Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cambodia rejects arrangement for deployment of observers on disputed Cambodian-Thai border

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Xinhua

Cambodia has rejected arrangement for the deployment of Indonesian observers to the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple because Thailand has proposed a location in Cambodian territory for observers on its side, Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said Saturday.

The rejection was in response to the 5th modified terms of reference (TOR) submitted by Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa, current rotating ASEAN chair, on April 28, for Indonesian observers to be deployed in the disputed border areas in order to monitor ceasefire.

"Cambodia cannot accept the fifth revised TOR because Thailand has proposed four locations for the observers on its side, but one of the locations is in Cambodian territory at Svay Chhrum area, though Thailand uses a different name," Hor Namhong said at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from submitting a request to the International Court of Justice for the interpretation of the Court's judgment of 1962 on the case concerning the Preah Vihear temple.

He said that the Svay Chhrum area in Preah Vihear province is in Cambodian territory as far as 7 kilometers from the border line.

"I will reply to Marty that Cambodia cannot accept the fifth TOR," he said.

Cambodia has proposed three locations -- Ta Sem, Chak Chreng and Pram Makara -- near Preah Vihear temple for the deployment of observers on its side.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962.

The 11th century temple was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 7, 2008. But the dispute over the 4.6 square kilometers scrub next to the temple has sparked periodic border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand. The latest in a series of deadly clashes has killed over a dozen soldiers on both sides since April 22.

ASEAN-Japan customs heads meet to accelerate trade facilitation cooperation

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Xinhua

Customs chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan gathered here on Friday in an effort to promote trade facilitation towards cross-border flow of goods in Asian region.

The meeting was chaired by Pen Simon, Cambodian director general of customs and excise department, and Atsuo Shibota, director general, customs and tariff bureau of Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Kunio Mikuriya, secretary general of World Customs Organization.

Speaking in the meeting, Pen Simon said that the meeting was vital for ASEAN-Japan customs heads to meet and exchange experiences on the concept of Asia Cargo Highway, which is a long term strategy to facilitate free flows of goods in Asia.

"Also, it is a chance to make closer relations and cooperation between ASEAN Japan customs officials," he said.

He added that the heads of customs had also discussed ways to simplify procedures, reduce fees and create favorable conditions for commercial exchange in order to help to boost economic development in the region.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from Asian Development Bank, which has been implementing a five year project to improve trade facilitation in ASEAN under the financial support of 25 million U.S. dollars from Japan.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

Border clashes end, 10 soldiers injured

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The exchange of fire between Thai and Cambodian troops along the border in Surin province which started early Friday night had stopped about 6.30am on Saturday, reports said.

A total of ten soldiers were injured in the fighting, 2 seriously. They all were admitted to Surin hospital and Veerawat Yothin military hospital, according to the reports.

The soldiers are;

1. Lt Kosit Songsaeng
2. Lt Veera Chaichaval
3. Serg 1st Class Boontien Srichan
4. Serg Pongsathorn Bangkaew
5. Pvt Krisada Promchak
6. Pvt Damrong Buakhao
7. Pvt Kraisorn Inchuay
8. Pvt Sarawut Chujamroon
9. Pvt Wanchai Bandith
10. Pvt Sumeth Panthong

Altogether 7 soldiers, one civilian were killed and 95 people and soldiers injured in the border clashes, which started last Friday, April 22.

Abhisit says govt ready for ICJ petition defence

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

Cambodia's request to the International Court of Justice for legal clarification to settle the border dispute around the Preah Vihear temple is not unexpected, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.

Mr Abhisit added yesterday that he had prepared for Cambodia's petition to the ICJ and the government is ready to present its defence if necessary.

A legal consultant has been hired to prepare its points in terms of legal aspects and facts.

Cambodia has asked the ICJ to interpret the court's 1962 ruling, which awarded the ancient Hindu temple ruins to Cambodia

Abhisit: Efforts to end clashes

A statement issued by Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation yesterday said Phnom Penh felt it was necessary to have the interpretation "in order to peacefully and definitely settle the boundary problem between the two countries".

Mr Abhisit did not comment on some critics' remarks that Cambodia had picked a fight with Thailand as part of an orchestrated plan to find grounds for lodging the ICJ request.

Mr Abhisit said efforts to end the clashes would continue. However, Thailand would retaliate if Cambodia opened fire first.

Information Department director-general Thani Thongpakdi yesterday criticised Cambodia for overlooking Asean by filing its petition with the ICJ.

Mr Thani said Cambodia had no intention to solve the problem bilaterally and overlooked Asean, which had offered help to solve the conflict.

Mr Thani said earlier Cambodia had informed Thailand it would bring the conflict to the ICJ if Joint Boundary Commission talks came to a halt.

The ICJ may consider in three weeks whether it will accept Cambodia's petition, Mr Thani said. If it accepts, it will take up to two years before it reaches a ruling.

Broken ceasefire leaves trust in tatters

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The government has voiced disappointment over the clashes at the Thai-Cambodian border which broke out only 10 hours after a ceasefire agreement was reached.

The fighting prompted a joint press conference between the army, the government and the Foreign Ministry.

"Thailand is very disappointed about the clashes that show Cambodia's insincerity despite the fact that the field troops of both sides had agreed to a ceasefire," said acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

"The government insists on its stance that the ceasefire must be strictly observed before further talks are pursued. The prime minister has made it clear he is happy to hold a dialogue. But if the situation doesn't improve, a dialogue will not be as useful as it is supposed to," he said. Both sides agreed to a truce as of 12pm on Thursday after talks between the 2nd Army's Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon and Lt Gen Chea Mon, chief of the Cambodian 4th Region Army, at a casino at the Chong Jom-O Samet checkpoint in Surin's Kap Choeng district.

However around 9.30pm the same day, fighting with rifles and hand-grenades erupted and lasted for an hour. A second round of fighting reportedly took place at 2am yesterday and ended at 6am.

One Thai soldier was killed and four injured, increasing the total deaths on the Thai side to eight, including one civilian, after continuous clashes erupted on April 22.

Cambodia has reported that at least eight of its troops have been killed.

Gunfire was confirmed near Ta Kwai temple last night.

"Cambodian troops attacked first by firing rifles and throwing grenades at us," army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday.

"We just responded to their attack with rifles but if it happens again we will have to retaliate further," he said, adding the talks on Thursday were not some sort of commitment.

Gen Prayuth revealed that Cambodian military commanders had made contact following the fighting and agreed to uncover why the agreed ceasefire had been broken.

The army chief said that Cambodia intends to use the border skirmishes to internationalise the border disputes.

He added that bilateral talks are the preferable way to resolve the border conflict, but noted that if a third party has to be involved there is nothing he can do about it.

"I'm not sure if [Cambodian prime minister] Hun Sen has sincerity, I don't know what he is thinking. We can't change him," said Gen Prayuth.

Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said there could be a communication breakdown among Cambodian troops.

"If we look on the bright side, it might be a communication problem because the commander in charge of the area where the fighting erupts is not Lt Gen Chea Mon," he said.

However, he added that a group of 10 military officers was dispatched early yesterday to discuss how to avoid further clashes.

Col Sansern insisted that further steps to negotiations were out of the question as long as the border fighting continued.

Second Army Region spokesman Prawit Hookaew said yesterday the incident was not an actual breach of the ceasefire agreement because the talks had been informal.

"It can't guarantee there will be no more fighting. They wanted field commanders to make contact immediately when any clash erupted to contain the situation," he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has accused Thai troops of initiating the fighting.

The resumption of hostilities so soon after a peace deal demonstrated the "pointlessness of bilateral negotiations", said the Cambodian government, which has continuously campaigned for a third party to be involved.

"Less than 12 hours [after the agreement] the Thai military again attacked, and fighting continued until the next morning," it said.

A Thai government source at the border noted that the Thai military might have talked to the wrong people.

Lt Gen Chea Mon does not have "real" power over the troops in the combat areas, said the source.

The areas where the border skirmishes have taken place for the past week are under the jurisdiction of deputy army commander Gen Chim Janpua, according to the source.

Local villagers in Ban Nong Danna on Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district said yesterday they heard the sound of sporadic gunfire throughout Thursday night. However they said there was no artillery shelling.

Chong Jom checkpoint in Surin's Kap Choeng district remained closed yesterday and trading was limited.

History points to negotiation as the only answer

30 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The continuing fighting between Cambodian and Thai troops along the porous and ill-defined border causes trouble and inconvenience for ordinary folks on both sides, not counting the deaths and injuries inflicted on soldiers, noted a Thai Rath editorial.

Thai Rath said folks on both sides had been living in peace with each other for a very long time. An example is Nong Chan village, Khok Sung district, Sa Kaeo province where villagers grow rice and raise animals peacefully on a common field with Cambodian farmers even though a definite border demarcation has yet to be settled. Village chiefs on both sides have pledged that once a definite border demarcation is established, any farm land that may extrude through the border line will be cut off from the original plot and taken possession of by the other side willingly without any protest.

It is true that the border disputes occur because both sides rely on different maps and thus claim ownership of disputed areas. When both sides allow politics to dictate their actions, it is inevitable that peaceful settlement is hard to reach. As long as definite demarcation is not implemented, border disputes can always occur, but they should not necessarily lead to skirmishes. Diplomatic means are still the best choice, advocated Thai Rath.

The current skirmishes at Ta Kwai and Ta Thom temples and previously at Preah Vihear temple have not only resulted in several deaths and injuries, the conflicts have also left a bitter legacy for future generations. The more the skirmishes go on, the harder it becomes to reach a border settlement. Thai Rath cited an example of the Sino-Vietnamese border war in February 1979 which resulted in about 26,000 deaths on the Chinese side while the Vietnamese death toll was 37,000 before both sides agreed to sign a formal border demarcation. This should provide a lesson that no matter how many troops die in border conflicts, the problem can only be settled through negotiation.

In the present circumstance, Thailand may find it difficult to hold bilateral talks with Cambodia to settle the conflict because Cambodia does not seem to want to talk without any intervention from a third party due to political reasons and the desire to own and manage 4.6 sq km of disputed area surrounding Preah Vihear temple. It is certainly the case that whenever there is a skirmish, the Cambodian government promptly sends a letter to request that the UN Security Council step in to mediate in the dispute. At the same time the Cambodian government whips up nationalistic fever among its people to rally for the people's support.

With no cooperation from the other side, it is no surprise that the Thai government has failed to bring peace to the border. Thai Rath sympathises with the Foreign Ministry in trying to convince the other side to sit at the negotiating table.

Both sides should know that battles can never settle the conflict. Eventually, both sides have to sit down and negotiate for peace and implement border demarcation. Isn't it wiser to do this sooner rather than let skirmishes go on and on and soldiers on both sides die in large numbers before agreeing to talk?

Thaksin bets all in bid to win election

Last week saw an all-out effort on the part of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was barred from politics for five years, to personally dictate Pheu Thai party's election policies in a live video feed from abroad on April 23. By doing so he risked the chance of Pheu Thai being dissolved for allowing a barred politician to get involved in the party's activities, noted Matichon.

Pheu Thai is different from other political parties in that there are not so many people in the executive committee (17) and that four had already resigned before Thaksin's live video-link appearance. So if the worst comes to worst, only 13 party executives could be barred from politics by the Constitution Court for five years.

It is not only Thaksin who is not afraid, his brother-in-law and former premier Somchai Wongsawat also are not. Mr Somchai has chaired several meetings of Pheu Thai MPs as well.

The all-out gamble by Thaksin in openly defying the 5-year ban from politics is seen by political pundits as worth the risk by personally taking charge. Thaksin can lead Pheu Thai to a win in the general election, scoring at least half the number of MPs in the House and then his sister Yingluck Shinawatra would become the first female prime minister of Thailand.

If it comes to pass that Pheu Thai is dissolved, only 13 insignificant executives will be barred from politics for five years. A spare party has already been registered with the Election Commission.

Veteran politician Chalerm Yubamrung explained that Pheu Thai must use the "Thaksin" name to sell its platform because the Thai people accept his capability and because his populist policies were successful. To make sure that people vote for the party, Pheu Thai must push Ms Yingluck as their prime ministerial candidate to represent Thaksin as no other politician can be said to be as loyal as Thaksin's own kin.

"If Pheu Thai do not use Thaksin's name as a selling point, who else can compete against Mr Abhisit? I have been thinking for two years now that Yingluck is most suitable as she is successful in running businesses. No need to deny that Yingluck is Thaksin's nominee because Pheu Thai, Thai Rak Thai and People Power Party all belong to Thaksin. Pheu Thai's headquarters is at OAI Tower. O is Oak [Thaksin's son], A is Aim, I is Ink [Thaksin's daughters]. Why should the party be afraid of being known as Thaksin's nominee?" Mr Chalerm said.

Even though during the live video link Thaksin did not openly anoint a real Pheu Thai leader, insiders unanimously say that Ms Yingluck is 99% sure to be the party's prime ministerial candidate.

Insiders also reveal that Thaksin has bet everything in openly dictating the party's general election strategies in a live video link because he deems that by personally declaring the party's policies, he can boost Pheu Thai's electoral victory chances. If Pheu Thai is to be dissolved, it would take time before all investigations and court cases reach their conclusion. By then, Pheu Thai could have formed a single-party or two-party coalition government headed by Ms Yingluck.

To boost the party's chances, Puea Paendin's leader Pol Gen Pracha Phromnok has been recruited. The departure of Mingkwan Saengsuwan, who is disappointed at not being anointed as the prime ministerial candidate, the resignation of Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and the U-turn of Sanoh Thienthong do not worry Thaksin as the three are considered "outsiders", not Thaksin loyalists.

It seems that for Pheu Thai and its spare party, the party leader and executives are "cursed" positions that seasoned politicians would rather not get involved with. They prefer to be ordinary party members and run for MP seats with the chance to be a minister or prime minister, concluded Matichon.

Parties geared for polls

Thai politics is now gearing for the general election. The Election Commission has finished drawing up 375 single-MP constituencies in 77 provinces in line with the amended constitution. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said again and again that he will dissolve the House of Representatives on May 6. Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra unveiled Pheu Thai party's election policies in a video link to the party faithful on April 24, reported Thai Rath.

The only hitch is the persistent rumour that the military would stage the coup, often claimed by UDD red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan. However, Thai Rath discounted this rumour as long as Thai politicians do not create conditions/disturbances that allow the military to step in. If this happens, it will be a disaster in the eyes of the global community.

Since the new election method will be a single constituency (one man, one vote) and the party list MPs will be a countrywide constituency with no minimum percentage required to win a listed MP seat, several small political parties believe that they have a greater chance to win in some specific constituencies and that nationwide they can score one or two listed MPs. Moreover, they believe that they can join the coalition government and earn a cabinet seat or two even though they may lack MPs.

The only exception is the New Politics Party which was initially enthusiastic in joining the fray to contest the upcoming election. However, when news was confirmed that Mr Abhisit would soon dissolve the House and call for an early general election, the yellow shirts movement (People's Alliance for Democracy) leaders decided to boycott the election and urge the Thai people to cast a "No" vote as a protest against corrupt politicians. The yellow shirt leaders' stance caused a split within the PAD because some executives of the New Politics Party would like to contest the election but they could not oppose the majority in the party who follow the PAD leaders' instructions.

What is most prominent in the upcoming election is the two major parties, Pheu Thai and the Democrats constantly issuing populist policies to sell to the grass-roots. All in all, Thai Rath could not distinguish much between the two parties in terms of populist policies, but it seems that Pheu Thai had a slight edge because it was personally delivered by Thaksin himself.

What is common about the two major parties is that they want to court votes by offering short-term goodies instead of talking about policies that lead to the country's structural reforms in terms of power decentralisation, agriculture, water resources management, education, political reconciliation/conflict reduction and social inequality.

The two parties fail to address the issue of how to make the Thai people stand on their own feet without waiting for perpetual hand-outs from the state.

It is good that both major parties promise to help the farmers but this is aimed at courting votes in the short term. It will not turn Thailand into the "Kitchen of the World" because that would mean restructuring the whole agriculture sector, ranging from irrigated lands, what to produce, marketing, agri-industry development and water resources management.

Thai Rath wondered how the populist policies promised by both parties will be financed as it needs a very large budget outlay. The two parties don't dare to say specifically that taxes need to be raised to finance their various populist schemes as this would certainly create a backlash. When asked, they just say there is plenty in the fiscal reserves waiting to be tapped.

If both parties can only do this much, the real problems in Thailand can never be solved, Thai Rath said.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai to issue bonds

30 Apr, 2011

HCM CITY — The HCM City Stock Exchange-listed Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group plans to issue US$200 million worth international bonds next month at a coupon of "less than 10 per cent," chairman Doan Nguyen Duc said.

The money will be used to restructure the group's short – and medium-term dong debts that carry much higher interest rates than dollar loans and fund some of its projects, including rubber plantations in Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam.

The issue of the five-year bond has been approved by the State Bank of Viet Nam and the State Securities Commission, he said.

It will be underwritten by international financial services group Credit Suisse and listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

Duc expected the issue to be completed by mid-May.

The issue would help the company mobilise a large amount of money that it can hardly raise in this country while also enhancing its prestige, he said.

HAGL expects by 2012 to plant 51,000ha of rubber.

Its rubber research institute is expected to begin functioning this year-end, attracting researchers from Thailand and Malaysia where the rubber industry is more developed than in Viet Nam.

HAGL's annual shareholder meeting in HCM City on Tuesday agreed to keep this year's pre-tax profit target unchanged from last year's VND3 trillion ($144 million) due to the continued lull in the real estate market.

HAGL has interests in property, mining, rubber, and hydropower. — VNS

Cambodia seeks ICJ clarification on temple

Cambodia has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify its 1962 ruling over the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as its military clashes with Thailand continued after a truce.

"The submission of this request has been prompted by Thailand's repeated armed aggression to exert its claims to Cambodian territory, on the basis of its own unilateral map that has no legal basis," said a Cambodian Foreign Ministry statement issued yesterday.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that "the temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia", but Bangkok argues that the court ruled only that the sandstone ruin belongs to Cambodia while the areas surrounding the Hindu temple belong to Thailand.

The court based its judgement on a French-made 1:200,000-scale map that indicated the boundary line between Siam, as Thailand was then known, and French Indochina.

Thailand argued that the boundary line should follow the watershed of the Phnom Dangrek Mountains in accordance with the 1904 and 1907 Franco-Siamese treaties. The disputed territory is a 4.6-square-kilometre area surrounding Preah Vihear.

Phnom Penh exercised its rights in accordance with Article 60 of the ICJ Statute, which says: "The judgement is final and without appeal. In the event of dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgement, the Court shall construe it upon the request of any party."

There have been many armed skirmishes in the border area since Cambodia managed to get Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, against Thailand's wishes. Bangkok feared Cambodia would turn the disputed areas adjacent to the temple into a buffer zone for management of the property.

Phnom Penh considers the request for ICJ clarification a preventive measure to avoid further armed conflict between the two countries, to stop loss of lives and to preserve the Hindu temple from serious damage.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government had anticipated that Cambodia would request an ICJ clarification and that Thailand had organised a legal team to fight in court.

"We don't have a disadvantage in fighting in the world court. We are well prepared in terms of legal aspects and facts," Abhisit said.

The border conflict between the two countries has extended to other areas including near Ta Muan Thom and Ta Kwai temples in Surin province, about 150 kilometres west of Preah Vihear, since last week. The fighting has continued despite military commanders in the area reaching a ceasefire deal on Thursday.

The fresh clash after the truce killed a Thai military ranger and injured five others. Both sides blamed each other for firing first.

Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the clash took place because Cambodian soldiers threw grenades at the Thai side and Thai troops fired small arms to retaliate.

However, Prayuth said he remained hopeful of achieving peace with Cambodia, saying the latest clash might be caused simply by undisciplined soldiers who did not obey their commanders' instructions to cease fire.

A Cambodian commander accused Thai soldiers of firing first. "They began firing artillery shells at our troops at Ta Krabei [Ta Kwai] temple at 4.50am," Suos Sothea, deputy commander of the artillery unit, told Xinhua news agency by telephone from the battlefield yesterday.

"Thai troops may not respect their superiors because on Thursday, their military commander met with our commander and reached a ceasefire, but this morning they still shell us.

"However, we did not fight back, as we are complying with the ceasefire," he said.

Cambodian, Thai troops break truce

PHNOM PENH, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Exchange of gunfire between Cambodian and Thai troops broke out again early Saturday in the disputed border area near the 13th century Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province, marking the ninth straight day of border clash, said a field military commander.

"The fighting started again this morning at around 4:00 a.m. at Ta Krabei temple, Thai soldiers launched the attack first," Suos Sothea, deputy commander of the artillery unit, told Xinhua by telephone from the battle field.

"Thai troops have fired small arms, rockets and artillery at our troops. We have also opened fire to defend our territory, but we have not used heavy weapons to fight back yet."

It's too early to report casualties, he said.

The fighting erupted again despite both sides reached ceasefire agreement after the conflict left eight Cambodian and seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian dead in the last eight days.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated.

Cambodian Ministry of Defense said that Thai troops wanted to capture Ta Krabei temple and Ta Mon temple, 150 kilometers west of Preah Vihear temple which has been a flash point of border conflict between the two neighboring countries since it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.

Editor: Xiong Tong

RI team waits for nod from Thailand, Cambodia

Sri wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta | Sat, 04/30/2011

An Indonesian observer team to the Thai-Cambodian border dispute was forced to delay its departure as both countries have not agreed on terms of reference (TOR) for the team’s duties and responsibilities.

Speaking in Yogyakarta on Friday, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said there were a number of issues that remained to be hammered out in the TOR, which stated the readiness of Indonesia to send observers, including the number of the observers to be deployed, to what extent and in how many spots.

“The dispute has expanded to as far as 150 kilometers to the east of the initial area. This of course has to be considered in the TOR,” Purnomo said after delivering opening remarks at the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials Meeting (ADSOM) Plus
on Friday.

The Thai-Cambodian border conflict, he said, was initially over an area of 4.5 square kilometers, but later spilled over to a wider area. The dispute, Purnomo claimed, had been brought to the UN Security Council, which recommended it be settled within ASEAN.

Based on the recommendation, Purnomo said, Indonesia as the current chair of ASEAN initiated a meeting earlier this year and proposed the TOR should a peacekeeping operation be carried out to help settle the dispute.

“It’s still under discussion,” he said.

Purnomo added that a peacekeeping operation was one of five topics discussed at ADSOM Plus, which was attended by the representatives of the 10 ASEAN states and the grouping’s dialog partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

“This is the new architecture of ASEAN and its eight dialog partners in the field of defense,” Purnomo said, adding that Yogyakarta was the first host city for the ADSOM Plus.

The meeting was scheduled back-to-back with the two-day ADSOM held on Wednesday and Thursday, which involved only senior defense officials from ASEAN states.

The other four defense cooperation issues discussed during the ADSOM Plus were military medicine, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism and maritime security.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Development ties: Delegation set for ADB conference

Friday, 29 April 2011
May Kunmakara
Source: Phnom Penh Post

Development ties

Cambodia's delegation to the 44th Asian Development Bank annual meeting in Hanoi next week will be led by Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary General Vongsey Vissoth, according to an ADB spokesperson.

Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem said in a press release that the meetings would aim to make practical contributions to macroeconomic stability, as well as “mitigating the adverse impacts caused by natural calamities and climate change and fostering long term and sustainable human centred development.”

The May 3 to 6 ADB annual meeting aims to discuss a wide range of topics on the economy, Asian development, and the individual state of the bank’s 67 members, the release said.

The ADB provided some US$95 million in loans and $65.8 million in grants to the Kingdom in 2010, according a statement from last week.

Cambodia joined the bank in 1966. However, the majority of the ADB’s involvement in the Kingdom - nearly $1.4 billion for 55 loans, $255.71 million for 21 grants, and $112 million for technical assistance projects - has come since it resumed operations in Cambodia in 1992.

MFTransparency launches updated pricing data for Cambodia

Microfinance Focus
April 29, 2011

MicroFinance Transparency, MFTransparency, an international non-governmental organization recently published an updated pricing data for Cambodia for 2010, building on the original dataset published in 2009.

Cambodia was one of the initial countries where MFTransparency collected true-cost microloan product pricing data and is the first country worldwide to complete the data updating process.

While any MFI reporting to MFTransparency can update its pricing data at any time, microfinance institution in all countries are required to update their data on an annual basis. Fourteen MFIs in Bosnia are currently in the process of completing their updated data submissions. Peru will be the next country to undergo the updating process.

MFTransparency will soon host a webinar where pricing experts will share the initial results of the newly available trend analysis on microloan pricing in Cambodia.

MicroFinance Transparency was founded in 2008 with the purpose of facilitating transparent markets through pricing disclosure, education and policy advisory. MFTransparency represents an industry movement toward transparent practices and responsibility. Based in the United States, the group has organized transparent pricing efforts in India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Mali, Niger, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia and Peru.

Cambodia Submits Request To ICJ For Interpretation On Preah Vihear Temple Issue

PHNOM PENH, April 29 (Bernama) -- Cambodia on Thursday submitted a request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the interpretation of the Court's judgment of 1962 on the case of Preah Vihear temple, according to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday.

"The submission of this request has been prompted by Thailand's repeated armed aggression to exert its claims to Cambodian territory, on the basis of its own unilateral map that has no legal basis," Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.

It added that Cambodia also submitted a request to the ICJ to take conservatory measures, in light of the repeated acts of aggression against Cambodian territory by Thailand's armed forces.

"Cambodia considers conservatory measures as unavoidable for engendering a permanent ceasefire between the two countries, thus stopping the loss of lives and preserving the temple of Preah Vihear from serious damages, until the interpretation of the ICJ' s 1962 judgment is finalized," said the statement.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962.

The temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. But Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand had a border conflict, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in deaths of troops on both sides.


Fresh border clash after brief ceasefire

29 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

Fresh fighting erupted on the Thai-Cambodian border, both armies said Friday, shattering a truce aimed at ending the bloodiest clashes between the neighbours in decades as the toll rose to 16.

One Thai soldier died and four were wounded in sporadic skirmishes that broke out hours after a ceasefire deal was agreed on Thursday, 2nd Army spokesman Prawit Hookaew said.

"The situation is now calming but still tense," Col Prawit added after the skirmishes flared overnight.

Fighting around two temples at the jungle frontier between the countries, now in its eighth day, has caused tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.

Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security affairs Suthep Thaugsuban indicated there might be a chance to salvage the truce.

"It's not considered a breach of ceasefire because they have used personal firearms. But if the clash expands with heavy weapons, that means the agreement is no longer valid," Mr Suthep told reporters.

Cambodian people look at a damaged house in Samrong near the Cambodia-Thailand border in Oddar Meanchey province on April 28, 2011. Heavy weapons fire pounded the Thai-Cambodian border for a seventh day on April 28, as officials confirmed a 15th death in the bloodiest fighting between the neighbours in decades. AFP PHOTO

"There was a brief clash early on Friday," Cambodian field commander Suos Sothea told AFP by telephone, without giving further details.

Both sides had reacted cautiously to Thursday's peace deal, struck after talks among local commanders.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Thursday that the agreement was a "good sign", but added that "we have to wait and see whether real peace has been achieved".

Thai and Cambodian commanders had agreed at the talks to reopen a border gate and "create a climate to allow civilians to return home", according to the Cambodian defence ministry.

Seven Thai troops and eight Cambodian soldiers have died since the clashes began last Friday. Bangkok has said a Thai civilian has also been killed.

Heavy weapons fire has also strayed towards villages around the frontier, causing an estimated 45,000 people in Thailand and 30,000 in Cambodia to flee their homes.

Both countries have blamed each other for sparking the violence.

Cambodia claims that Thailand used spy planes and poison gas during the conflict -- an allegation denied by Bangkok.

The countries have come under increasing international pressure to stop the violence.

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

On Tuesday the fighting briefly spread to the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which has been the focus of strained relations between the neighbours since it was granted UN World Heritage status in 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

In February, 10 people were killed near Preah Vihear, which is 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of the two ancient temple complexes at the centre of the latest clashes.

Statement of Press of Quick Reaction Unit

29 Apr, 2011

Cambodia expresses regret over Thai troops' renewed attacks

29 Apr, 2011
Source: Xinhua

Thai troops again renewed attacks at Cambodian troops based at Ta Krabey Temple late Thursday night through early morning on Friday, a government spokesman said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Office of the Council of Ministers said he had received the information of the new attacks fired on Cambodian troops at Trabey Temple.

"We are very sorry to hear of new attacks from Thai side. As already experienced, Thailand is not honest," he said.

"On one hand, while negotiation for ceasefire is on process, Thai troops on the other hands attacks us," he added.

On Thursday, two sides agreed to a ceasefire and encouraged displaced villagers to return to their hometowns.

New fighting resumed at around 8:50 p.m. on Thursday and continued until 5:30 am on Friday, military sources said.

As of today, fighting at Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temple in Oddar Meanchy Province between the two armed forces has lasted for 8th day since last Friday.

And at least 15 soldiers from both sides were killed since then.

Source: Xinhua

Thai soldier killed in border clash despite ceasefire

Apr 29, 2011
Source: Monsters and Critics

Bangkok/Phnom Penh - The Thai military said Friday one of its soldiers was killed overnight on the Cambodian border, testing a tentative day-old ceasefire agreement with Cambodia after a week of border skirmishes.

The area remained too dangerous for civilians to return, said General Prayuth Chan-ocha, chief of the Thai army. Thailand claims Cambodia started the renewed shelling after Thursday's agreement.

Cambodia said Friday that Thailand had broken the deal by firing mortar shells overnight. 'It is a provocative act, but we restrain ourselves and we don't return fire,' government spokesman Phay Siphan said, adding that Cambodia was respecting the ceasefire.

The fighting, which broke out on April 22 around disputed temples on the border between the neighbouring countries, has resulted in the deaths of seven Thai and eight Cambodian soldiers, as well as one Thai civilian dead, and more than 60 people wounded on both sides.

Press release Foreign Ministry to Thailand

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cambodia, Thailand agree to ceasefire after clashes

By Prak Chan Thul
28 Apr, 2011

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday after a week of clashes that killed at least 15 people, wounded scores and sent more than 60,000 into evacuation shelters in Southeast Asia's deadliest border dispute in years.

The agreement caps seven days of sporadic artillery and small-rocket fire that fanned nationalist passions in both countries, threatened to overshadow elections in Thailand and reinforced doubts over Southeast Asia's ambitions to form a European Union-style community by 2015.

Cambodia's Defence Ministry said both sides agreed to keep troops in the area, hold regular meetings between field commanders and to leave their long-festering territorial disputes to a Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary set up a decade ago.

They also agreed to open border checkpoints near two disputed 12th-century Hindu temples at the heart of the fighting, although it was unclear when villagers would be allowed back to their remote, ravaged towns.

"We will abide by the cease-fire from now on," Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said. "Local commanders will meet regularly to avoid misunderstanding."

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he hoped this "initial agreement" would be respected. "On our side of the border, the regional commander is expressing confidence peace will hold."

But the agreement looks fragile. Both sides remained at odds over who controls the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples despite fighting that killed at least eight Cambodians and seven Thais.

"The temples are completely controlled by Cambodia," said Cambodian Colonel Suos Sothea.

"That is incorrect," replied Thai army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd, when told of Cambodia's assertion. "Troops on both sides occupy the area around the two temples. It's counterproductive for Cambodia to spread that misunderstanding."

Thailand insists the stone-walled ruins reside in its Surin province according to a 1947 map. Cambodia says they are in its Oddar Meanchey province.

Sovereignty over the temples -- Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey -- and the jungle surrounding them has been in dispute since the withdrawal of the French from Cambodia in the 1950s.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed some reservations over the cease-fire. "We will have to see if it actually brings peace," he said.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would stay on alert until Friday morning. "If there is no clash and no movement (of troops), the situation should start easing and both sides can start talking about other issues," he told reporters.


Earlier, Thailand reinforced the area with tanks following a night of shelling that killed a Thai soldier and wounded seven. Eight Thai tanks had rumbled through deserted villages towards the front lines where troops on both sides were sealed off by heavily guarded roadblocks.

Analysts have expressed scepticism the conflict -- which first flared with February 4-7 clashes near Preah Vihear that killed 11 people -- is really about sovereignty and say it appears politically driven from both sides.

Others say hawkish generals were colluding with nationalists to create a crisis that could cancel Thailand's elections, expected by July, and sideline the powerful opposition to preserve the royalist establishment's hold on power.

In Karb Cherng, a village on the Thai side of the border damaged by the shelling and mortar fire, houses were abandoned and small shops shuttered. Police and bomb squads patrolled the area for remnants of unexploded ordnance.

"Where do you hide when they are shelling all night. I want to go home and I want things to go back to normal," said Jarat Unanom, a 51-year-old farmer in an evacuation shelter.

The clashes are a setback for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-member bloc with plans to become a regional community by 2015, illustrating the limits to regional diplomacy after the Thai army rebuffed international monitors proposed by ASEAN foreign ministers in February.

Indonesian foreign minister and ASEAN chairman Marty Natalegawa said his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, agreed in a meeting in Jakarta on Thursday to the terms for independent monitors but the pact still required further approval.

"Basically the two sides must be saved from themselves, because we are in a cycle of one says this, the other says that, mutual recrimination and mutual accusation, precisely the kind of vicious circle that we are trying to reverse," he said.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Ambika Ahuja and Martin Petty in Bangkok, and Olivia Rondonuwu in Jakarta; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Andrew Marshall)

FTI: Don’t close border crossings

28 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) does not agree with foreign minister’s proposal that Thailand should close all checkpoints on the Thai-Cambodian border, FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutthipol said.

The proposal came after the clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops continued along the border in Surin province for the seventh day running. Border crossings in Surin have been closed.

“Closing all the border crossing points will only escalate the situation,” Mr Payungsak said on Thursday.

FTI chairman suggested that the government try to settle the border conflict in a positive way, by trying to peacefully restore the relationship with Cambodia. Most Thai people do not want the conflict to escalate, he added.

Mr Payungsak said the industrial sector was not worried too much about the fighting as it was occurring in a limited area and he believed Thailand and Cambodia would be able to avoid an escalation.

FTI deputy chairman Thanit Sorat, secretary-general of the Thai-Cambodian Business Council, said the impact of the fighting had so far been limited to border trade at Chong Chom and Chong Sangam border crossing points in Surin.

The border trade value there accounted for only seven per cent of the total, and that was not that much, he added.

He expected the trade along the Thai Cambodian border, including Aranyaprathet and Klong Luek checkpoints in Sa Kaeo and Klomng Yai checkpoint in Trat would substantially increase, to about 100 billion baht in 2011.

The border trade was valued at 79 billion baht last year, with Thailand benefitting the most with a 65 billion baht trade surplus.

Major products exported to Cambodia included finished oil, refined sugar, cement, fruits and food products. Thailand is the 15th largest investor in Cambodia, where the major investors are Taiwan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia, according to Mr Payungsak.

Pres release of Ministry of National Defense

28 Apr, 2011

ASEAN defense dialogue amid ‘crystalized’ border disputes

Tiarma Siboro, Yogyakarta | Thu, 04/28/2011 | Opinion

The long-standing commitment of ASEAN to maintaining peace and security in the region and the world has been put to an uphill test with the fresh conflict between Thailand and Cambodia in the border area of Preah Vihear, which has so far claimed 11 lives.

Border disputes between the two neighbors have become causes for concern across the region since early in February.

It seems like a coincidence that the exchanges of fire at the Thailand-Cambodia border occurred amid rounds of ASEAN defense dialogues, which were aimed at crystalizing cooperation and coordination in regional security.

The series of defense meetings, which involve ASEAN top-level defense officials and is hosted by Indonesia, the current chair of the regional grouping, started in February of this year in Surabaya. Eight partner states — the US, China, Japan, Russia, India, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia — have also actively taken part in the talks.

In the first round of meetings and during the second round now underway in Yogyakarta, all participants agreed to discuss five areas of cooperation: maritime security, counterterrorism, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), peacekeeping operations and military medicine.

Concept papers of the five cooperation areas are now being drafted by the delegations and are supposed to reflect the goodwill of each participating country to address the future challenges.

It should be highlighted, however, that potential disputes involving ASEAN members and dialogue partners in connection with border territories and maritime security issues remain major problems that need to be resolved as soon as possible.

The border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia is a case in point. The only solution that can be proposed by Indonesia as chair of ASEAN is to encourage the warring states to promote dialogue.

As the case has been filed with the UN Security Council, Indonesia has proposed deployment of observers to bordering Cambodian and Thai territories without holding a mandate as mediator. Should any dialogue be facilitated by the Indonesian government, it would have taken place in a corridor of so-called “informal sessions.”

As an organization that consists of countries with various, if not conflicting, interests, ASEAN finds difficulties in settling border disputes because of the sanctity of the non-interference principle.

ASEAN indeed has a dispute settlement mechanism under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), which mandates the establishment of a high council made up of ministerial representatives from the parties as a dispute-settlement mechanism.

The treaty enshrines the following principles: mutual respect for one another’s sovereignty; noninterference in internal affairs; the peaceful settlement of intraregional disputes; and effective cooperation.

Until today, the TAC, as a code of conduct, remains the only indigenous regional diplomatic instrument providing a mechanism and process for the peaceful settlement of disputes among member states.

Nevertheless encouraging the council to mediate talks between Thailand and Cambodia appears
to be out of context because it is
not authorized to address border disputes.

Border disputes have also marred relations between Indonesia and Malaysia. After the Sipadan-Ligitan case, the two ASEAN co-founders have been embroiled in yet another protracted territorial dispute over oil and gas-rich Ambalat waters in the Sulawesi Strait. Not to mention sporadic disputes over fishing zones along their maritime boundaries.

Another potential dispute confronts ASEAN member countries and their dialogue partners, especially China, which aims to expand its sphere of influence across the South China Sea and its surrounding islands: Spratly and Paracel.

Talking about the South China Sea issue should not be limited to the ongoing debate over sovereignty and ownership of the two islands. More than that, it should take into consideration the right to explore and exploit natural resources within the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and on the use of technology.

History has shown that the quarrels over the South China Sea and Spratly and Paracel Islands has many things to do with the heavy interests of the UK, France, Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Breaking down the disputes into bilateral conflicts, the South China Sea issue may pose an obstacle to future relationship between China and Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, the Philippines and China, Malaysia and Vietnam, the Philippines and Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei and Taiwan and China.

The South China Sea has remained a hot topic in any forum gathering ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners, including during the ongoing ASEAN defense dialogue.

For sure, the South China Sea is of great interest to Indonesia, and it risks spoiling its good relationship with China in the future. A conflict between Indonesia and China looks unavoidable because the EEZ that China has claimed overlaps Indonesian waters around the Natuna Islands, should the two countries refer to the UNCLOS 1982.

Natuna is economically beneficial for Indonesia. It is known as one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers. Apart from the huge volume of oil and gas reserves, maritime territory surrounding the Natuna Islands is economically strategic because it connects big cities in East Asia. Therefore, security issues become crucial here.

Now with such potential disputes lying ahead, ASEAN and its dialogue partners are working together in exploring five areas of cooperation during the annual defense talks. But skepticism has been rife as to whether the commitment of the participating states will be able to minimize potential conflicts and promote accommodation of security, political and economic agendas of the respective participating

Without strong commitment and firm mechanisms in settling border disputes, the concept paper of defense cooperation will only add to the piles of partnership documents that ASEAN has endorsed. The nature of ASEAN to address disputes based on consensus of togetherness — known as the ASEAN way — and the spirit of kinship should not to be taken for granted.

The writer is a graduate of the Indonesian Defense University.

7th day of Cambodian, Thai fighting still going on: Cambodian gov't

28 Apr, 2011

Gunfire exchanges between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border area at the 13th century Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province is still going on until 8 a.m. Thursday morning, the Cambodian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The statement said that throughout Wednesday's night, Thai troops have fired artillery shelling on Cambodian troops' positions at Ta Mon temple and Ta Krabei temple and at 3:55 a.m. ( local time) early Thursday morning, Thai troops have increased their artillery shelling onto the two temple areas, and spread to the base of Cambodian Royal Armed Force in the west of O'smach area.

"The fighting still continues until 8 a.m. (local time) today," it said. "And our soldiers are still in firm and full control of the Temple of Ta Moan and the Temple of Ta Krabei."

Immediate report on casualties in Thursday's fighting is not available yet.

The fighting marks the seventh straight days of armed clashes between the two countries' troops.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed on Wednesday for truce talks, saying that the border conflict at Ta Moan temple, Ta Krabei temple and areas could be bilaterally negotiated, except border disputed area near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which need the presence of the third party.

The last six days of clashes has killed eight Cambodian soldiers, five Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian, caused several dozens injured, and forced tens of thousands of the two countries' people flee home for safe shelters.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated. Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. But Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand had a border conflict, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Source: Xinhua

Spain assists Quang Nam in socioeconomic development

28 Apr, 2011
Source: VOV

Spain’s Peace and Development (PyD) organisation has helped the central province of Quang Nam carry out a project on socioeconomic development combined with gender issues.

A cooperation document to this effect was signed between the Quang Nam provincial People’s Committee and PyD in Quang Nam province on April 27.

The 3.6 million EUR, which also covers Cambodia and East Timor, was designed to ensure the implementation of socioeconomic rights and poverty reduction through a gender approach and improvement of social equality.

It aims to improve the living conditions of project beneficiaries, with a focus on the most disadvantaged, through economic initiatives in combination with the gender issue.

The project also encourages the involvement of the beneficiaries and relevant agencies and branches in sustainable rural development and promotes initiatives on gender fairness, gender equality and domestic violence reduction.

It is focused on promoting socioeconomic development in rural areas, supporting for development of traditional trades, helping increase incomes, reducing domestic violence and raising women’s role in the society, said Tran Minh Ca, Deputy Chairman of the Quang Nam provincial People’s Committee.

The project will be carried out till 2014 in 10 communes of Duy Xuyen, Hiep Duc and Phuoc Son districts pf the province.

Established in 1991, PyD is a non-governmental organisation. It has helped carry out a five-year project on enhancement of capacity and promotion of economic, microcredit opportunities and gender equality plans in Vietnam since 2006.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Statement of Press of Quick Reaction Unit

27 Apr, 2011

ANALYSIS-As election looms, Thai generals go on offensive

27 Apr 2011
Source: reuters // Reuters
By Martin Petty

A patient injured during the clashes is transferred to a safer hospital in Surin Province, Thailand, April 26, 2011. The gunfire exchange between Cambodian and Thai troops over the disputed border area at the 13th century Ta Moan temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province still continues as of 9:40 p.m. on Tuesday, said Pich Sokhin, the governor of Oddar Meanchey province. (Xinhua/Lin Ning

PHANOM DONG RAK, Thailand, April 27 (Reuters) - Thailand's military is on the offensive -- and not just in its deadly border skirmishes with Cambodia.

For decades, the country's history has been shaped by the balance of power between three institutions -- the monarchy, the military, and parliament. With elections looming that could upset this fragile balance once again, Thailand's generals have come out fighting.

For investors, the risks are rising. The last time the military grabbed a dominant role in politics, following a coup in 2006, the stock market collapsed following disastrous use of capital controls that took months to unwind.

There is also no guarantee that another bid by the military to reassert a dominant role would be as bloodless as in 2006.

Fighting on the border with Cambodia has killed at least 14 people since last Friday. Both sides blame each other. Thailand has rebuffed international mediation and withdrawn from defence ministerial talks, adding fuel to the crisis.

The timing is conspicuous. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjaiva's government, which came to power in 2008 with the help of the military, plans to hold elections by July. Few have as much to lose as the military's top brass if the opposition prevails.

Political analysts and government sources say Thailand's top generals appear to be taking a two-pronged approach, fanning the crisis with Cambodia to unify Thais behind the army while going on the political offensive at home.

While Thailand has always had extraordinarily tough laws protecting its monarchy, they are being invoked with unusual frequency. In recent weeks, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has threatened legal action against a prominent academic advocating reform of the monarchy and against anti-government "red shirt" demonstrators allied with the opposition.

"Renewed violence on the border seems to relate to the Thai military's current determination both to assert itself and to create an atmosphere of crisis," said Michael Montesano, a fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Which side is the main aggressor in the border conflict, the deadliest in nearly two decades, remains a mystery but few believe the fighting is really about sovereignty over heavily land-mined jungles and crumbling Hindu temples.

The election and a possible change in government could spell trouble for Thailand's military, whose budget has swelled under the ruling coalition that came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote influenced by the army.

At stake, too, is a royalist establishment fiercely at odds with the opposition, some of whose grass-roots supporters advocate republicanism and reforms to the monarchy at a delicate time with 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, an almost divine figure whose picture is hung on the walls of millions of Thai homes, hospitalised since September 2009.

During a recent news briefing, the army's spokesman said he hoped Thais would see a link between "monarchy-insulting elements" and "political groupings" before casting votes in the election, a comment widely seen as a veiled attempt to discredit the opposition Puea Thai Party and their "red shirt" allies.

But such rhetoric could backfire for the military, and the monarchy it claims to protect.

Cambodian soldiers load rocket shells in Oddar Meanchey Province, Cambodia, April 26, 2011. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday ordered review of overall relations with Cambodia in the wake of border clashes between the two countries. (Xinhua/Sovannara)


The opposition Puea Thai remains popular among Thailand's rural poor and is tightly controlled by exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a divisive, twice-elected tycoon the military and royalist establishment toppled in the 2006 coup.

Since then, the military's annual budget has nearly doubled to 154 billion baht ($5 billion).

Rumours of another coup continue to swirl as insiders talk of strains in Abhisit's ties with the armed forces.

Another coup could prevent the election and ensure the opposition stays out of power. But it could backfire and provoke violence from the red shirts whose protests last year paralysed Bangkok and led to clashes that killed 91 people.

"We have learned lessons from the 2006 coup. We are operating in a volatile environment now and just taking over peacefully isn't going to happen, even if it's the best thing for the country theoretically," said a retired army officer close to the top generals. He requested anonymity.

The Thai army has for decades made protecting the monarchy a priority, guaranteeing the military political influence.

"That balance of power between key institutions in Thailand is being threatened," said Karn Yuenyong, director of Siam Intelligence Unit, an independent think tank.

"What we are seeing are reactions to that by all groups -- those who want to maintain the status quo and those who are calling for reform of the institution (the monarchy)."

Ultra-nationalist "yellow shirts" and some influential conservatives fear pro-Thaksin forces could return to office, accelerating calls to reform the monarchy, and have urged a boycott of the poll. Some analysts say hawkish generals allied with nationalists could be trying to escalate the border conflict to scuttle the election.

"The border issue and sovereignty issue matter to a group of conservative elites in Thailand and this is one way the Thai army exerts its loyalty," Karn added.

The monarchy is an extremely sensitive subject in Thailand. Perceived insults against the crown, or lese-majeste, carry jail terms of up to 15 years -- the toughest in the world.

Prayuth has ordered legal action against three red shirt leaders for speeches made at an April 10 rally he said were offensive to the monarchy. Other army units followed suit with near-daily pledges of support for the king.

Three battalions of troops lined up last week in the pouring rain flanked by armoured trucks, helicopters and heavy machine guns in an elaborate combat exercise during which they pledged their allegiance to the royal institution.

A censorship blitz by an army-led Internal Securities Operations Command has led to the closure of radio stations, publications and tens of thousands of websites, while Prayuth has ordered army-owned Channel 5 TV to insert documentaries honouring the monarchy after each day's royal news programmes.


Critics say the army is among a growing number of political players who are abusing the lese-majeste law to silence and slur their opponents. Some warn it could deepen a polarising crisis triggered by the military's coup against Thaksin.

"The military used its loyalty to the monarchy to justify illegal action in launching a coup and has intensified the conflict," said political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun.

"Lese-majeste is being used as a political weapon. It's dangerous, because when used to undermine opponents, it risks undermining Thailand's most important institution."

Several Thai media commentators have argued that many of those filing lese-majeste complaints are exploiting the institution they claim to protect. "This sort of traitorous betrayal should be viewed as the worst of lese-majeste crimes," wrote Bangkok Post columnist Voranai Vanijaka.

Jacob Ramsay, senior Southeast Asia analyst at consultants Control Risks, said Thailand's military was clearly trying to raise its profile but he doubted it was seeking a bigger role.

"There are elements in the military we know are against early elections but it wants to keep out of politics," he said. "The most telling factor is its budget has risen substantially since it staged a coup and that in itself is something worth protecting." (Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok; Editing by Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall)

Vietnam, Cambodia cooperate in protecting wild animals

27 Apr, 2011
Source: VOV

(VOV) - Vietnamese and Cambodian law enforcement agencies held a talk in the southern Tay Ninh province on April 27 and 28 to strengthen cooperation in fighting against illegal smuggling of wild animals at the two countries’ border areas.

The event was co-organised by the General Forestry Office under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Tay Ninh provincial People’s Committee with the technical assistance from the wildlife trade monitoring network (TRAFFIC) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

This is part of a project titled “Future of Tigers” which is funded by the World Bank through the Global Environment Fund.

Two similar talks between Vietnam and Laos will be held in late May. The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN) was established in December 1, 2005 and has ten members from Southeast Asian nations.

Students donate footy gear to Cambodian kids

WHEN you think of charitable works needed in Cambodia, you immediately think of housing, fresh water, schooling, clothes ... but there are other ways to make a significant contribution.

One of these might even be to donate a pair of footy boots, as the students of St Pius College Chatswood discovered.

During a Monday morning prayer at assembly students were asked to reflect on the practical things they had done during Lent, the 46 days which ended on Saturday.

The college’s languages co-ordinator, Mrs Manga, suggested working with the Indochina Starfish Foundation.

Known as ISF Australia, it has undertaken development projects in Cambodia with an emphasis on those which benefit children.

The foundation’s aim is to provide a lifeline for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged children in Cambodia.

One of ISF main projects is through encouraging, coaching and organising the children of Cambodia in playing football.

This gives the children real purpose and direction, building upon their self esteem and hope.

Throughout the year ISF Australia organises shipments of football gear to be sent and distributed to the children of Cambodia. The most recent shipment was sent to Phnom Penh.

The St Pius boys are preparing for winter sports and asked that they check whether their boots no longer fit.

They have been asked to drop their old boots, shin pads and even soccer shirts that are in good condition into a container labelled “Boots For Cambodia”.

The school will then arrange for ISF Australia to send the equipment to the children of Cambodia.

Laos voices concern over Thai-Cambodia conflict

27 Apr, 2011
Monsters and Critics

Vientiane - Laos has expressed concerns over an escalating border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand, calling for a peaceful solution to the spat, state media said Wednesday.

Thai and Cambodian forces have been firing on one another in the vicinity of two contested temples on their border since Friday, leaving at least 13 dead on both sides and more than 50 injured.

'Laos as a neighbouring country sharing borders with the two nations hopes Thailand and Cambodia will resolve their border issue through peaceful means, based on the principles of international laws and in a spirit of friendship as neighbouring countries and members of the ASEAN family,' a Foreign Ministry statement published by the Vientiane Times said.

Cambodia, Loas and Vietnam are all members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, a regional grouping dedicated to bringing prosperity and peace to the region.

Thai PM denies media report Thailand exits planned ceasefire talks

27 Apr, 2011

BANGKOK, April 27 - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday denied a Cambodian media report that Thailand has pulled out of planned ceasefire talks with Phnom Penh, saying Thailand's defence minister postponed his trip to Cambodia due to his mission to China.

Mr Abhisit said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon cancelled travelling to Cambodia for talks with his counterpart Tea Banh on Wednesday as he is busy on a mission to China from April 27-30. Talks with Cambodia will be rescheduled later.

Gen Prawit said before leaving to China that the Beijing trip was fixed earlier, and denied he was travelling to China to ask for help negotiating with Cambodia. Talks with Phnom Penh will be rescheduled once he returns from China, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Abhisit cancelled his daily schedule on Wednesday in order to travel to Surin to visit hospitalised Thai soldiers who were wounded in the border clashes and boost morale of local residents at Ban Khok Klang evacuation centre.

Mr Abhisit's trip follows new of one civilian being killed in Surin's Kap Choeng district.

Shells dropped on about ten villages in Surin and Buri Ram damaging ten homes. Army sources said over 60 BM-21 Grad multiple rockets fell in Thailand.

However, the sounds of gunfire ceased Wedneday and some local residents in Nongkhanna village in Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district returned home to remove belongings from their houses. (MCOT online news)

Hopes rise for ceasefire talks

27 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

China, Vietnam urged to pressure Cambodia

Thailand and Cambodia could soon enter into ceasefire talks after five days of heavy exchanges of fire which has claimed the lives of at least 13 troops.

Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Division gather in the division’s compound in Sanam Pao in Bangkok to show their combat readiness yesterday. CHANAT KATANYU

"[As reported] our defence minister [Gen Prawit Wongsuwon] will hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart soon and that is a good sign for a return of peace," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Mr Abhisit said it was clear Cambodia wanted other countries to intervene in the border spat and the government had to lay down strategies to ensure the situation did not play into the hands of Cambodia.

"Today it is obvious that Cambodia feels frustrated that they can't press ahead and make the border conflict an international issue," Mr Abhisit said.

Cambodia's defence ministry said in a statement issued yesterday: "Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh has agreed to meet his Thai counterpart in Phnom Penh shortly to discuss a ceasefire between the two countries".

As for a move to resolve the conflict using an Asean framework, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will raise the issue with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who serves as Asean chair, tomorrow.

The cabinet yesterday agreed with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's proposal to review relations with Cambodia at all levels including trade and culture but there has been no discussion about a downgrade in diplomatic relations.

Mr Abhisit has assigned all ministries to consider the issue thoroughly as it had affected border trade at the Chong Jom border checkpoint in Surin and Chong Sa-ngam border checkpoint in Si Sa Ket, which account for 5% of all border trade. The Foreign Ministry has also asked China and Vietnam to help convince Cambodia to turn to the negotiating table.

The request was made through Chinese ambassador to Bangkok Guan Mu and Vietnamese ambassador to Thailand Ngo Duc Thang during a meeting with Permanent Secretary Theerakun Niyom yesterday.

Defence Minister Gen Prawit will visit China today. His official schedule is to discuss the submarine project development but observers believed he would raise the Thai-Cambodia dispute issue with his Chinese counterparts.

As China and Vietnam have a good relationship with Cambodia, Thailand hopes both countries will be able to help talk Phnom Penh into turning to the negotiating table, ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said.

Mr Thani said the Chinese envoy said his government was closely monitoring the situation and would try to help. Mr Ngo Duc Thang said Vietnam is a good friend of both Thailand and Cambodia and would be neutral.

The move came amid continuous heavy border fighting yesterday. The clashes have left at least 13 troops dead - five Thais and seven Cambodians. Despite the talk of a ceasefire, heavy mortar and artillery fire was exchanged yesterday, expanding to locations near Preah Vihear in Si Sa Ket province border.

Cambodian troops attacked the Thai border with heavy artillery yesterday afternoon at Phu Makhua in Kantharalak district, forcing local residents to flee to shelters. Thai soldiers were forced to retaliate to the Cambodian attack.

During the past four days after the clashes erupted last Friday, the exchange was restricted to Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district of Surin. Nearly 30,000 people have been evacuated.

The Thai troops local commander said Cambodia opened fire at the Thai border after they heard the sonic boom from an F-16 fighter of Thai airforce which did a flight exercise near the border.

At about 6.30pm yesterday, Cambodian soldiers fired artillery attacks deeper into tambon Naengmud, tambon Kok, tambon Kian and tambon Prasart Beng in Kap Choeng district of Surin, east of Phanom Dong Rak district.

Sa-ard Veeracharoen, chief of Surin's public health office, said two villagers had reportedly died during yesterday's clashes which continued from about 1pm until late at night.

"The fight was very heavy today. We received an unconfirmed report that two villagers have been killed - one in Kab Cheong and the other in Dong Rak district," Dr Sa-ard said. At least 22 people were injured, including 18 soldiers and four civilians, two seriously, he said.

Kab Cheong Hospital has been temporary closed due to the heavy bombing. All patients had been evacuated to Surin Hospital, he said.

More than 70 people, mostly soldiers, have been wounded in Surin province since the clashes broke out on Friday.

The border clashes also continued unabated near Ta Muen and Ta Muen Kwai temples in Phanom Don Rak district until about 3pm yesterday.

France - Cambodia - Thailand

We were deeply concerned to learn that the Thai and Cambodian armies once again exchanged fire near the temples of Ta Krabei and Ta Muean Thom, and to learn of the loss of human life brought about by these clashes.

France calls for an immediate halt to the hostilities. It urges the parties to exercise restraint and to seek a solution through peaceful means, through dialogue and in accordance with international law. The terms of the Security Council statement of February 14, 2011, remain valid in this regard. France renews its full support for the efforts of the ASEAN presidency.

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Marty: The sooner Abhisit, Hun Sen meet, the better

Indonesian foreign minister tells The Nation Editor-in-Chief Suthichai Yoon about the urgent need to get both sides to calm down and start discussing a ceasefire

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Nation yesterday that "the sooner, the better" if Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen met and put an end to the ongoing military confrontation on the border.

He said it would be far too late if both sides waited until the next Asean Summit is held. The grouping is scheduled to meet in Jakarta on May 7-8. "I don't want to wait that long," he said.

Abhisit said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan would meet his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh in Phnom Penh today to discuss a possible ceasefire, but he was non-committal about the outcome. "It depends on Cambodia, which triggered the conflict. If they did nothing, there would be no problem," he said.

Also, Tea Banh yesterday even-ing called Kom Chad Luek, The Nation's sister newspaper, to express his willingness to end the fighting with Thailand.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is due to arrive in the Indonesian capital tomorrow for talks with Natalegawa.

Indonesia is the current chair of Asean.

"Cambodia's Deputy Premier Hor Nam Hong is travelling. I understand he is in Paris. I am trying to schedule a meeting with him as well," Natalegawa said.

He added that he was "keen" to talk to Kasit and Hor Nam Hong and get a ceasefire re-established so that observer teams could be deployed along the Thai-Cambodian border. This would also encourage the resumption of diplomatic negotiations.

The Indonesian foreign minister said he was planning to visit Phnom Penh and Bangkok yesterday after shooting erupted on the border again for a third day. "But I changed my mind after finding the timing not propitious," he said.

When asked what he would do now that the two nations had broken the ceasefire pact, he said, his mission is to be on the "relentless pursuit of a diplomatic solution".

"As I have said on several occasions, we must be aggressive in pursuing peace, notwithstanding the present difficulties. The only viable solution is a solution through peaceful means despite the fact that we have had very difficult four or five days of military incidents. We hope the two sides can be encouraged to return to the negotiations table," Natalegawa said.

As for Thailand's reluctance to stationing of Indonesian observers on the border, he said: "It's still in the process and under discussion on both sides. As I understand it, Thailand has agreed to the idea of having observers. There are now some so-called technical issues to address. It's better to be done sooner rather than later - precisely to avoid confusion over who has done what and when."

He explained that having observers on the ground would help avoid confusion. "Now, it's even more urgent than before. It was urgent two months ago. It's even more urgent now because we have allowed time to pass. The longer we allow the situation to continue, the more casualties the two countries will suffer and there will be more disruption to the civilian populations," Natalegawa said.

As to whether the issue should return to the UN, he said: "It really depends on our capacity to solve the problem in the region. I don't want to suggest as if there is a clear difference between what is regional and global because they are mutually reinforcing to create conditions that are conducive to bilateral solutions. So, what is bilateral, regional and global are actually supporting one another."

Informed sources said the Thai side had proposed 15 points - all outside the 4.6 square-kilometre area under dispute - where the Indonesian observers could be stationed. They must be unarmed and not in military uniform. Negotiations have brought the sites down to four.

"The Cambodian side has told me that they don't mind where the Indonesian observers are assigned. They say the observers could even be in full military gear," the Indonesian foreign minister said.

Asked about speculation on the Thai side that Cambodia was trying to take the issue back to the UN, Natalegawa said: "It's already in the UN. It's not a question of bringing it back to the UN. The genie is out of the bottle."

US welcomes delay in controversial Mekong dam

WASHINGTON — The United States on Tuesday welcomed a delay in construction of a controversial dam on the Mekong River, voicing hope that Southeast Asian nations would work to ensure it is environmentally sound.

Cash-strapped Laos wants to go ahead with the $3.8 billion Xayaburi dam which would generate hydropower for export, but a meeting last week with officials from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam put off a decision.

The neighboring countries asked Laos for further study of the dam amid warnings by environmentalists that it would seriously impact fish, trigger algae growth and disrupt the lives of millions who rely on the river.

"The United States welcomes the recognition by riparian states of the need to consider fully the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of hydropower development," the US State Department said in a statement.

"We encourage the countries to continue to work together to realize their shared vision of an economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally sound Mekong River basin," it said.

Senator Jim Webb, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, has pressed for an active US role against construction of the dam which he argued would have "devastating" consequences for the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 launched a Lower Mekong initiative as part of a drive to re-engage Southeast Asia, which the US administration charged was overlooked during President George W. Bush's tenure.

President Barack Obama's administration has worked with the four countries to chart out the effects of climate change and last year offered nearly $150 million to public health efforts including AIDS treatment.

Troops get no rest in battle at the border

27 Apr, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

After five days of battle, Thai soldiers are weary but still bent on pushing out Cambodian forces.

With fresh attacks by Cambodian troops continuing day and night, Thai soldiers on the front line at the Ta Kwai temple in Phanom Dong Rak district have had no time to grab any rest over the past five days of fighting.

"It's been seven days [since going on alert] and we've not been able to get any sleep. Last night was worst of all. They started firing and then we returned fire, over and over," said Captain Wichian Chinno, head of a rapid deployment unit deployed in an area near the temple.

The fatigued captain was yesterday rushed to Phanom Dong Rak Hospital, his uniform dirty after a long night of battling with Cambodian troops.

He was suffering chest and back pains after the impact of an explosion.

His unit, comprising eight military rangers from the 26th ranger regiment of the Pak Thong Chai military camp in Nakhon Ratchasima province, had been deployed to the area east of Ta Kwai temple on April 22 which was the first day of the new round of border fighting.

"The bombs hurled at our raised barriers by the Cambodian troops threw us in different directions. That was the most painful part of all and we survived only because we wore metal helmets and had body armour," said Capt Wichian.

"Seven days without sleep was tough and physically draining. By day, the weather was extremely hot, but at night it was very cold out there," said the soldier, adding he would return to the battlefield if he recovered in time.

The Cambodian troops were stationed in a better location which was higher up and they also had a natural rock barrier, said Capt Wichian.

As such, it was easier for the Cambodian troops to keep launching attacks on the Thai soldiers by throwing grenades downhill, he said, adding that the Thai troops were trying hard to accomplish their mission of forcing the Cambodian forces out of their current position.

"Not to mention the lack of sleep, we didn't even have time to have a quick bite of the food we brought with us," said Sgt Thinnakorn Changsao, a member of the ranger unit who was also hospitalised yesterday after being injured in a blast the previous night.

Worse still, he said, in an "emergency" he and his fellow soldiers on the front line had to use a plastic bag and a bottle to go to the toilet.

"One of our achievements so far has been destroying the cable car system Cambodia has built and used in lifting its troops to the Ta Kwai temple and we are now aiming to force them to retreat from that position," said Sgt Thinnakorn.

Ranger Chalong La-iat, who was injured by shrapnel from an explosion, said the 4kg armour he was wearing and the additional weight of 140 rounds of ammunition he had to carry with him all the time were a significant problem - especially when fighting in the searing heat and sunlight.

Strife and peace

27 Apr, 2011

Sri Lanka’s government has rejected a report that found “credible evidence” war crimes were committed during the final stages of its civil war that ended in May 2009, saying the panel that produced it was biased and overstepped its mandate.

Here are some questions and answers about the report and its likely impact on the Indian Ocean island nation:


It is the findings of a three-member panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on “issues of accountability” at the end of Sri Lanka’s quarter-century war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009.

Western governments had urged Sri Lanka to call a ceasefire in the final months of the war to protect an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 civilians trapped in the war zone, many held as human shields by the increasingly desperate LTTE.

It focuses on what it says are tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which it blames primarily on the government, and concludes that war crimes and other human rights violations were likely committed and urges their investigation and prosecution.

The government calls the figures unsubstantiated and blames the panel for regurgitating allegations made by rights groups.


Sri Lanka did what was long considered by many to be impossible: it totally destroyed the LTTE, an ethnic minority Tamil separatist insurgent group that was on more than 30 nations’ terrorism lists for its
ruthless tactics.

Until Al Qaeda’s emergence, no group had carried out more suicide bombings of civilian targets than the LTTE. It used child soldiers and forcibly trained everyone inside the roughly third of Sri Lanka it controlled in the island’s north and east.

Though the war kicked off in earnest in 1983, and stopped and started over the ensuing decades, the government’s July 2006-May 2009 offensive put a decisive end to the Tigers.

Having encircled the LTTE on three sides and with the ocean to their backs, government forces wiped the Tigers out systematically. Although hotly contested, there is little doubt that many civilians died. The government denies intentionally targeting them and argues that many people considered civilians were in fact Tamil Tiger combatants.


That’s not clear. The panel itself is only advisory and therefore has no standing to push an investigation forward. Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, so the only place an investigation could proceed would be on the UN Security Council.

However, Sri Lanka has the firm backing of Russia and China, which it relied on to fend off Western pressure at the end of the war, both of whom have Security Council vetoes.