Tuesday, 1 July 2008
By Frank G. Anderson
Column: Thai Traditions
Nakhonratchasima, Thailand — The ancient kingdoms of Cambodia and Thailand are squaring off over some ancient Khmer ruins that have only barely withstood the test of time. Like a landlocked version of the dispute over the Persian Gulf versus the Arabian Gulf, both countries lay claim to Phra Viharn, as the Thais call it, or Preah Vihear in Cambodian.
The ruins were not included in the new Thai government’s list of top things to concern itself with when it took office in February. Of course, neither was amending the 2007 Constitution, but that suddenly became a priority when it became clear that the new coalition government might suffer dissolution if Thaksin’s nominee party, the People’s Power Party, were to be disbanded under a clause inserted in the new Constitution.
It also looked as if the PPP’s main benefactor, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, stood to become deeply involved in irrevocable criminal cases unless the charter was amended.
Now that public pressure and other anti-charter change groups have won and the government has backed down from constitutional amendment – if only for the time being until the heat cools – the government is fighting other serious allegations, including surrendering Thai territory to Cambodia in an alleged possible quid pro quo of Thai land for “Thaksin commercial licenses.”
With the lack of transparency traditional in all Thai commercial and government matters, it will be a miracle if anyone actually uncovers a single shred of evidence against either Thaksin or those who now make up the PPP ruling coalition. Yet various nongovernmental organizations in Thailand – joined at arm’s length by the opposition Democrats and more closely aligned with the People’s Alliance for Democracy – are continuing to badger the government to force open clenched fists and pry open cans of worms.
Khao Phra Viharn is actually the mountain that Phra Viharn was built on roughly 1,000 years ago. Phra Viharn itself, or Prasart (which translates alternatively as temple, castle, house of the gods, pavilion, mansion or abode of the gods) Phra Viharn, was built on the edge of an imposing 625-meter-high cliff overlooking mist-stained Khmer territory.
Some 140 kilometers northwest of Angkor Wat, the current prasart is in ruins, with most of its walls deeply pitted and sections decayed and collapsed. Heavy blocks of dense sandstone lie left and right, some lean against still-standing pillars. And yet, the grandeur of this powerful and striking relic from the past is well worth braving the oppressive heat, humidity and tough climbing to witness and photograph for personal posterity.
The ancient architects who designed and built this monument to past glory in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries were master craftsmen. Today, engineers and hydrologists have yet to understand the detailed water collection and effluent system that is part of the temple.
Thai protesters are now assaulting the current Thai government’s less-than-transparent dealings with UNESCO and Cambodia in trying to get the temple listed as a World Heritage Site.
What may be irking the protesters is that Cambodia has always had a seeming jump on Thailand in terms of its solicitations to the United Nations. At the moment, for example, the best online resource for information on what has transpired to date is the Temple of Preah Vihear package prepared and printed by Cambodia’s Council of Ministers in June. The 45-page presentation contains awesome photographs and a clear litany of documents submitted.
Thais have traditionally stuck their heads in the sand until push comes to shove, and this time it may cost them square kilometers in land lost to Cambodia, as well as the reiteration that Prasarn Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia and will always belong to Cambodia.
On June 24, opposition forces submitted a request to the Thai Administrative Court asking for an injunction to prevent the Thai government from entering into what they believe to be an illegal and illegitimate agreement that will not only offer no objection from Thailand that the Prasart be declared and maintained by Cambodia as a World Heritage Site, but also lead to loss of Thai land.
This writer has not been to Preah Viharn for decades, but has visited similar ruins in Phimai and the Phanom Rung ruins in northeast Thailand. In each case, while authorities have attempted to maintain them, results leave a great deal to be desired. In Buriram province, for example, large component rocks of the Phanom Rung temple are hastily piled on top of one another in a poor attempt to simulate original construction. It doesn’t work.
Given Cambodia’s past maintenance record, the question is, will Prasart Preah Vihear be able to withstand Cambodian attempts to maintain and preserve these ruins?
The Catch 22 situation at the temple is that access is only really feasible from Thai territory, but the World Court says it is on Cambodian land. If this were a problem between dear friends, then the status of Preah Viharn might not be so difficult to resolve. But while Thailand has called Cambodia a “friendly neighboring country,” the truth is that Cambodia and Thailand never really liked one another and are not about to start. Thailand’s current foreign minister even hinted that military force was always an option in getting back “what belongs to Thailand.”
Because of Thai protests and rumor-mongering, Cambodia closed Prasart Preah Viharn to the public last week. This action has taken money out of the pockets of surrounding merchants who had set up tents and tables to sell food and wares to visitors to the temple. More importantly, it has knocked out a source of income for the Cambodian government and tour agencies.
Just how long the temple remains closed will depend on how quickly Cambodia perceives that it is once again getting its way and that the status of World Heritage Site will be awarded to this ancient architectural masterpiece.
Links to Preah Viharn photos and International Court of Justice findings and rulings can be found, among other places, at www.thekokratpost.com.
The decision followed the Administrative Court's order, which handed down a temporary injunction against the cabinet resolution to endorse the joint communique last month.
The case was filed by the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).
Earlier, Mr Noppadon signed the joint declaration with Cambodia backing Phnom Penh's bid to have the Preah Vihear ruins listed as a World Heritage site, but opponents were concerned that the communique could cause Thailand to loose its territory if Cambodia is given world heritage status for the temple.
Mr Somchai said the Foreign Ministry will inform the Cambodian government and the Unesco of the court's injunction and the government's resolution.
Unesco has begun its annual meeting in Canada and Cambodia's proposal of the temple will be considered on July 7 as listed on the agenda.
North Country times
By PAUL SISSON - Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008
OCEANSIDE ---- For nearly 30 years, the Tan family has lived a life measured by the baker's dozen. But no more.
On Monday morning, Mill and Bophasy Tan hung up their aprons for good, after serving their last bear claws, crullers and twists to a passionate cast of customers.
Tomorrow, Tan's Donuts will open with a new owner behind the counter.
Longtime customers said the shop will go on, but that the Tans are an Oceanside institution that will be hard to replace.
John Trevor-Smith said he has been coming to the small donut shop on Mission Avenue between Foussat Road and El Camino Real for "more years than I can count." There has simply been no better place to get his fix, he added.
"They just make a great donut. It's not mushy or greasy," Trevor-Smith said. "Their prices are far superior to anyone else's around here, and the quality is the best.
"The Tans purchased their shop from a previous owner in 1984 after a five-year stint managing a Winchell's donut store in San Jose. Mill Tan said he attended Winchell's "donut school" to learn his skills.
The secret to a perfect donut? Attention to the details.
"You have to know the right time to fry and the right time to glaze," he said.
The wisdom sounds especially sage as Tan peers over the counter through his wire-rimmed glasses. Those eyes have seen more than donuts and cups of coffee. He and his wife left Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia in 1979, starting over in America as refugees.
Trained as a civil engineer, Mill Tan said he simply needed a way to feed his family, and donuts were one of the only opportunities available. Seven days a week for nearly three decades, the Tans have come to work at midnight, sometimes 11 p.m. if there is an especially big order, to prepare for the 5 a.m. donut rush.
"Some of our customers come here seven days a week," he said. "It's nonstop from midnight until you go home with the baking, and the serving and the cleaning."
The Tans were not alone in their decision to start frying donuts after leaving Cambodia. A quick Google search turns up dozens of tales of Cambodian immigrants starting in the donut trade after fleeing their homeland in the mid- to late-1970s.
Mill Tan, 67, said 30 years of constant standing ---- to make and serve circles of sweet indulgence ---- has taken its toll on his legs. But the toll is not so great that he plans of sitting at home in retirement.
"We're going to travel," he said.
Cambodia's National Election Committee has already received 15 complaints, with most lodged by the Sam Rainsy Party, the main oppostion party.
Cambodia is just five days into its official campaign period.
The Mekong Times reports the National Election Committee says most of the complaints are related to vandalism of rival party's signs, or about the use of loudspeakers.
It says nine complaints have come from Battambang province, with six already resolved.
It says the other three are still being examined.
By Kathy SaeNgian
The price of rice has more than doubled over the past year, making the commodity an expensive luxury for poor countries such as Cambodia.
These residents may spend up to 80 percent of their household income on food, said Jennifer Parmelee of the United Nations World Food Programme in Washington.
"You can imagine what happens when the price of basic food doubles and triples. What is a 'pinch' for Western consumers is a disaster for them," she said.
As of June 6 the cost of Thai 100 percent B Second Grade, the most commonly imported rice around the world, was estimated at $880 per metric ton. Last year at this time the price was $330.
"Hunger constituted the world's No. 1 public health problem, killing more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined," Ms. Parmelee said. "Before this [recent rice] crisis, more than 850 million men, women and children went to bed hungry. Now tens of millions more will be pushed into hunger and desperate poverty."
The inflation has had a particularly adverse impact in Cambodia, where government officials have restricted rice exports to help stabilize the prices within the country. The hope is that the country will be able to rely on its own rice stock instead of buying from Thailand, the world's largest rice exporter.
As with other industries, the rising cost of oil is a major contributor to the rice crisis. Oil is needed to produce ammonia nitrate fertilizer, the most commonly used in the agriculture industry, and as oil prices soar so does the price of fertilizer.
But this is only part of the problem.
In the past, the demand for basic grains in large-population countries was high because those grains were cheap. Over the past 10 years, developing countries in Africa, for example, have seen their populations steadily increase by 6 percent every year.
Now many of those children have reached an age where they can work and bring money into the household. With this higher household income, families have been able to afford more than grain to eat.
"As people get richer, they switch from eating rice to eating more meats and vegetables, which use grains indirectly and inefficiently," Nick Minot, senior research fellow of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.
Converting grains to produce animal protein has taken a toll on rice farmers because it takes two to three pounds of grain to produce a pound of chicken and 10 pounds of grain for a pound of beef.
"The food crisis is the result of progress in poor countries becoming richer," Mr. Minot said. "It's a real Catch-22."
The ruins of the Hindu temple are the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat, and have weathered centuries of wars and duelling territorial claims with Thailand.
The dispute seemed at an end two weeks ago, when Thailand gave Cambodia the green light to apply for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage site by the UN's cultural body UNESCO, a move that would draw in tourists and help maintain the temple.
UNESCO's 21-nation World Heritage Committee will consider the request during its annual meeting starting Wednesday in Quebec, Canada.
But the deal has sparked a political backlash in Thailand, and last week Cambodia closed its border near the ruins as more than 100 Thai activists tried to march there to protest the agreement.
Then a Thai court slapped an injunction on the government Saturday, preventing it from supporting Cambodia's bid.
"I've argued with Thais many times over this issue. Our Cambodian people will not be intimidated any more if the temple is listed as a World Heritage site," said Nuth Bunsoy, deputy chief of the nearby checkpoint into Thailand.
Preah Vihear, built to honour the Hindu god Shiva, stretches dramatically up to a cliff-top in the Dangrek mountain range, on the border with Thailand.
Thai soldiers in the 1950s occupied its series of complexes with elegant carvings linked by stone stairways and causeways, but they left after a World Court ruling in 1962 declared the temple belonged to Cambodia.
Although it sits on Cambodian soil, the stairway into the temple begins in Thailand, causing tensions over how to manage the site.
Former Khmer Rouge member Inn Noeun, one of 50 workers hired by the Cambodian government to maintain the ancient ruins, digs grass out of the steep stone staircase.
"I hope that Preah Vihear temple be listed as a World Heritage site very soon," said the 45-year-old woman, who moved to live near the temple a decade ago.
"The temple belongs to Cambodia. It is located in our territory," she said.
A 19-member delegation from Cambodia will push for Preah Vihear's naming as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The country began seeking World Heritage status for Preah Vihear nearly six years ago, but the temple has long plagued relations with Thailand.
When Cambodia last year attempted to have the site listed by UNESCO, the effort failed amid rumours Thailand had blocked the deal.
Many Cambodians dream that the ancient ruins, which bear the scars of the country's civil war, with bullet holes and signs warning visitors of landmines, will earn international recognition and attract much-needed tourists. That is also the hope of the government.
The listing brings "international recognition to the temple. It will also attract more foreign tourists with more income to the country," said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture.
Tourism is one of Cambodia's biggest money spinners, and the government wants to develop attractions away from Angkor Wat so that visitors will stay longer.
More than 200 tourists were visiting the site each week before the border closed. Most of them were Thais on weekend trips, but Cambodia hopes recognition from UNESCO will bring in visitors from further afield.
The Cabinet's decision came three days after the Administrative Court issued an injunction to temporarily suspend a Cabinet resolution backing Cambodia's application to UNESCO for the Preah Vihear temple to be designated a World Heritage Site.
"The Cabinet agreed to suspend the resolution," said Deputy Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. "The Thai government will inform UNESCO and Cambodia on its decision."
Saturday's court order to temporarily suspend the resolution was issued at the request of the People's Alliance for Democracy, a Thai group opposed to the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
The dispute surrounding the ancient temple continues to fuel nationalist sentiment in Thailand.
A small amount of territory adjacent to the temple remains in dispute, and critics claim cooperation with Cambodia over the heritage site application would jeopardize Thai claims to it.
The court's action is a political embarrassment for the government, which is fighting accusations by opponents both inside and outside parliament that it ceded Thai territory to Cambodia. The issue was raised as one of the reasons why Samak should step down.
The ruling applies to a Cabinet resolution that endorsed a Cambodian map of Preah Vihear temple, as well as a joint communique signed June 18 in which Thailand said it supported Cambodia's bid. The communique specifically said the application had no bearing on territorial claims by the countries.
But in its ruling, the Administrative Court said the communique "might undermine Thailand's future standing on the territorial dispute."
Cambodia has an internationally recognized claim over Preah Vihear temple and does not need Thai support for its application.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced aspects of the more famous Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia.
Last week, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Thai opposition politicians of exploiting the cross-border dispute to advance their own domestic political agenda and warned they might endanger bilateral relations.
The Cambodian government plans to propose Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site during a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on July 2-10 in Quebec, Canada.
Cambodia's ancient temples at Angkor Wat are under threat from the large numbers of tourists who are now visiting the site.
There are fears that ongoing damage to the temple's soft stone may mean they could eventually be destroyed. The government is making efforts to preserve the site, but experts warn that time is running out.
Cambodia's temples at Angkor Wat are considered among the best surviving examples of ancient religious architecture in the world.
Lost to the jungle for centuries, the temples were rediscovered in 1860 by French botanist Henri Mouhot.
For many Cambodians, Angkor Wat represents the heart and soul of the nation.
The temples were built about a thousand years ago. Relief work on the walls tell of the many threats the ancient empire survived throughout the centuries.
But today a new threat to the temples comes from mass tourism - thousands of tourists now visit the area every day.
Professor Jacques Gaucher has been excavating the walls of the ancient city for five years. He says the main problem is the transport the tourists use when visiting Angkor Wat, as vehicle pollution affects the stone.
The authorities say they are working hard to protect the temples. Some stairways have now been boarded-over and other areas are closed to tourists. But professor Gaucher says long term planning is needed to protect the site.
With tourist numbers at Angkor Wat growing every year most agree that more needs to be done if the temples are to be protected for future generations.
PHNOM PENH, July 1 (Reuters) - A lightning bolt killed three Cambodian soccer players and put three others in hospital at a match played during a monsoon season thunder-storm, officials said on Tuesday.
The victims, all in their 20s, were taking part in a tournament organised by the government to introduce the game to youngsters and ultimately to improve the strength of the national side, said Cambodia Soccer Federation President Sao Sokha.
Monday's freak incident in the southeast Asian nation's capital prompted a warning to players and coaches not to take to the field while thunderclouds loomed overhead -- an almost daily occurence in the May-October rainy season.
"We encourage children to play the game, but they should not do so during bad weather," Sao Sokha said.
Keo Vy of of the National Disaster Committee said 40 people had been killed nationwide by lightning so far this year, nearly as many as the total killed for the whole of 2007. Reasons for the dramatic increase remain unclear. (Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Ed Cropley and Ben Tan)
Tuesday July 01, 2008
It is doubtful whether an imaginative screenwriter could invent more ways to get it wrong than Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his cabinet. On a daily basis they demonstrate that they have learned nothing from the past eight years of tumultuous Thai history.
Members of this government from the premier on down seem to believe that democracy is celebrated on Election Day once in every while. After that, the politicians feel that a parliamentary majority makes them invulnerable to democracy. This is a dangerous attitude which has sunk governments in the past and embroiled the nation in terrible conflicts.
Time after time, since it was sworn into office on the solemn pledge to work honestly for the country, the government has carefully considered its options and taken the wrong turn. It appointed a man accused of buying votes as Speaker of the House. It insisted that parliament should discuss constitutional amendments to save three political parties, rather than economic policies to help 63 million citizens. Mr Samak, ministers and senior bureaucrats secretly planned the most important and vital policies behind closed doors, then tried to spring them on the country as a fait accompli, when it should have involved the country in its programmes. Through a careful and deliberate policy, Mr Samak has brought the country to the edge of yet another crisis of extremely dangerous proportions. The prime minister together with Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and senior civil servants conducted closed-door diplomacy on one of the touchiest subjects Thais can imagine. One wonders what Mr Samak and Mr Noppadon were thinking when they finally showed the country a contentious deal reached with Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple. That all the ministers, behind the closed doors of a cabinet meeting, agreed to back the pact only makes it more astonishing.
The government has arrogantly ignored the opinions of the nation by not even seeking them. It has immersed the country in yet another new and divisive battle that ridicules Mr Samak's claim last year that he could reunite Thais. Relations with Cambodia are sinking fast and Thais are reduced to hoping that the politicians in Phnom Penh - who are in the midst of an election campaign - can keep the lid on the ultra-nationalists there. Through it all, Mr Samak, coalition partners and ministers continue to insist they have the majority of votes at the polls and in parliament. As if that were the entire point of democracy.
Once again the government has been caught flat-footed. Its response to a possibly criminal Speaker was to appoint a party-machine politician in his place. Forced to drop the constitutional amendment game, it had no economic policy. Now it has created a terribly dangerous scenario over the Preah Vihear temple, and there will be no graceful resolution.
The real vote of confidence was not held in parliament last Friday. It is being held daily, hourly even, in the streets and fields and markets of the country. Democracy is not an election. It is an ongoing, developing process. A democratic government does not just inform the nation of its actions. It is fully accountable for those actions. The Samak government has failed miserably to consult, inform or show accountability. Perhaps Mr Samak is too set in his ways to realise that accountability is no longer a choice in Thai politics. In any case, he cannot ignore the Preah Vihear temple issue.
Tomorrow, the World Heritage Committee takes up Cambodia's application to list the temple as a World Heritage Site. The fate of Mr Samak's government may rest on his actions over the next few days.
Getting ready to visit Cambodia are, from left, Hilary Rihn, her mother, Julie Rihn, Kaley Foster and her mother, Lisa Dormire.
By Kathy SaeNgian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lisa Dormire desperately wanted children, and she was willing to travel halfway around the world to find them.
"The social worker called me one night out of the blue and said that there was a new adoption program starting up in Cambodia, and it was probably going to be a wild ride," said Ms. Dormire, 46, of Washington Township, Westmoreland County.
And indeed it was.
She and Julie Rihn, 46, of South Butler, were two of only a handful of families in the United States that adopted children from Cambodia when the adoption program began in 1991.
Both mothers are returning to Cambodia this week with their adopted children, not only to acquaint the now older teens with their home countries but also to give back to the country that gave them so much.
One of the goals for their trip is to raise money to buy rice for the Nutrition Center in Phnom Penh, where the children were living before they were adopted. Because the price of rice has more than doubled since last year, it has become harder to feed all of the orphans.
They've established a Web site, www.sendricesendlove.com, and hope to attract at least $2,000 in donations to buy rice to help feed the children in the orphanage.
Because of rising prices and lack of funds, the U.N. World Food Programme recently had to suspend for one month its School Feeding Program, which provides free breakfasts for 450,000 Cambodian children.
"The money that they have to spend on rice for orphans isn't going up, but the rice prices are. So at the end of the day that just means less rice," Ms. Dormire said.
In addition to the fundraiser, this trip will have sentimental value for the Rihns. This will be the first time that she and her 18-year-old daughter, Hilary, will be back to Cambodia since the adoption. They decided to embark on this trip after recently contacting members of Hilary's birth family, who live in the countryside. Although Hilary's parents and grandparents have died, Hilary has three sisters who are anticipating her arrival.
Traveling to Cambodia is the only way for her to reunite with her family because of a moratorium the Immigration and Naturalization Service imposed in 2004 on immigrant visas issued to Cambodia.
Ms. Rihn hopes that the reunion between Hilary and her family will allow her daughter to learn more about her roots and gain a stronger Cambodian identity.
In April 1991, Ms. Dormire traveled to Cambodia with hopes of adopting two children, a girl and a boy. She was told that her children might have some sort of disability, but she was willing to accept the risk.
She flew to Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Vietnam, and caught a bus to Cambodia. About 12 hours later, she arrived in Phnom Penh and met her children at the Nutrition Center orphanage.
"I went to the orphanage and met my son, and he was 11 months old at the time. Then five minutes later, they brought out a tiny little baby girl and said 'Do you want her?'" she recalled.
The baby, whom she named Kaley, was 5 months old, weighed 7 pounds and was not strong enough to hold up her own head. But that wasn't the only problem. Kaley's arms and legs were in a scissored position, and Ms. Dormire feared that she could have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder.
"We put her on a table, and we tried to straighten her arms out and everything," she said. "And I thought that maybe she will be in a wheelchair or she won't walk, but I knew that the connection was there. There is just something in your heart, and you know they're going to be OK."
It took six weeks for the Cambodian government to complete the adoption documents that allowed Ms. Dormire to take her children home.
Kaley, now 17 and still in high school, has no signs of a disability and is a competing gymnast. Her brother, Brennan, is also 17, but he is not returning to Cambodia this summer because of his soccer schedule.
Ms. Rihn waited for Hilary for a year after she met her at the Nutrition Center. Since she was fertile (she already had two biological sons), many adoption agencies either considered her ineligible or made it difficult for her to adopt.
When she finally received word of her new daughter, she traveled to Cambodia to pick her up. She got her first look at Hilary sitting on the floor while the nanny fed her rice.
"Then they handed me the spoon and the rice bowl, so I sat down and fed her," she said. "Then they let us take the kids right away. I guess they figured if you could feed them, it was one less mouth they had to."
The adoption paperwork was not complete when Ms. Rihn's visa expired three weeks later, so she had to return to the United States shortly afterward without Hilary.
The little girl finally arrived in the United States shortly before her second birthday. She weighed 17 pounds and had scabies and lice.
This month the mothers and daughters will be traveling with friends who also adopted children from Cambodia.
Seven years ago the INS suspended adoptions from Cambodia due to lack of legal documentation and a proper child-care system. It is unknown when the suspension will be lifted.
For more information, or to make a donation, go to www.sendricesendlove.com.
Published: July 1, 2008
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Lawyers for the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister told Cambodia's genocide tribunal Tuesday that its case against their client violates "double jeopardy" principles because he already was convicted of crimes against humanity and pardoned.
The United Nations-assisted court has charged Ieng Sary, 82, with crimes against humanity and war crimes, and he appeared before the panel Tuesday for a second day to argue that he should be freed from pretrial detention.
On Monday, his defense lawyers argued that Ieng Sary should be released because of his ill health. On Tuesday they made a case for double jeopardy — the right not to be judged twice for the same crime.
The tribunal, jointly run by Cambodian and international personnel, is attempting to establish accountability for atrocities committed by the communist group when it ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
The group's radical policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
Ieng Sary was condemned to death in absentia for crimes against humanity in a tribunal by a communist government that was installed in Cambodia by Vietnamese troops after they toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. The tribunal was conducted as a classic Soviet-style show trial, with no real effort to present a defense.
In 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon from the sentence from former King Norodom Sihanouk as a reward for breaking away from the Khmer Rouge and leading his followers to join the government. The mutiny foreshadowed the group's surrender three years later in 1999.
In many legal systems — including French law, upon which Cambodian law is based — you cannot prosecute a person a second time for a crime for which a judgment has already been rendered.
Ieng Sary's lawyer Michael Karnavas argued that while some international tribunals have allowed "cumulative prosecutions," this was not permitted under Cambodian law. The American lawyer maintained that Ieng Sary was being tried by a domestic Cambodian court, not an international tribunal.
"As you well know, your honors, you're not here to legislate from the bench. You're here to apply the existing law as it is but not to create new law as if you're legislators," Karnavas said.
In counter arguments, co-prosecutor Yet Chakriya said Ieng Sary was not being prosecuted twice for the same crime because the charges he now faces, crimes against humanity and war crimes, differ from those leveled in 1979.
Another prosecutor, William Smith, said double jeopardy aims to protect people "from suffering the hardships of a trial or consequent punishment twice," but that Ieng Sary suffered neither hardship nor punishment from the earlier trial.
Smith also said that double jeopardy does not apply because the 1979 proceedings did not comply with any internationally recognized standards for a trial.
Ieng Sary, 82, is the only one of five defendants held by the current tribunal who was previously tried and pardoned.
The tribunal plans to hold its first trial later this year.
Ieng Sary's wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge's social affairs minister, is among those being held on charges of crimes against humanity.
On Monday, Ieng Sary's defense team demanded that he be placed under either house arrest or protective hospitalization and undergo proper psychiatric examination to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.
Ieng Sary's "weak physical and mental capacity" makes him unable to fully assist his lawyers, Karnavas told the court.
From correspondents in Phnom Penh
July 01, 2008
-Three dead, three hospitalised by lightning
-Accident occurred during soccer match
-Game was to encourage kids to take up sport
A LIGHTNING bolt killed three Cambodian soccer players and put three others in hospital at a match played during a monsoon season thunderstorm.
The victims, all in their 20s, were taking part in a tournament organised by the Government to introduce the game to youngsters and ultimately to improve the strength of the national side, said Cambodia Soccer Federation President Sao Sokha.
The freak incident yesterday in the South-East Asian nation's capital prompted a warning to players and coaches not to take to the field while thunderclouds loomed overhead - an almost daily occurence in the May-October rainy season.
"We encourage children to play the game, but they should not do so during bad weather," Sao Sokha said.
Keo Vy of of the National Disaster Committee said 40 people had been killed nationwide by lightning so far this year, nearly as many as the total killed for the whole of 2007.
Malcolm Hatfield had been sentenced in 2004 to 10 years in jail, after being convicted of molesting four Cambodian boys aged 12 to 14.
Phnom Penh appeals court judge Saly Theara said he had changed Hatfield's conviction to the lesser crime of committing sexual and indecent acts against minors, giving the 62-year-old a six-year sentence.
Hatfield did not appear at the hearing.
After the opening of his appeal hearing last week, Hatfield told reporters he was innocent and alleged evidence against him was fabricated by child welfare organisations.
However Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the Cambodia-based child welfare group that collected evidence against Hatfield, denied falsifying any evidence.
Cambodia used to apply its debauchery law to almost all sex crimes, but has recently updated its statutes to include the new charge of indecent acts against minors. The judge's ruling updated Hatfield's convictions to reflect the legal change.
Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes or deporting them to face trial in their home countries since 2003.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia will export some 50,000 tonnes of dried rubber to the international market over the next year, a conspicuous rise over the current 30,000 tonnes a year, national media said Tuesday.
"We hope that Cambodia's exports of dried rubber will continue to rise as the new rubber trees which have been planted over the past five years under an expansion project are tapped for resin," Ly Phalla, general director of the General Directorate of Rubber Plantation, was quoted by English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times as saying.
"International market demands for rubber and rising rubber prices will be an incentive for Cambodia to step up rubber exports, " he added. Dried rubber now sells 3,310 U.S. dollars per ton in Cambodia, up from 2,800 U.S. dollars last year.
Cambodia began rubber cultivation in the 1920s during the French colonial era but exports dwindled in the 1970s as the country was ravaged by civil wars.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 567
“Experts of the World Health Organization and experts of maternal and infant health said that the health of mothers and infants during childbirth in Cambodia causes much concern, and this is the result mainly of the shortage of midwives.
“Dr. Cheang Konitha, an official of the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said that the health of mothers and infants is a major issue to which Cambodia should pay attention, because there are many maternal and infants’ deaths every year. She said, ‘It is estimated that about 2,000 Cambodian women and infants died every year during pregnancy or during childbirth.’
“Dr. Kum Kanal [Director of National Mother and Child Health Center] said that maternal and infants’ deaths during pregnancy and until 42 days after childbirth are higher than in other countries in the region. He said, ‘The number of maternal and infants’ deaths in our country is a bit better than that of Burma, and it is comparable to that of Laos; but if compared to that of Vietnam and Thailand, we are much worse.’
“He continued that there are three major reasons that makes the death rate in Cambodia so high, which include the late detection and control of illnesses, and the late referring to special care. As for other countries, their services are faster. He added that the delays are because there is a shortage of midwives, and most Cambodian citizens do not understand the importance of health centers.
“Dr. Cheang Konitha said that according to the national health statistics in 2007 in Cambodia, there were only 3,184 midwives, and this number is not enough to guarantee the safety of mothers and infants during childbirth.
“She said that there are more than 100 health centers that have no midwife at all, and 78% of women give birth to their children at home, 55% of whom give birth assisted by traditional midwives who have not obtained training in midwifery skills.
“Mr. Kum Kanal denied the numbers describing the shortage mentioned above, claiming that because of the efforts of the government, so far, among all of the more than 900 health centers in Cambodia, only 72 or 73 centers do not have a midwife. However, he admitted that Cambodia still lacks thousands of midwives, but he is not sure about the real number of the shortage.
“Officials of the Human Resource Development Department of the Ministry of Health could not be reached for comment on 28 June 2008.
“Ms. Cheang Konitha said that as a national standard, each health center needs one to two midwives. As for hospitals that have three sections, some need six to eight midwives, or seven to ten or fifteen to twenty; and areas without health centers also need midwives.
“Regarding the shortage of midwives in Cambodia, regional experts of the World Health Organization said in a workshop organized in Hanoi that the reason for the shortage of midwives in Cambodia is an economic problem.
“Mr. Kum Kanal mentioned that this is the true reason; the low salary is the major reason, and the shortage of encouragement is also a cause. Young people of the next generation in their teens are not very much interested in this skill.
“He asserted, ‘We have five midwife training schools, but there are only 200 midwives graduating from those schools each year. He went on to say that according to this number, we need up to ten more years to have enough midwives.’
Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4528, 29-30.6.2008
The High Cost of Recycling at a Cambodian Landfill
The Environmental Magazine
By John Brown
Those who live there call it “Smokey Mountain.” Officially, it’s the Steung Meanchey landfill in Cambodia, the city dump for Phnom Penh, a 100-acre mountain of waste where some 2,000 registered workers, including 600 children, sift through roughly 700 tons of garbage a day.
The air is thick with smoke and the smell of burning rubbish. The dirt road leading to the dumping ground is lined with recycling facilities, makeshift noodle stands, a pool hall and a hairdressing shop. Beyond the industrial scales used to weigh arriving trucks is a huge, flat plateau of garbage crawling with workers. Children, some barefoot and naked, clutch plastic bags full of empty bottles and cans.
Large tractors crisscross the site shoveling the slippery flotsam into massive piles of rotting food, clothes, magazines and wilted flowers. Groups of scavengers converge on the incoming trucks while others scour ash and soot searching for lucrative metal. Tarpaulin and plastic shelters dot the landscape, providing relief from hot sun or soaking rain. Children too young to join their parents occupy several of these refuges, playing with found objects—and dead animals.
These children can’t attend school because their families depend upon even the youngest worker’s income, as little as $.50 USD per day, to sustain them. Replacing that income is the first step in getting these children an education. According to its website, the French NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (“for a child’s smile”) has helped 5,000 children attend school in Phnom Penh during the past 10 years.
As the afternoon sun descends behind drifting walls of hazy gray air, workers separate items by type, sacks are filled, gathered and weighed, and recyclers pay each worker in cash. According to Thingha, a 26-year-old worker from Phnom Penh, “Many of the people have difficulty finding metal, that’s why I choose to concentrate on metal each day.” Other workers focus their efforts on soft, clear plastic that can generate 200 riels (about $.05 USD) per kilogram.
Shrouded by impending nightfall, the Steung Meanchey workers trek back to their ramshackle living quarters on the edge of the facility. Small clusters of wood-frame shacks wrapped with plastic and canvas await them. Children gather scraps of wood used to fuel fires for cooking while women fill pots with rice that will be prepared on heavy clay or black cast iron stoves. After their evening meal, large families retire for the evening to sleeping spaces, some no larger than three by four meters, only to arise before dawn to repeat this routine the next day.
Led By Hope
The World Bank reports that 35 percent of Cambodia’s population of around 14 million exists on less than $.50 USD per day. Since an adult who spends 12 hours per day scavenging through this sea of waste may earn as much as 10,000 riels, or the equivalent of $2.50 USD, many workers come to work at Steung Meanchey to escape the crushing poverty and malnourishment found in rural Cambodia. Their newfound wealth comes with a heavy price, however, as they are forced to breathe air polluted by the constant smolder that generates toxic byproducts from the flaming heaps of garbage. Scores of workers are seen coughing or sneezing, and most of the youngest children have runny noses, inflamed throats and watering eyes. Some scavengers sport facial scars from being struck by errant swinging gaffs, while others have been injured or killed by tractors or garbage trucks whose drivers didn’t notice them.
Cambodian-born Dr. Teng Soeun, 60, moved to the Steung Meanchey area four years ago from Phnom Penh’s city center and opened a health clinic near the landfill. “I feel better about myself living here in Steung Meanchey and I wanted to help,” says the German-educated hematologist. “The people who work at the dump look unhealthy because of the air pollution. I see a lot of breathing problems and eye infections. The potable water supply around here is also limited because of the poison that leaks into the ground.”
Small groups are trying to provide healthcare and supplies to the needy residents. They range from Los Angeles-based theinvisibles.org to endexploitation.org, a grassroots organization headquartered in Toronto. According to George Reed, a representative for endexploitation.org, the organization has recently provided a van to help the workers get to health clinics and hospitals. Despite their noteworthy humanitarian efforts, these groups have unwittingly added to the collective needs of the people who work there, since a large percentage of the workers come to Phnom Penh from rural Cambodia after learning about health, food and school programs available there.
Approximately 85 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas, including You Engsry, an unmarried 27-year-old resident of Prasat Village in Kampong Cham province. “I’ve heard about people leaving my village to pick through garbage, but that is something I don’t want to do,” he says. “Maybe if I had a family I would think about it,” he continued, “but I spend my extra money on English lessons.”
The need for humanitarian aid for newly arriving workers is seemingly constant, adding pressure on entities to sustain and grow their sources of funding. That doesn’t discourage Chicago’s Jerry and Valerie Varney from doing what they can. The couple is forming a new charity, justonechild.org, that they hope will receive enough funding to rescue as many youngsters from the misery as possible. While the Varneys’ initial focus will be trading garbage hooks for school books, Mr. Varney is taking an open approach to their new endeavor. “The areas we go into depend in large part on how much money we can raise,” he says. “I’m open to everything given the proper funding.”
Kidron Bethel Village Chaplain Amanda Rempel, left, and exchange program participant Sokhom Yann of Cambodia
Posted Jun 30, 2008
NORTH NEWTON — Sokhom Yann of North Newton loves baked goat, American hamburgers and eggs served sunny-side up.
Yann, 25, arrived in the United States in August from his home in Kompongthom, Cambodia, for a yearlong stint with the Mennonite Central Committee international volunteer exchange program, a Christian service opportunity for ages 18 through 30. Many of its participants are placed with social service agencies.
Yann is a chaplain’s assistant for Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton. He also worked in the activities department at Bethel Health Care Centre in the Kidron community.
Buying Cambodian products is the best way to help promote and enhance Cambodian living standard!
If you want to discover the best of Cambodia, nature and wildlife of the Mekong River will be appreciatory and why do not go to Kratie province. It's located in northeastern Cambodia. It may take about 6 hours to travel by car from Phnom Penh to Kratie town (315km) crossing the National Road 6, 7 and 13. The Mekong River is extremely beneficial to crop and rice cultivation of the province. Furthermore, tourists could travel by boat or speedboat to view the nature and living along the Mekong River Bank. More importantly, Irrawaddy dolphins, mainly known as PHSAUT in Khmer, can be viewed at Kampi pool in Kampi Village, Sambok commune, Sambok district 15km north of Kratie City.
While arriving at Kratie, you would not miss to buy the tasteful Nem, roll made of hashed fish meat wrapped and cooked in banana leaves, for your families, friends, or colleagues. NEM can be eaten as a snack or with rice according to one's interest. Some people who prefer eating NEM said NEM in Kratie is tastier than that in Battambang. Thus, let's see how NEM is made in Kratie province.
In Kroko Village, 3km north of Kratie town (www.tourismindochina.com/kratie-attractionsite.htm), Aunty MEX told us about how to make NEM. She produced NEM for sale as a family business with the help of her daughter and two sons whenever they are free from their study. She said she could make NEM with an average 500 per day and it costs 100 Riel per NEM. However, she could make more than that depending on the customers' demand. First, we have to ensure that all ingredients are ready to be used for making NEM.
The main element of NEM is fish meat; kind of fish depends on the fish availability and one's interest. The other ingredients are toasted rice, ginger, star gooseberry leaves, banana leaves, chilies, sugar, salt and seasoning.
The fish meat is shredded or crushed, and mixed with toasted rice, ginger, sugar, salt and seasoning. Hashed fish meat is rolled into small ones with chili slice and star gooseberry leaves. At last, they are wrapped in banana leaves and tied with wire. One day later, NEM is ready for eating.
By Khmer Product Promotion Team
AP, PHNOM PENH
Monday, Jun 30, 2008
“[The Khmer Rouge was] characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts.”
Investigating judges, UN genocide tribunal
The former foreign minister of the now-defunct Khmer Rouge movement plans to appeal to Cambodia’s genocide tribunal against his pretrial detention, a court spokesman said yesterday.
The UN-assisted tribunal has charged Ieng Sary, 82, with crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is due to appear today to press for his release, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.
Ieng Sary is one of five defendants being held by the tribunal, which plans to begin its first trial later this year. His wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge’s social affairs minister, is also being held on charges of crimes against humanity.
The tribunal, jointly run by Cambodian and international personnel, attempts to establish accountability for the atrocities committed by the communist group when it ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
The group’s radical policies resulted in the deaths of about 1.7 million people, who were executed or died of starvation, disease or hard labor.
In their detention order in November, the investigating judges said Ieng Sary is being prosecuted for supporting Khmer Rouge policies that were “characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labor.”
Ieng Sary has dismissed the charges against him as “unacceptable” and demanded evidence to support them, a copy of his detention order said.
He and his wife belonged to the inner circle of the Khmer Rouge and were in-laws to the movement’s late leader Pol Pot, who was married to Khieu Ponnary, Ieng Thirith’s sister.
Ieng Thirith took her husband’s surname after they got married.In 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon from former King Norodom Sihanouk as a reward for leading his followers to join the government.
The mutiny foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge collapse three years later in 1999.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Lawyers for the former foreign minister of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge argued Monday that he should be freed from pre-trial detention by the country's genocide tribunal because of ill health.
The United Nations-assisted court has charged Ieng Sary, 82, with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The hearing on his appeal was adjourned early at the request of the defendant, who said he did not feel well enough to continue. It was set to continue Tuesday.
Ieng Sary is one of five defendants being held by the tribunal, which plans to hold its first trial later this year. His wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge's social affairs minister, is among those being held on charges of crimes against humanity.
The tribunal, jointly run by Cambodian and international personnel, is attempting to establish accountability for atrocities committed by the communist group when it ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
The group's radical policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
Dressed in a light-blue, long-sleeved shirt, the 82-year-old Ieng Sary was visibly infirm. Guards had to help him sit and stand up in his first courtroom appearance since his arrest last year.
Ieng Sary's defense team demanded that he be placed under either house arrest or protective hospitalization and undergo proper psychiatric examination to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.
Ieng Sary's "weak physical and mental capacity" makes him unable to fully assist his lawyers, Michael Karnavas, an American lawyer from Alaska, told the court.
"That's one of our primary issues here — the ability to follow proceedings. We cannot go forward on this very critical issue" relating to Ieng Sary's right to a fair trial, Karnavas said.
"A more robust individual could exercise all of his rights whereas someone who is not as robust, be it physical or mental, will have less," he said.
In their detention order in November, the new tribunal's investigating judges said Ieng Sary is being prosecuted for supporting Khmer Rouge policies that were "characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labor."
Ieng Sary has dismissed the charges as "unacceptable" and demanded evidence to support them, according to court documents.
Ieng Sary and his wife belonged to the inner circle of the Khmer Rouge and were in-laws of the movement's late leader.
When the hearing resumes Tuesday, the court will also consider whether its proceedings constitute double jeopardy, said Judge Prak Kimsan.
In many legal systems — including French law, upon which Cambodian law is based — you cannot prosecute a person a second time for a crime for which a judgment of guilt or innocence has already been rendered.
Ieng Sary was condemned to death in absentia by a communist government tribunal that was installed by Vietnamese troops after they toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. The tribunal lacked credibility because it was conducted as a classic Soviet-style show trial, with no real effort to present a defense.
In 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon from the sentence from former King Norodom Sihanouk as a reward for breaking away from the Khmer Rouge and leading his followers to join the government. The mutiny foreshadowed the group's three years later in 1999.
The pardon has not yet been tested in court.
It was mentioned on the agenda for Ieng Sary's appeal, but the question of double jeopardy was raised for the first time Monday by Karnavas. Whether the issue has any standing under the tribunal's rules and whether there is any merit has not yet been determined.
In addition to Ieng Sary and his wife, the three other suspects in custody awaiting trial are Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, Nuon Chea, the former chief ideologist, and Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — who headed the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center.
The tribunal has said it plans to start Duch's trial in September.
June 30, 2008
Lawyers representing a former Cambodian communist leader accused of complicity in the deaths of millions of his fellow citizens argued Monday that the 82-year-old should not be in jail as he awaits his war crimes trial in Phnom Penh.
Ieng Sary was foreign minister in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime, which maintained brutal policies of repression and social engineering and oversaw the deaths of as many as 3 million people between 1974 and 79.
Ieng Sary is one of five surviving officials of the communist movement awaiting war crimes trials at a joint Cambodian-United Nations-run tribunal in Phnom Penh.
His American lawyer, Michael Karnavas, told judges Monday that his client's "weak physical and mental capacity" made him unfit for the pre-trial jail custody that the tribunal insisted upon.
Karnavas said Ieng Sary was too weak to take part in preparing his own defence, and should either be placed under house arrest or sent to a secure hospital where his lawyers would have more access to him.
"A more robust individual could exercise all of his rights, whereas someone who is not as robust, be it physical or mental, will have less," Karnavas argued before the court.
Calls charges 'unacceptable'
Proceedings had to be stopped because Ieng Sary said he wasn't feeling well enough to proceed and will resume on Tuesday, UN officials said.
Ieng Sary has said the charges against him are "unacceptable" and demanded to see the evidence behind them, but no plea has been entered.
The first war crimes trial under the Cambodia Tribunal process is set to begin later this year when Ieng Sary's co-defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, answers charges of running a Khmer Rouge jail and torture centre where 16,000 Cambodians are said to have died gruesome deaths.
The other accused include Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and ideology chief Nuon Chea.
The movement's notorious leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, reportedly from a heart attack but no reliable autopsy or investigation was ever conducted.
The tribunal process has been delayed for years by procedural wrangling over the rules of evidence and the trial process.
Cambodian judges and lawyers work side-by-side with international jurists and legal experts in the tribunal process.
The lead co-prosecutor is Robert Petit of Montreal, who has also worked on legal issues in Kosovo, East Timor and Rwanda.
July 1, 2008
PHNOM PENH: The former Khmer Rouge foreign minister appeared before the United Nations-backed Cambodian genocide court yesterday to appeal against his detention, in a case that poses the first big test for the tribunal.
Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five top regime cadres detained for crimes allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975 to 1979 rule over Cambodia.
The aged and sickly former leader, who has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, walked into court with a cane and needed the help of guards to sit in the dock. When judges asked his occupation, he said: "I am retired."
The hearing was attended by about 300 Cambodians. Heng Sruy, 57, travelled from the south-western province of Kampot and said he hoped the court would continue Ieng Sary's detention. "I want to hear Ieng Sary speak the truth," Mr Heng Sruy said. "I lost many relatives under the Khmer Rouge regime. I can't remember how many, but a lot."
At yesterday's hearing, Ieng Sary's lawyers planned to seek his release on bail. Later in the week, they are expected to argue that the charges should be dropped because Ieng Sary had received a royal pardon in 1996 in return for surrendering to the government.
"The court will have to decide whether the amnesty is valid or not. Maybe they will have a conflict between Cambodia's constitution and international norms," the head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Sok Samoueun, said.
Deciding whether nationally granted amnesties apply to international trials is a significant area of contention that has been raised in the Sierra Leone war crimes trial and the International Criminal Court, the head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's defence office, Rupert Skillbeck, said.
Ieng Sary was one of the biggest public supporters of the regime's mass purges, researchers say.
Published on July 1, 2008
The never-ending row over Preah Vihear Temple has to do with the complete lack of trust between Thailand and Cambodia, both at the governmental and citizen level.
In addition, the flames of nationalism have been fanned by politicians of all stripes on both sides. Years of historical baggage hang like a persistent cloud over their relations.
Ever since Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej took over, a convergence of numerous incidents, comments and hidden agendas have come together and raised suspicions in the minds of Thai stakeholders over territorial integrity. In this case, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama's own idiosyncrasies and diplomatic gaffes have damaged the country's handling of the temple case.
Add all of these elements together plus an overdose of invective against Cambodia and one can predict how bilateral relations will end up in the future.
It's unfortunate that the two countries have to experience such turbulence at a time that is trying for both. Cambodia will hold a general election on July 27, while in Thailand the Samak government is trying to stay alive as a surrogate of deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The scare from the torching of the Thai embassy at the end of January, 2003 is still fresh in the minds of Thais. But the flames of the pair's love-hate relations date back to the 13th century and the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
Visitors to the ruins of the 11th Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap (which literally means "flattened Siam") can easily see how the Siamese invaders were portrayed in the carvings on the stone walls. Their faces are ugly and cruel. To Cambodians, Thais are villains who invaded their country and destroyed the Angkor civilisation. They are also arrogant and often look down on their neighbours.
When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975, millions of Cambodians sought refuge overseas, nearly a half a million of them crossing the border into Aranyaprathet. Some of them stayed for over a decade before they were settled into third countries. Indeed, very few of these refugees, if any, decided to remain in Thailand.
Truth be told, these refugees, who have since grown up to receive good educations and become affluent, do not have any fond memories of their rough childhood years spent at Khao-I-Dang camp. Some of these same people are now in power and are directing Cambodia's foreign policy.
Former Khmer Rouge resistance fighters who used to live in Thailand and were under the care of the Thai Army often recall bitter experiences and the ways they were patronised, albeit while mentioning some of the good deeds committed by the Thais.
Back in 1996 and 1997, senior Thai officials were also involved in an unpublicised and aborted coup in Cambodia stemming from disputes over telecommunications deals. Thailand's involvement in its domestic politics also deepened Cambodian suspicions that if the opportunity arose, Thailand's power-wielders would destabilise the country. That explains why instances of joint-development cooperation are hard to come by. Thailand and Malaysia entered into their first joint-development cooperation effort in the Gulf of Thailand back in 1979 and the cooperation continues with profits shared between the two countries. The Thai-Malay effort could serve as a model for a joint gas development effort between Thailand and Cambodia in the disputed area in the gulf.
After peace came to Cambodia in 1993, Thailand's economic and cultural presence in the country started to increase rapidly. Eager Thai investors were seen as cowboys coming into the country to turn a fast profit, while exploiting the resource-rich country. Anti-Thai sentiment and hatred went on the rise. Meanwhile, local markets were filled with Thai consumer products; on TV, Thai soap operas were dubbed in broken Khmer. At one point, the Hun Sen government even banned Thai dramas. During the UN-sanctioned political transition in Cambodia during the 1990s, Thai pop culture and language were popular among Cambodians. The Thai government did not realise this potential and failed to nurture these good feelings.
But it has not all been one-sided. Thais who are old enough might recall the Cambodian horror film Puos Keng Kang ("The Snake King's Child") made by Dy Saveth, a Cambodian actress who was hugely popular in Thailand. Indeed, the Khmer cultural influence in Thailand is far greater than the Thais are willing to admit. Historians concur quite readily that Khmer cultural contributions over the past several centuries have enriched Thai culture in its present form.
Indeed, Cambodia is different from Burma, a country perceived as an eternal enemy by the Thais. Indeed, the Cambodians are as close to the Thais as the Lao. Both Thailand and Cambodia share similar customs and traditions, as well as Buddhism. Without Khmer words, the Thai language would not be as rich.
Fast-forward to the present, and it took Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong's comments about Surakiart Sathirathai for the UN's top job to galvanise the Thaksin government to go full steam ahead on the Preah Vihear issue. The versatile foreign minister will again serve in the days and weeks to come in the effort to resolve the Preah Vihear issue.
Thailand should learn and adjust its relations with Cambodia. It needs to prevent an anti-Thai sentiment from arising as it did in 2003. Since joining Asean in 1999, the country has joined the ranks of democratic countries, albeit one with many imperfections. It has a vibrant economy and able technocrats and diplomats. With potential gas and oil deposits, Cambodia's future is going to be a strong one.
The trouble is, Thailand has never dealt with stronger neighbours in an equal manner before.
Written by Sambath Teth
Monday, 30 June 2008
Cambodia has vowed to press ahead with its bid for a UNESCO World Heritage listing for Preah Vihear temple despite a Thai court ruling that Bangkok cannot support the nomination for the ancient Hindu site.
"It's their internal problem," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post in a phone interview on June 30.
"[Preah Vihear] is our temple and we want it to receive world heritage listing," Siphan said.
"Preah Vihear belongs to us so we are not interested in this," he added, referring to an injunction issued by Thailand's Administrative Court on June 28.
The injunction temporarily blocked the Thai government from supporting Cambodia's nomination to seek world heritage status for Preah Vihear at a UNESCO meeting in Quebec starting July 2.
The injunction follows a joint communiqué endorsing the nomination that was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama on June 18.
The injunction had been sought by a coalition of activist groups in Thailand, the People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been leading weeks of street protests in Bangkok against the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
Opposition parties criticized Samak over the communiqué during a no-confidence debate in the Thai parliament last week after the Preah Vihear issue had been raised at the street protests in Bangkok.
Siphan expressed frustration at the role played by Thai opposition parties.
"The Cambodian government is working with the Thai government; we are not working with the Thai opposition," he said.
Siphan downplayed the possibility of unrest in Cambodia over the stand taken by some Thai groups.
"Thai restaurants are full of Cambodian people," he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong also expressed regret that some Thai parties and politicians were exploiting the Preah Vihear issue as part of their campaign against the Samak government.
"I am very sorry they are using Preah Vihear for their internal political purposes; this can affect the friendship and cooperation between our two countries," Namhong told a news conference on June 27.
On June 22, the Cambodian government closed the border checkpoint at Preah Vihear, citing security concerns after a group of Thai activists gathered at a market near the main entrance to the temple, which is most easily accessed from the Thai side of the border.
In response to the border closure, a ceremony was held at Preah Vihear on June 30 to offer food to the small Cambodian community living at the temple site and to pray for peace.
The ceremony was sponsored by the Khmer Civilization Foundation, which on June 15 hosted a celebration in Phnom Penh to mark the 46th anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice granting ownership of Preah Vihear to Cambodia.
Foundation president Moeung Sonn said the donated food, including four tons of rice and 330 bottles of fish sauce, as well as soy sauce, salt and packaged noodles, had cost $4,000, including $1,000 of his own money.
Sonn said he planned to take doctors with him on a return trip to Preah Vihear because some of the Cambodians there were ill and had requested medicine and medical treatment.
By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 June 2008
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (821 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (821 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Ieng Sary, 82, was able to answer simple questions from pre-trial chamber head Judge Prak Kimsan early Monday. But after lunch, defense lawyer Ang Udom said he wished for doctors to examine his client before continuing the pre-trial release hearing.
Ieng Sary had not eaten much lunch and was overcome with dizziness, Ang Udom said.
Tribunal doctors examined Ieng Sary and determined his oxygen count was low, his pulse was weak and his heart was beating with irregularity. A continued hearing could put his life in immediate jeopardy and deteriorate his overall condition, doctors told the court.
After a 10-minute deliberation, judges postponed the hearing, but did not give a date for its resumption.
Ieng Sary is also scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, on whether a 1979 court that found him guilty of war crimes can be considered legitimate, and whether the former foreign minister is being tried for the same crime twice.
Critics of a slow tribunal process have repeatedly voiced fears that aging Khmer Rouge leaders could die before they see trial.
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 June 2008
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (884 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (884 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Mu Sochua, the opposition candidate for Kampot province, has had two brushes with ruling party activists in three days.
The Sam Rainsy Party secretary-general and former Funcinpec minister of women's affairs said she was nearly run over by a truck on Monday and dodged a motorcycle Saturday.
On Saturday, Mu Sochua claims, she argued with a ruling Cambodian People's Party commune chief who was wearing a CPP hat--a violation of election regulations. She filed a complaint with police claiming the driver tried to hit her with his motorcycle.
And on Monday, she said, she was nearly knocked over by a truck after she tried to pull a CPP sign off the door of the vehicle, which was a government vehicle. Mu Sochua said her shirt had been torn open and her left arm twisted in an ensuing scuffle.
"I will complain to the [provincial election committee] on violations of the election law and complain to the courts of attempted murder and assault," Mu Sochua said Monday. "This is a very serious problem."
Local election officials failed to mediate the disputes Monday, and CPP officials have complained to provincial officials over Mu Sochua's removal of a sign from the vehicle without authority.
If she saw lawful wrongdoing, she should complain to local election officials, said San Sman, a senior district CPP official, whose truck was at the center of Monday's altercation.
Provincial Election Committee Chairman Te Chinnarith said he is investigating all complaints and will hold an open hearing in the next three days, in accordance with election regulations.
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 June 2008
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (718 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (718 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Sihanouk met with the activists from eight groups under the Committee of Strict Enforcement of Human Rights in Cambodia, Monday morning.
National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha called the former king's presence in Cambodia created a warm feeling for voters and politicians, in the election run-up.
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 June 2008
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (794 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 June 2008 (794 KB) - Listen (MP3)
A court suit alleging the detention for ransom of villagers by local officials from the Ministry of Environment has seen little progress in the past week, officials said Monday.
Villagers claim Kratie provincial court officials have taken no action in a lawsuit they filed earlier this month, but the fault lies with the villagers and defendants alike, a court official said.
The court has summoned the villagers who filed the suit, as well as the defendants, but none has appeared, said court prosecutor Mork Phany.
Representatives of 54 families filed a lawsuit on June 20, alleging the kidnapping of six people and the destruction of nine houses. Villagers allege they paid between $200 to $500 per person to secure the release of the detainees, according to court documents.
Representatives of the 17 accused officials have denied the claims of kidnapping, saying the villagers live on protected forest land.
Villagers said Monday the Environment officials were still detaining people and demanding ransom.