be forwarded to the Metropolitan Police Bureau, "which might have additional evidence that could make the case clearer," he said.

A preliminary DSI finding leaked to Reuters late last year said the bullet that hit Muramoto came from an M16 rifle fired from the direction of soldiers during a chaotic clash with the so-called Red Shirt anti-government protesters, a group formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, or UDD.

Asked about the contradiction, Tharit said the initial finding was based on testimony from a police officer who was near Muramoto when he was shot. The officer was unsure which direction the bullet was fired from but "believed it was shot from the military line," Tharit said.

Reuters News editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that "the apparent contradiction between the preliminary investigation and these reports makes full transparency about the process and the findings imperative."

"We call on the Thai government to take the investigation forward," he said.

The Tokyo-based Muramoto, who was sent to Bangkok to cover the rallies, was standing in the protest crowd and had turned toward the army line when he was shot, Tharit said. A single bullet entered the front-left of his chest and exited out the back of his right shoulder, a forensics expert at the news conference said.

"Behind the army line was the UDD line," Tharit said, referring to the protesters. "So if the bullet was shot from that direction, it can be assumed that either security forces or the UDD shot it."

The Red Shirts have vowed to stage a large rally on March 12 — the anniversary of the start of last year's mass protests that lasted 10 weeks and shut down swathes of the city, including major shopping malls and hotels, and ended with more than 90 people killed and around 1,400 injured.

Many Red Shirts are poor, rural supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a 2006 military coup. One of their main complaints is a lack of justice in Thailand and double standards between the ruling elite and the rest of the country.

Critics have accused the government of stalling investigations into the shooting of Muramoto and other protesters for political purposes, saying authorities fear a backlash from the public if findings show that soldiers killed civilians.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's administration is currently facing rival anti-government protests by smaller groups of Red Shirt supporters and the so-called Yellow Shirts, an ultra-nationalist group that has gathered outside the prime minister's office since January to demand the Cabinet's resignation.


Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.

Vietnam dissident detained for revolution calls

28 Feb, 2011
Source: AP

HANOI, Vietnam – One of Vietnam's most prominent pro-democracy dissidents has been detained after calling for a revolution to overthrow the Communist government, state-controlled media reported Monday.

Nguyen Dan Que last week posted an appeal on the Internet calling for the masses to launch an uprising to make a "clean sweep of Communist dictatorship and build a new, free, democratic, humane and progressive Vietnam."

Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Monday that the 69-year-old Que was being held by police in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly acting to overthrow the government. It said his house was searched Saturday and police found 60,000 documents on his computer calling for a revolution.

Police declined to comment.

Que told police he authored many documents and also distributed them to anti-Communist organizations or individuals in Vietnam and abroad, the newspaper said.

It quoted Lt. Col. Nguyen Sy Quang, deputy administrator of Ho Chi Minh City police as saying "Que's act is very dangerous, directly violating the stability and strength of the people's government."

Vietnam does not tolerate any challenge to its one-party rule, and often uses vague national security laws to imprison anyone considered a threat. Hanoi maintains that only lawbreakers are punished.

Que, is a doctor who also heads the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam. He has been jailed three times since 1978, serving a total of 20 years behind bars for promoting democracy and human rights. Vietnam considers his actions a treat to national security.

On Saturday, The Washington Post ran an opinion piece authored by Que criticizing Vietnamese police for manhandling a U.S. Embassy diplomat as he tried to visit another well-known dissident and Catholic priest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly last month in central Hue.

"If Washington is looking to Vietnam for a long-term partner for peace and regional stability, America would do well to recognize publicly that only a Vietnam that is free and democratic can provide one," it said.

The call for a revolution comes as neighboring China works to stifle protests organized over the Internet amid democratic movements across the Middle East.

Jakarta's leadership hinges on Thai-Cambodian peace

By hosting the informal Asean foreign ministerial meeting last week, the Asean chair, Indonesia, gave a historical lead that could gradually and tangibly transform the grouping into a true political and secure community.

It was a small step "with a giant leap of faith" as the creditability of Asean will now hinge on the outcome of bilateral talks between Thailand and Cambodia. The 90-minute meeting was brief - a rubber stamp of prior discussion and agreements the chair mapped out with both sides. It was contrary to the high-stake power games played out by the two protagonists in the previous weeks.

One of the great weaknesses of Asean has been its inability to cope with intra-Asean conflict in a forthright manner, as have the other regional organisations such as the African Union or Mercosur. Obviously, this stems from the reticent culture of Southeast Asia traditions and the ingrained fear of failure - a truly family psyche. Therefore, the ability to put up with inappropriate behaviour and non-compliance by members is pretty high. It is no surprise that Asean countries still prefer discreet and informal ways to deal with their internal squabbling minus the media fanfares. Just look back, almost all Asean disagreements in the past four decades - though, not as serious as the Thai-Cambodian dispute - were settled through casual and less structured meetings. In short, Asean does not want to Aseanise its disagreements.

This time around, the border clash has given a much-needed impetus for Asean to take up once a taboo issue - an intra-Asean conflict - in a more open way, even though the role of the Asean chair is strictly confined to a facilitator. The Asean foreign ministers often used the 'retreat' to discuss over-sensitive issues, particularly when members had not reached a solid consensus. In that sense, the Burmese political crisis has occupied the retreat's agenda the longest - for nearly two decades. With the Asean Charter in place over the past two years, the member countries are becoming more responsive towards the charter's mandates and objectives. By all means, nobody should get bogged down with the so-called "informal" or "retreat" framework. Whenever Asean leaders can draw up good results from these gatherings, it could be made official in no time.

Thailand and Cambodia know full well the onus is on them to honour and respect the Asean principles and norms enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the Asean Charter. They also know the Asean mantra that members - in this case after a few days of arms skirmishes - do not go to war or declare a state of war perpetually. Thanks to Indonesia's leadership, the two members agreed to station the Indonesian observers at their respective borders. The tripartite group is currently still working out a viable modality. Experience and good practices from various peacekeeping operations in East Timor (1999-2000) and the cessation of hostilities monitoring mission in Aceh (2003) are useful references. A few Asean members, including Thailand, joined individually in both missions but financed their participation in the latter.

This is an important step as the Asean chair is performing this function - known as the "enhanced role of the Asean chair" - for the first time over an intra-Asean conflict. During the East Timor crisis, former Thai Foreign Minister Dr Surin Pitsuwan, acted as the chair of Asean and the Asean Regional Forum when he responded to Indonesia's appeal for peacekeeping assistance. Any misstep could send a wrong signal to hesitant Asean members and impact on the grouping's future political and security cooperation. Truth be told, Indonesia is extremely mindful of the presence of only two foreign ministers, Laos and Singapore, at last week's meeting, apart from the concerned countries. If the chair's new adventure achieves its intended purposes, their status within Asean, and Laos in particular, will be greatly augmented.

It remains to be seen how this dynamic will play out in the end. Initially, it is not difficult to predict that Indonesia will encounter a peaceful environment befitting the Asean spirit of cooperation as stated in the chairman's statement. In a similar vein, Thailand and Cambodia have demonstrated their readiness and determination to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. At issue is: can the cessation of hostilities be sustained as the two sides work out their common solutions? After all, Indonesia has just another 10 months to serve in this role. What would happen next? Cambodia will succeed Indonesia as the Asean chair next year - it is also an electoral year there. Will Indonesia continue its current role beyond its chairmanship? In that case, would Jakarta take on a mediating role?

Indonesia's great leap of faith is also linked to its global agenda. Jakarta's desire and vision to prepare Asean as a single community with common vision and identity after 2015 to engage with the larger world, notably old and new major powers, is extremely ambitious. As a tangible step towards this noble object, Asean under the Indonesian chair must demonstrate its ability to contain and manage efficiently any intra-Asean conflict without resorting to a bigger international arena. Otherwise, overall Asean creditability would falter.

Over a decade ago, Indonesia showed the way. Jakarta had the courage to wash its dirty linen in East Timor for all to see and indeed set forth an unheralded political precedence in Asean - balancing international manoeuvrability with regional solidarity and limited leadership found in individual Asean members. That left behind a good legacy in East Timor and Aceh. In the process, Indonesia's confidence and international profile also was further promoted. Somehow, Jakarta was not able to jump-start such an effort to inculcate this noble approach. The expanded Bali Concord II was the compromise that the Asean members would concur with - obviously commensurate to Indonesia's overall status at the time.

The next ten months will serve as a barometer on two pivotal regional developments. First and foremost, it has to do with the rise of Indonesia - a far cry from 2003 - as a regional power with global influence. Any resumption of Thai-Cambodian hostilities could immediately undermine Jakarta's unique position. Second, it will demonstrate if Asean really has the mettle to deal with internal conflict. One caveat is in order: whatever the outcome,in the long-run it would also have a ripple effect on succeeding chairs. If there was a precedence set forth at the Jakarta meeting, it was essentially the ability of family members to settle their own conflicts themselves. If the UN Security Council has to take up the Thai-Cambodian border again, it would mean a big slap in Asean's face and further hamper the realisation of Asean as a political and secure community.

UK to continue aid to India, terminates aid to 16 other nations

28 Feb, 2011
Source: Daily India

London, Feb.28: Britain will continue providing financial aid to India, but will cut off aid to sixteen other nations, following a review, that proves they are no longer in the poverty bracket.

Following an inquiry ordered by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, countries such as Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Moldova and Serbia will not be provided financial aid by UK, the Daily Mail reports.

The UK however, has decided to continue providing 280 million pounds to India.

The overall aid budget is likely to increase by four billion pounds over the next four years. Nearly 30 percent of the increased budget will be given to countries like Yemen and Somalia, to help them fight terrorism.

Since Britain will have no way of keeping a check on how the money is used, critics are raising questions about its possible misuse by officials.

The total aid will increase from seven billion pounds to eleven billion pounds at the same time when front line public services in the UK are being reduced.

Mitchell agreed that many of his constituents ‘go ballistic’ about the amount of British cash spent on overseas aid at a time of belt-tightening at home. But he said the plan was to ‘buy results’ rather than ‘lob money at problems’ – setting targets and stopping aid if they are not met.

He might also order termination of funding to international organisations, like the 12 million pounds given to UN cultural body.

He said: “From now on we will only give aid where we can follow the money and ensure that the British taxpayer is getting value for money. Most international organisations are doing a decent job, but some need to be shown the yellow card. Others will, frankly, get the bullet.”

He also announced the first ‘cash-on-delivery’ aid scheme in the world, which aims to get more Ethiopian girls into school.
“We will only release funds once firm evidence of results has been seen”, he said.

He defended the huge amount spent on international aid at a time of stringency at home, saying: “The reason why at this time of a dreadful economic inheritance, we made it clear that we won’t balance the books at the expense of the poorest people in the world, is because it is morally right to do so.”

He further added: ‘But it’s also very much in our national interest to tackle these effects of dysfunctionality and poverty, such as piracy, migration, terrorism and disease in Somalia. Tackling the causes of poverty upstream is much less expensive than sending in troops.’

PM: Thailand Will Not Withdraw from World Heritage Committee

28 Feb, 2011
Source: Thailand Outlook

The prime minister has reiterated that the government will not withdraw from the Unesco World Heritage Committee as Thailand can leverage its seat in negotiations with Cambodia.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva discussed on his weekly television program about the visit to Thailand by Koichiro Matsuura, a representative from Unesco, saying that the trip was not intended to interfere with the Thai-Cambodia border conflict.

Abhisit also talked about the visit in a positive light, saying that it was good for Unesco to hear both sides of the argument.

The prime minister also reiterated that it is necessary for Thailand to remain a member of the World Heritage Committee in order to maintain its leverage against Cambodia.

The prime minister's comments were directed towards the People's Alliance for Democracy which has asked that Thailand withdraw its membership.

Abhisit expects that from now on, Unesco will be more receptive to the protests by Thailand against the administrative plan for the disputed area surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple proposed by Cambodia.

Abhisit also commented on the postponement of the World Heritage Committee conference to June, indicating that it remains to be seen how the meeting between Unesco representatives and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will turn out.

At any rate, the prime minister reaffirmed that the demarcation process will continue as the next Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee meeting, or JBC, will take place from March 7 to 8 in Indonesia.

The prime minister said the foreign minister is prepared to take on the task.

The premier also pointed out that it will be up to the JBC as to when it will submit the three meeting-minute reports to lawmakers for their approval.

Britain cuts aid to China and Russia after inquiry rules they are no longer poor... but we're still giving India £280m

By Daniel Martin
Last updated 28th February 2011

The inquiry was ordered by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell

Britain is to stop giving aid to 16 countries after a review found they were no longer in poverty.

Countries including Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Moldova and Serbia will be stripped of millions of pounds a year, following an inquiry ordered by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.

But in a controversial decision, aid to India – which can afford its own space programme – will continue, although it will be frozen at its current level of £280million a year for four years.

The aid budget will actually increase by £4billion in the next four years. Vast amounts of extra money – 30 per cent of the budget – will be pumped into unstable hotspots such as Yemen and Somalia, to help them crack down on terrorism.

Critics will question whether that is prudent, as there will be no way for Britain to check whether the money is being spent wisely, or being embezzled by officials.

Britain’s aid budget is one of the few areas protected from cuts, unlike defence, education and the police, which are having to make deep savings.

The total spent on aid will rise from £7billion to £11billion by 2015 – at the same time as front-line public services at home are being slashed.

Mr Mitchell admitted many of his constituents ‘go ballistic’ about the amount of British cash spent on overseas aid at a time of belt-tightening at home. But Mr Mitchell, whose review reports later this week, said the plan was to ‘buy results’ rather than ‘lob money at problems’ – setting targets and stopping aid if they are not met.

He is also likely to order the removal of funding from international organisations which have not delivered. For example, the £12million given to UN cultural body Unesco is likely to be axed.

Political unrest in Yemen: 30 per cent of the entire aid budget will be pumped into unstable terrorist hotspots such as Yemen and Somalia, in a bid to help them to crack down on citizens exporting violence

Political unrest in Yemen: 30 per cent of the entire aid budget will be pumped into unstable terrorist hotspots such as Yemen and Somalia, in a bid to help them to crack down on citizens exporting violence

‘From now on we will only give aid where we can follow the money and ensure that the British taxpayer is getting value for money,’ he said. ‘Most international organisations are doing a decent job but some need to be shown the yellow card. Others will, frankly, get the bullet.

‘It’s the mission of my department to focus ruthlessly on results, on delivering 100p of development value for every hard-earned pound of taxpayers’ money.

‘If one of my constituents is watching television and hears these announcements, particularly now, they go ballistic because they think about how the money could be spent here.

‘But if you determine it by results, about how you’re going to get 200,000 children cleaner water, people are up for that.’

Countries who will lose direct UK aid

Mr Mitchell will also announce the first ‘cash-on-delivery’ aid scheme in the world, with a plan to get more Ethiopian girls into school.

He said: ‘We will only release funds once firm evidence of results has been seen.’

Defending the huge amount spent on international aid at a time of stringency at home, he added: ‘The reason why at this time of a dreadful economic inheritance, we made it clear that we won’t balance the books at the expense of the poorest people in the world, is because it is morally right to do so.

‘It’s part of the British DNA to be there for those in desperate straits.

‘But it’s also very much in our national interest to tackle these effects of dysfunctionality and poverty, such as piracy, migration, terrorism and disease in Somalia. Tackling the causes of poverty upstream is much less expensive than sending in troops.’

Resources will be concentrated on the 27 countries that account for three-quarters of the world’s maternal mortality and malaria deaths, such as Ghana and Afghanistan.

The UN children’s charity Unicef will see its UK funding double to £40million. But the UN Food And Agriculture Organisation and Unesco will lose out.

ASEAN retreat discusses further economic integration

28 Feb, 2011
Source: Xinhua

The 17th ASEAN Economic Ministers' (AEM) Retreat has reiterated that member states would strengthen economic cooperation within the body as well as with other groupings, AEM Retreat chairwoman Mari Elka Pangestu, also Indonesian Minister of Trade, told a press conference here on Sunday.

During the retreat, which began in Vientiane, Laos, on Sunday, ministers discussed a range of issues with emphasis on the importance of ensuring the effective implementation of the ASEAN community for the body to play a central role in shaping regional economic architecture, as well as in the global context.

The economic ministers indicated that they would promote the initiative for ASEAN Integration, noting that concrete training, guidelines and recommendations provided at bilateral and regional levels for newer members of ASEAN by the more developed member states would narrow gaps among the grouping.

During the one-day meeting delegates also discussed regional and sub-regional cooperation with development partners, exchanged views on regional and global issues including interaction with the World Trade Organization, Doha Development Agenda and G20, and reported the collective hope that Laos would gain WTO membership as soon as possible.

The 17th AEM Retreat Meeting brought together economic ministers and representatives from all 10 members of ASEAN as well as General Secretary of ASEAN.

The ASEAN member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

UNESCO special envoy arrives in Phnom Penh for talks on temple

28 Feb, 2011

Koichiro Matsuura, the special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) arrived here on Sunday for talks on measures to safeguard Preah Vihear temple, the World Heritage site.

At Phnom Penh International Airport, he was welcomed by Chuch Phoeun, secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Cultures and Fine Arts.

Matsuura, a former director-general of UNESCO (1999-2009) and a former Chair of the World Heritage Committee, was named by Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, on Feb. 11 as the special envoy to mediate the issue of Preah Vihear temple following a series of deadly clashes on Feb. 4-7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the disputed border area around the temple.

During the three-day visit, Matsuura will meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An on safeguarding the World Heritage site, and seek ways to mitigate border tension, Chuch Phoeun told reporters at the airport.

He will also be granted a royal audience by King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday.

"Cambodia will present to him about the serious damages of Preah Vihear temple," Chuch Phoeun said. "I evaluated that up to 70-80 percent of the temple was damaged even though the temple did not collapse, but 414 shells of mortar and artillery had fallen on the temple," he said.

Chuch Phoeun said that Matsuura's plan to visit the temple was cancelled.

"His plan to visit Preah Vihear temple has been postponed until the arrival of (ceasefire) observers from Indonesia at first," he said.

Preah Vihear Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008.

Source: Xinhua

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UN Rights Envoy Faces Balancing Act in Cambodia

By Irwin Loy

PHNOM PENH, Feb 25, 2011 (IPS) - A United Nations rights envoy says Cambodia must accelerate the pace of its democratic reforms, but it’s unclear how much sway he holds with a government that has become increasingly resistant to international criticism.

Surya Subedi, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, says he has seen encouraging developments in the southeast Asian nation. But there remain worrying trends.

Subedi faces a difficult balancing act when it comes to fulfilling his mission in Cambodia: being a vocal critic could risk alienating a government with which he must ultimately work, while underplaying key concerns could render him ineffective.

"He has all the room in the world [to criticise]," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. "But if his objective is not to offend Mr. Hun Sen and the Cambodian government, then he has no room at all."

Virak said he believes Subedi has managed to balance the two sides so far, though it may well be because a Cambodian government still dependent on international donors realises that it must tolerate his presence.

"I would like to see the government speed up the process of reform and the process of democratisation," Subedi told reporters Thursday, following a 10- day visit to the country. "If the reform agenda was sped up and if the process of democratisation was accelerated, many people would be able to enjoy their human rights, and the economic development that has been taking place in this country would be beneficial for all."

Rights groups have frequently criticised the government for its track record on land rights and freedom of speech. Local watchdog Adhoc, for example, counted more than 200 individual land dispute cases affecting more than 25,000 families in 2010.

Key figures with the main opposition party, meanwhile, are facing legal action - the party’s leader has left the country in self-exile, and another prominent member had her parliamentary immunity revoked.

In his comments Thursday, Subedi said he continued to be troubled by such problems.

"I am concerned about the narrowing of space for people to express their views peacefully and without fear, including those belonging to different political parties," he said.

The visit was Subedi’s fourth official mission here since he was appointed in March 2009.

Subedi’s predecessor, Kenyan legal scholar Yash Ghai, had a stormy relationship with Cambodia’s leaders, who did not take kindly to the envoy’s blunt critiques. By the time Ghai quit in late 2008, Prime Minister Hun Sen had taken to launching personal critiques of the envoy in public speeches.

In recent months the government has accused the U.N.’s top representative in Cambodia of meddling in its internal affairs.

Subedi has taken a more cautious approach during his visits. His criticisms Thursday were tempered by acknowledgement of what he said were positive moves.

The government, he said, recognises that it needs to reform the judiciary. Subedi has recommended that the government take steps to ensure the legal system is free from political influence - rights groups claim the government has often used the courts to silence its harshest critics. The government has also passed new legislation, including a revamped penal code and laws on demonstration and land expropriation.

Subedi said he was focused on taking a different approach than his predecessor. "Rather than looking at individual cases in isolation, I’m looking at the whole structure," he said. "Institutional approaches, structural approaches, the laws should be reformed, the legal regime should be strengthened and government policy should be improved. That’s the approach I’m taking."

Even so, the reaction to Subedi has not always been rosy.

Last September, the rights envoy issued a report highlighting what he said was a worrying lack of political independence in the legal system.

"On a number of occasions and especially in high-profile political cases, the judiciary seems to have allowed itself to be used or manipulated for political or purely private purposes," Subedi wrote in his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. "The courts are not trusted by the people to provide impartial justice."

At least one senior lawmaker objected to the findings.

"Based on my observations, Mr. Subedi is not different from Yash Ghai," parliamentarian Cheam Yeap was quoted as saying in the English-language Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

And when Subedi stated he was "disappointed" he was unable to meet with Hun Sen during a visit last June, the premier - who had called in sick - said the remark was disrespectful.

"He has been pretty diplomatic and critical at the same time," Virak said. "I think he’s pretty straightforward in his criticism. He’s been outspoken on some core issues that I think most of us in human rights have identified."

Whether or not that will result in substantial changes, however, remains to be seen.

In 2009, the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) made 91 sweeping recommendations aimed at improving Cambodia’s rights record - including addressing judicial independence, rampant corruption and land evictions. Cambodia later accepted all 91 of the recommendations, though it’s unclear how the government plans to implement them, if at all.

"Is it an indication that Cambodia agrees to all of them? Or is it an indication the Cambodian government doesn’t care about these recommendations and the UPR process," Virak said. "Whether Subedi’s own concerns will have an impact, I don’t know."


Vietnam, Cambodia strive to complete demarcation

26 Feb, 2011

Vietnamese and Cambodian officials on border issues have affirmed a resolve to complete land border demarcation and landmark erection by 2012 as the two countries’ leaders agreed.

At the fifth round of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee on Border Demarcation in Phnom Penh on February 24-25, officials agreed to increase cooperation to fulfill six main tasks this year.

The tasks include defining of at least 100 landmark positions, delineating 500km of border line, completing the switch to the UTM map on the 1/50,000 scale from the current use of the Bone map on the 1/100,000 scale, and identification of landmark positions on the map in March.

The two sides also agreed to join hands to fulfill publication of a set of the Vietnam-Cambodia land border terrain maps and speed up compilation of a protocol on land border demarcation between the two countries.

In 2010, the two sides identified 72 positions, built 73 positions and demarcated 155 km of border line.

The Vietnamese delegation to the meeting was led by Ho Xuan Son, Deputy Foreign Minister and head of Vietnam’s Joint Committee on Border Demarcation. The Cambodian delegation was headed by Var Kimhong, Senior Minister and head of Cambodia’s Joint Committee on Border Demarcation.


Sumitomo Electric to build plants in Cambodia, Philippines

26 Feb, 2011
Source: The Mainichi Daily News

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. will build manufacturing plants for automotive wire harnesses in Cambodia and the Philippines later this year to manage risks arising from the concentration of production of its mainline product in China, the president of the Osaka-based company said during a recent interview with Kyodo News.

"A labor shortage and wage hikes are occurring in China," Masayoshi Matsumoto said in reference to emerging risks in the country.

Outside Asia, Brazil is important for Sumitomo Electric because the South American country is "friendly to Japan and rich in natural resources," said Matsumoto, 66.

Sumitomo Electric is aiming to raise the proportion of overseas sales to 50 percent in fiscal 2011 from 40 percent in fiscal 2009 and will promote competent workers to executive posts regardless of nationality in order to expand overseas operations, he added.

(Mainichi Japan) February 26, 2011

U.S. Warship Arrives in Cambodia for Maritime Drill

26 Feb, 2011

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of the United States arrived in Cambodia's Sihanoukville Port on Saturday morning to participate in the Cambodian Maritime Exercise, starting from Feb. 27 to March 2, according to the media release from the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh.

The 31st MEU includes more than 2,200 marines and sailors, and is comprised of a command element, a reinforced infantry battalion, a composite helicopter squadron and a combat logistics battalion.

The warship's participation in the exercise is part of the U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Cooperation Program.

"The bilateral exercise will provide unique and dynamic opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and Cambodian military, while promoting relationship-building between militaries and local communities,"the press release said on Saturday.

It also ensured that the region is adequately prepared for regional humanitarian disasters, such as the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, by allowing partner nations to work together and build relationships before a critical need develops, it added.

"Our military forces engage in cooperative programs throughout the year aimed at developing relationships to allow for combined efforts,"Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer, 31st MEU, said in the statement.

Major events planned for the exercise include a port visit with liberty, a jungle exchange, a subject matter expert exchange at the Peace Keeping Training facility, English engagement exchanges, community relations projects, and a Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Release planning exercise.

The exercise is also scheduled to include C-130 and helicopter support operations to include supporting Joint Personnel Recovery efforts in the area.

During the exercise, the 31st MEU will also participate in a combined medical and dental civic action project, expected to treat approximately 3,800 patients.

According to exercise officials, this bilateral exchange will build friendships and increase mutual understanding.

"The U.S. government is dedicated to its enduring relationship with Cambodians," said Mark Wenig, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia.

The 31st MEU arrived in Cambodia after its participation in exercise Cobra Gold 2011 in Thailand on Feb. 7-18.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Vietnam prioritizes tackling inflation

25 Feb, 2011
Source: Earth Time

Hanoi - The Vietnamese government has approved a plan to tackle inflation, authorities said Friday.

The government had aimed to hold inflation at 7 per cent in 2011, but achieving that would be difficult as accumulative inflation for the first two months was at 3.87 per cent, economists said.

"Controlling inflation is the first priority of the government," said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung. "The austerity measures are not aimed at wages or government policy beneficiaries but to pause new equipment acquisitions, reduce energy spending and cut non-essential expenditures."

Vietnam faces soaring inflation, a growing deficit, a weak currency, falling foreign exchange reserves and a plummeting stock market. The targets approved Thursday included lowering credit supply growth to below 20 per cent and narrowing the trade deficit to below 16 per cent of total exports.

Government investment was to be cut to 38-39 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) from 41 per cent, the budget deficit reduced to 5 per cent of GDP and a "cautious and tight" monetary policy imposed.

Measures to achieve those targets include boosting agricultural production to reduce food imports, plans to reduce import taxes on raw materials to boost industrial production and a hike in electricity prices.

Ministries and provinces were instructed to cut public spending by 10 per cent. The central bank was to slow lending to non-productive sectors such as property and stock trading and restrict gold trading "The government's plan was viewed as major shift in its policy stance from emphasizing growth towards stabilizing the economy," said senior economist Le Dang Doanh.

The government wanted contain inflation at 8 per cent last year, but it hit 11.8 per cent.

Vietnam Stocks to Extend Slump on Inflation, Bao Viet Says

Vietnam Stock Index to Extend Slump on Inflation

Vietnam’s benchmark stock index, which has fallen 12 percent from a nine-month high, is likely to extend its slump on concern a government plan to curb inflation will slow the economy. Photographer: Le Quang Nhat/Bloomberg

25 Feb, 2011
Source: Bloomberg

Vietnam’s benchmark stock index, which has fallen 11 percent from a nine-month high, is likely to extend its drop on concern a government plan to curb inflation will slow the economy, according to Bao Viet Securities Co. and Vietnam International Securities Co.

The VN Index rose 1.2 percent to 466.96 at the close in Ho Chi Minh City today as trading volumes slumped. The gauge settled yesterday at the lowest level since Dec. 9 after the government outlined measures to tackle rising prices. The index may drop to 450, said Pham Thanh Thai Linh, Hanoi-based head of market strategy at Bao Viet Securities. Cao Thi Hong, vice general director of Vietnam International, a Hanoi-based brokerage, foresees the index sliding to 420.

“The package of measures that the government just signed is still not strong enough and the main concern is that the general macroeconomy is still bad,” Vietnam International’s Hong said. “Today’s gain in the VN Index is just like a bump on a sloping road. The low trading volume today showed that most of investors are very cautious.”

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is trying revive investor confidence in an economy facing the strain of consumer prices that may accelerate from a two-year high as electricity prices rise and four currency devaluations in 15 months spur import costs.

Foreign investors sold a net 14.3 billion dong of shares on the Ho Chi Minh City bourse on Feb. 24, taking total sales this month to 30.8 billion dong, according to data from the exchange.

Weekly Drop

The value of stock traded on the Ho Chi Minh City exchange tumbled 33 percent from yesterday to 654.6 billion dong, the lowest level in a month. For the week, the VN Index lost 7.3 percent, the biggest decline since December 2009.

“I still see that a range from 450 to 470 is fair for the index,” Bao Viet’s Linh said after the market closed. “Low trading volume indicates there was less selling today since whoever needs to sell may have already done so.”

His firm is a unit of Bao Viet Holdings, the nation’s biggest insurer. The company’s shares slipped 3.9 percent to 75,000 dong today. Bao Viet Holdings, the second-biggest company in the VN Index by market value, slumped 21 percent this week.

Masan Group Corp. rallied 4.6 percent to 79,500 dong, paring its drop this week to 11 percent. The food and financial services company is the VN Index’s fourth-biggest member.

The VN Index, a measure of 280 companies, slumped 11 percent from a nine-month high on Feb. 9, exceeding the 10 percent drop some investors refer to as a correction. The gauge slid 7 percent in the past month, making it Asia’s worst performer after Pakistan’s benchmark index.

‘Still Fragile’

“The market is still fragile as there is no supporting factor yet,” Bao Viet’s Linh said by phone yesterday. “The market will drop and then go sideways.”

Dung cut the credit-growth target to below 20 percent from 23 percent for 2011, and asked ministries to narrow the budget deficit to less than 5 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to a resolution presented on Feb. 24 to policy makers. Dung urged a “cautious and tight” monetary policy and lowered this year’s money supply growth target to about 15 percent to 16 percent, down from 21 percent to 24 percent.

The premier also asked the central bank to slow the growth and proportion of lending in non-productive sectors, especially property and stock trading. Inflation accelerated to a two-year high of 12.31 percent this month.

Attractive Valuations

Stock declines have dragged down the average valuation of the VN Index’s companies to 10.5 times estimated profit from about 11.7 times on Feb. 9, which was the highest level since July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“At current price levels, valuations are already very attractive, but that doesn’t mean stocks will advance immediately,” Bao Viet’s Linh said.

The central bank raised its refinancing rate by 2 percentage points to 11 percent last week, and boosted its reverse repurchase rate on Feb. 22. The bank devalued the dong on Feb. 11 to curb the nation’s trade shortfall and narrow the gap between official and black-market exchange rates.

The devaluations raise the risk of higher import costs, while a planned 15.3 percent increase in power tariffs on March 1 may also spur prices. The government estimates the impact of the devaluations and increases in fuel and electricity prices will raise Vietnam’s consumer price index by 2 percentage points this year, Finance Minister Vu Van Ninh said in Hanoi yesterday.

“The hike in electricity and petroleum prices will put pressure on inflation in March,” said Vietnam International’s Hong. “Local investors are losing confidence.”

--Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Nguyen Kieu Giang, Diep Ngoc Pham. Editors: Darren Boey, Richard Frost

To contact the reporters on this story: Nguyen Kieu Giang in Hanoi at; Diep Ngoc Pham in Hanoi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Darren Boey at

Bilateral border talks held with Vietnam

25 February 2011
Vong Sokheng
Source: Phnom Penh Post

As tension over the Kingdom’s western border continues to simmer following clashes between Cambodian and Thai forces earlier this month, attention turned to the east yesterday with a meeting of officials from Vietnam and Cambodia’s bilateral Joint Border Committee.

Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, joined Vietnamese deputy foreign minister and JBC co-chairman Ho Xuan Son yesterday at the Council of Ministers to discuss the countries’ demarcation progress from 2010 and plan additional efforts for this year.

Last year, the countries agreed on 155 kilometres worth of demarcation, or roughly 31 percent of their boundary, Var Kimhong said yesterday, adding that demarcation was 66 percent complete overall.

“We hope that the process will be complete by 2012 according to our goal,” Var Kimhong said yesterday.

The Danish firm BLOM Geomatics AS was awarded a US$1.5 million contract to map the Cambodian-Vietnamese border following a competitive bidding process last year.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard the case of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two villagers from Svay Rieng province who were arrested in 2009 after a protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment along the border in which they uprooted demarcation posts. The two villagers were found guilty of destruction of public property and jailed, serving nearly a year in prison before their release in October; Sam Rainsy remains abroad to avoid prosecution.

The Sam Rainsy Party leader was also found guilty of disinformation last year in connection with attempts to vindicate his border protest; in total, he faces 12 years in prison if he returns to the country.

Var Kimhong said yesterday that Sam Rainsy’s actions had created an “obstacle” for the demarcation process.

Vietnam: New Decree Punishes Press

Reporters Required to Publish News Sources

(New York, February 24, 2011) – The Vietnamese government’s new media decree, which fines journalists for vague infractions and requires them to publish sources, is a further blow to freedom of expression in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said today. Decree No. 2, Sanctions for Administrative Violations in Journalism and Publishing, goes into effect on February 25, 2011.

The decree, which Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed on January 6, stipulates fines from one million to 40 million dong (US$50–2,000) for journalists and newspapers that violate the decree’s overly broad and vague provisions, such as failing to abide by the requirements of the 1990 Press Law (as amended in 1999) to “provide honest domestic and international news in accordance with the interests of the country and the people.”

“The decree’s vague and arbitrary provisions are a prescription for wide-ranging self-censorship,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ‘interests of the country and the people’ are best served by letting journalists publish honest news, not by punishing them.”

Decree No. 2 authorizes many branches of government to impose fines on journalists and newspapers at any time, based on arbitrary determinations by officials at various levels and from numerous agencies of what constitutes “the interests of the country and the people.” These include inspectors from the Ministry of Information and Communications, chairs of the People’s Committees at all levels, the police force, the border army, the marine police, customs and tax officials, market management inspectors, and others.

“In any country, authorizing officials from multiple departments and levels to regulate media content and impose fines would be a disaster, but this is especially dangerous in Vietnam, where corruption is deep-seated and endemic,” Robertson said. “Instead of being used to improve journalistic standards, this law will become yet another way for local officials to fatten their own purses.”

Article 7 of the decree imposes fines on journalists who fail to publish their sources of information in newspapers. It also sets out fines of between 10 million and 20 million dong (US$500-1,000) for journalists and newspapers if they “use documents and materials from organizations and personal letters and materials from individuals, without clearly stating the sources of such information, related to cases under investigation, cases that have not been brought to trial, ‘negative’ cases (cac vu viec tieu cuc), or cases where there are indications that laws have been broken but the relevant state offices have not yet issued conclusions.”

“The new media decree appears designed to intimidate whistle-blowers and victims of rights abuses from cooperating with the media,” Robertson said. “It will discourage them from providing information to journalists for fear of being exposed and then targeted for reprisals by authorities.”

Decree No. 2 appears to conflict with another Vietnamese law, the 1990 Press Law, which states in article 7 that “the press has the right and duty not to disclose the names of those who provide information if it is harmful to them, unless requested by the Head of the People’s Procuracy or the Judge of the People’s Court at the provincial and equivalent level or higher, for investigation and trial of serious criminal cases.”

Decree No. 2 is likely to deepen the already pervasive censorship in the country and the repression of journalists and bloggers with independent views, Human Rights Watch said. Vietnam already bans publications that oppose the government, divulge broadly defined “state secrets,” or disseminate “reactionary” ideas. There are few privately owned media outlets; most publications are issued by the government, the Communist Party, or party-controlled mass organizations.

Journalists who cross the vague line set by the government are often punished harshly, Human Rights Watch said. For example, on October 15, 2008, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced Nguyen Viet Chien, a reporter for the newspaper Thanh Nien (Youth), to two years in prison and Nguyen Van Hai, a reporter for the newspaper Tuoi Tre (Young Age), to a two-year suspended sentence for “abusing democratic rights” under penal code article 258. Both reporters were prosecuted for their coverage of the high-profile PMU 18 corruption case, which involved the Transportation Ministry’s mishandling of official development assistance from Japan. Four other journalists were stripped of their press cards in connection with the case.

In 2009, two other reporters from Tuoi Tre, Phan Que and Vo Hong Quynh, were suspended for six months for covering a corruption case involving the construction of the Rusalka resort center in Nha Trang.

Despite such restrictions, reporters from the state media often manage to carry out innovative investigative journalism, particularly regarding corruption by government officials at the local level, Human Rights Watch said. For instance, Thanh Tra (Inspection) published an investigation in November 2010 of the Van Cao – Ho Tay road project in Hanoi, and Nha Bao & Cong Luan (Journalists and Public Opinion) reported on environmental pollution in Tu Liem district in Hanoi in December.

“The Vietnamese government should recognize that a prosperous economy also requires freedom of the press, and let reporters do their jobs, not obstruct them,” Robertson said. “The new decree is a throwback to the past, aimed at punishing independent reporting and promoting the return of government propaganda.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Vietnam, please visit:

Expert Stresses Need To Ensure Freedom Of Expression In Cambodia

By Peter Fowler
25 Feb, 2011

(NewsRoom America) -- An independent United Nations expert today voiced his concern about the use of the crime of incitement against human rights defenders in Cambodia, while stressing the need to ensure that people can express their views peacefully and without fear.

“Criticism is not a crime but an exercise of freedom of conscience, an act of intelligence,” Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, aid at the end of his fourth fact-finding mission to the country.

“There is a narrowing of space for people to express their views peacefully and without fear, including those belonging to different political parties,” he warned. “The peaceful expression of opinion should not be dealt with under the Penal Code as is currently the case with crimes such as defamation and falsification of information.”

The 15 to 24 February visit focused on the capacity of parliament to uphold the rights of the people and democratic norms.

“Democracy is not only about holding periodic elections, but developing a culture of debate, pluralism and participation. A properly functioning democracy requires an effective opposition,” said the expert, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

Mr. Subedi welcomed efforts taken by the Government to improve the situation of human rights, including those related to the judiciary, land rights and housing issues, preventing torture, and peaceful demonstrations.

He will submit his full report to the Human Rights Council later this year.

Degar-Montagnard: Canada Gives Asylum to Religious Refugees

The arrival of 50 Montagnard refugees who had fled persecution in Vietnam was announced today by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Below is n press release published by Marketwire:

Canada agreed, at the emergency request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to resettle a group of Vietnamese Montagnard refugees who had been under risk of return to Vietnam.

"Canada had the capacity to act quickly in response to this situation and we are pleased to welcome these individuals to Québec City as they have been living in an uncertain situation for far too long," said Minister Kenney.

This group of Montagnard hill tribespeople from Vietnam's Central Highlands fled in 2006 and crossed the border into Cambodia. They were initially under consideration for resettlement to another country, but had not yet been admitted there. As the refugee centre in Cambodia was closing, Canadian officials acted quickly to resettle the remaining refugees. The acceptance by Canada of this group means that the protection needs of all members of the original group that fled in 2006 have now been addressed.

"Canada has a proud tradition of opening its doors to people from around the world and providing a safe haven for those fleeing communism," added Minister Kenney. "Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, more than half a million Vietnamese fled Vietnam. Thanks to the outpouring of support from Canadians, we welcomed more than 60,000 refugees in two years from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia under the Private Sponsorship Program."

The Montagnard refugees are just the latest refugees from Vietnam to find protection in Canada. In 2008, the Government of Canada facilitated, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, the immigration of approximately 250 Vietnamese who had been living in the Philippines without status since the late 1970s, when they fled communism.

"We are committed to further strengthening Canada's role as a global leader in refugee protection," Minister Kenney said. "That is why the Government of Canada committed, as part of the measures to reform Canada's asylum system, to increase the total number of genuine refugees resettled annually by 20 percent, including those seeking freedom from persecution."

"These refugees came to Canada the legal way, applying to the UNHCR and then being selected for resettlement. They didn't pay human smugglers to jump the queue, or try to abuse our immigration system by lying to Immigration Canada," added Minister Kenney.

The Montagnards arrived in Quebec as government-assisted refugees. This means they will receive settlement support through Quebec's humanitarian immigration program.

FM: Unesco visit ‘good for Thailand’

25 Feb, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The visit to Thailand by the special envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) today will be beneficial to the country, foreign affairs spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry will take this opportunity to provide the envoy with the facts relating to the recent border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops, said Mr Thani, the director-general of the Department of Information at the ministry.

He said the special envoy on Preah Vihear temple for Unesco, Koïchiro Matsuura, will not be allowed to visit the clash sites in Si Sa Ket border province as it is not appropriate at this time.

Mr Thani excpected Mr Matsuura will later travel to Cambodia.

“But he will visit only Phnom Penh and will not go to the disputed border area,” he said.

He did not think the visit by the special envoy of Unesco amounted to interference in Thailand’s internal affairs.

Mr Matsuura arrived in Bangkok on Thursday night and will have discussions with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Natural Resources and Environment minister Suvit Khunkitti this afternoon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cambodia criticised over attempts to regulate NGOs

24 Feb, 2011
By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia has come under fire over a draft law to regulate non-governmental organisations that critics, including the United States, say is another attempt by the authorities to restrict public freedom and silence dissent.

Cambodia says it wants to regulate more than 3,000 foreign and local NGOs and civil society groups, but opponents argue the law will give the state powers to shut them down for no reason and with no right of appeal.

The draft follows the passage of draconian laws in the past 18 months that increased punishment for defamation and placed restrictions on protests. Rights groups say that is designed to intimidate government critics and the political opposition.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the law would give the Interior Ministry "boundless discretition" to disband any body it disagreed with and many organisations would be unable to meet registration requirements.

"Such a result will have chilling repercussions for the freedom of association and expression of ordinary people and will significantly reduce the democratic space in Cambodia," he said. Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries, is enjoying an unprecedented period of stability and economic growth after decades of civil war.

But critics and aid donors say its democratic credentials are still lagging those of other Asian countries and that its human rights record is worsening.

During a visit to Cambodia this week, Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary of the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, said the proposed law was unnecessary.

"The United States has made clear that we have concern about the law, that we see Cambodian civil society as something that Cambodia should be proud of," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"There's a vibrant group of voices here and that's something that ought to be protected and preserved," Baer said. "We don't yet understand the necessity of the law."


Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party is widely accused of abusing its parliamentary majority to pass laws curtailing freedom of expression and leaning on the judiciary to punish critics.

Political commentator Chea Vannath said the draft law could lead to a public backlash and limit the country's attractiveness as it seeks to lure foreign investors and tourists.

"People in some countries have risen up against their governments, causing foreign investors a big loss," she said, referring to anti-government unrest in several Arab states. "It is understandable that investors want to invest in a country that is fully democratic."

The government defended the bill, saying the law was required under the constitution and would help NGOs do their work better.

"There are increasing numbers of NGOs and associations so there needs to be a law to regulate them," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

(Editing by Martin Petty and Alan Raybould)

Yellow Shirts file charges against PM, Cabinet for unlawful ISA re-enforcement

24 Feb, 2011
(MCOT online news)

BANGKOK, Feb 24 -- Thailand's yellow-clad movement, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Thursday filed charges against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, his cabinet and the national chief of police for what they accused of unlawful re-enforcement of Internal Security Act (ISA), while seeking court order to revoke the security law measures.

PAD key leader Prapan Koonmee and spokesman Panthep Puapongpan filed charges against the premier, his cabinet and national police chief Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree, in his capacity as director of the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) for invoking the ISA which the movement claimed slandered the PAD and the Thailand Patriots Network who gathered on a mission to protect the country.

The PAD complaint's today claimed the ISA announcement and regulations are unlawful and is seeking the court injunction to annul the law enforcement, as well as calling for an emergency hearing on the case in order to protect the people's rights and freedom.

The court accepted the PAD complaint for consideration and set to hear the petition on Feb 28, while calling the premier and the national police chief to testify the following day.

The PAD have staged rallies outside Government House since Jan 25, demanding the withdrawal of Thailand from the World Heritage Committee, the revocation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Cambodia in 2000 and the pushing of Cambodian people living in the disputed border areas back to their homeland.

The Cabinet decided to re-impose the ISA from Feb 9-23 in seven districts around Government House to provide the legal framework for containing intensifying protests and later extended the law enforcement until March 25.

So far ten protest leaders have been summoned for violating the ISA as they defied CAPO orders.

Australian newspaper editor due in Myanmar court

YANGON — An Australian newspaper editor is due in court in Myanmar on Thursday in a case that some observers say highlights the risks of doing business in the country, long dominated by the military.

Ross Dunkley, co-founder of the Myanmar Times, the country's only newspaper with foreign investment, was arrested two weeks ago and locked up in Yangon's Insein prison, according to officials and his business partner.

He is due to appear at the city's Kamaryut Township court for an initial hearing. The authorities have not yet announced the charges against him but official sources say he is accused of assaulting a sex worker.

"He is likely to be deported soon after he's sentenced. We do not keep many foreigners in jail here," said a Myanmar home ministry official who did not want to be named.

David Armstrong, a business partner in Cambodia, where Dunkley is a key shareholder in the Phnom Penh Post daily, has suggested the newspaper editor is the victim of a business dispute.

His arrest "coincides with tense and protracted discussions" between the foreign and the domestic investors in the paper, Post Media chairman David Armstrong said in a statement shortly after Dunkley's arrest.

Armstrong told AFP on the eve of the hearing that he was optimistic the Australian would be exonerated.

"I'm sure he's done nothing wrong, but we don't have any precise detail of what the charges are," he said. "We hope that one day Ross will be able to come back to the Myanmar Times."

A second home ministry official denied the charges were linked to a power struggle.

The authorities "have no interest in their business problem", he said.

"He (Dunkley) broke the law by beating the woman. She was seriously injured."

Some observers believe that the brash Australian -- who as a foreigner blazed a trail in Myanmar's tightly controlled media industry -- fell out of favour with the ruling elite in the authoritarian country.

"I think because his business has been quite successful and the newspaper has been quite influential, if anything the regime has targeted him," said Trevor Wilson, an academic and former Australian ambassador to Myanmar.

"It has been suggested to me that they want to get him out of the country and get control of his magazine all for free and if that is the case they will probably succeed," he said.

Wilson was doubtful that the case would have much impact on foreign investors' stance towards the country -- the target of Western sanctions -- as "there is enough to put them off anyway".

"But it is a very important case -- a tiny media outlet pushing the boundaries where they haven't been before," he said.

Dunkley was last week replaced as chief executive of Myanmar Times publisher Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM) and as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper's English-language edition, which is subject to pre-publication censorship.

One of his partners, Australian mining executive Bill Clough, was appointed acting managing director of MCM and editor-in-chief of the English-language edition.

A source at the Myanmar Times who did not want to be named said that "morale is low in the newsroom because of what has happened as well as uncertainty about the future".

Dunkley and his foreign partners control 49 percent of MCM while his Myanmar partner Tin Tun Oo owns 51 percent.

The Australian, who had experience working in the media in Vietnam and Cambodia, co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000 with local partner Sonny Swe, the son of an influential member of the junta's military intelligence service.

But Sonny Swe was jailed in 2005 and his stake was handed to Tin Tun Oo, who is believed to be close to the military regime's information minister, in circumstances that are unclear.

Tin Tun Oo was a candidate for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) during a controversial November election, but was not elected to the country's new parliament, which opened at the end of January.

Tin Tun Oo could not be reached for comment, but he was quoted by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday as saying that reports of a business dispute were untrue.

The Khmer-Krom Prisoners of Conscience

24 Feb, 2011
Source: Khmer Krom Network

The peaceful revolution overthrowing the dictatorship regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were successfully organized mostly by the youths. The Tunisian and Egyptian youths effectively used the Internet and Mobile phones to spark the revolution. Now the revolution to demand for democracy spreads to other countries. When does it come to Asia, especially in Vietnam?

Since 1975, Vietnam has been ruling by a Vietnamese Communist Party. The people in Vietnam, especially the Khmer-Krom, have no voice to demand for their rights. When people stand up for their rights, they are labeled as the “Separatists” and sent to prison. The Khmer-Krom have no rights to defend for themselves in front of the Vietnamese legal system.

There are three well-known Khmer-Krom land right activists who are currently imprisoned by the Vietnamese government:

  • Mr. Huynh Ba used to lead the Khmer-Krom farmers to demand returning their confiscated farmlands in Khleang (Soc Trang) province. He has been arrested and imprisoned since 2009.
  • Mrs. Tran Thi Chau has been arrested and imprisoned since April 2010 because of the land-grab dispute with the Vietnamese Authorities in Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) province.
  • Mr. Chau Hen used to organize peaceful demonstration to demand returning the confiscated farmlands in Sway Ton (Tri Ton) district, Moth Chrouk (An Giang) province in 2007 and 2008. He escaped to seek refugee status in Thailand in UNHCR but the UNHCR asked him to go back to his hometown because the UNHCR staffs believed that the Vietnamese government would not arrest him. Unfortunately, when he arrived at his home on December 17, 2010, he has been arrested since then.

If the Vietnamese government keeps using its oppression policies to oppress the Khmer-Krom and push the Khmer-Krom to live in poverty and no future, then the Khmer-Krom farmers would not wait to die. They are also humans. They would stand up to demand for their rights.

The Khmer-Krom Youths and the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk students in Kampuchea-Krom have been using Internet and Mobile phone to network with each other. It is time to help raising the issues of the unfortunate and voiceless Khmer-Krom farmers to the world. If the youths in Tunisia and Egypt can use Internet and Mobile phone to bring down the dictatorship in their countries, then the Khmer-Krom Youths and the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk students in Kampuchea-Krom, at least, could use Internet and Mobile phone to ask the world for help to urging Vietnam to release the Khmer-Krom Prisoners of Conscience without any condition.

Please help sparking the light of hope to save Khmer-Krom in Kampuchea-Krom.

PM: Thailand is ready to respond

24 Feb, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says Thailand is prepared to strike with full force against Cambodia if it continues to violate Thai sovereignty.

Bridge over troubled waters Army engineers build a makeshift bridge across a river near the border village of Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket. The structure, designed to accommodate tanks, is planned for use in case bridges are destroyed in fighting. JETJARAS NARANONG

Mr Abhisit insisted yesterday that Thailand had the right to act against Cambodia - and he has the staunch backing of the army.

There has been speculation about whether Thailand would respond to Cambodian aggression after Indonesia was invited to deploy 15 observers to inspect the two sides of the disputed border area.

The invitation was issued on Tuesday during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers meeting chaired by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta.

"There isn't any agreement that leaves us unable to protect our sovereignty," Mr Abhisit said. "If [Cambodia] provokes [future] clashes, we have the right to launch a full retaliatory attack."

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha backed the premier, saying there would be no withdrawal of troops. Thai forces remained in position in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre border zone.

"No one is saying anything about withdrawal." Gen Prayuth said.

"Who would do that? If Cambodia doesn't pull its troops back, we can't. If Cambodia doesn't cease fire, we can't."

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Irina Bokova's special envoy on the Preah Vihear temple, Koichiro Matsuura, will travel to Bangkok and Phnom Penh from tomorrow until Tuesday to discuss how to safeguard the centuries-old temple, a Unesco world heritage site, with the Thai and Cambodian prime ministers.

Mr Matsuura, a former Unesco director-general and a former chair of the World Heritage Committee, will also examine with both sides ways of reducing tension and promoting dialogue about the preservation of the temple, Unesco said in a statement released yesterday.

Ms Bokova has voiced concern over damage to the Hindu temple caused by the fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers earlier this month.

Thailand blamed Cambodia for using the temple as a military base to open fire on Thai soldiers

The Thai military said they had no choice but to fire back.

Former Thai ambassador Asda Jayanama, the chair of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, has flown to Paris to clarify the Preah Vihear situation with Ms Bokova.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Unesco representative would meet the prime minister, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti and Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya tomorrow.

Mr Panitan said security officials would not allow him to visit the border because the situation was still sensitive and tense.

Cambodia orders popular blog blocked

Source: CPJ

Bangkok, February 23, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that Cambodian authorities have ordered local Internet service providers to block a number of websites, including the popular KI Media news aggregator and commentary blog, considered critical of the government.

Voice of America's Khmer-language service reported on February 17 that it had been forwarded e-mail correspondence from a senior official in Cambodia's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT) telling local ISPs--WiCam, Telesurf, and Hello--to censor websites that contained anti-government content.

The German Press Agency DPA reported that "several" websites critical of the government had gone offline in recent weeks, and that at least one local ISP carried a message that KI Media had been blocked "as ordered by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Cambodia." On February 17, the English-language daily Phnom Penh Post published minutes of a February 10 government meeting that quoted MPT Minister So Khum ordering mobile phone operators to block access to certain websites that were adversely affecting the country's "morality and tradition." The Post reported that So Khum denied that the government ordered ISPs to block any websites.

"We are troubled by reports that Cambodia is increasingly curbing online freedom," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Senior Southeast Asia Representative. "We urge Prime Minister Hun Sen's government to immediately reverse course. The Internet is one of the few spaces left for free expression in Cambodia and that is how it should remain."

Hun Sen's ruling Cambodia People's Party dominates the country's print and broadcast media. There were previous indications that KI Media was at risk of censorship. In mid-December, the blog's administrators directed readers to a Radio Free Asia story that outlined ways to circumvent online censorship. On December 19, a Cambodian court sentenced U.N. World Food Program employee and Cambodian national Seng Kunnaka to six months in prison for circulating articles posted on KI Media about a border dispute with Vietnam, according to news reports.

US backs ASEAN efforts to resolve Thailand-Cambodia border spat

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has welcomed ASEAN's efforts to resolve a deadly border dispute between member states Cambodia and Thailand.

Forty observers from Indonesia will monitor a cease-fire after violence broke out this month near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, scene of a long-running territorial dispute. Indonesia is current chair of the Southeast Asian grouping.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday the U.S. also supports the ASEAN foreign ministers' call for Cambodia and Thailand to resume bilateral negotiations "at the earliest opportunity."

The 10-nation group, long criticized as ineffectual, is trying to take a more active role in regional affairs.

At least eight people have died in the recent fighting, and thousands have been displaced.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leaflets rap sale of three lakes

23 February 2011
Tep Nimol
Phnom Penh Post

Police in Kampong Cham province are investigating the mysterious distribution of roughly 10 leaflets outside the local Cambodia People’s Party office last Friday. The leaflets urged the provincial governor to intervene in order to save three local lakes.

The leaflets said, “Where there is domination, there is a movement. The country has laws and we stand up to get our land back.”

The leaflets asked Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as Kampong Cham Provincial Governor Hun Neng to visit the site and help preserve the Tun Soang, Chor Trea and Tras lakes in Thbong Khmum district.
The leaflets added: “Do not sell [the lakes].”

Hang Vanjohn, Kampong Cham town deputy police chief, said that the case is under investigation but they have yet to find any clues.

Hang Vanjohn confirmed that police confiscated the leaflets and are carrying out an investigation.

He claims the leaflet distribution was illegal since the perpetrators are able to file a complaint or make an open suggestion.

He further confirmed that police have yet to identify any suspects in the case.

Kun Navuth, administration director of Kampong Cham provincial hall had no knowledge about the leaflet distribution. However, he confirmed that “no company has invested in the lakes yet, and he suspects it is not a concern for citizens at this point.

Thai Patriots submit royal petition against Article 190

23 Feb, 2011
Source: The Nation

The Thai Patriots Network has petitioned for the royal intervention to block the promulgation of the amended Article 190 of the Constitution, network leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong said on Wednesday.

Article 190 prescribes for the parliamentary scrutiny of the fraimework for negotiating international agreements and the amended provision is designed to bypass such scrutiny, he said.
"The amended Article 190, if promulgated, will likely risk the Thailand's loss of disputed areas to Cambodia," he said.

PM: No troop withdrawal from border

23 Feb, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The army will not withdraw any troops from the Thai-Cambodian border, even though Indonesia is about to send a team of observers there, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday.

He said Thailand has the right to protect its sovereignty and to retaliate if its rights are violated.

He believed the Asean observers would help deter clashes between soldiers of the two countries.

On the coming visit of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation representatives this Friday, the prime minister said preparations had been made to fully brief them on the real problems between Thailand and Cambodia, so they would understand.

The Unesco representatives would be asked to make suggestions on how to end the problems, he said.

Mr Abhisit said he did not know about reports the villagers of Phum Srol village in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district were planning to file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice to demand compensation from Cambodia for property damage and loss of life during the fighting earlier this month.

The government's immediate responsibility was to help repair their houses, which were damaged by the cross-border fire, he said.

Evacuees from Cambodia-Thai border urged to return home

23 Feb, 2011

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's wife Bun Rany on Wednesday encouraged the evacuees from the deadly armed clashes on the disputed border between Cambodia and Thailand to return home as the tension has eased.

Bun Rany, who is the president of Cambodian Red Cross, visited 2,686 families in a refugees camp in Preah Vihear province's Kulen district. The remaining evacuees were out of the total 3,200 families who fled the clashes on Feb. 4-7.

"She has advised those evacuees to return home as the tension has eased," Nhim Vanda, the first vice-president of the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management, told Xinhua by telephone.

"She also informed those evacuees about the ASEAN's support to send Indonesian observers to the border area to ensure a permanent ceasefire," he added.

Nhim Vanda said: "Evacuees are still afraid to return home, but I believed that they will begin to go back after Bun Rany's remarks."

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The territorial dispute over a 4.6 square kms of scrub around the temple resulted in military build-up along the border and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers.

The latest clashes unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, causing casualties on both sides, and tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers to flee home.

The informal ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Feb. 22 agreed to send Indonesian observers to monitor ceasefire between the two member states.

Source: Xinhua

Vietnam-Cambodia foster cooperative ties

23 Feb, 2011
VOV News

(VOV) - Vietnam wants to further foster ties with Cambodia in all fields, especially in trade, education and training, security and defence, politics and diplomacy, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has said.

During a meeting with Cambodian Minister of Planning, Chhay Than in Hanoi on February 23, PM Dung praised results of talks between Mr Than and the Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment, Vo Hong Phuc. He said the visit will contribute to strengthening co-operative ties between the two countries. “Vietnam will do its utmost to further develop friendly and cooperative ties with Cambodia, bringing practical benefits for both sides,” he said.

PM Dung affirmed the Government is willing to support the two ministries to implement cooperative projects.

Vietnam currently has about 90 projects in Cambodia, with a combined capital of more than US$2 billion. Cooperation in aviation, telecommunications, industry and rubber plantation and processing made significant progress in recent years.

An investment promotion forum presided over by the two Prime Ministers will be held in Cambodia in April.

Minister Chhay Than congratulated Vietnamese leaders on the success of the 11th National Party Congress and said Cambodian leaders praised Vietnam’s achievements in recent times. He added thanks for Vietnam’s assistance, as Cambodia has achieved peace, stability and development, local people’s living conditions have improved and the poverty rate reduced to 25.4 percent in 2010.

Minister Than said two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and Cambodia in 2010 reached US$1 billion. More than 30 Vietnamese businesses invested in Cambodia in 2010 with total registered capital of nearly US$700 million.