Friday, 11 July 2008

Statement from SRP Vice President Kong Korm



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Korea Began to Be Interested in Investing in the Silk Sector in Cambodia Which Has Potential

Posted on 11 July 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 568

“Phnom Penh: Some days ago, Mr. Son Kunthor, advisor to the Royal Government on employment and small scale enterprises, and secretary-general of the One-Village One-Product Movement, met with Mr. Lee Wan-Taek, general director and Mr. Kim Won-Don, director of the Kwangsung International Foundation of the Republic of Korea [all names phonetic].

They have expressed interest to develop the silk sector in Cambodia, because this country has favorable conditions for mulberry tree planting and for silkworm raising, and has enough labor, especially Cambodia can have also markets for silk products. Also, this aims to strengthen cooperation between Cambodia and the Republican of Korea. He added that this project will help to cover the needs for the production of silk products, as now there were between 300 and 400 tonnes imported every year into Cambodia.

“He continued that as the first step to develop the silk sector, about 1,200 hectares of land to plant mulberry trees is needed to encourage people to join to plant mulberry trees as family planting, and the company will ask the Korea International Cooperation Agency – KOICA - to train Cambodian farmers in related techniques. He went on to say that seeds of mulberry trees will be imported from Korea and will be handed to farmers after Korean experts have checked the techniques.

“Mr. Kim Won-Don mentioned the future goal, that as the last step, special buildings to feed the silkworms will be constructed, and to study the silk; it is planned to spend US$4,927,000. He added that according to their estimation, this project will produce 86 tonnes of silk in the first year, 180 tonnes in the second year, and the production will increase continually.

“Mr. Son Kunthor welcomed this important initiative on which the government is focusing, and it is strongly supported, considering that it contributes to reduce poverty among Cambodian people. He added that to implement this project, firstly, it is necessary to find locations or areas that have favorable conditions for mulberry tree planting and for silkworms feeding. A major issue is the shortage of capital of approximately US$1,500 for farmers to plant mulberry tree on one hectare, as well as the construction of special buildings to feed the silkworms, and materials to separate the silk from the silkworm cocoons.

“He continued that he will discuss this project in detail with relevant ministries, because recently, representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] in Rome and of the One-Village One-Product Movement conducted research to evaluate its potentiality, and Cambodia had mentioned the project to ask for technical assistance from FAO to develop the silk sector in Cambodia in four provinces, including Takeo, Kampot, Siem Reap, and Banteay Meanchey.

“Mr. Son Kunthor also mentioned to the Korean side that a Chinese company, Chongqing (New Star) Enterprise Group, promotes the development of mulberry tree planting to feed silkworms in Chumkiri District, Kampot, which is now being organized to be a community of mulberry tree planting to feed silkworms, under the leadership of Mr. Nim Chandara, an undersecretary of state of the Ministry Foreign Affairs and International Relations.

“He went on to say that an employment and small-scale enterprise organization, and the committee to encourage the One-Village One-Product Movement, together with the Kwangsung International Foundation [?] will further study this project carefully.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4637, 10.7.2008

Vietnam court sentences drug traffickers to death

Radio Australia

A Vietnamese court has sentenced to death two Taiwanese men for trafficking more than two and a half kilograms of heroin.

Lee Chin Wen and Wei Chun Lung were arrested in May 2007, together with three Vietnamese women and another Taiwanese.

A court official has told the AFP news agency the three accomplices received jail sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment.

State media reports the ring had used Vietnam as a transit point to transport heroin from Cambodia to another Asian country, and Australia.

At least 37 people have received the death penalty this year in Vietnam, mostly for trafficking drugs.

Germany supports international Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia (ECCC)

ISRIA

The Federal Government is increasing its support for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), set up to prosecute crimes committed there by the Khmer Rouge, by 1.5 million euro. The main aim is to allow the victims to play a more prominent role in the proceedings. In this way Germany is making a further contribution towards the reconciliation of Cambodian society and the strengthening of its justice system.

Over the next two years the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), tasked by the Federal Foreign Office, will support and develop the ECCC's "Victims Unit". This organ, designed to protect the rights of the victims, has long been called for, and is a unique feature in international criminal tribunals. Up to now victims have found it difficult to make their voices heard, and for that reason the Unit helps to inform the victims and to represent their interests.

Since 2005 the ECCC has been responsible for trying the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge during their rule from 1975 to 1979. Last year the five highest-ranking surviving Khmer Rouge were turned over to the tribunal. The UN Secretary-General has underlined his interest in the success of the ECCC by appointing a Special Representative.

Apart from Cambodian contributions, the ECCC is mainly financed from voluntary donations by the UN Member States. The Federal Government has already supported the ECCC in the past – in 2005 the Federal Foreign Office provided an initial sum of US$ 1 million, while in 2006/2007 the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provided a further 1.5 million euro. German support to date therefore totals around 3.7 million euro (US$ 5.5 million).

Thai claim for Preah Vihear Temple baseless, false

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-11

PHNOM PENH, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Any Thai claim for the Preah Vihear Temple at the border area is baseless and "absolutely false," said Cambodian former king Norodom Sihanouk in a handwritten note posted on his website Friday.

Some Thais have caused "unmerited and anachronistic problems" for Cambodia "rather than concentrate on developing harmonious, friendly and fruitful relations" between the two countries, he said.

They are ignoring historic facts proving that "the (Dangrek) mountain and the temple of Preah Vihear are 100 percent Cambodia and belong to Cambodia 100 percent," he added.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama resigned Thursday after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority in supporting Cambodia's application to have the temple classified as a World Heritage Site.

Some political opponents have charged that the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej deliberately bypassed the Parliament and backed the bid in exchange for business concessions from Cambodia for toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other Samak cronies.

The Preah Vihear Temple, which straddles the Thai-Cambodian border atop the Dangrek Mountain, was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

Cambodia started seeking the status of World Heritage Site for the temple in 2001, hoping for influx of tourists and international funding that normally accompanies the designation.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the 11-century classic Khmer-style temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision therefore rankling Thais.

Editor: Du Guodong

A rare case of political fallout

The Hindu
Friday, Jul 11, 2008

P. S. Suryanarayana
SINGAPORE: In a rare case of political fallout over the designation of a World Heritage Site in Cambodia, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said in Bangkok on Thursday he would resign, with effect from Monday.

Mr. Noppadon said he would bear “responsibility” for the rising tide of anger in Thailand over its alleged loss of sovereignty in the matter relating to UNESCO’s “inscription” of a Hindu temple in Cambodia as a World Heritage Site.

The Preah Vihear temple, awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, straddles an area in dispute between Phnom Penh and Bangkok. Mr. Noppadon said “utmost effort” was indeed made to “protect the country’s territorial rights and sovereignty” while facilitating Cambodia’s now-successful application to UNESCO regarding the temple site.
Cambodia’s application, first submitted in 2006, would have endangered Thailand’s “sovereignty claims” in the disputed area, he said at a press conference. The intervention by the Thai government was aimed at addressing the earlier concerns, he added. Mr. Noppadon’s resignation followed a ruling by the Constitutional Court on the temple issue.

The court held the Minister’s joint communiqué with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, extending support for Phnom Penh’s application to UNESCO, was unconstitutional.

Mr. Noppadon said Thailand had, in the wake of that communiqué, requested the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO to exclude from its deliberations that particular document. He said the Preah Vihear temple was chosen for its own “intrinsic value.” UNESCO’s parallel designation of Melaka and Georgetown in Malaysia as another World Heritage Site has not raised any controversy, unlike this issue involving two neighbours.

Battle over land in Cambodia


Ratanakiri province, Cambodia. Photo

Human Rights Tribune

11 July 08 - In thick forest in the north-east Cambodian province of Ratanakiri, a team of lawyers uses a global positioning satellite handset to mark the location of traditional spirit forests and gravesites belonging to local Jarai villagers.

Andrew Nette/Newsmekong/IPS - The stark contrast between old and new, the latest technology and ancient beliefs, illustrates the changes sweeping this remote part of the Cambodia, mainly populated by Indigenous people.

It also marks the latest round in an ongoing dispute many believe typifies the epidemic of land grabbing sweeping the country and its impact on indigenous people.

The lawyers are from the Phnom Penh-based Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC). Their ethnic Jarai clients are from Kong Yu village, about 42 kilometres out of Ban Lung, Ratanakiri’s capital.

The air is hot and alive with dragonflies as Roman Phil, a Kong Yu elder, directs the lawyers towards a traditional Jarai burial site, a dense patch of forest strewn with ceramic urns. The lawyers mark the spot on their GPS handset.

The location of the burial site and other areas of spiritual significance will be used as evidence in a case lodged by Kong Yu villagers in the provincial court against the company that they say has cheated them out of land.

The company, the Progressive Farmers Association, has already cleared much of the land, including graveyards and spirit forests, and planted it with rubber trees, a popular cash crop in Cambodia.

"We would never destroy spirit forest. It is too important for our ancestors and for us," says Phil. "They destroyed some of these and did not even give us a chance to remove the remains."

Now the Kong Yu people are alarmed at recent suggestions by local authorities that the company wants even more of their land. "If the company comes to clear more land we will protest," maintains Phil. "We are determined to protect our land."

According to a memorandum from Legal Aid of Cambodia, the dispute originated in March 2004, when the then village chief and other local officials asked Kong Yu villagers to sell a portion of their land to high-ranking official in Phnom Penh.

The villagers rejected the offer, saying that it was their ancestral land essential to the preservation of their culture.

The officials returned about a month later, according to the January 2007 memorandum, and informed the villagers they needed the land for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s disabled soldiers.

They threatened to simply take it without compensation as it belonged to the government, the document says.

Believing they had little choice, villagers agreed to donate 50 hectares.

The authorities returned several more times and asked families to put their thumbprints on documents — most of the Kong Yu people do not speak or read Khmer — which they said were needed to facilitate the deal.

In one instance, they brought alcohol to celebrate the land donation. Once the villagers were drunk, they asked them to affix their thumbprints to additional documents and also to do the same on behalf of villagers absent from the party, according to the Legal Aid of Cambodia document.

The buyer turned out to be Keat Kolney, wife of a prominent official in the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and sister of Keat Chhon, Cambodia’s finance minister.

Kolney only visited the village once, in August 2007, together with officials from Phnom Penh and local commune government, when she distributed gifts and envelopes of cash.

The villagers were asked once again to thumbprint documents in Khmer before they could receive the gifts. Those who did so were allowed to keep gifts, but the village chief immediately collected the envelopes after distribution.

The next day the chief distributed 400 US dollars to villages and a further sum to widowed families and children. Media reports at the time claimed the chief and members of the local government received payments for facilitating the deal.

Approximately one month later, the company informed the villagers they were taking 500 hectares of land.

Amid village protests, bulldozers belonging to the Progressive Farmers’ Association, which Kolney chairs, started clearing the area soon after.

"They have already destroyed a lot of our crops when they cleared, including cashew, cassava and banana trees," says Phil.

The villagers’ traditional shifting cultivation practice is also now under pressure, explains Phil. "As the land becomes smaller, it becomes more difficult to do this practice."

Lawyers representing the Kong Yu people filed a lawsuit with the Ratanakiri provincial court in January 2007, saying the sale is illegal.

"I feel very confident we have a strong case," states Am Sokha, coordinator of CLEC’s Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project. "We have the legal arguments and a lot of evidence the people did not voluntarily sell their land, but were cheated."

There are only 46 families residing in Kong Yu, though the final contract in the disputed sale bears 101 thumbprints.

Lawyers representing the villagers maintain that many of the thumbprints on document can only belong to people who do not live in Kong Yu, including local officials with no legal entitlement to the land.

In response to the court action, Kong Yu elders say the local government has engaged in of a campaign of intimidation.

Roman Phil says he has been threatened with arrest and jail. Lawyers representing the villagers have been prevented on several occasions from accessing their clients.

A document presented to the Ratanakiri court by Kolney’s lawyer in October 2007 says the land was bought legally through a broker who told her that the Kong Yu people had wanted to sell their land since 2001. The document states the villagers decided to sell their land because "they are facing livelihood difficulties (and) they are in debt". It also said they feared people from a neighbouring village would grab their land.

It also says Kolney knew nothing about the claims made by officials that villagers needed to give up 50 hectares of their land for Hun Sen’s disabled soldiers.

In response to doubts about the validity of the thumbprints on the purported sale document, Kolney’s lawyer recently told the English-language ‘Cambodia Daily’ that some of the villagers had thumbprinted the document twice to get more money.

The Konh Yu case is merely one of many ongoing and emerging land disputes taking place across the province, according to NGOs and local indigenous groups.

In Chrung, another Jarai community 30 minutes’ drive from Kong Yu, local elders tell how they were nearly cheated out of their land.

Although some of the details get confused in the translation from Jarai to Khmer to English, it was probably 2001 when speculators connected to business figures in Phnom Penh came to Chrung and told the local people they wanted to develop their village.

The local people were told they would be hired as part of the deal to work on the land. They were asked to put their thumbprints on documents in return for a kilo of salt per thumbprint, although some were also reportedly given money.

"We only gave our thumbprint because we thought the deal was to develop our village," says one elder. "Then we were told we had signed a contract to sell our land." After several years of legal proceedings, Cambodia’s then monarch King Norodom Sihanouk intervened and the villagers got their land back.

As they speak, Chrung elders clutch official documents wrapped in plastic and pass around old colour photographs showing them during an audience with King Sihanouk at his Phnom Penh palace.

Despite their victory, many Chrung villagers have subsequently sold their land, say NGOs familiar with the case.

Cambodian law specifies no time frame within which the Kong Yu court case must be tried. Some doubt the case will ever get to a courtroom.

Meanwhile, the Kong Yu villagers say they have plans to go to Phnom Penh and perhaps petition King Sihanouk for a resolution to the case.

Cambodia Ecotourism Project wins a 2007 Responsible Tourism Awards

PR-inside.com
2008-07-11

Ecotourism is a responsible tourism to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local resident. With its definition, Cambodia ecotourism project wins a responsible tourism award in best practice of Responsible Tourism.

Tourism is arguably now the world's largest industry, and ecotourism among its fastest growing segments. But mass ecotourism is a relatively new phenomenon, the name itself being coined only recently, during the 1980s. In fact, as recently as the 1970s, tourism and the preservation of natural habitats were viewed largely as incompatible pursuits. Ecotourism is definable meaning and has been defined differently according to the contexts of each country.

However, ecotourism has the same share goals. Ecotourism is highly climate sensitive sector and is more than simply taking tours to view wildlife in a natural habitat; it is also a mechanism for protecting this environment and all its inhabitants. Regarding to ecotourism context in the country, Cambodia has plenty of potential ecotourism resources in many provinces such as Battambang, Preah Vihear, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Kampong Tom, and northeast provinces of the country, especially the special species and unique ecotourism products in the South East Asia. The special features of ecotourism in Cambodia include flooded forest, the largest lake in South-east Asia, deciduous dipterocarp forest, grasslands, semi-evergreen forest, freshwater wetlands, particularly the surrounding natural resource of the Tonle Sap Great Lake (www.tourismindochina.com/siem%20reap-attractionsite.htm).

With ecotourism context in Cambodia, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has established a pilot ibis ecotourism project at Tmatboey in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, Preah Vihear province, the only known site where both Giant and White-shouldered Ibises breed and can be reliably seen. The birds are found in the forests surrounding the village, which are a mosaic of seasonally inundated dipterocarp deciduous trees. This project was awarded as a winner of 'Wild Asia's 2007 Responsible Tourism Award' which is organized by Wild Asia. The awards act as both a showcase for these exemplary resorts and as an inspiration to others. By sharing the winners' best practices and demonstrating how easy and beneficial Responsible Tourism is to implement, this award program hope other operators will consider 'Responsible Tourism' to be apart of their business strategies.

By CHHEM Samnang

Germany pledges US$2.4 million for cash-strapped Cambodian genocide tribunal

The Associated Press
Published: July 11, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The German government Friday pledged €1.5 million (US$2.4 million) to Cambodia's cash-strapped tribunal, which is charged with prosecuting former Khmer Rouge leaders with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The main aim of the funds will be to allow victims of the communist dictatorship "to play a more prominent role in the proceedings" of the U.N.-assisted tribunal, the German Embassy said in a statement.

Some 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease and overwork or were executed during the Khmer Rouge's radical rule that turned Cambodian into a vast slave labor camp during the mid-1970s.

The tribunal, which has detained five former senior Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, is seeking more money to carry out its goal of bringing the suspects to trial.

The embassy statement said Friday the money will be used to finance activities of the tribunal's victim support unit, which is designed to protect the rights of people who suffered under the regime.

"Up to now, victims have found it difficult to make their voices heard and, for that reason, the unit helps to inform the victims and to represent their interests," it said.

It said Germany had already given US$5.5 million to the tribunal since 2005.

In June, a revised budget estimated the cost of carrying out the tribunal's work through 2010 to be US$143 million. The tribunal is US$86.7 million short of that goal.

The US$56.3 million that was originally budgeted proved inadequate because the tribunal has had to recruit more staff and expand its work.

Costs and distances may keep workers from polls say unions

Chea Mony addressed striking workers.

By Chun Sophal
The Mekong times

The Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), which has members in over 180 garment factories nationwide, is predicting that only about 200,000 workers will vote in the July 27 national election.

“The recent dramatically high inflation is one of the main factors that cause only a small number of workers to be able to go out and vote,” said FTUWKC President Chea Mony.

Chea Mony said that not all of the roughly 340,000 garment factory workers will be able to vote because there will likely be a rise in transportation costs, which traditionally occur during holidays, and that will probably prevent many workers from traveling to their home provinces to vote.

Each worker who has a residence in the provinces may spend around US$20 on transportation fees to their hometowns to vote, according to an estimation made by the union.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC), is hopeful that a much higher number of garment workers will vote as the NEC has appealed to bus and taxi services to not raise fares during the election.

“We think that not all workers will go to vote in the provinces. Some of them will vote in the city. I hope that there will be at least 70 percent of people come to cast ballots in this fourth mandate of the parliamentary election.”

Recently the NEC announced that Cambodia has a total of 8,124,391 eligible voters for the upcoming parliamentary election.

Still, Chea Mony wasn’t hopeful that many garment workers will be able to vote, pointing out that their low salaries will make it difficult to travel to their villages.

“I am not pessimistic, but I think both the NEC and authorities did not help workers, not even a little. This is a reason why I predicted that the number of workers going to vote will be smaller,” he added.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (Comfrel), said it will be regrettable if over 100,000 garment workers do not go to vote.

“I think workers have to go to vote despite the inflation because their massive absence may make other people use it as a pretext for their absence from casting ballots, which is not good for our election.”

Koul Panha said. “I would like to appeal to workers to struggle against all obstacles and go to cast votes because only politics can bring a change to our livelihoods.”

CPP voters are YUON (Vietnamese) !




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sacravatons : " Sihanouk & Khmer-History "

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Olympic opening to pay tribute to quake victims

M&G Asia-Pacific News
Jul 11, 2008

Beijing - Next month's Olympic opening ceremony will pay tribute to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake, which killed at least 70,000 people, state media said on Friday.

Elements representing Sichuan province and Wenchuan, the county at the epicentre, will be included in the opening ceremony 'in tribute to the Chinese spirit manifested after the devastating May 12 earthquake,' the official Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Chaoge, one of the directors of the ceremony, as saying.

Wang said the possibility of rain was the biggest concern for the organizers of the opening and closing ceremonies.

'It is the one thing beyond human control,' the agency quoted him as saying.

'Rain would cause delays in the progress of the event, as it would dampen performers' costumes and props,' Wang said.

Wang was speaking as the organizers held the first of four full dress rehearsals of the opening ceremony amid great secrecy at the 'Bird's Nest' National Stadium on Thursday night.

State broadcaster China Central Television said armed police maintained strict security in three concentric cordons around the stadium before and during the rehearsal.

All stadium workers and gardeners on the site had signed confidentiality agreements with the organizers, the agency said.

The agency said the opening ceremony would last three and a half hours, although other reports have put the duration at up to an hour longer.

It quoted the chief director of the opening ceremony, award-winning film-maker Zhang Yimou, as saying on Tuesday that his crew were working at night to get used to the evening performance of the opening ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 8 pm (1200 GMT) on August 8.

Zhang's team had spent three years preparing an opening ceremony that is expected to 'showcase the essence of China's rich culture, concept and vision to the world,' the agency said.

Dozens of state heads are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President George W Bush, and the leaders of Japan, South Korea, France, Cambodia and Thailand.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among the global leaders expected to attend the closing ceremony on August 24.

Cambodia's former king denounces Thai claims to 11th century temple as 'absolutely false'

The Associated Press
Published: July 11, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's former king dismissed any Thai claim to an 11th century temple on the border as baseless, weighing in on a dispute that has soured relations between the neighbors and fueled anti-government protests in Thailand.

Preah Vihear temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site this week, reopening a long-standing disagreement between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over which country owns the land that surrounds it.

Former King Norodom Sihanouk said in a handwritten note posted on his Web site Friday that any Thai claims to the temple were "absolutely false."

He accused the Thais of causing "unmerited and anachronistic problems" for Cambodia "rather than concentrating on developing harmonious, friendly and fruitful relations" between the two countries.

Sihanouk said that some Thais are ignoring historic facts that prove that the "mountain and the temple of Preah Vihear are 100 percent Cambodia and belong to Cambodia 100 percent."

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.
"Thanks to Khmer kings and the Khmer Empire — the Angkorian Empire in particular — Thailand is actually very rich in temples and other Khmer monuments in the style of Angkor," the former king said.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama resigned Thursday after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority in supporting Cambodia's application to have the temple classified as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO added the temple to its list of landmarks on Monday.

Some political opponents have charged that the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej deliberately bypassed Parliament and backed the bid in exchange for business concessions from Cambodia for toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other Samak cronies.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, led a group of Thai, British and Dubai businessmen to Cambodia in late May to discuss several investment projects, including the construction of a new city.

But at a recent news conference, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong dismissed suggestions that the business trip was linked to the Preah Vihear issue.

As Cambodians celebrate the recognition for the temple, a small group of Thais continue to protest, demanding the eviction of Cambodians living on land near the temple.

Angkor Wat and Siem Reap Transportation Choices

Buzzle.com

How can you get around in Siem Reap, Cambodia? Surprisingly, easy. Here's some of the transportation modes you can choose from. Some of them are geared for in-town business, or out-of-town Angkor Wat temple business.

I consider 'no traffic' to be a big part of a city's attractions. Having experienced Manila's traffic hell, Jakarta's traffic's jams, and having used to commute in traffic 2.5 hours every morning, I really really loved Siem Reap's virtually nonexistent traffic.

But the 'city's is so small to warrant serious traffic jams, which is why I love it even more.

Yes, of course, as it is with all Asian cities, Siem Reap drivers drive rather crazily, and the traffic scene can sometimes resemble a controlled chaos during the busiest hours. But, it’s still much better than other major Asian cities. That, I can assure you.

The Transportation

Choices Siem Reap, as many people know, is the base town for tourists who visit the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The town is so small that you can actually explore it on foot. Not very comfortably and quickly, perhaps, but it is still doable.

Even then, there are several transportation choices in Siem Reap that it won't ever become an issue there. Here are some of them:

1. Foot - What better way to really experience a new place than to walk around leisurely, observing every little thing that could otherwise be missed? You'll get to see the Khmer people up close, see how they trade, how they eat, how they interact with each other, and see how nice, or not nice, the infrastructures are.

2. Bicycle - Siem Reap people use bicycles often, and for good reason too: the terrain is pretty flat! For in town purposes, a bicycle is a good choice. Apart from walking, this is another great way to experience the small town. It's also very easy to rent one, because most guesthouses and hotels offer this service.

3. Motodop/motorcycle - No helmet necessary, just hop on the back of the driver, and tell him where to go. Within five minutes, you'll most likely arrive at your destination, wondering why you've paid $1 for such a short ride. In Siem Reap, foreigners aren't allowed to rent motorcycles. Probably in part because motodop services provide employment to so many men.

4. Tuktuk - The budget-luxury mode of transportation. You can sit back on cushy cushions, be protected from the sun, wind and rain, and still be in close contact with the surroundings. Tuktuks in Siem Reap are motorcycles pulling a carriage that could fit up to 4 people comfortably. It is probably the de facto form of transportation there. When you see an almost endless line of tuktuks at the foot of Phnom Bakheng temple, you would think the same, and you'd wonder about the state of Siem Reap tourism industry.

5. Car/taxi - the luxury transportation in Siem Reap. Almost all are equipped with air conditioning, which is a lifesaver if you're visiting Angkor Wat during the dry season. Going around by taxi is somewhat a sterile experience, because you breathe none of that natural Cambodian air. But, taxi is great for visiting faraway temples.

Some Angkor temples like Beng Mealea or or Phnom Kulen are located further away from the Angkor Archaeological Park complex, 50 - 100 km away. When you're in a tuktuk for that long, you'll start to like it less and less. The wind will be to strong, the sun too bright, the dust to dusty, the roads too bumpy. All those things that you previously thought were wonderful about tuktuks, now become horrible. Save yourself the annoyance and use a taxi for faraway temples. You'd be glad you did.

6. Van - well this is only of use if you have a large group of more than 4 people. A van is similar to a taxi in terms of facilities (air conditioning, good interior, etc), only that it's a bit pricier. But then again, if you have decided to rent a van, most likely it will come out cheaper per head.

So In Short...

- Travel by foot and bicycle for in-town and Siem Reap business.

- Travel by tuktuks and moto for Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom business.

- Travel by car or van for out of town and faraway temple business.

No traffic jams and road rage, just the soothing view of paddy fields and tree lined empty roads. Who knew that some people can derive extreme happiness from simplicity and the absence of traffic?

To find out more about the above transportation choices, visit this Angkor Wat resource website.
By Rahmi Hidayat
Published: 7/7/2008

Multi Agency Effort to Bring Two Violent Gang members to Justice


LAPD
July 10, 2008

Asian_Boyz_news confrence

Los Angeles: The FBI, State Department along with the Los Angeles police have arrested two brothers from an Asian gang who were responsible for a series of murders in one of the largest multi-defendant death penalty cases in California History. The two are currently awaiting extradition to California from the Philippines.

Detectives have been tracking Marvin, 35, and Pierre Mercado, 32, for more than a decade now. The Mercado brothers are members of a violent Asian street gang in Los Angeles. Since the early 1990s, police have connected the two men to multiple gang-related crimes including burglary, robbery, attempt murder, and murder.

In 1995, the LAPD created a task force to address this violent street gang. For months, detectives focused on the group. They were up against cultural barriers, language issues, and a strict code of silence. Finally, the team of detectives were able to identify most of the members and connect them to some of the most violent unsolved crimes throughout the region.

"The FBI has been seeking the Mercado brothers overseas on behalf of the LAPD for several years," said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "It is gratifying to know that some of the victims of their alleged crimes will have the chance to see them returned to the U.S. to face prosecution. The FBI and the LAPD work collaboratively to capture fugitives that flee Los Angeles - and justice."

Background

On December 3, 1993, turmoil broke out at a Los Angeles pool hall and a turf war began between two rival gangs. During the brawl, which was caught on surveillance tape, the two gangs got into a serious shootout. After the police studied the tape, they found out that Chung Lewong Yang attacked members of the rival Asian gang, including one of their members, Lea Mek, who died at scene. Following the shooting, police believe the Mercado brothers and their gang declared war on Wah Ching.

The pool hall brawl marked the beginning of a three year crime spree by the Asian gang, who had vowed to seek revenge. During an 18-month stretch between 1995 and 1996, police connected the Asian gang to a dozen murders:

- On April 14, 1995, near Valerio Street and Van Nuys Boulevard, members of the Asian gang shot and killed two rival Valerio Street gang members, Armando Estrada and Eugene Alonzo in an apartment complex.

- On August 1, 1995, Cheng Peng, Paul Vu, and Ben Liao were driving on the I-10 freeway near San Gabriel, when they were attacked by the Asian gang in a brutal drive by shooting. All three victims died at scene.

- On September 20, 1995, Jon Gregory, his wife, and two children were asleep in their home, when members of the Asian gang forced their way into the home and shot and killed Jon, while he tried to protect his family.

On May 30, 1996, officers rounded up 19 members of the Asian gang. However, the police did not have enough evidence to hold two of the top leaders, Sothi Mehn and Marvin Mercado.
In 1997, police finally got a break when an informant came forward and the Deputy District Attorney filed murder warrants for Sothi Mehn and Marvin Mercado. Mehn was captured in Phnom Penh, Cambodia by members of the Cambodian Army. His arrest was a direct result of a tip from "America's Most Wanted."

Seven of the gang members have been convicted and are serving life sentences. It was the largest multi-defendant death penalty case in California history. During the trial, the state's most important witness, an Asian gang member was testifying in court, when his father was murdered in his home in San Jose by the rival gang, in an attempt to dissuade his testimony.
Investigators found out that Marvin and Pierre Mercado were hiding out in the Philippines. LAPD detectives along with the FBI, State Department, and the Philippine Government captured the two brothers in Manila in September 2007.

Currently, Marvin and Pierre are being detained in the Philippines pursuant to immigration violations. Their extradition has been pending a habeas corpus hearing. Detectives from the LAPD have recently travelled to the Philippines to assist the FBI and Philippine authorities in extraditing the Mercado brothers back to Los Angeles to face trial. Marvin Mercado has been indicted by a grand jury for six counts of murder and other charges. Pierre Mercado faces attempt murder charges, all stemming from their days as gang members.

When Marvin and Pierre Mercado are returned to Los Angeles to face trial, the Asian Boyz crime spree will finally come to an end. Despite the unusually long habeas corpus hearing in the Philippines, we are confident that the Mercados will be returned by the authorities there to face justice. This case epitomizes the Los Angeles Police Department's commitment to pursue criminal gang members no matter how many years have passed, and even if they are half a world away.

If you have any questions, please contact Sergeant Walter Teague at 213-972-2460 or Media Relations at 213-485-3586.

WORLD HERITAGE LIST: We should have been jumping for joy

nst online
2008/07/11

By : SYED Z.A. IDID, Urban Design & Conservation Research Unit Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai

I WAS over the moon when a friend in Quebec sent me an SMS on Monday night on the joint inscription of Malacca and George Town into Unesco's World Heritage List.

I sat through till midnight switching back and forth between TV3's Nightline and TV2's Dateline waiting for that wonderful news to be announced. But soon after, I realised that the SMS from Quebec was all the news I would get that night.

A report on Wednesday wrongly said that George Town and Malacca had been individually selected for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

In fact, Malacca and George Town are a joint selection, which means one is a part of the other and cannot be seen as individual selections. George Town became connected to Malacca by virtue of their sharing of common cultural links.

In contrast to the laid-back Malaysian reaction, the people of Cambodia took to the streets in Phnom Penh to celebrate the listing of the controversial Watt Preah Vihear at the Thai-Cambodian border. This shows how much the World Heritage Listing means to Cambodia, which has more than a dozen sites and monuments listed as World Heritage.

This is our first "historic city" and it should mean the world to us (literally), but where are our celebrations? No one seems too excited, perhaps because it means little to us as we are unsure what the status of a "World Heritage" means.

What really frightens me is that if we are unsure of its significance, there will also be less awareness of how to take care of something that is hard to come by.

With the listing comes responsibility; now it is no more "our local" heritage but the "world's heritage". If the state authority in the past had been a little hesitant in employing all measures to safeguard "our local heritage", now it must show a vigorous and conscientious effort to maintain what the world regards as significant to its heritage. Ma-lacca and George Town are now both recognised as "World Historic City" and this means that all manner of urban conservation will have to be of world standard.

After 20 years of waiting for this special moment, some perhaps are tired and some may have forgotten what we were waiting for. But whatever the case, the moment is here.

We should rejoice and be proud of the recognition and pledge that we will keep "our treasure" as best as we can for the world to share.

sacravatoons :" Nom Benh-Rats "

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

Seward business owner donates to help exploited Cambodian children

Seward Phoenix
GAIL L. RICHARDS
July 10, 2008

Seward gallery owner Melissa Fouse first learned about the rampant sex trade of children in Cambodia from a neighbor near her other home in Anchorage.

Now Fouse donates 80 percent of profits from Burmese antique sales at her Resurrection Bay Galerie to help keep many of those children off the streets and in school.

“I am strongly interested in doing what I can to prevent girls in any part of the world from being sexually exploited, and the proceeds from these pieces go to fund that effort as well as offer these street children an education,” Fouse said.

Fouse’s Anchorage neighbors Martin and Sharon Bushue lived in Phnom Penh from 2003 to 2005. They founded a benefit for the abused called Cambodian School Kids after witnessing severe child exploitation and sex trade trafficking.

The foundation started with the support of 20 children who had previously been sleeping on the streets of Phnom Penh seeking handouts from tourists. These children are from families devastated by war and violence that have occurred as recent as 1999, according to the Bushues.
Many are left without parents to provide for siblings and grandparents.

The Bushues personally raised funds to help provide self-esteem, education and a dry place to sleep for the children. Numbers of children saved from the streets continue to grow with additional funding, according to the Bushues, who say that $40 a month goes a long way to provide protection and comfort.

Fouse, who reopened Resurrection Bay Galerie on June 6, first heard about the children’s foundation in May. The gallery had been closed for a few years following the death of Fouse’s mother and previous owner, Margaret Branson.

“My friend had a fabulous Burmese bull’s head that she was trying to sell as a Cinco de Mayo decoration. I quite admired it,” Fouse said, adding that she decided to become an active participant in fundraising for the children after seeing other pieces and discovering what the proceeds were intended for.

“I’ll be selling them at least until the 25th of July, when they’ll be taken back to Anchorage for a benefit auction,” she said of the pieces that sell for $25 to $360.

“After that, I hope that any remaining pieces will come back to be in the gallery.”

Gail Richards is a Seward artist and freelance writer. She can be reached at 224-2426 or gail@gailrichardsart.com.

Army will not force out Cambodians

The Bangkok Post
Friday July 11, 2008

BANGKOK POST AND AFP

The army will not force out Cambodians living in the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple, as residents in Si Sa Ket are demanding, army chief Anupong Paojinda said yesterday. Gen Anupong said the issue must be settled by the government and stressed there is no army policy to end territorial disputes by military measures.

The government preferred to use existing international protocols, he said.

He said he was confident the Thai and Cambodian governments could settle the controversy over Preah Vihear at the negotiating table.

Thailand was unsuccessful in its attempts to convince the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to postpone the listing of the temple opposite Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province.

Bangkok wanted a joint nomination to help resolve the issue of disputed land around the temple.

Pongpol Adireksan, the chairman of Thailand's World Heritage Committee, said the overlapping area could be turned into a Thai-Cambodia peace park once a seven-nation committee was appointed to manage the temple and surroundings.

The WHC proposed that a Thai representative sit on the seven-nation International Coordination Committee to safeguard and develop Preah Vihear.

Meanwhile, Cambodia's retired king Norodom Sihanouk yesterday chastised Thai critics of the listing of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site.

The former king said in a handwritten communique that Thai critics of the deal, who allege the main entrance to the temple is in Thailand, and not Cambodia, have ignored ''historic facts''.

Thai critics were ''absolutely wrong'' and stoke ''meanness'' which ''causes undeserved and anachronistic grief to Cambodia and its people concerning the Preah Vihear temple, instead of devoting ourselves to harmonious and fruitful development of our friendship'', Sihanouk said.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has stated that neither Cambodia or Thailand lost any territory from the ruling, but he was concerned that growing nationalist Thai sentiment could harm relations.

One Night in Phnom Penh

TIME
Wednesday, Jul. 09, 2008

Leang Seckon, leading contemporary artist
A great way to start an evening is to take in an exhibition with coffee or a cocktail at Java Café & Gallery, tel: (855-23) 987 420, overlooking the gardens in front of the Independence Monument. Then take a short walk across Sihanouk Boulevard and down Sothearos Boulevard to Meta House, tel: (855-23) 224 140, the city's popular arts and media center. It features Cambodian, Asian and Western works and has nightly lectures and films. Still within walking distance, sample Khmer cuisine with dinner at Sweet Restaurant & Bar, tel: (855-12) 999 119, which has a relaxed garden setting. If it's still early, try fair-trade coffee and a selection of contemporary art at Café Living Room, tel: (855-23) 726 139.

Richard Chin, fitness-center manager
Hire a mountain bike at the O'Russei Market area — street 107 has several rental shops — and take a short cycle in the late afternoon around central Phnom Penh's Royal Palace and National Museum area. Most rental bikes don't have lights, so be off the streets by sundown, and quench your thirst at the Fizz juice bar, tel: (855-92) 360 632, which is a short distance from the main riverfront bar and restaurant area on Sisowath Quay. For dinner, Khmer-Thai Restaurant, tel: (855-92) 810 812, near Tuol Tumpong Market, has quality food, trendy surroundings and a relaxed local atmosphere.

Sapor Rendall, modeling-agency director
Start with the historic ambiance of the Elephant Bar in Raffles Hotel Le Royal, tel: (855-23) 981 888. Happy hour there is a staple for the city's glitterati. The hotel's Café Monivong has a great a la carte menu and fine buffet spread. For an after-dinner or a preclub drink, try the chic Metro Bar, tel: (855-23) 222 275, on Sisowath Quay. Just around the corner, off the riverfront, is the Memphis Pub, tel: (855-12) 871 263, which has live rock and blues until the early hours. If I'm going out dancing with my models, we hit River Lounge, tel: (855-23) 212 302, though it gets very crowded early, and Spark Red, tel: (855-12) 433 333, which is a popular late-night club with DJs and live vocal and dance acts.

Thai massage for China's military muscle

Greater China
Jul 11, 2008

By Ian Storey

Last week, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was in China for a four-day visit, his first since taking office after last December's elections. Samak, who is concurrently defense minister, met with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and the two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral military ties.

Although Thailand has in recent years been wracked by political uncertainty, this has not impaired the close relationship between Bangkok and Beijing. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the September 2006 coup, the People's Republic of China, or PRC, moved to embrace the new military government while its treaty ally, the United States, looked on disapprovingly at the regression of Thai democracy.

As with other countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand seeks to balance the interests and influence of America and China. A central element of Bangkok's hedging strategy is to keep its military alliance with the US well lubricated, while at the same time expanding defense ties with China. Given the cozy relationship that has developed between Thailand and China over the past few decades, it is unsurprising that military-security links are among China's most well-developed in the region - second only to Myanmar, China's quasi-ally - and the Thai kingdom has chalked up some impressive firsts in the arena of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China defense ties, including a groundbreaking agreement with Beijing in 2007 that outlined the parameters of future cooperation.

Military cooperation between Thailand and China goes back further for China than with any other founding ASEAN member [1], and was catalyzed by Vietnam's December 1978 invasion of Cambodia. Bangkok and Beijing quickly cast off two decades of hostility and entered a strategic alignment designed to curb Vietnamese expansionism. Thailand became a conduit for Chinese-supplied military equipment to the anti-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge guerillas across the border in occupied Cambodia, and while China stopped short of providing Thailand with a defense guarantee, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was used to exert military pressure on Hanoi from the Chinese side of the border when Vietnamese troops marched near Thai territory.

As a means to bolster the capabilities of the Thai armed forces, and also to increase its commercial arms sales in the region, Beijing furnished Bangkok with weaponry at no cost, or at greatly reduced friendship prices, and with very generous repayment terms. The first shipment of Chinese weapons, artillery pieces and ammunition arrived gratis in Thailand in 1985. In 1987, the Kingdom became the first ASEAN country to buy weapons from the PRC: 50-60 tanks, 400 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and anti-aircraft guns.

Two years later the defense relationship was raised a notch higher when the Thai government placed an order for four Jianghu-class frigates (named the Chao Praya, Bangpakorn, Kraburi, and Saiburi) and two enlarged versions of the same class (Naresuan and Taksin) which were delivered in the early 1990s and still form the backbone of the Royal Thai Navy (RTA).

However, Thai purchases of Chinese military equipment during the 1980s was as much for political reasons as military ones, and throughout this period Bangkok continued to rely on the US for its most technologically sophisticated platforms, such as the F-16 fighter jet. Moreover, the Thai military was far from impressed with the poor quality of Chinese-made equipment, and while some of it was employed along the Thai-Cambodian border, much it was reserved for training purposes or simply warehoused and left to rust. Bangkok was also disappointed that Chinese weapons sales had not included technology transfers.

The Paris Peace Accords of 1991 marked the resolution of the Cambodian crisis and at a single stroke removed the rationale for the Sino-Thai security alignment. During the 1990s the two countries focused on maximizing economic synergies while military-to-military ties languished, though the two sides continued to exchange high-level military delegations.

Tightening ties under Thaksin

It was not until prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra took office in February 2001 that the bilateral military relationship was re-energized and expanded. This was partly a result of the prime minister's desire to bolster relations with the PRC across the board, but also owed a great deal to the personal interests of General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who concurrently served as a deputy prime minister and defense minister under Thaksin.

As director of operations, deputy commander and then commander of the Royal Thai Army (RTA) during the 1980s, Chavalit was Thailand 's point man with the PLA over Cambodia, and forged close personal ties with the Chinese leadership and military top brass. In particular, Chavalit developed a lasting friendship with General Chi Haotian, Chinese defense minister from 1993 to 2003 and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. It was the personal chemistry between Chavalit and Chi that helped kick-start Sino-Thai military ties in the new century.

Prior to 2001, bilateral defense ties had been ad hoc; a framework to discuss military-security issues and map out future cooperation was lacking. In June 2001, the Bangkok Post reported that Chi had accepted Chavalit's proposal to hold annual defense talks to remedy that deficiency. The first defense meeting was held in December 2001, and follow-up meetings have been held every year since.

According to press reports, at the first meeting the two sides discussed regional and international security issues and cooperation between the two countries' armed forces. The annual defense talks have served as an essential mechanism to advance bilateral military cooperation in four main areas since 2001: first, observance of each other's military exercises; second, a resumption of Chinese arms sales to Thailand ; third, educational exchanges; and fourth, combined training and exercises.

With regard to the first area, PLA observers have attended the annual US-Thai Cobra Gold military exercises - the largest joint military exercise in Asia - since 2002, except for 2004. And since 2003, Thai military officers, along with those from other countries, have observed several large PLA exercises, including "Northern Sword" in Inner Mongolia in August 2003 and September 2005, and "Iron Fist" in Henan province in September 2004.

With Chavalit as defense minister, Thailand once again turned to the PRC as a source of arms. In 2001, the Thai defense ministry agreed to buy Chinese-manufactured rocket-propelled grenade launchers and in December 2002 placed a $98 million order for two Thai-designed offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) [2]. The two vessels - Pattani and Narathiwat - were delivered in late 2005. However, further offers by China to sell a range of defense equipment to Thailand failed to materialize.

This included a follow-on order for two OPVs and an unspecified number of main battle tanks, while a proposed barter exchange deal involving 66,000 tons of dried Thai Longan fruit for Chinese-made APCs also fell through. (Instead Thailand purchased APCs from South Africa.) Resistance from the Thai military on quality grounds was one reason for the failure to secure further orders, while Chi's retirement in 2003 and Chavalit's exit from politics in 2005 were other important factors.

The third area of cooperation has been education. The number of Thai military officers attending educational courses at the National Defense University in Beijing has increased since 2001, as has the number of PLA officers studying at Thai military academies. The purpose of these courses is to enhance the understanding of each other's strategic perspectives, and to improve language skills for future cooperative activities.

The fourth area is combined training and exercises. In late 2005, milestones were reached in both areas. In September the PLA began a three-month landmine clearance training program for the RTA along the Thai-Cambodian border, the first time the Chinese military had extended this expertise to a Southeast Asian country. In December the Thai and Chinese navies conducted their first joint exercise. Codenamed "China-Thailand Friendship 2005," the exercise took place in the Gulf of Thailand and featured the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN) guided-missile destroyer Shenzhen and supply ship Weishanhu, as well as the RTN frigate Chao Praya.

The exercise simulated a rescue mission at sea followed by Thai and Chinese vessels escorting United Nations-chartered ships on a humanitarian mission. Similar exercises had been conducted with the Pakistani Navy in October 2003 and the Indian Navy in November 2003, but this was the first such exercise between the PLAN and a Southeast Asian navy.

Post-coup cooperation

In July 2005, as the two countries celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations, Prime Minister Thaksin and Premier Wen Jiabao agreed to negotiate a roadmap to enhance bilateral relations: the Joint Action Plan on Thailand-China Strategic Cooperation. Thaksin's ouster by the Thai military on September 19, 2006, temporarily put those negotiations on hold.

However, while Thaksin's downfall was something of a setback for China - the Thai leader had proved to be a valuable ally on a range of issues - the Chinese government seized on the coup as an opportunity to demonstrate to the Thai elite that the PRC was, once again, a steadfast friend in times of crisis, as it had during the 1973 oil shock crisis, when China offered crude oil sales to Bangkok at below-market "friendship prices", the 1980s Cambodian crisis, and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when the PRC contributed $1 billion in rescue funds to Thailand.

While the United States publicly criticized the overthrow of Thaksin's democratically elected government and suspended $24 million in military aid, China declared the coup to be Thailand 's internal affair. In February 2007, during a trip to Beijing by coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratklin, Beijing offered up $49 million in military credits, double the amount suspended by Washington [3]. Negotiations on the Joint Action Plan also resumed.

The long-awaited plan was formally signed on May 28, 2007, in Beijing and overseen by Thaksin's military-appointed successor, former army commander and retired General Surayud Chulanont. The 12-page document outlines bilateral cooperation in 15 areas over the 2007-2011 period [4]. One part of the agreement addresses military cooperation, calling on the two sides to maintain military dialogue and exchange visits, conduct combined military exercises focused on countering non-traditional security threats, and promote further cooperation in the fields of military training, logistics, personnel training, academic exchanges, defense consultation, mutual observance of military exercises, disaster relief and rescue, and the defense industry.

Another is devoted to security cooperation and recommends enhancing cooperation in the following areas of non-traditional security: counter- and anti-terrorism; trafficking in illegal narcotics, people, and arms; money laundering, cyber and financial crime; and piracy at sea. To that end, it proposes the regular exchange of officials and experts, capacity building through training and study visits, and the convening of a Thailand-China Joint Working Group on Non-traditional Security Cooperation as a mechanism to exchange views and share information among relevant law enforcement agencies.

Surayud moved quickly to implement some of the cooperative military activities identified in the plan. In July 2007, "Strike 2007" took place, a 13-day exercise in Guangzhou involving two teams of 15 Special Forces each from the Thai and Chinese militaries. The exercise - the first between China and another country - included marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat techniques, jungle warfare training, and hostage rescue situations.

In September that same year, Surayud's cabinet approved the acquisition of Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship missiles worth $48 million as part of the phasing out of the C-801 missiles onboard RTN frigates, and likely paid for them using the military credits offered by China earlier in the year. In talks with visiting Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, Surayud discussed the possibility of joint weapons production.

Details were not forthcoming at the time, though there was strong speculation that future defense industry cooperation would center on missile technology and production. Since January, Prime Minister Samak has been preoccupied with his own government's survival against a backdrop of rising political tensions and frequent rumors of another military coup. As a consequence, no major developments in Sino-Thai military relations occurred in the first half of 2008, though future cooperative activities were being planned under the rubric of the Joint Action Plan and another joint military exercise is expected before the end of the year.

The military-security relationship between China and Thailand experienced consolidation and expansion under the Thaksin administration: annual defense talks were initiated, acquisition agreements inked, and joint training exercises conducted. Prime Minister Surayud promoted the relationship further, overseeing the Joint Action Plan which is likely to serve as a template for future agreements between China and other ASEAN countries.

Due to concerns over quality and after-sales service, Thailand is unlikely to place any major orders with the PRC anytime soon - though joint research and development leading to co-production of weapons systems seems likely. Thailand today looks to diversify its sources of weapons supply to reduce reliance on one country, as the recent order for 12 Gripen fighters from Sweden testifies. Moreover, Sino-Thai military relations have a long way to go before they start to rival that between the US and Thai militaries, who conduct more than 40 joint military exercises every year.

A sense of perspective is important: the May 2008 US-Thai Cobra Gold exercise in which Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia also participated was conducted over a 13-day period and involved 12,000 military personnel, 14 naval ships and 96 combat aircraft; in contrast, "China-Thailand Friendship 2005" involved three ships and lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes. All the same, the military-security relationship between China and Thailand is on an unmistakable upward trajectory.

Notes
1. ASEAN was established in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
2. Robert Karniol, "China unveils new patrol vessel for Thailand," Jane's Defense Weekly, December 24, 2003.
3. Kavi Chongkittavorn, "Post-Coup Thailand in the eyes of the US and China", The Nation, February 12, 2007.
4. Joint Action Plan on Thailand-China Strategic Cooperation between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the People's Republic of China 2007-2011, May 28, 2007. Author copy.

Dr Ian Storey is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore.

Thai government in disarray as foreign minister resigns

Noppadon Pattama


Thai Pime Minister Samak Sundaravej (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao attend a ceremony in June 2008

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's five-month-old government was in disarray Thursday after the foreign minister resigned following a series of bruising court defeats for the cabinet.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama became the third top official in the ruling People Power Party (PPP) forced out of office in less than 48 hours.

The party's deputy leader Yongyut Tiyapairat, who was a former speaker of parliament, was banned from politics for five years on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court upheld vote buying charges against him.

The following day, health minister Chiya Sasomsub was removed from office by another top court, which found he had illegally concealed his wife's assets.

But Noppadon's court loss carries potentially damning implications for Thailand's entire government.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that Noppadon and the entire cabinet had violated the charter by not seeking parliamentary approval for a deal with Cambodia over a disputed temple on the border.

The deal signed by Noppadon was approved by the cabinet and military chiefs, supporting Cambodia's bid to seek World Heritage status for the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

The verdict sparked public calls for the entire cabinet to resign, and the opposition Democrat Party said it might launch an impeachment process.

"We think that Prime Minister Samak may be the next one to be impeached," said party whip Sathit Wongnongtoei.

Noppadon said he hoped his resignation would spare the rest of the government.

"I want to see national reconciliation," he said in remarks broadcast on national television. "I insist that I have done nothing wrong. I have not sold the country out."

Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said Samak would likely unveil a cabinet reshuffle within two weeks to fill the vacant seats.

"The cabinet reshuffle will take place because three ministers have resigned," he told reporters.

Beyond Noppadon and Chiya, a minister attached to the prime minister's office resigned in May after being accused of insulting Thailand's revered king.

Political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University said Noppadon's resignation might ease the immediate pressure on the government, but said Samak needed to consider major changes in cabinet.

"If it is a major overhaul of the cabinet configuration, it can buy Samak some time," he said.

Samak's government is closely aligned with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006 following months of protests.

Noppadon was Thaksin's personal lawyer until he was tapped to lead the foreign ministry.

Samak's victory in elections last December had raised hope for an end to more than two years of political turmoil that have battered the Thai economy.

Instead, it reopened the gaping social divide that had marked the Thaksin era, pitting his mainly poor and rural supporters against the Bangkok elite.

Nearly seven weeks ago, the same royalist protesters that had rallied against Thaksin returned to the streets, demanding Samak's resignation.

The so-called People's Alliance for Democracy is now calling for major changes to Thai democracy, saying 70 percent of parliamentarians should be appointed to their post.

The demand highlights the stark political reality that if Samak were to dissolve parliament and call new elections, Thaksin's supporters would likely win again, analysts say.

The political turmoil has weakened investment in Thailand at a time of soaring inflation and weak economic growth.

The instability has battered the Thai stock market, with share prices on the main Stock Exchange of Thailand index down more than 17 percent since the protests broke out.

RIGHTS-CAMBODIA: Locals, Lawyers Prepare for Battle Over Land

Jarai children ; Credit:Andrew Nette/IPS

IPS
By Andrew Nette
Thursday, July 10, 2008

RATANAKIRI, Cambodia, Jul 10 (Newsmekong) - In thick forest in the north-east Cambodian province of Ratanakiri, a team of lawyers uses a global positioning satellite handset to mark the location of traditional spirit forests and gravesites belonging to local Jarai villagers.

The stark contrast between old and new, the latest technology and ancient beliefs, illustrates the changes sweeping this remote part of the Cambodia, mainly populated by Indigenous people.

It also marks the latest round in an ongoing dispute many believe typifies the epidemic of land grabbing sweeping the country and its impact on indigenous people.

The lawyers are from the Phnom Penh-based Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC). Their ethnic Jarai clients are from Kong Yu village, about 42 kilometres out of Ban Lung, Ratanakiri’s capital.

The air is hot and alive with dragonflies as Roman Phil, a Kong Yu elder, directs the lawyers towards a traditional Jarai burial site, a dense patch of forest strewn with ceramic urns. The lawyers mark the spot on their GPS handset.

The location of the burial site and other areas of spiritual significance will be used as evidence in a case lodged by Kong Yu villagers in the provincial court against the company that they say has cheated them out of land.

The company, the Progressive Farmers Association, has already cleared much of the land, including graveyards and spirit forests, and planted it with rubber trees, a popular cash crop in Cambodia.

"We would never destroy spirit forest. It is too important for our ancestors and for us," says Phil. "They destroyed some of these and did not even give us a chance to remove the remains."

Now the Kong Yu people are alarmed at recent suggestions by local authorities that the company wants even more of their land.

"If the company comes to clear more land we will protest," maintains Phil. "We are determined to protect our land." According to a memorandum from Legal Aid of Cambodia, the dispute originated in March 2004, when the then village chief and other local officials asked Kong Yu villagers to sell a portion of their land to high-ranking official in Phnom Penh.

The villagers rejected the offer, saying that it was their ancestral land essential to the preservation of their culture.

The officials returned about a month later, according to the January 2007 memorandum, and informed the villagers they needed the land for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s disabled soldiers.

They threatened to simply take it without compensation as it belonged to the government, the document says.

Believing they had little choice, villagers agreed to donate 50 hectares.

The authorities returned several more times and asked families to put their thumbprints on documents -- most of the Kong Yu people do not speak or read Khmer -- which they said were needed to facilitate the deal.

In one instance, they brought alcohol to celebrate the land donation. Once the villagers were drunk, they asked them to affix their thumbprints to additional documents and also to do the same on behalf of villagers absent from the party, according to the Legal Aid of Cambodia document.

The buyer turned out to be Keat Kolney, wife of a prominent official in the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and sister of Keat Chhon, Cambodia’s finance minister.

Kolney only visited the village once, in August 2007, together with officials from Phnom Penh and local commune government, when she distributed gifts and envelopes of cash.

The villagers were asked once again to thumbprint documents in Khmer before they could receive the gifts. Those who did so were allowed to keep gifts, but the village chief immediately collected the envelopes after distribution.

The next day the chief distributed 400 US dollars to villages and a further sum to widowed families and children. Media reports at the time claimed the chief and members of the local government received payments for facilitating the deal.

Approximately one month later, the company informed the villagers they were taking 500 hectares of land.

Amid village protests, bulldozers belonging to the Progressive Farmers’ Association, which Kolney chairs, started clearing the area soon after.

"They have already destroyed a lot of our crops when they cleared, including cashew, cassava and banana trees," says Phil.

The villagers’ traditional shifting cultivation practice is also now under pressure, explains Phil. "As the land becomes smaller, it becomes more difficult to do this practice."

Lawyers representing the Kong Yu people filed a lawsuit with the Ratanakiri provincial court in January 2007, saying the sale is illegal.

"I feel very confident we have a strong case," states Am Sokha, coordinator of CLEC’s Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project. "We have the legal arguments and a lot of evidence the people did not voluntarily sell their land, but were cheated."

There are only 46 families residing in Kong Yu, though the final contract in the disputed sale bears 101 thumbprints.

Lawyers representing the villagers maintain that many of the thumbprints on document can only belong to people who do not live in Kong Yu, including local officials with no legal entitlement to the land.

In response to the court action, Kong Yu elders say the local government has engaged in of a campaign of intimidation.

Roman Phil says he has been threatened with arrest and jail. Lawyers representing the villagers have been prevented on several occasions from accessing their clients.

A document presented to the Ratanakiri court by Kolney’s lawyer in October 2007 says the land was bought legally through a broker who told her that the Kong Yu people had wanted to sell their land since 2001. The document states the villagers decided to sell their land because "they are facing livelihood difficulties (and) they are in debt". It also said they feared people from a neighbouring village would grab their land.

It also says Kolney knew nothing about the claims made by officials that villagers needed to give up 50 hectares of their land for Hun Sen’s disabled soldiers.

In response to doubts about the validity of the thumbprints on the purported sale document, Kolney’s lawyer recently told the English-language ‘Cambodia Daily’ that some of the villagers had thumbprinted the document twice to get more money.

The Konh Yu case is merely one of many ongoing and emerging land disputes taking place across the province, according to NGOs and local indigenous groups.

In Chrung, another Jarai community 30 minutes’ drive from Kong Yu, local elders tell how they were nearly cheated out of their land.

Although some of the details get confused in the translation from Jarai to Khmer to English, it was probably 2001 when speculators connected to business figures in Phnom Penh came to Chrung and told the local people they wanted to develop their village.

The local people were told they would be hired as part of the deal to work on the land. They were asked to put their thumbprints on documents in return for a kilo of salt per thumbprint, although some were also reportedly given money.

"We only gave our thumbprint because we thought the deal was to develop our village," says one elder. "Then we were told we had signed a contract to sell our land." After several years of legal proceedings, Cambodia’s then monarch King Norodom Sihanouk intervened and the villagers got their land back.

As they speak, Chrung elders clutch official documents wrapped in plastic and pass around old colour photographs showing them during an audience with King Sihanouk at his Phnom Penh palace.

Despite their victory, many Chrung villagers have subsequently sold their land, say NGOs familiar with the case.

Cambodian law specifies no time frame within which the Kong Yu court case must be tried. Some doubt the case will ever get to a courtroom.

Meanwhile, the Kong Yu villagers say they have plans to go to Phnom Penh and perhaps petition King Sihanouk for a resolution to the case.

State Vehicles Used in Campaign: Official

Opposition candidate Son Chhay said Thursday government vehicles were being used in the election campaign.


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

Khmer audio aired 10 July 2008 (1.18 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 10 July 2008 (1.18 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, the Sam Rainsy Party election candidate for Phnom Penh, called on the Ministry of Interior Thursday to crack down on vehicles without license plates during the campaign period.

Vehicles with no license plates likely belong to police, military and other state officials who have removed them in order to help the Cambodian People's Party campaign, Son Chhay said in a letter to the ministry.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said there were some vehicular irregularities during the campaign, but the ministry had not issued an order to curb the practice.

People were using their own personal vehicles to help the campaign, he said.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said the city's busy environment during the campaign made it "very difficult" to enforce license plate regulations.Son Chhay's letter follows accusations from the opposition party's Kampot province candidate, Mu Sochua, that government and military officials there are using state vehicles for campaigning.

No complaints involving the use of state vehicles has been registered with city election authorities, said Lon Cheng Kay, Phnom Penh municipal election committee chairman.

"Some vehicles, such as police or military police, are individually owned and are not state property," he said.

Few Violations After Two Weeks: NEC

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

Khmer audio aired 10 July 2008 (1.25 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 10 July 2008 (1.25 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The National Election Committee has received 138 complaints from political parties in the first two weeks of campaigning, the government agency announced Thursday.

These include 79 complaints at the commune level, 36 at the provincial level and 23 at the national level.

Complaints ranged from interpretations of regulations, the prevention of party sign posting, unannounced marches or rallies and verbal arguments between opposing party activists with each other and with onlookers, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said.

Only those complaints that cannot be compromised at the local and provincial levels reach the NEC, he said.

These NEC violations included obstruction of rallies, the hanging of party signs, or verbal altercations, Tep Nitha said.

"None of the complaints is a big problem, nor do they have a large effect on the election process, because some complaints are compromised at the [commune] level," he said. "However, the complaints are basically of legal wrongdoing, but we can control and compromise."

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said his organization had received 28 complaints nationwide, including several for death threats, political discrimination and obstruction of party campaigns.

"I believe that irregularities can affect the election result, if NEC does not take action or punish the wrongdoers," he said. "These irregularities can affect voters' decisions."

Mar Sophal, chief investigator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said his organization was examining 25 cases, mostly related to the destruction of party campaign material and procedural violations to NEC regulations.

Party activists have also complained of threats and intimidation, he said.

"These irregularities will not effect the election," he said. "These are not serious problems. All the complaints are being solved through legal procedures."

While the campaign season has been quiet so far, election observers have said at least three deaths have resulted from potential political motivation. They have also said some serious threats or attacks are moved from election committees to the police.

Khieu Samphan Mulls Replacement Defense

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

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Jailed Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan is sorting through a list of replacement defense lawyers, following the resignation of his Cambodian defense, officials said Thursday.

"We are in the process of seeking a new lawyer," said Rupert Skilbeck, head of the tribunal's defense section. "We have a list which contains about 50 Cambodian lawyers, and so we are looking at the possible candidates."

Cambodian lawyer Say Bory announced he would resign as defense last week, citing health concerns.

Khieu Samphan, 76, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Khieu Samphan "is already looking at the list, and so we will assist him to make his choice," Skilbeck said.

No hearing has been set yet by the pre-trial chamber of judges, and no further delays are expected, Skilbeck said.

"The judges declared previously that they will finish the case soon, around September or October," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. "So far, Khieu Samphan's case will be held during that time, if nothing changes."

"Khieu Samphan is choosing [his lawyer], but he has not decided yet," Say Bory said Thursday. "Maybe tomorrow, or very, very soon."

High Demand, No Farmer Will, for Durian

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 July 2008

A high demand for durian can be found across the country, but farmers say it is too difficult to grow.

Efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture and other non-government agencies to convince farmers to up the production of the pungent fruit have failed.

Durian is a round, spiky fruit savored by many Cambodians and distinguishable, they say, by region. It is banned on public transportation for its strong odor.

As Cambodia moves into durian season, farmers say the difficulties growing the fruit outstrip the reward.

"Now, growing durian is not popular anymore, because it provides little product and most of the durian tree suffer from illnesses and die, so a lot of my villagers now they cut durian trees to grow rubber trees," Kong Soth, a farmer in Kampong Cham province, said.

Jarai Youth Jailed for CPP Sign Damage

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 July 2008

Khmer audio aired 10 July 2008 (.97 MB) - Download (MP3)
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Ratanakkiri provincial court authorities have detained one ethnic minority Jarai man for damaging a Cambodian People's Party billboard, officials said Thursday.

Sev Tha, who family members claim is 17 years old, was arrested July 2 and sent to the court the following day, where he was charged with destruction of private property, court officials said.

Court and police officials claim Sev Tha is 22 years old. He is being held in Ratanakkiri provincial prison awaiting trial.

Sev Tha was arrested following a complaint by a CPP representative in Soeung commune, Borkeo district, Hor Ang, first deputy police chief of Ratanakkiri, said Thursday.

This is the first time that a political party lodged a complaint about a signboard to the police, Hor Ang said.

"On behalf of the police, when the complaint comes, we must carry out our duty in accordance with procedure," he said. "If we do not carry it out, we will be accused of bias in carrying out our duty."

No other sign damage has been reported, a provincial election committee official said.

Human rights officials said the alleged crime was minor and did not warrant prison time.

Sev Tha committed an "unintentional mistake," said Pen Bunna, Adhoc coordinator for Ratanakkiri.

The signboard costs between $20 and $30, so Sev Tha should be "educated" and pay compensation, rather than be detained, Pen Bunna said.

Sev Na, Sev Tha's older brother, denied his sibling destroyed the sign intentionally.

Sev Tha was drunk and moved the CPP billboard out of his way after tripping over it on the way home from a 16-hours drinking session at a shop, Sev Na said.

Experts Warn of Border Loss in Temple Win

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
10 July 2008

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While many Cambodians celebrated the inclusion of the Preah Vihear temple on a list of protected World Heritage sites this week, critics warn Cambodia gained a little in recognition but could lose land in future border negotiations.

"It gained a little bit because Cambodians who do not know it well will know that the temple belongs to the Khmers," said Sean Peng Se, president of the Cambodian Border Committee in France. "Thailand can claim it, but [an International Court] verdict clearly said it's Khmer, in Khmer land."

Sean Peng Se said he was concerned over future border demarcation because Cambodia had not submitted all the land surrounding the cliff-top temple in its World Heritage application to Unesco. The temple was inscribed as a World Heritage site by a Unesco committee on Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said border demarcation will not be affected.

Former king Norodom Sihanouk, meanwhile, issued a statement saying the "main gate" of the temple opened to Cambodia, not Thailand.

Cambodia Watchdog Council International has said the redrawing of a map for the Unesco application constituted a loss of territory.

"The borderline is clearly referred to in 1904-07 and the verdict of the International Court in 1962," said Ir Channa, secretary-general of the Council, which is based in Norway and plans to hold a conference in France on Cambodian territory at the end of July.

According to 1904 and 1907 treaties, he said, Cambodia territory reaches to about 2 kilometers from the northern steps of the temple stairs facing Thailand, farther than the 30 meters now demarked around the temple for World Heritage purposes.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the World Heritage inscription was not about borders, but about culture. The government understands the treaties, he said, but border demarcation is a separate issue.