Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Land grabbing continues in Cambodia

Radio Australia

Illegal land seizures have emerged as one of the most serious threats to stability in Cambodia.

Last month the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Phnom Penh recieved a petition signed by 42,000 victims of land grabbing. The petition called on authorities to heed a demand by Hun Sen for officials to stop land grabs throughout Cambodia, and return illegally seized land to its rightful owners. But the demands appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge Speakers: Duol Chantha, Dey Krahom resident; Naly Pilorge, Licadho Director, Khieu Kannarith, Cambodian government spokesman, Manfred Hornung, Monitoring Consultant, Licadho

Cambodian court shuttered, blocking opposition leader's defence

Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy went to court Wednesday to refute defamation charges brought by the foreign minister over Khmer Rouge remarks, but no one was there to take his evidence.

The door to the court was locked when Sam Rainsy arrived. After a security guard let him in, prosecutors did not show up to receive the documents he wanted to file in his defence, he said.

"The prosecutors all fled. They are scared by Sam Rainsy," he told reporters as left the court.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong filed a defamation lawsuit in April at Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Sam Rainsy over remarks alleging that he was a former Khmer Rouge member.

Hor Namhong has long said that he and his family were prisoners at a Khmer Rouge camp, and has successfully sued people in the past for claiming that he had links to the regime.

Sam Rainsy, who leads the main opposition party running in general elections on July 27, went voluntarily to the court on Wednesday to submit documents in his defence.

He accused the court of being "vulgar and a puppet" and urged the people to "open a new page of history in this year's election" to oust the government.

"The election is near and they want to intimidate me but I'm not scared," Sam Rainsy added.

Court officials could not be reached for comments immediately.

Sam Rainsy and his eponymous party are considered the main opposition force when Cambodians go to the polls, but Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is expected to dominate the election.

Up to two million people died of overwork and starvation or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which outlawed religion, property rights, currency and schools during its 1975-1979 rule.

WHC plan for Preah Vihear 'most unusual'

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 09, 2008

Listing can be changed later to bi-national
BANGKOK POST AND AFP

The decision by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to appoint a committee of representatives from seven nations to look after the old Preah Vihear temple is "most unusual", a former chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee said yesterday.

Although Thailand would be a member of the committee, it would lose its sovereign right to manage property on Thai territory, Adul Wichiencharoen said.

"This is an unusual practice, for the World Heritage Committee to set up the special task force to manage the ancient Hindu temple.

"I have never seen this before."

He said his successor as Thai World Heritage Committee chairman, Pongpol Adireksan, "should oppose the plan, otherwise Thailand will lose its right to manage the property in Thai territory".

Mr Pongpol went to the meeting in Quebec City and lobbied unsuccessfully for the WHC to postpone a decision on the Cambodian application for the temple to be listed as a Work Heritage site.

Mr Adul said there was little chance of Thailand getting the surroundings of Preah Vihear temple located on Thai soil listed as world heritage because they were only the secondary component of the temple area.

Opponents of the government on the Preah Vihear issue said they will seek clarification of the decision to list the site from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which acts as secretariat to the WHC.

The group said politicians would have to take responsibility if Thailand lost territory as a result of the unilateral listing by the Cambodian government.

The group included M.L. Walwipha Charoonroj of Thammasat University's Thai Khadi Studies Institute, Gen Pathompong Kesornsuk from the Supreme Command, Tulya Sitthisomwong of Chulalongkorn University's medical science faculty and Thepmontri Limpaphayom, an independent scholar.

Democrat party and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was disappointed with the committee's decision, saying the best result would be a joint listing of the site by the two countries.

The government must reserve the right to make sure its sovereignty is not be infringed upon and to ensure the correct demarcation of the border, he said.

Ambassador Francesco Caruso, special adviser to the director general of Unesco, told AFP in Quebec that the listing was not meant to prejudice settlement of the border dispute.

It could be amended in the future to a bi-national listing of the temple and its contested landscape.

"It could become a mixed natural and architectural site, the door is open. The Cambodians negotiated a listing that opens the door to such future harmony. Thais are demanding it now."

Cambodians' jubilation over the listing of the temple as a World Heritage site were in stark contrast to the subdued mood and disappointment on the Thai side of the border.

Members of the Thammayatra group camping at Preah Vihear national park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district, were crestfallen on hearing the news. Arunsak Ocharos, president of the People's Assembly in Si Sa Ket, said he will call on the army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda to evict Cambodians living in the disputed overlapping area.

Phnom Penh parties as temple is listed



Jubilant Cambodians wave their national flag in Phnom Penh's central market yesterday as they celebrate the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site by Unesco.
The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 09, 2008

PHNOM PENH : Cambodians celebrated in the streets yesterday over their country's success in having an 11th-century Hindu temple named a World Heritage landmark despite objections from Thailand. Thousands danced, sang and waved Cambodian flags, chanting ''Long live Preah Vihear temple!'' in response to news that Unesco had granted the temple World Heritage Site status.

''This is a very auspicious day for us. We're very delighted,'' said Ti Vansi, a medical student who joined his peers in skipping class to hold a celebration rally.

Mom, a 20-year-old vendor, joined the crowds singing, dancing to drum music and waving flags as they marched around the central market.

''I was told by other traders [about the listing] and I want to be here to celebrate the success,'' she said.

More than 200 students and professors waved flags and sang the national anthem in front of the University of Health and Sciences. Many students cut classes and motorists honked their horns in salute.

''I came out here (from class), along with everybody else. We are so happy,'' said 23-year-old university student Veasna.

Tuy Chamroan, deputy dean at the university, said he supported the students leaving class for the street celebration.

''As a Cambodian, I feel very proud and excited about the news because we've been waiting for it for some 30 years,'' he said.

Cambodian media indulged in a subdued show of nationalism, with a live feed from the meeting in Quebec by private television network CTN at 3am for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to personally announce the news.

In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called the temple's designation ''a new source of pride for the people of Cambodia.''

The successful inscription of Preah Vihear temple ''resulted from a very long and complicated process and negotiations,'' Hun Sen said.

In a reassurance to Thailand, he added the temple's inscription ''does not affect'' the negotiations to resolve disputes over the border line between the two nations.

A government official in charge of Preah Vihear also joined his country's celebration. ''Of course we are overjoyed. The people on the border are dancing. It is a good day for Cambodia,'' Hang Soth said by telephone.

At a press conference in the capital, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was jubilant.
''This is a victory for the Cambodian government and the Khmer people,'' Mr Hor Namhong said.

Congratulate Cambodia, don't curse it

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 09, 2008

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

Thailand should congratulate, not curse, Cambodia for its success in having the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear inscribed as a new World Heritage landmark.

Thailand should now concentrate on restoring its standing and educate the world that the temple's settings, some of which are in Thai territory, also deserve the same preservation.

To achieve that difficult goal, the country needs to first make sure that there is no more fanning of nationalism by either the Democrat party or the People's Alliance for Democracy for the sake of personal political gain.

But the civic protest group and the opposition, and senators, should spare the Samak administration from punishment, especially Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, for confusing the international community about Thailand's true position on Preah Vihear.

The national drama unfolded with the government supporting Cambodia's call that its new temple map, minus the disputed 4.6km border area, be used for the heritage listing. The government was forced to change its position after the Administrative Court issued an injunction against cabinet approval for the signing of the joint communique.

Thailand also felt Preah Vihear was inextricably linked to the surrounding cultural and natural landscape on Thai territory, and therefore a joint nomination should be made for the listing of the site.

That was the position the present Thai government should have taken and argued for from the very start.

The court's ruling made Mr Noppadon swallow his words and he backtracked on the issue by saying that the joint communique signed on June 18 should not be taken as a guarantee of Thailand's endorsement for Cambodia's latest bid for registration of the temple.

Thailand failed miserably in its efforts to convince Phnom Penh and the technical experts advising the World Heritage Committee in Quebec that the temple should not be listed until the two neighbours settle their border disputes.

If anyone is to be blamed for what has happened it is the Samak administration, for rushing to clinch the deal and support Cambodia's proposal.

Another lesson from the Preah Vihear case is that the government cannot afford not to take the advice of experts into account before agreeing to any future proposals, or we may find ourselves in another hopeless situation.

But this should not prevent the two neighbours from cooperating in exploring ways to enhance their mutual respect, friendship, and in the peaceful management of the ancient heritage site that has served local communities of both countries for centuries.

Thai impeachment drive gains ground

Noppadon's backing of Cambodia's Unesco application was ruled unconstitutional [AFP]

Al Jazeera
Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thailand's political opposition is gathering support to impeach the country's foreign minister over his involvement in a dispute over territory and an ancient temple in Cambodia.

The opposition Democrat party accuses Noppadon Pattama of supporting Cambodia's bid to register an ancient temple with Unesco - a temple which Thailand also claimed as its own.

The move to impeach follows a ruling on Tuesday by the Constitutional Court that a joint communique Noppadon signed with Cambodia backing the application to register the Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage Site was unconstitutional because the government failed to consult parliament on the matter.

Critics say the government's endorsement of the communique undermined Thai claims to disputed territory around the temple.

Ong-art Klampaiboon, the Democrat party spokesman, said signatures of party members were being collected and that an impeachment motion was being drafted.

The opposition has used the long-standing temple issue, which has sparked growing nationalist sentiments, as a weapon against the government of Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister.

Some members of the senate have said they may seek to impeach the entire government which just last month survived a no-confidence motion.

Pressure on government

Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled against Yongyuth Tiyapairat, a former speaker of the parliament and an executive member of Samak's People's Power party, in a case of electoral fraud that could lead to the dissolution of the People's Power party.

Yongyuth was banned from politics for five years and the Election Commission will now investigate whether his party was involved in the electoral fraud.

It will also forward the case to the Constitutional Court to decide whether to disband it.

Thai election law states that if a senior member of a political party is found guilty of electoral crimes, the entire party could be disbanded if that person is found to have acted on its behalf.

Yongyuth, who resigned from his post as house speaker in February, is a former adviser to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was toppled in a 2006 military coup.

Thaksin has since returned to Thailand from exile to face a slew of court cases over corruption and abuse of power.

Pressure on the government, already reeling from daily street demonstrations, is almost certain to increase because of this week's court rulings and an impeachment motion could prove possible.

But Kuthep Saikrajang, spokesman for the People's Power party, remained confident that the six-party ruling coalition, which commands a majority in parliament, would weather the political storm.

"Even though the government is facing some troubles in legal cases the coalition partners reassure us that they are sticking with the People's Power party," he said.

The street demonstrators, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, say Samak's government is merely a proxy for Thaksin, an accusation Samak denies.

Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith stands at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith is stands at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, July 9, 2008. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is to rule on appeal against the provisional detention of Ieng Thirith, wife of ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and a member of Pol Pot's inner circle.REUTERS/Tracey Shelton/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith (C) is helped by police officials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, July 9, 2008. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is to rule on appeal against the provisional detention of Ieng Thirith, wife of ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and a member of Pol Pot's inner circle.REUTERS/Tracey Shelton/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith stands at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, July 9, 2008. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is to rule on appeal against the provisional detention of Ieng Thirith, wife of ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and a member of Pol Pot's inner circle.REUTERS/Tracey Shelton/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith (C) stands at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, July 9, 2008. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is to rule on appeal against the provisional detention of Ieng Thirith, wife of ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and a member of Pol Pot's inner circle.REUTERS/Tracey Shelton/Pool (CAMBODIA)
Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith (C) stands at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, July 9, 2008. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is to rule on appeal against the provisional detention of Ieng Thirith, wife of ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and a member of Pol Pot's inner circle.
REUTERS/Tracey Shelton/Pool

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal refused bail to former Khmer Rouge minister Ieng Thirith on Wednesday, saying she had to stay in jail for her own safety and to "preserve public order".

Judge Prak Kim San said the court could not afford to release the 76-year-old accused of "murder, imprisonment and other inhumane acts" while she served as social affairs minister in the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.

Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist regime is blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during a reign of terror that was brought to an end by a Vietnamese invasion.

Ieng Thirith was arrested and charged in November, along with her 82-year-old husband and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, with crimes against humanity and war crimes by the U.N.-backed court.

"There are well-founded reasons to believe that she had committed the crimes as alleged," Canadian co-prosecutor Robert Petit told reporters.

"Brother Number One" Pol Pot died in 1998 in the final Khmer Rouge redoubt of Anlong Veng on the Thai border.

Also in custody are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former president Khieu Samphan, and Duch, former head of Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng, or "S-21" interrogation and torture centre.

Duch, also known as Kaing Guek Eav, is expected to begin the court's first full trial in September.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Jerry Norton)

Palm Village: Natural and Khmer Style Guest Houses in Siem Reap, Cambodia

PR-inside.com
2008-07-09

Located in Kok Chork, Commune, Siem Reap Province, 'Phoum Thnot' which is known as 'Palm Village' in English- natural Khmer style Guest Houses built of palm tree- are strange and unique houses that possibly serve those who love the natural beauty, quiet and privacy life. This natural resort was established in 2001 and finished in 2003. The special feature of

this resort is that it is a rare and first tourism village that represents and promotes a Khmer style lodging industry and also provides the real Khmer food in Siem Reap, the land of famous heritage site in South East Asia. Its popularity has increased since there are many natural lovers who have accessed the site. In harmony with attraction diversification of Siem Reap's master plan that is one of strategic solutions, the Palm Village itself helps participate in diversifying attraction in Siem Reap as well as Cambodia (www.tourismindochina.com/history-cambodia.htm).

To experience the real way of life and real travel in Siem Reap and Cambodia, Palm Village can be a good destination to relax and view the community life style. If traveling to Siem Reap Cambodia, DO NOT miss the golden opportunity to visit the heritage site and other attractions include Palm Village that many kinds of experiences and economically contribute to local resident and help enhance living standard and be apart of sustainable tourism development solution in Cambodia.

By CHHEM Samnang

Cambodia's Cuisine Recognized, Gaining Popularity

PR-inside.com
2008-07-09

With the growing number of tourists choosing Cambodia as their holiday destination, the cuisine of the country is gaining popularity as well. The pan-Asian broadcaster Channel News Asia recognizes the resurrection of traditional cooking in the Kingdom by featuring the Cambodia Cooking Class in its ‘Taste Matters' programme on July 11, 2008.

In the tv-show, presenter Marc Dass explores the psyche of Phnom Penh, as he learns to cook its signature dish, Fish Amok. Cooking class chef Heng demonstrates how to prepare this fish curry, dry steamed in a cup of banana leaves. There is a lot of time involved in creating Fish Amok, and the result is a superb dish.As more

and more people discover, Khmer food has its own distinct character in a subtle balance of flavours. The Cambodia Cooking Class attracts a steadily increasing number of students. Food is at the heart of every culture, so taking part in the cooking classes gives tourists a unique inside into Cambodia and its people.

Channel News Asia's programme ‘Taste Matters' features Cambodian cuisine on Friday July 11th at 6:30pm Cambodian time (11.30am CST/GMT). The program is repeated the following Monday July 14th at 09:30am and Tuesday July 15th at 1:30pm (Cambodian times).

No bail for Khmer Rouge minister


Ieng Thirith was the most powerful woman in the Khmer Rouge

BBC News
Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Khmer Rouge's former social welfare minister has been refused bail by Cambodia's UN-backed genocide court.

Ieng Thirith, 76, is accused of crimes against humanity for her part in the Maoist regime's brutal four-year rule in the late 1970s.

Judges are still considering a bail appeal by her husband, Ieng Sary, who was the regime's foreign minister.

The other three former Khmer Rouge leaders held by the court have already had their requests for bail denied.

Ieng Thirith was one of the Khmer Rouge's founding members and its most powerful woman.

Her sister was married to the movement's leader, Pol Pot.

Prosecutors say she knew that tens of thousands of people were dying from starvation and disease on brutal collective farms - but did nothing to stop the disaster.

Ieng Thirith denies any wrongdoing. In court her lawyer argued that she required regular treatment for both mental and physical ailments.

But the judges ruled that "detention remains a necessary measure" for Ieng Thirith.

The trials are expected to begin later in the year.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During this period an estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation or overwork as leaders tried to create a classless agrarian society.

Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle classes were tortured and executed.

'Cloggers' sidestep media intimidation

Cambodian bloggers are starting to use the internet to discuss music, romance and politics. (File photo)

ABC News

Just 10 per cent of Cambodians have access to the internet, but a small number of Cambodians are taking up the craft of blogging.

Cambodian bloggers, or 'Cloggers' as they refer to themselves, are starting to use cyberspace to discuss music, romance, daily life and, just occasionally, politics.

While the traditional news media has no official censorship and is often described as one of the freest in the region, a recent study concluded Cambodia's "media is closely controlled by politics, money and fear".

A survey of 150 journalists last year found 65 per cent were afraid of being physically attacked, and 62 per cent feared legal action.

Pin Samithy, president of the Club Of Cambodian Journalists, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia, while violence against journalists has diminished in recent years, the threat of criminal and civil prosecutions has increased.

"We are very concerned about this and I think after the election the Cambodian journalists will meet each other and resolve this problem," he said.

"We don't want any journalist to be jailed because of their job."

Mr Samithy is also editor-in-chief of Rasmei Kampuchea, the largest newspaper in Cambodia.

He freely admits that his newspaper, like most in the country, is seen to have a bias towards Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party, just as some of his competitors favour the various Opposition parties.

He says his, and other papers, are striving to introduce more balance.

That is not the view of the bloggers, however.

Chak Sopheap is one of Cambodia's very few bloggers.

The 23-year-old says the media in Cambodia is growing and is more open, but there are still limitations.

"If you look at TV nowadays there's restrictions and it's not independent at all," she said.
"The TV's role is to promote Government and mainly the ruling party."

Bloggers are a long way from being able to challenge that official propaganda with only 1,000 or so active in the country and very few of those prepared to tackle politics.

After a blog entry criticising the ruling Cambodian People's Party, Miss Sopheap was sent a message telling her she should run otherwise she would be killed.

She says she doesn't expect blogs to have much influence on the election later this month but hopes that by the 2013 election Cambodia will have too many bloggers for any one political party to control their message.

"I notice that there's an increasing number because one of my network, they promote the blog creation, they go to schools, universities and other organisation to teach people how to blog and the benefits of blogging," Miss Sopheap said.

Now to rebuild Thai-Cambodian relations

Editorial Desk
The Nation (Thailand)
09-07-2008

The World Heritage Committee yesterday accepted the Temple of Preah Vihear, straddling Thai-Cambodian border, as a World Heritage site. The 21-member inter-governmental independent body accepted and agreed to Cambodia's unilateral application. Cambodia won the inscription from the World Heritage Committee by claiming that it owns the temple under a 1962 verdict by the World Court. Thailand failed in a last-ditch effort to block the inscription claiming it would need to be part of a joint application. Thailand's long-standing position on the Khmer temple is that it respects the World Court's decision but reserves the right to appeal or to find a way to reclaim the ancient monument.

Unfortunately, the political reality at this point has made it impossible for the two countries to undertake a joint approach. The World Heritage Committee would like both countries to work together to safeguard the temple complex. It has requested that Cambodia convene an international coordinating committee and invite Thailand and other appropriate partners as members.

Now, it is high time to mend fences. Thailand, with adjacent areas beyond Cambodia's claims, must immediately find ways to assist in preserving this beautiful Hindu temple. Despite the high political temperature both in Thailand and Cambodia, this episode should now be put to rest. It is clear that the temple's listing will not affect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Thailand, as many have suggested. This was the bone of contention for protesters against the Samak government and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama.

The Constitution Court ruled yesterday that the joint communique signed by Noppadon on June 18 was unconstitutional because it violated Article 190 of the new charter, which mandates that all international commitments and treaties must be first debated and approved by the House of Representatives. The World Heritage Committee has considered the communique of June 18, signed by both governments with attached documents, as invalid. Cambodia has submitted a new graphic plan which differs from the previous map, with a reduced perimeter proposed for inscription. Phnom Penh has acknowledged that, in future, new archaeological findings might allow a joint nomination. It is hoped that Cambodia would comply with such a request as soon as possible.

Noppadon has already said he will take responsibility for the failure to postpone the committee's decision. He has repeatedly said that, but any respectable politician would have resigned long ago without further humiliation. Earlier, he portrayed himself as a hero who protected the country's sovereignty. That was rather childish because it allowed the opposition to capitalise on his exaggeration. He has completely failed to explain his fast-track action without going through the House of Representatives. Although the joint communique was not part of the application submitted by Cambodia, it did damage the government and Noppadon.

Indeed, Nopphadon is the wrong choice as foreign minister. He was rewarded because of his loyalty to, and legal work for, deposed leader Thaksin. And he still behaves as if he is Thaksin's lawyer. His biggest problem is lack of common sense or credibility to speak on behalf of Thailand. His judgements and comments cause great confusion to the public. Sometimes, one has a strong feeling that he does all this quite deliberately.

His mediocrity does not augur well for Thailand becoming the chair of Asean from July 25 until the end of 2009. As chair, Thailand will host at least two dozen summits in the next 18 months, involving leaders from 27 countries. As such, this promises to be a great period for Thai diplomacy, offering a chance for us to show leadership and regional vision. Thailand needs a new foreign minister who can speak on behalf of Asean as a whole. He must also represent Thailand and the Thai people. So far, Noppadon has not shown any interest in the affairs of Asean. He has not yet given any substantive interview concerning Thailand's role in Asean and the grouping's future.

Battle to save Cambodian dolphin



[The] dream recedes as each dead dolphin washes up on the banks of the Mekong


By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Kratie

Sun Mao leans forward in the boat, shades his eyes with his hand, and squints across the wide expanse of the Mekong River where it twists through the town of Kratie.

He is looking for one of the world's rarest mammals - the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin.

Older people in this part of northern Cambodia talk of how they used to take the dolphins for granted.

Little effort was needed to see them in their dozens. Now, scientists say, there are less than 100 remaining.

National heritage

With a practised eye, Sun Mao spots a group of five dolphins, collectively known as a pod.

They briefly break the surface as they come up for air - grey-brown, bullet-headed and exhaling with an old man's rasp.

It is an awe-inspiring sight, but nothing new to Sun Mao.

As part of a local organisation, the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT), he has put years of work into preserving the dwindling population.

For him it is an issue of national heritage.

Sun Mao has been trying to stop the dolphin decline

"This is the last place for these dolphins in the world," he says over the clatter of the boat's outboard engine.

"We have to conserve and keep them alive in this river for our next generation."

CRDT has tried to educate the local human population about what they can do.

A government-enforced ban on the use of gill nets - nets set vertically in the water so that fish swim into them and are entangled in the mesh - has cut down the number of dolphins accidentally caught by fishermen.

Instead, CRDT has helped locals to reduce their reliance on fishing by offering alternatives such as poultry farming.

Villagers on Pdao Island, just outside Kratie, greet Sun Mao as an old friend as he clambers up the muddy riverbank.

Tourist influx

They happily show off their CRDT-sponsored chickens, water-pumps and fish ponds, and declare themselves delighted to be part of the dolphin preservation efforts.

It would be a heart-warming tale, if only the statistics were not so brutally depressing.

A scientific survey taken three years ago estimated the dolphin population at 127. The latest study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) puts the figure at 71.

It comes as a devastating blow after all the work that local and international organisations have put in.

As well as banning the use of gill nets, the government has established a network of river guards to patrol the dolphin habitats.

While CRDT has been working with the local human population, WWF scientists have been looking into ways of protecting the dolphins.

Everyone was hoping that the dolphin population would at least stabilise, if not flourish.

Payback would come in the form of an influx of tourists to see the pods at play and bring much-needed revenue to the local economy.

Contaminants

That dream recedes as each dead dolphin washes up on the banks of the Mekong.

Most worryingly, most of the recent casualties have been calves. Without the babies, there is no future for the species.

"There are theories that the immune systems of the dolphins have been compromised by stress," says Richard Zanre, dolphin programme manager for WWF.

"The river environment has been encroached upon by new developments. There is also the problem of contaminants in the river."

The answers need to be found quickly. As it stands, WWF still classifies the remaining population as "sustainable".

If the numbers fall much further, however, there will no longer be enough diversity for the dolphins to breed successfully.

That would spell the end for this unique species.

Cambodian Conquest

News Desk
Daily Xpress
09-07-2008

Thailand loses its bid to share the cultural spoils with Cambodia as Unesco lists Preah Vihear a World Heritage site. Political, legal battles here could lead to impeachment hearings for the Cabinet

Overjoyed Cambodians were dancing in the streets yesterday on hearing news that the UN cultural agency has granted World Heritage status for the ancient Hindu temple disputed between Cambodia and Thai-land.

Despite a long-standing territorial conflict over land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, the 21-nation World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia's application to register the site at an Unesco meeting in Quebec, Canada.

"This is another pride for Cambodia and our people as well as for the people in the region and the world as a whole," Prime Minister Hun Sen says.

Watching on television, people held Cambodian flags as they listened to the PM's morning statement. Pagodas across the capital sounded their gongs as people rushed to markets and government offices to celebrate the listing.

At the temple, 200 Cambodians living near the entrance to the temple cheered in delight and welcomed World Heritage. Thai Si Sa Ket residents expressed disappointment and dismay.

Sukhum Wongprasit, a Thai activist, says his group will continue its rally to reclaim sovereignty over the disputed land using non-violent tactics.

Arunsak Ocharos, another activist, calls on the military to "show their professional pride" by protecting Thai soil.

The Constitution Court had earlier ruled that a joint communique Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed with Cambodia over Preah Vihear Temple in June is unconstitutional.

Court secretary-general Paiboon Warahapaiboon says signing of such an agreement with Cambodia needs approval from Parliament.

"The joint communiqu้ with Cambodia is considered a treaty in accordance with the Vienna Convention of 1969 and the Constitution's article 190 and as such needs approval from Parliament," he says.

The World Heritage status has sparked a political and legal battle that could lead to impeachment hearings for the Cabinet.

In 1962 the World Court ruled the temple belongs to Cambodia, although the main entrance lies at the foot of a mountain in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding area has caused years of disputes.

Cambodia jails Aussie over drugs

news.com.au
From correspondents in Phnom Penh
July 09, 2008

A CAMBODIAN court has sentenced an Australian man to six years in prison for trying to smuggle the drug ice out of the country.

Simon Peter Conway, 50, was convicted of drug-trafficking in a trial yesterday and sentenced to six years and a $2625 fine, Judge Chan Madina said today.

Conway was arrested in October at Phnom Penh airport after authorities found 40g of the drug with him.

his lawyer, Dun Vibol, said he already filed an appeal against the sentence.

"Conway confessed everything during the trial. But we want his sentence to be reduced to the minimum," he said.

Conway had intended to take the drug to Australia to use as a painkiller for a leg injury.

Ice can be produced in rudimentary laboratories from a range of chemicals and resembles clear, chunky crystals that can be smoked, snorted or injected.

Although drug arrests have risen, Cambodia is becoming an increasingly popular trafficking point for methamphetamines and heroin, particularly since neighbouring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.

Cambodia training mine-detecting dogs


The San Francisco Chronicle

Katie Nelson, Chronicle Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

PDT Phnom Penh, Cambodia --

Five squirming puppies born in the outskirts of this capital city may hold the future to successful land mine eradication in Cambodia.

As part of the first litter of 10 mine-detection dogs born in Southeast Asia, the puppies spend their time wrestling and napping in a silky-soft heap. The government hopes these snuffling pups will become the nation's next generation of heroes, sniffing out TNT and exposing lethal buried land mines.

"Of all trained working dogs, the most difficult job is being a mine-detection dog. These dogs need to be at the top every day," said P.A. Bergstrom, a canine expert with Norwegian People's Aid who is developing the program for Cambodia Mine Action Center, a nongovernmental organization.

Cambodia has one of the world's highest rates of unexploded munitions, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Hundreds of thousands of land mines, cluster bombs and artillery shells are buried throughout the nation's jungles and countryside - lethal reminders of three decades of past wars.

"Even when land mines and UXOs (unexploded ordnance) do not directly kill or hurt people, they are a major obstacle to the development of the country because the contaminated land cannot be used for agriculture or resettlement," Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has said. "People cannot travel or access basic social infrastructures. Getting rid of land mines is a prerequisite to lifting affected populations out of poverty."

Expensive dogs

Since 2000, canine mine-detection teams have been used in Cambodia in four of the worst-hit provinces. Currently, there are 53 dogs in the field.

Experts say the optimum canine is a fully trained German or Belgian shepherd from Europe, which generally costs about $30,000. Purchasing such pricey foreign dogs has been an issue for impoverished Cambodia.

After the mine action center was formed in 1996, the organization attempted to turn local dogs into mine detectors. They sent 10 prospects to Sweden for training. But even though the Cambodian canines learned how to detect mines, the effort eventually failed. The dogs had difficulty trusting their handlers upon return to Cambodia.

"The life of a Cambodian dog is not like in Western culture," Bergstrom said. "Here, they're used for guarding the house and almost everyone knows the best way to get rid of one on the street is to bend down and pretend that you are picking up a stone, because that's normal treatment for local dogs."

So even though the Cambodian dogs learned how to find mines, they regressed once they returned to Southeast Asia, Bergstrom said. "They came back to their old behaviors. They began listening to their handlers less."

Training detectors

Since then, the center has imported dogs. But that could change if the current program's instructors can mold the puppies into full-fledged mine detectors.

"The dog is not easy to train," said Vim Lay Im, an instructor who handles Tess, a retired mine detector who has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Angola and Cambodia. "The instructor needs to be strong and patient and get involved with the dog most of the time. ... It is hard at first, but it will be better once you grab the dog's heart."

The new trainees were born in March, the offspring of proven mine detectors. The parents, November and Frode, are Belgian shepherds from Bosnia.

The training process began almost immediately after the puppies were born: Bergstrom and trainer Huot Vannara played games with them, encouraging them to investigate and retrieve with the hope that playful roughhousing and fetch would help develop brave, curious adults with a "high-sniff frequency."

Deaths a setback

Last month, however, five of the 10 dogs died from canine coronavirus, which affects the intestinal tract. Bergstrom said the deaths underscore the difficulties in raising dogs in Cambodia: The disease is rarely fatal in Western countries, where vaccines and expert veterinary care are available.

The setback, however, won't deter Cambodia from developing its dog mine-detector program, Bergstrom vows.

"If even a couple of puppies make it into the field, the fledgling program will be a huge success," he said.

Cambodia and land mines

Cambodia is cluttered with land mines and unexploded ordnance from past wars involving the Cambodian military, the former Khmer Rouge regime, Vietnam and the United States. It is one of the most contaminated countries in the world, affecting nearly half of the nation's rural villages.

Between 1970 and 1975, an estimated 539,129 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia. Conservative estimates show that the United States dropped more than 50,000 tons of unexploded general purpose bombs and 3.75 million unexploded bomblets.

Since 1979, there have been more than 63,000 casualties from land mine and unexploded ordnance. One in every 250 Cambodians is disabled, and the proportion of amputees - 1 in every 384 people - is the highest in the world.

In 1993, Cambodia began its program to eradicate the mines. A 2002 survey identified 1,724 square miles of known or suspect areas. By 2006, 23 square miles had been cleared of 236,929 mines and other devices.

As a result, deaths and injuries are decreasing. Land mines and ordnance killed or maimed 1,154 people in 1999 compared with 315 last year.

The Cambodian government hopes to clear all land mines by 2012.

Sources: International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority; Cambodian Red Cross/Handicap International Belgium; Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System; HALO Trust; Rand; Mines Advisory Group; U.N. Development Program; U.N. Mine Action Service; World Bank.

Canine mine detectors

More than 750 dogs are used in detection programs in an estimated 23 countries, including Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Angola, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Cambodia, the 18-month training program begins soon after the puppies are born. Initially, teachers stimulate the dogs with playful roughhousing and loud noise recordings designed to develop hunting instincts and an unflappable demeanor.

The dogs are then given a conical red rubber toy, which is used as a reward and as a teaching tool. By using increasingly smaller pieces of the toy, the trainers teach dogs to sniff out specific scents by putting the plaything into a carousel of stainless steel cans. Trainers also bury slivers of the toy in sand and teach dogs to sit once they have found it.

After dogs are able to detect a small sliver of the toy, the same tactic is applied to smaller and smaller pieces of TNT. Eventually, they learn to smell even the slightest trace of explosives in the air or on the ground.

A dog and his handler can clear at least 6,458 square feet a day. In contrast, a person with a metal detector can cover only a quarter of that area.

Sources: Norwegian People's Aid; Cambodia Mine Action Center; Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining; Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.

Neou Vannarin contributed to this report. E-mail Katie Nelson at foreign@sfchronicle.com.

Australian drug smuggler jailed in Cambodia

Radio Australia

An Australian man has been sentenced to six years in prison in Cambodia for trying to smuggle drugs out of the country.

Simon Peter Conway, 50, was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to six years and a $US2,500 fine.

He was arrested in October at Phnom Penh Airport after authorities found 40 grammes of the methamphetamine known as 'ice' with him.

Conway's lawyer Dun Vibol says he has already filed an appeal seeking to have the prison sentence reduced.

Cambodia is an increasingly popular trafficking point for methamphetamines and heroin, particularly since neighbouring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.

Former Cambodian Khmer Rouge minister denied bail

Ieng Thirith has been charged with crimes against humanity for her role in the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime. [AFP]

Radio Australia

The United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia has dismissed a bail request by former Khmer Rouge cabinet minister, Ieng Thirith.

The Presiding Judge says the request was denied to ensure Ieng Thirith's presence at trial, protect her personal safety and preserve public order.

Ieng Thirith, 76, was minister of education and of social affairs during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975 to 1979.

She's the wife of former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ieng Sary.

Both husband and wife have been charged with crimes against humanity, Ieng Sary has also been charged with war crimes.

Ieng Thirith was the third of the five Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial whose appeals for release have been denied.

The court earlier dismissed appeals by Kaing Kek Ieu, known as Duch, chief of Tuol Sleng torture center and Nuon Chea, known as Brother No. 2.

No decision has yet been rendered on Ieng Sary's appeal.

Duch is expected to be the first person to be tried, sometime in August or September, by the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The trials of the others, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and former head of state Kheiu Samphan, are not expected before next year.

The Khmer Rouge regime is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians during their rule.

Thai anger as disputed Cambodian temple wins heritage status

The 900-year-old Hindu temple of Preah Vihear on the Thai-Cambodian border

THE INDEPENDENT
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Thousands of Cambodians celebrated in the streets after an 11th-century temple was finally granted World Heritage status, even as a political row relating to the Hindu site continued to simmer with neighbouring Thailand.

Almost 50 years after an international court ruled that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia rather than Thailand, Unesco has decided that the complex that sits on the border of the two countries deserved the special status. When people awoke to the news yesterday morning, thousands poured on to the streets of the capital, Phnom Penh, to celebrate.

The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said: "This is another proud achievement for our people, the people in the region as well as the whole world, that the temple is being recognised as the Khmer's greatest architecture. It resulted from a very long and complicated process and negotiations."

Cambodia started seeking special status for the temple in 2001 in the belief that it would help boost tourism and lead to additional international funding. Thailand had long opposed the designation because it feared the ruling would grant disputed land along the border to Cambodia.

But in May, Thailand's Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, threw his weight behind the application. His undertaking of support bypassed the country's parliament and his political opponents seized on the affair, stirring up a nationalist frenzy and accusing him of violating the nation's sovereignty. Just last month, Mr Samak survived a confidence vote that was brought by his opponents, who accuse him of acting as a proxy for the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Even as Cambodia celebrated yesterday, the political row in Thailand continued. The country's most senior court ruled that a communiqué approved by the cabinet in June which backed Cambodia's application to Unesco for the 900-year-old temple had required the approval of parliament. The opposition Democrat party said it would use the ruling to try to force out the country's Foreign Minister, Noppadon Pattama, who had created the communiqué.

"The Preah Vihear temple is part of a wounded history of Thailand and Cambodia," Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian at Bangkok's Thammasat University, told the Associated Press. "It was used to stir up a nationalist movement in the past and is now threatening to inflame politics again."

The location of the temple has continued to serve as a defensive outpost until recently. In the spring of 1975, as Khmer Rouge rebels were seizing control of Phnom Penh, government troops continued to defend a base at Preah Vihear more than a month after the rest of the country had fallen.

In 1998, when the very last of the Khmer Rouge fighters agreed to surrender to the Cambodian government, Preah Vihear was the location of negotiations that led to the settlement.

Since Cambodia made its application in 2001 for special status for the site, both countries have increased security at their embassies amid fears that nationalist anger could get out of control.

But Unesco said that its designation of the site would not impact on discussions about the border.

It said its ruling was based on a different application to the joint Thai-Cambodian communiqué which was criticised in Bangkok yesterday.

Preah Vihear: shrine to Shiva

Situated at the top of a 1,700ft-high cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, Preah Vihear was built between the 9th and 10th centuries.

The entrance to the temple is reached by a steep climb of 162 stone steps, which gets the heart pumping even before you have set your eyes on its magnificent carvings, pictured. It was built for the Hindu god Shiva during the reign of King Suryavarman, and is assembled in several stages, starting with the Shiva sanctuary at the top.

The temple is famed for one of the most stunning locations of any built during the Khmer empire.

Irregularities in the National Election Campaign





MP SAM RAINSY WILL GO TO THE TRIBUNAL

Phnom Penh , 8 July 2008
PRESS RELEASE

ON JULY 9, 2008 AT 8AM, MP SAM RAINSY WILL GO TO THE TRIBUNAL
In relation to the defamation lawsuit filed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Nam Hong and following the request made by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to lift his parliamentary immunity, Member of Parliament Sam Rainsy will go to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 9, 2008 , at 8am .

Tribunals, judges and prosecutors can interview Parliamentarians any time, and do not need to wait until their parliamentary immunity is lifted.

After his meeting with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court magistrates, MP Sam Rainsy will address questions from the press.

SRP Members of Parliament

For more information please contact Tioulong Saumura 092 888 002

Sacravatoons :" Preah-Vihear "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons :" Tim Sakhorn,Hanoi-Hilton's Guest "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons :" The Indochina's Emperor "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

SPC spuds first well on Cambodia Block B

Energy Current
Filed from Aberdeen
7/8/2008

CAMBODIA: Singapore Petroleum Co. Ltd. and its partners in Block B off Cambodia today spud the block's first exploration well, Vimean Morodok MahaNorkor-1.

The Block B exploration prospect lies east of the Khmer sub-basin in a water depth of about 75 metres (246 ft). The prospect lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of the Thai-Cambodian Overlapping Claims Area in the Gulf of Thailand.

The exploration well will be drilled to test the hydrocarbon potential in the Oligocene fluvio-lacustrine sediment as the primary target and the Miocene fluvial-deltaic sediment reservoirs as the secondary objective. The well is anticipated to reach a true vertical depth of 2,917 meters (9,570 ft). Drilling is expected to take approximately 15 days to complete.

Now to rebuild thai-cambodian relations

The Nation
Published on July 9, 2008

With the Preah Vihear Temple issue decided, it's time for a new foreign minister to focus on Asean

The World Heritage Committee yesterday accepted the Temple of Preah Vihear, straddling Thai-Cambodian border, as a World Heritage site. The 21-member inter-governmental independent body accepted and agreed to Cambodia's unilateral application. Cambodia won the inscription from the World Heritage Committee by claiming that it owns the temple under a 1962 verdict by the World Court. Thailand failed in a last-ditch effort to block the inscription claiming it would need to be part of a joint application. Thailand's long-standing position on the Khmer temple is that it respects the World Court's decision but reserves the right to appeal or to find a way to reclaim the ancient monument.

Unfortunately, the political reality at this point has made it impossible for the two countries to undertake a joint approach. The World Heritage Committee would like both countries to work together to safeguard the temple complex. It has requested that Cambodia convene an international coordinating committee and invite Thailand and other appropriate partners as members.

Now, it is high time to mend fences. Thailand, with adjacent areas beyond Cambodia's claims, must immediately find ways to assist in preserving this beautiful Hindu temple. Despite the high political temperature both in Thailand and Cambodia, this episode should now be put to rest. It is clear that the temple's listing will not affect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Thailand, as many have suggested. This was the bone of contention for protesters against the Samak government and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama.

The Constitution Court ruled yesterday that the joint communique signed by Noppadon on June 18 was unconstitutional because it violated Article 190 of the new charter, which mandates that all international commitments and treaties must be first debated and approved by the House of Representatives. The World Heritage Committee has considered the communique of June 18, signed by both governments with attached documents, as invalid. Cambodia has submitted a new graphic plan which differs from the previous map, with a reduced perimeter proposed for inscription. Phnom Penh has acknowledged that, in future, new archaeological findings might allow a joint nomination. It is hoped that Cambodia would comply with such a request as soon as possible.

Noppadon has already said he will take responsibility for the failure to postpone the committee's decision. He has repeatedly said that, but any respectable politician would have resigned long ago without further humiliation. Earlier, he portrayed himself as a hero who protected the country's sovereignty. That was rather childish because it allowed the opposition to capitalise on his exaggeration. He has completely failed to explain his fast-track action without going through the House of Representatives. Although the joint communique was not part of the application submitted by Cambodia, it did damage the government and Noppadon.

Indeed, Nopphadon is the wrong choice as foreign minister. He was rewarded because of his loyalty to, and legal work for, deposed leader Thaksin. And he still behaves as if he is Thaksin's lawyer. His biggest problem is lack of common sense or credibility to speak on behalf of Thailand. His judgements and comments cause great confusion to the public. Sometimes, one has a strong feeling that he does all this quite deliberately.

His mediocrity does not augur well for Thailand becoming the chair of Asean from July 25 until the end of 2009. As chair, Thailand will host at least two dozen summits in the next 18 months, involving leaders from 27 countries. As such, this promises to be a great period for Thai diplomacy, offering a chance for us to show leadership and regional vision. Thailand needs a new foreign minister who can speak on behalf of Asean as a whole. He must also represent Thailand and the Thai people. So far, Noppadon has not shown any interest in the affairs of Asean. He has not yet given any substantive interview concerning Thailand's role in Asean and the grouping's future.

Thai government in crisis with main ruling party facing dissolution

Bangkok, Jul 8: Thailand's main ruling People's Power Party (PPP) faced a crisis today after a long-awaited judicial verdict found a leading PPP member guilty of electoral fraud, which could lead to the PPP’s dissolution.

In a late afternoon verdict that lasted for two hours, the Supreme Court of Thailand ruled that former PPP deputy leader and ex-parliament speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat was guilty of electoral fraud during the December 2007 elections to restore democracy to Thailand.

Under Thailand’s post-coup Constitution, Mr Yongyuth's disqualification as an elected member of parliament could lead to the PPP being disbanded.

Similar complaints of electoral fraud have been filed in the Supreme Court by the national election commission against key members of three other ruling coalition parties.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej met his coalition partners today ahead of the verdict and according to local media reports Mr Samak was advised to dissolve parliament in case Mr Yongyuth was found guilty by the court.

The ruling follows a Constitution Court verdict earlier today that Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama had violated the Constitution by signing a joint communiqué with his Cambodian counterpart in support of Phnom Penh's application for UNESCO World Heritage status for the 900-year-old Preah Vihar Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border.

The main opposition Democrat Party today announced it would move a motion in parliament to impeach the foreign minister.

Awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice four decades ago, the temple dispute is a highly emotive, political issue in Thailand and the two countries are negotiating territorial control over a small area near the temple.

Thai temple backing ruled illegal

Cambodian authorities hope the new status will increase tourism

BBC News
Tuesday, 8 July

Thailand's government should not have backed Cambodian efforts to seek world heritage status for a temple built on disputed land, Thai judges have ruled.

The constitutional court said the Thai government should have consulted parliament before backing the bid.

The Preah Vihear Hindu temple, near the Thai-Cambodian border, was awarded Unesco World Heritage status on Monday.

Thailand's opposition said supporting the bid jeopardised Thai claims to disputed land in the border region.

In its ruling, the constitutional court gave its backing to suggestions the government had acted improperly.

"The government must consult and get approval from parliament before signing treaties with foreign countries," a court spokesman told a news conference.

Local media reported political and academic opposition to the government's decision.

Bangkok newspaper The Nation said some academics had called for the Thai foreign minister to resign for signing the agreement with Cambodia, and said a group of senators were considering impeachment proceedings.

Strategic site

However, the decision was welcomed in Cambodia, where crowds took to the streets to celebrate.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the decision gave "a new pride for the people of Cambodia", the Associated Press reported.

The 11th Century temple and the land around it were awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, forcing Thai troops who had occupied the area to withdraw.

Preah Vihear became caught up in Cambodia's civil conflict: it fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and was only handed back in 1998.

Bidding for Unesco World Heritage status was seen as an opportunity to attract money for restoration and increase the number of tourists in the area.

Vimpelcom buys Cambodia's Sotelco - source

MOSCOW, July 8 (Reuters) - Vimpelcom Russia's second-largest phone operator bought Cambodia's Sotelco, a source told Reuters on Tuesday. Altimo, the telecommunications investment arm of Russia's Alfa Group, owns a 44 percent stake in Vimpelcom. Norway's Telenor owns 29.9 percent.

Sotelco would be sold to Vimpelcom for $28 million, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported, citing sources close to Alfa.

Vimplcom declined to comment.

(Reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva; Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Erica Billingham)

Cambodia Includes Agricultural Mechanization into the Agricultural Production System of Farmers

Posted on 8 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 568

“Phnom Penh: Senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries said that nowadays, a relevant section of the agricultural sector of Cambodia is including agricultural mechanization for Cambodian farmers countrywide, to increase their production capacity, and to increase the quantity of agricultural production and its quality and to attract markets.

“A group of agricultural technical officials said that the inclusion of agricultural mechanization, such as the use of ploughing and harvesting machines, paddy seed transplanting machines, tractors, “hand held tractors” [for ploughing wet rice-fields before planting], threshing machines, paddy milling machines etc., into the planting, harvesting, and production and manufacturing system, is being accepted, and gladly preferred by farmers. The group of expert officials has tried to provide training, as well as tests for manufacturing and production officials, continually showing the use of agricultural machines in the agricultural production to farmers at the basis.

“According to statistics about agricultural machines and production tools in a report to a meeting to cover all work of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 2007-2008 and the goals for 2008-2009 for the Cambodian agriculture countrywide, there are approximately 4,475 tractors used, 34,639 “hand held tractors”, 131,702 water pumps, 395 harvesting machines, 8,036 threshing machines, and 38,680 paddy rice milling machines. This shows that more and more farmers understand mechanization and the importance of different uses of agricultural machines for their production in agriculture.

Farmers in the northeastern provinces of Cambodia said that they prefer to use agricultural machines, because they save more time than using traditional measures, such as ploughing by using cattle, or transporting by using ox-carts. Moreover, they do not have to care about food for their cattle, or to take care and to protect them from diseases, and after they have used the machines, they can do other tasks. In Cambodia, more and moe farmers prefer to use machines, since the government began reforms starting in 1987 by a widely open free market mechanism.

Most farmers produce to feed their families, some places began agricultural production for trading, because agricultural mechanization and other agricultural techniques were spread by experts into the agricultural system. Until 1987, only the state used agricultural machines, and agricultural officials organized programs to plough farmers’ land every year at the beginning of the rice planting season.

“Agricultural mechanization, which is being promoted by experts in the Cambodian agricultural production system, will become an important measure to increase agricultural productivity, and production will be more efficient, both in terms of the quantity and quality of production, and it will lead to greater productivity of paddy rice for food and for export.

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1687, 8.7.2008

Witnesses in Shooting Under Protection

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 July 2008

Two Cambodian witnesses to last week's border shooting are under protection at the office of Cambodia's counsel to Thailand's Sre Keo province, Foreign Minsiter Hor Namhong said Tuesday.

Both witnesses were members of a group attempting to cross the Thai border Thursday, officials said.

Other witnesses have described being shot at by a Thai border patrolman, resulting in the deaths of It On, 25, and Chea Phal, 6. Thai officials have denied the border patrol was involved, suspecting instead an encounter with human traffickers in a dangerous region.

One of the witnesses now under protection is a brother of victim It On, said Tim Sareth, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior's Cambodia-Thai coordination office, in Bantey Meanchey province.

The witnesses were moved from Thai police custody on Monday, said Net Sarey, counselor to Sre Keo, who is now looking after them.

The witnesses are under supervision, fed and protected, he told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

The two witnesses are cooperating with a Thai border police request for a sketch of the alleged shooter, Net Sarey said.

Ruling Party Passes on Corruption Debate

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 July 2008

Officials of the ruling Cambodian People's Party declined to join 10 other parties in a political debate held Tuesday over long-awaited anti-corruption legislation.

The debate, held by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, gathered leaders from all other political parties competing in the July 27 election and about 80 participants.

"The CPP did not join this forum because it is not very interesting for the CPP," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. Comfrel "is biased to the opposition parties and has a stance to oppose the CPP," he said.

"Let the people decide for the July 27 election," he said.

Licadho rights group founder Kek Galabru, who moderated the debate as a member of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said the forum was very interesting for political parties "and the voters."

"We very much regret that the CPP did not join the forum, because this was a good opportunity for all political parties to show voters how they can reduce corruption through the passage of the anti-corruption law," she said.

Representatives from the 10 parties promised Tuesday to pass in the first year an anti-corruption law that has been in the draft stage for at least a decade. They also promised a top-down sweep of corrupt officials.

"The current leaders have confused the people into thinking corruption is our tradition," Keat Sokun, a senior official of the Human Rights Party, said during the debate. "This is very wrong."

"I am trembling because of the Cambodian situation, where corruption is terrible," he said. "Corruption kills the entire nation."

Participants said they supported political platforms against corruption, but many were concerned the parties will not keep their promises or would be unable to fulfill them.

Singular Power Beating Democracy: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
08 July 2008

The power of individuals has increased in recent years in Cambodia, but the power of the masses, democracy, has not, a leading researcher said Monday.

"Democracy is poor, but individual power is strong," said Lao Monghay, a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Much of the country's political power remained in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Lao Monghay said.

The recent arrest of an opposition newspaper editor, Dam Sith, and court actions against opposition leader Sam Rainsy attested to a dampening of freedoms, an increase of media restrictions, and the increased politicization of the courts, he said.

"The lack of a rule of law weakens democracy and there is no progress," he said. "Through training from NGOs, the media and other forums, people understand democracy, but most important is, how can they have the freedom to address it?"

PEC Warns Official on Campaign Violation

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 July 2008

The Kampot provincial election committee warned Tuesday a high-ranking ruling Cambodian People's Party official not to use military vehicles during election campaigning.

The warning was a result of a dispute between Sam Rainsy Party Kampot candidate Mu Sochua and San Sman, Kampot's deputy secretary-general and chief of the Kampong Trach district border crossing.

Mu Sochua alleged San Sman had traveled in a four-wheel drive military vehicle bearing a CPP campaign sign on both sides, five days into the campaign period.

"We warned him, referring to the provincial headquarter administration, and to the Ministry of Interior, that he must not use any more for the campaign the vehicle," said Te Chinarith, head of the PEC, who presided over Tuesday's hearing. "If he abuses this, he will be fined 5 million riel (about $1,250) and ban him from voting for 10 years."

Sam Sman applauded the ruling, but Mu Sochua was not satisfied with the decision.

"What the CPP official has done is too serious, and he must not merit such a warning," she said. "He should be prevented from voting."

The PEC decision was biased toward the CPP, which would impact the election, she said, adding that she planned to appeal the ruling to the National Election Committee.

Te Chinarith rejected the accusation.

Cambodia: Cambodians Celebrate World Heritage Status For Disputed Temple

A Cambodian woman holds banner reading "Celebrate, the Preah Vihear temple is a World Heritage Site", as she waves a national flags at a central market in Phnom Penh July 8, 2008. The World Heritage committee meeting in Canada has approved Cambodia's application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


Hundreds of Cambodians wave national flags during a celebration at a central market in Phnom Penh July 8, 2008. The World Heritage committee meeting in Canada has approved Cambodia's application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


People wave national flags at the central market in Phnom Penh on July 8 as they celebrate the inclusion of Preah Vihear temple by UN cultural agency Unesco to World Heritage. A Hindu temple in Cambodia, two historic Malaysian trading towns and an early agricultural site from Papua New Guinea were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List on July 7.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)


Cambodians celebrate Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple enlisted as a World Heritage site during a rally in the capital Phnom Penh, Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Many Cambodians took to the street Tuesday to celebrate their country's success to have the 11th-century Hindu temple enlisted as a world heritage site despite recent protest by opposition groups in neighboring Thailand.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

MySinchew 2008.07.08

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodians celebrated in the streets Tuesday (8 July) over their country's success in having an 11th century Hindu temple named a world heritage landmark despite objections in neighboring Thailand, which claims territory around the site.

Thousands danced, sang and waved Cambodian flags, chanting "Long live Preah Vihear temple!" in response to news that UNESCO had granted the temple World Heritage Site status.

"This is a very auspicious day for us. We're very delighted," said Ti Vansi, a medical student who joined his peers in skipping class to hold a celebration rally.

In a statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called the temple's designation "a new pride for the people of Cambodia."

UNESCO spokeswoman Joanna Sullivan said Monday (7 July) the temple was designated a heritage site at a meeting in Quebec City.

The site of the building, which lies along the disputed Thai-Cambodian border, has long been a point of contention between the two Asian neighbors.

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 style of the more famous Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia.
Cambodia started seeking the status for the temple in 2001, hoping for the influx of tourism and international funding that normally accompanies the designation. In the past, Thailand has vetoed its neighbor's submissions amid fears the status would include disputed land along the border.

But in May, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government bypassed the Parliament and endorsed Cambodia's application. Thai critics have accused him of violating the country's sovereignty, and the government withdrew its support late last month.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has accused Thai opposition politicians of exploiting the cross-border dispute to advance their own domestic political agenda and warned they might endanger bilateral relations.

Tensions along the border boiled over last month when protesters threatened to evict Cambodians living in the disputed territory. Cambodia responded by closing access to the temple.

The successful inscription of Preah Vihear temple "resulted from a very long and complicated process and negotiations," Hun Sen said in his statement.

In a reassurance to Thailand, he added the temple's inscription "does not affect" the negotiations to resolve problems of the border line between the two nations.

(By SOPHENG CHEANG/ AP)

Former Thai PM Thaksin goes on trial for corruption

Thaksin Shinawatra could be jailed for up to 13 years


Thai police monitor an anti-government protest in Bangkok
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand put billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on trial for corruption on Tuesday, almost two years after he was toppled from power in a military coup.

Thaksin and his wife Pojaman -- loved by the poor and loathed by the Bangkok elite -- were not on hand at the Supreme Court for the opening of a legal saga that could put them behind bars for 13 years.

The case is only one of many being launched against Thaksin and his allies, and threatens to bog down a new government -- led by Thaksin loyalists -- which suffered two legal defeats Tuesday on top of ongoing mass street protests.

The Supreme Court is considering whether Thaksin, a self-made tycoon who now owns English football side Manchester City, illegally arranged for his wife to buy a prime chunk of Bangkok real estate for just one-third its appraised value.

"We are confident that our evidence will be enough to prove in the court that Thaksin and his wife are not guilty," their lawyer Anek Khamchum told AFP.

Thaksin was ousted from power by royalist generals in the military, who accused him of widespread corruption, undermining the nation's democracy and insulting Thailand's revered king.

Hearings will last two months. Because it is the Supreme Court, however, Thaksin and his wife would have no avenue of appeal -- and they have already suffered several setbacks.

Three of his top lawyers were jailed last month over claims they tried to bribe a judge, more than two billion dollars of his assets have been frozen, and he was recently blocked from leaving the country.

Thailand's judges meanwhile ruled on two other cases Tuesday that touched on his close supporters -- including current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

At the Constitutional Court, judges ruled that Samak's government had wrongly signed an agreement to back efforts by neighbouring Cambodia to win UN recognition for a 900-year-old temple on the border.

The court said any matters dealing with the border required parliamentary approval, which was never sought.

The ruling opens the door to impeachment proceedings against the entire cabinet.

Agriculture Minister Somsak Prissanananthakul told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting that Samak was not worried by the ruling.

"The prime minister said he will let justice take its course. He is not worried at all," Somsak said.
But Wiszanu Boonmarat of Burapha University said the verdict would add to the pressure on the government for either new elections or top-level resignations.

"There is no alternative to taking political responsibility. This is the country's highest law," he said. "The government no longer has political legitimacy."

Later Tuesday, the Supreme Court found the former speaker of parliament, Yongyut Tiyapairat, guilty of vote fraud, stripping him of his office and banning him from politics for five years.

The ruling paves the way for a criminal investigation that could eventually implicate the entire ruling party and force new elections.

The cases add to the problems already faced by Samak.

He survived a vote of no confidence last month, but remains the target of protests that have taken to the streets every day for seven weeks.

Activists from the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy want Samak to resign, accusing him of acting as a puppet for Thaksin.

They also want to abolish most elections for parliament, making 70 percent of lawmakers appointed to their posts.

SBI Holdings to Open Bank in Cambodia

Tokyo, July 8, 2008 (Jiji Press) - SBI Holdings Inc. <8473>, a Japanese financial services conglomerate, will open a bank in Cambodia as early as September as part of its efforts to expand operations in emerging Asian economies, sources familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The company will join hands with a partner bank in South Korea to set up the lender in Phnom Penh, the sources told Jiji Press.

The new bank will focus on financing to foreign companies operating in Cambodia.

In Vietnam, SBI Holdings will select a partner as early as next month to offer online brokerage services targeting individual investors. The company is also considering starting a brokerage business in India.

In addition, SBI Holdings hopes to set up an Islamic bank, or a Sharia-compliant lender, to win customers in oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

Yoshitaka Kitao, chief executive of SBI Holdings, said he hopes to open a bank with partners in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

By Jiji Press, (c) Jiji Press

Regretfully, groom says: I do, I do

Saily Dispath Online
2008/07/08

A CAMBODIAN man who could not decide between his current and ex-girlfriend “regretfully” married them both at once.

Yesterday the Khmer-language Koh Santepheap daily featured a front-page picture of the dual ceremony with Bou Samanak, 28, flanked by beautiful brides Ly Nary, 21, and Choy Chanthu, 20, at Sunday’s wedding .

“This is my unfortunate destiny,” the paper quoted Samanak as saying. “Although I am happy to take both, my life now will be one of a lot of hard work to keep them happy.”

Although the marriage technically flouts Cambodia’s bigamy law, police require a complaint to take action and both women reportedly agreed they would not file one. No family members of either bride attended the ceremony, the newspaper said. — Sapa-DPA

Thai Court rules FM in breach of constitution

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-08

BANGKOK, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Constitution Court ruled Tuesday that Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama violated the Constitution by signing a joint communique with Cambodia concerning the latter's bid to list Preah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site without parliamentary endorsement.

A nine-judge panel voted 8-1 to rule that the Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique signed by Noppadon and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18 is regarded as an international treaty under the Constitution's Article 190 and needed parliamentary endorsement prior to any signing, according to Thai News Agency.

Article 190 stipulates that any treaty which affect the social and economic benefits of Thailand as well as the integrity of Thai borders to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny before signing.

The joint communique stated Thai government's support to Cambodia's bid to list the temple as a World Heritage Site, followed a cabinet resolution one day earlier that endorsed a new map of the temple prepared by Cambodia.

The court's decision came just one day after the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization( UNESCO) World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia's application to list the centuries-old Khmer-style Hindu temple as a World Heritage site at a meeting in Quebec, Canada, on Monday.

Thailand's national World Heritage Committee chairman Pongpol Adireksan, present at the meeting as an observer, said the temple listing would not affect on the border demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia.

The temple issue has triggered a hot debate in Thailand amid a political campaign of the opposition Democrat party and the civil anti-government coalition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) denouncing the four-month-old government led by prime minister Samak Sundaravej.

The Phnom Penh temple, with a history of more than 10 centuries, has long been an issue of dispute between the two countries, both having historically claimed ownership.

The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but the only practical access by land to the temple, which stands atop a cliff, remains to be from the Thai side of the border in Thailand's northeastern province Si Sa Ket.

Both Samak and Noppadon faced heavy criticism for endorsing Thailand's support for Cambodia's bid, as opponents said that it could undermine Thailand's national interest in future border demarcation in overlapping areas near the Preah Vihear temple.

Noppadon left for Quebec on Saturday to explain to the World Heritage Committee about Thai government's withdrawal of support for Cambodia's bid, after Thailand's Administrative Court on June 28 issued an injunction ordering suspension of government moves to endorse support at a petition by the PAD.

Editor: Bi Mingxin