Sunday, 20 July 2008

In tussle over Cambodian temple, religion suffers (News Feature)

M&G Asia-Pacific News
By Bronwyn Sloan
Jul 20, 2008

Preah Vihear, Cambodia - Preah Vihear local Sor Sarom went to the pagoda on the first day of Buddhist Lent as she always does, and found herself being held at gunpoint by a man dressed in black.

'It brought all my memories of the Khmer Rouge back. I was terrified. He just came out of the shadows inside the temple,' the 50-year-old said.

Slowly she realized the armed man pointing an assault rifle at her inside Wat Keo Setha Kiri Svarak, around 600 metres from the main Preah Vihear temple on the Thai border, was a Thai soldier.

Buddhist Lent, when Buddhist monks sequester themselves for the monsoon season, is traditionally a period of meditation, teaching and introspection for monks on both sides of the border.

This year Lent began Friday, but for three days Thai troops had already been camped in an area they say is a disputed no man's land and Cambodia says is sovereign territory, after tensions, building since UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage site earlier this month, boiled over.

Sovereignty of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple is not in dispute - the International Court ruled in 1962 that it was Cambodian.

Surrounding land remains contested, however, and Thailand had objected to the temple's listing on those grounds.

Chief monk at Wat Keo Setha, Khan Yon, says the dispute and resulting military buildup has been emotionally wrenching on devout Buddhist citizens and soldiers on both sides.

'One Thai commander came to me and offered money to the pagoda to show his feelings,' Khan Yon said. 'Thai Buddhists are like Cambodian Buddhists, but now Thai soldiers come here wearing all black like the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot.'

Some had even slung hammocks in the pagoda before they were ordered to pull back a few metres from the religious site late Saturday after a visit by an international delegation, he said.

'Those people are not real Buddhists. Please take off your black caps and do not carry weapons inside. This is a place of prayer.'

Cambodians still remember when black-clad Khmer Rouge troops abolished religion and slaughtered monks in a disastrous 1975-79 reign, and although they know that is not the Thai soldiers' intent, the sight of armed men in black at a pagoda is cruelly evocative.

'I feel very sad about weapons at a pagoda. I am a Buddhist, too,' Thai Colonel Chay An Huay Sooner said. 'But I am a soldier, so I follow orders, although I don't know who gave them.'

Although more than 1,000 troops from both sides are now dug in the disputed territory around a temple sacred to both sides, there are hopes that talks over the border in Thailand Monday might be the beginnings of a solution and the focus can return to religion.

'Thai monks used to come here all the time, and we welcome them because we believe in the same things,' said Khan Yon. 'I hope that can happen again.'

Poll: 54% of respondents think temple showdown will escalate

BANGKOK, July 20 (TNA) -- More than half of the total respondents in a new nationwide Suan Dusit Poll believe that the row over the ancient temple now taking place between Thailand and neighboring Cambodia will escalate and turn into a major crisis between the two countries.

Suan Dusit Rajabhat University conducted its survey among 3,055 people in Bangkok and upcountry during July 17-20 and found that 54 per cent of the respondents believed that conflicting claims over a disputed area near the temple, and on the Preah Vihear temple itself, could become a more serious problems between Thailand and Cambodia, as they both had sent troop reinforcements along the border in the area.

Only 19 per cent of the respondents thought the issue would not blow out of proportion because the temple was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962. However, they worry that the ongoing problem could affect the normally warm relations and investment between the two nations.

Asked about people's confidence in regard to the Thai government's attempts to solve the temple problem, 39.55 per cent said they were uncertain. They reasoned that previous Thai governments had allowed the temple issue to drag on for a long time while former Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama had also signed a joint communique with Cambodia supporting its application to list the temple as a World Heritage site.

On attempts by Thai military to help solve the problem, 36 per cent said they did not have much confidence and the problem should be handled by the government.

Their opinions were made as Thailand's Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit prepared to depart to lead the Thai delegates to meet Cambodian Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh in Thailand's Sa Kaeo province on the Thai-Cambodia border adjacent to Poi Pet to find ways to end the military confrontation near the temple. (TNA)

Pictures from Preah Vihear Temple: 20 July 2008

Buddhist monks pass Cambodian soldiers near the Thai-Cambodia border on July 20. Thailand has said that a military standoff with Phnom Penh over disputed land should be resolved through negotiations, but a top Cambodian general said he had little faith in talks(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian military police sit and guard at a closed border gate between Cambodia and Thailand at Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian soldier on guard near a pagoda at the Thai-Cambodia border on July 20. Thailand has said that a military standoff with Phnom Penh over disputed land should be resolved through negotiations, but a top Cambodian general said he had little faith in talks(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian soldier carries a shoulder-launched grenade launcher while guarding a road which leads to the ruins of Preah Vihear temple near the Thai-Cambodia border on July 19. Upcoming talks between Cambodia and Thailand are unlikely to resolve the military standoff at the disputed border point, a Cambodian commander has said(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian Buddhist monk, left, talks at entrance gate in the border between Cambodia and Thailand near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian Buddhist monk, left, talks at entrance gate in the border between Cambodia and Thailand near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian soldier walks past a Cambodian Buddhist monk at the Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 20, 2008. Thailand and Cambodia sent troops and heavy guns on Saturday to their disputed border, where hundreds of soldiers faced off for a fifth day over an ancient Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk pass a soldier standing guard at the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda in the compound of the Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 20, 2008 . Thailand and Cambodia sent troops and heavy guns on Saturday to their disputed border, where hundreds of soldiers faced off for a fifth day over an ancient Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Buddhist monks stand in front of the entrance gate of Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers walk back from a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex to the Thai side near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Soldiers from Thailand walk past a land mine sign as they patrol at Cekakiri Svarak pagoda in the compounds of Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 20, 2008. Thailand and Cambodia sent troops and heavy guns on Saturday to their disputed border, where hundreds of soldiers faced off for a fifth day over an ancient Hindu temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai soldiers walk by a mine field at a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thais clear land mines at a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai deminers look for mines at a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

News #6 - Preah Vihear - 20.07.2008

A Poem by Ong Att : " Surin "

Please click on image to zoom in
Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " Piss off Peace "

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

Thai PM stresses need to talk on "no-man's land" to end dispute

Thai PM talking like an one year old boy just learn how to talk. If Cambodia declaire that Bangkok is the land of Cambodia did Mr Samak agree on NO MAN LAND TOO?

BANGKOK, July 20 (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday said the disputed border area between Thailand and Cambodia is in "no-man's land" and that talks between officials of both countries are needed to iron out the dispute.

The Thai premier made the remarks after the Cambodian representative to the UN informed the UN Security Council on Thursday of alleged Thai incursion into its territory.

Speaking in his weekly television address, Mr. Samak said he preferred not to talk about the issue as the matter had already reached the United Nations and the Thai foreign ministry would take care of it.

Cambodia's permanent mission in New York submitted a letter to the chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly to "draw their attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border,'' Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

"Cambodia is not asking for UN intervention. We still stick to Prime Minister Hun Sen's instructions to try to solve the problem peacefully between the two sides,'' the Associated Press quoted the minister as saying in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The disputed area claimed by both countries is the 4.6 square kilometres adjacent to the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Troops of both countries have been reinforced in the area recently as Thai Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit and Cambodian Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh are preparing to confer on Monday in Sa Kaeo province opposite Cambodia's Poi Pet on issues related to the ancient temple.

Officials of both countries have already inspected the hotel's meeting venue to ensure the safety of delegates attending the meeting which is scheduled to start at 10 am local time. Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a group which coalesced thousands of people rallying for months to pressure the premier to step down, on Sunday urged the Thai government to inform the United Nations that the disputed zone adjacent to Preah Vihear temple belongs to Thailand.

Pipop Thongchai, one of three PAD core leaders, said the time is opportune for Thailand to inform the international community that if the border demarcation between Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia is based uoon the natural watershed, the contested area is definitely in Thai territory.

He said past misunderstandings happened due to the Cambodian government use of a map drawn during the French occupation of Cambodia which determined the 11th century temple as well as the adjacent area to be in Cambodian territory. (TNA)

Thailand condemned for kicking out refugees

The Bangkok Post
Sunday July 20, 2008

Karen civilians face violence in Burma

DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR

New York-based Human Rights Watch yesterday blasted Thailand for forcing 52 Karen refugees to return to a conflict zone in Burma on Asarnha Bucha Day.

On Thursday, paramilitary troops forced the Karen civilians, most of them women and children, to leave two refugee camps in Mae Hong Son province and cross back to Burma, where they had fled a military offensive early this year.

''The Thai government cynically launched this illegal operation during the first day of a major Buddhist holiday,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

''This, along with the Thai media's preoccupation with escalating border tensions with Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple, provides effective cover for Thailand's serious breach of international law,'' said Mr Adams in a statement issued from New York.

Thai media attention has been focused this week on the Thai-Cambodian border, where both countries' troops have amassed over an escalating row over the ancient Hindu temple, perched on the border and subject to a territorial dispute.

Thailand, a magnet for hundreds of thousands of refugees and illegal workers from its less developed neighbours _ Cambodia, Laos and Burma _ has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, but Mr Adams argued that Bangkok is still bound by the principle of non-refoulement, a prohibition in customary international law, from returning refugees to any country where they are likely to be persecuted or their lives are at risk.

''The Thai government has ignored its obligations to protect refugees fleeing violence in Burma,'' Mr Adams said.

''Sending these people back to conflict zones dominated by the Burmese army is disgraceful.
Forcing civilians back into an active war zone may be an easy answer for Thailand, but it's brutal _ a completely inhumane and unacceptable solution,'' he said.

Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the European Union, the United States and other countries to pressure the government to immediately cease the refoulement of refugees and continue to provide sanctuary to people fleeing fighting or persecution in Burma.

Cambodia denies requesting UN intervention over temple dispute

B&G Asia-Pacific News
Jul 20, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodia denied allegations Sunday that it had asked for UN intervention in a border dispute with Thailand, and said it still hoped to settle the matter bilaterally through diplomatic channels.

'Thailand's claims we have asked for United Nations intervention over Preah Vihear are wrong. Our mission in New York has sent a letter (to the UN) advising on the situation, but Prime Minister Hun Sen wants to settle the matter directly with Thailand,' government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

The two sides are gearing up for talks in Thailand Monday in the dispute over 4.6 kilometres of land surrounding the 11th-century border temple of Preah Vihear that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site this month.

Thailand objected to the listing, and tensions boiled over Tuesday and have continued to escalate.

Cambodia says Thai troops have entered its territory, but Thailand maintains that hundreds of its soldiers are in undefined territory that does not legally belong to Cambodia.

'We are optimistic that Monday's talks may solve some issues - let's wait and see,' Kanharith said.

He declined comment on reports the border standoff between more than 1,000 troops from both sides was worsening, or that Thailand had begun moving in heavy artillery on the eve of the talks.

'Let's just focus on the talks,' he said.

Cambodian state television station TVK aired extensive footage Saturday night of an international delegation's visit to the temple, including the Chinese and Vietnamese military attaches to Cambodia.

The Vietnamese wore full military uniform.

Cambodian-Thai border dispute deadlocked: commander

A Cambodian soldier carries a grenade launcher near the ruins of Preah Vihear temple near the Thai-Cambodia border

PREAH VIHEAR (AFP) — Upcoming talks between Cambodia and Thailand are unlikely to resolve the military standoff at their disputed border near an ancient temple, a Cambodian commander said on Sunday.

More than 500 Thai troops and well over 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of 11th century Preah Vihear temple. Officials from both countries plan to meet Monday to try and resolve the standoff.

"We have very little hope about the negotiations," said Brigadier Chea Keo, commander of Cambodian forces in the area, on day six of the confrontation.

"We have only a little hope because the new Thai government has written a letter to our prime minister saying that the land they are stationed on belongs to them," he told reporters.
"We're on high alert," he added.

Cambodia has also sent letters about the standoff to the United Nations, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

"Cambodia's permanent mission at the United Nations has sent two letters. One to the Security Council and another one to the chief of the UN General Assembly in order to draw the attention about the situation that is happening in Cambodia," Khieu Kanharith said.

"After the Monday negotiations we will decide what is the next step," he added.

The mood among Cambodians was tense Friday evening after word spread of a letter from Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen saying the addition of Cambodian troops had caused the situation to "deteriorate".

The standoff nearly erupted into violence late Thursday, when witnesses said troops twice pointed their guns at each other during 10 tense minutes at the pagoda after 50 Cambodian troops entered the compound to protect food supplies for dozens of monks.

The confrontation began after three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping a fence to reach the temple on Tuesday.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance to the Khmer ruins lies in Thailand and 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles) of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Cambodia informs UN Security Council of Thai incursion into its territory

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-20

PHNOM PENH, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has complained to the UN Security Council that Thai forces violated its territory near World Heritage Site the Preah Vihear Temple, where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday, said a government press release.

Cambodia's permanent mission in New York has submitted an account of facts, including a letter and maps, for the Security Council in relation to Thai violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, according to the release.

"On July 15, 2008, about 50 Thai soldiers crossed into the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda located in Cambodia's territory at about 300 meters from the Temple of Preah Vihear. By July 16 to 17, 2008,the number of Thai soldiers in the pagoda ground increased to 480," said the letter signed by Cambodian Ambassador to UN Sea Kosal for chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told reporters that the letter aimed to draw UN's attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border.

Cambodia is not asking for UN intervention, he said, adding that the government still stick to Prime Minister Hun Sen's instructions to try to solve the problem peacefully between the two sides.

Saturday, under the arrangement of the Cambodian government, representatives from Chinese, U.S., French and Vietnamese embassies flew to Preah Vihear province by helicopter to study the Cambodian-Thai military standoff over their land dispute.

Friday, the government invited a group of domestic and foreign journalists to the region to watch the situation.

Earlier Tuesday, three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai troops then came to fetch them, triggering face off with Cambodian troops there. Military build-up occurred day by day.

The protesters trespassed the border with intention to reclaim the 11-century classic Khmer-style temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia in 1962. The decision has rankled the Thais ever since.

The temple straddles the Thai-Cambodian border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Cambodia: Little hope for Thai talks

Thai deminers look for mines at a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, July 20, 2008. A Cambodian general said Sunday that he has little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve a tense border dispute that has seen hundreds of troops face off around an ancient temple.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Writer

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia - Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.

Cambodia's permanent mission in New York submitted a letter to the chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly to "draw their attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

"Cambodia is not asking for U.N. intervention. We still stick to Prime Minister Hun Sen's instructions to try to solve the problem peacefully between the two sides," the minister told The Associated Press in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The conflict over territory surrounding Preah Vihear temple escalated when UNESCO recently approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai activists fear the new status will undermine Thailand's claim to nearby land.

The tension that began Tuesday is centered on the compound of a Buddhist pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple complex. Cambodia and Thailand have both laid claims to the compound.

In his letter to the Security Council on Friday, Cambodia's U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal said the provocative act by Thai troops was aimed at creating "a de facto overlapping area that legally does not exist on Cambodian soil." A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Based on estimates of commanders and Associated Press reporters on both sides of the frontier, more than 4,000 troops have been deployed around the temple and in the immediate border region.

The forces were on the brink of a shoot-out Thursday night, which was avoided when Cambodians retreated from the pagoda compound occupied by the Thais.

Opposing commanders and their troops have tried to defuse tensions, sometimes even sharing meals, snapping photographs and sleeping within easy sight of one another.

A Cambodian general, meanwhile, said he had little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve the matter.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Thai troops have deployed artillery about half a mile northeast of Preah Vihear temple — the latest escalation ahead of Monday's meeting aimed at averting a military confrontation.

"Regarding the talks tomorrow, we have little hope about the outcome," Chea Keo said.

He said the reason for his pessimism stems from a recent counterclaim by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej that the area around a Buddhist pagoda near the historic temple belongs to Thailand. Thai troops have been stationed at the pagoda since Tuesday.

Hun Sen wrote a letter to Samak on Thursday saying relations had been "worsening" since Thai troops "encroached on our territory," and asked him to pull them back.

Responding to his Cambodian counterpart, Samak said the area around the pagoda referred to in the letter "is within the Thai territory," according to a statement Saturday from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While urging both sides to exercise restraint, Samak's letter said the settlement of Cambodians in that area constitutes "a continued violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Despite their pledge to hold talks Monday in Thailand to try to defuse the tensions, both Cambodia and Thailand have massed troops at the site.

Maj. Gen. Weewalit Jornsamrit, a senior Thai commander at the border, said an estimated 1,300 Cambodian troops were deployed in and around Preah Vihear. Associated Press reporters estimated the number to be at least 1,100 based on interviews with local commanders.

Weewalit declined to give Thai troop numbers but a senior Thai officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation, said about 2,600 soldiers were in the Thai district opposite the border. Around 400 were seen in the disputed area.

"We continue to be on alert at all time. And at the same time, we keep instructing our soldiers to be patient and avoid being blamed for starting a war," Chea Keo said Sunday.

The dispute has taken a toll on tourism in the area, with the Thai side closed to visitors. It also is starting to hurt economic relations between the two neighbors.
___

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok, Thailand, and Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

Cambodia complains to UN

The Bangkok Post
Sunday July 20, 2008

Embassy staff flown to temple site, more Thai troops sent to border, Security Council told of Thai 'interference'By Wassana Nanuam and Agence France-Presse

The Cambodian government has launched a diplomatic offensive, complaining to the United Nations Security Council about Thai interference on its soil in the Preah Vihear temple area, where soldiers of the two countries are building up their strength.

Staff of the United States, China, France and Vietnam embassies based in Phnom Penh were also flown by helicopter from the capital to the disputed territory on the border.

The US, China and France are permanent members of the UNSC. Vietnam is council chairman.

The Cambodian government is countering Thailand after the Foreign Ministry briefed Bangkok-based diplomats of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the border row with Phnom Penh.

Thai ambassador to the UN, Don Pramudwinai, told Bangkok about Cambodia's decision to turn to the UNSC, said government spokesman Wichienchote Sukchoterat.

The Cambodian representative to the UN informed the UNSC on Thursday in New York about Thai troops intruding on its territory, and cited the 1904 map made by then Siam and France, according to Pol Lt-Gen Wichienchote.

Thai soldiers entered Cambodian soil after Thailand was upset about the temple being listed as a World Heritage site, the Cambodian representative said.

But Phnom Penh has not demanded any action from the UNSC, Mr Don said.

The area which the Cambodian government refers to is the 4.6sq km overlapping zone at the foot of the temple mountain, claimed by both countries.

In Preah Vihear, the Chinese and Vietnamese military attaches, along with French and US embassy officials, toured the area and took photos but did not talk to either side and declined to talk to reporters.

"They came here because they don't want to see a confrontation between the troops of both countries. It is useless for both countries if any armed conflict occurs," said Sao Sokha, commander of Cambodia's military police.

At the Thai border, about 300 more Thai troops equipped with grenade and rocket launchers were sent to the Phra Viharn national park yesterday to join about 2,400 soldiers in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket, a military source said. Thailand has deployed 105mm artillery in the border area.

The army estimated that at least 2,000 Cambodian soldiers are stationed on the Cambodian side, the source said.

The military build-up is underway ahead of talks by Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit and Cambodian Defence Minister Teah Banh in Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo tomorrow to ease the border conflict.

Despite the tense border situation, business continued as usual at the Sa-ngam border pass in Si Sa Ket's Phu Sing district and the Chong Chom checkpoint in Kab Choeng district in neighbouring Surin.

More than 100 Thai tourists went to Cambodia from the Sa-ngam pass to visit Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, which is 130 kilometres from the Thai border.

On Thursday more than 2,000 Cambodians crossed the border to the market to buy staple foods.

At Chong Chom, two Cambodian casinos, O-Smach Resort and Royal Hill Resort, located at the border drew 300 Thai gamblers.

Immigration officer Surasak Srathong said the border confrontation in Si Sa Ket did not deter Thais from going to the casinos.

THE REAL VICTIM AT PREAH VIHEAR

The Bangkok Post
Sunday July 20, 2008

Soldier waits to have artificial leg fitted after stepping on landmine at borderStory

by APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

Every night on Ratchadamnoen avenue the leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) stand on their stage and demand the return of Preah Vihear temple to Thailand from Cambodia.

Near the border in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district, members of the Dharmayatra group have been staging their own protests and have been pushing for the eviction of Cambodian people living in the disputed area.

Both groups are targeting Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his cabinet members, who, according to the groups, must be ousted for mishandling the issue.

But the real victim of the dispute is soldier Wilai Arom.

The paramilitary ranger from unit 2301 is in Phramongkutklao Hospital waiting to have an artificial leg fitted.

He stepped on a landmine on Tuesday while on duty guarding the border at Phu Makheu, near the temple. He was rushed by helicopter to the hospital at the Sapasitprasong military camp in Warin Chamrap district in Ubon Ratchathani. The blast from the landmine was so strong his right leg was blown off.

The landmine blast caught the public's attention, but his case is gradually being forgotten as people return to day-to-day developments in the military stand-off between the two countries and attempts by both governments to ease tensions.

Despite his unfortunate accident, Mr Wilai is in good spirits.

While Thailand and Cambodia are rushing more troops to the area, he said he hopes there is a way to end the conflict quickly due to the close ties between people from the two countries and between their soldiers.

''Thai and Cambodian soldiers have very good relations because of the language. We speak Khmer and the language destroys all barriers,'' he said.

''We share food and cigarettes and play sports together. Many Cambodian soldiers used to come to shop at the Pha Mor E-Daeng market,'' he recalled of the days before relations became strained.

He is confident nothing can change the good relationships at local level and said all Cambodians and Thais living in the area were looking forward to the same thing.

''Local people in Cambodia and Thailand would like to see the situation return to normal as soon as possible. They want to get on with their lives and get back to normal,'' he said.

''I hope the leaders of the two countries urgently discuss the issue and come up with the best solution,'' he added.

The 48-year-old from Si Sa Ket has spent more than 20 years in the armed forces and his first mission was at Chong Bok pass in Ubon Ratchathani's Nam Yuen district.

On his last mission last Tuesday, the Thai-Cambodian border area was tense after three protesters from the Dharmayatra group _ Phra Khampheng, Vicharn Tabsorn and Chanikarn Kengnok _ went into the overlapping zone to stage a peaceful protest and were arrested by Cambodian soldiers. They were later released but decided to stay on and meditate until Friday, when they were joined by other members of their group at the border.

As protests against the government and demands for the return of the temple continue, Mr Wilai warned people not to become the ''victims of circumstance''.

''We are Buddhists so we should follow Lord Buddha's teaching of generosity. We must exercise consciousness to make better judgments during this sensitive situation, which requires strong understanding,'' he said.

The landmine explosion reminded the government of the dangers in the area.

''The incident has caused concern with Thai authorities as more landmines remain in the area, posing a danger to both civilians and military personnel,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The army has sent deminers into the area, it added.

Mr Wilai's wife Nittaya, who rushed to see him, along with their two sons and neighbours, at the hospital on Tuesday, said she and her family were not saddened by what happened as he was on duty and protecting the country's sovereignty.

Second Army chief Lt-Gen Sujit Sithiprapa promised Mr Wilai would not be without help as the army would support him and his family.

The PAD on Friday donated 100,000 baht. PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan praised Mr Wilai for his determination to protect the country.

Mr Wilai now plans to spend his retirement with his family in Si Sa Ket and will keep the money to help with the education of his daughter, who is studying at Rajabhat University in the northeastern province.

ANALYSIS-Temple tantrums stalk Thai-Cambodia relations

20 Jul 2008 08
Source: Reuters

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

KHAO PRA VIHARN, Thailand, July 20 (Reuters) - Five years after a row over the famed Angkor Wat temples turned violent, the ownership of another religious site is again inflaming passions in Thailand and Cambodia.

A volatile mix of politics and nationalism swirling around the Preah Vihear temple, perched on a disputed border where troops faced off for a sixth day on Sunday, has raised fears it may turn ugly, as in 2003 when a nationalist mob torched the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

The trigger for the latest temple tantrum was Preah Vihear's listing as a World Heritage site this month, a move that inspired pride and joy in Cambodia and a political uproar in Thailand.

Groups opposed to the Bangkok government, which backs former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup, have cranked up nationalist fervour over the temple, which Thais know as Khao Pra Viharn, to attack the administration.

"Preah Vihear has become a casualty of Thailand's political crisis," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a foreign affairs lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.

The 11th century Preah Vihear complex, sitting on a remote and heavily landmined escarpment separating the two countries, has been a source of tension for decades.

Although easily accessible only from Thailand, it was bestowed on Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice in the Hague -- a ruling which still rankles with Thais.

"I have been crying since the listing of Khao Pra Viharn as a World Heritage site," said 49-year-old accountant Unchana Padungyat, who drove 600 km (370 miles) to join 2,000 Thai nationalists protesting near the temple.

They are members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition of royalists, activists and businessmen leading a two-month street campaign against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, whom they say is a Thaksin proxy.

"Our sacred mission is to protect our motherland and take back Thai territory," PAD leader and media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul said on Friday, accusing the government of selling out Thailand's heritage.

WAR OF WORDS

The PAD seized on the issue after Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's former lawyer, agreed to support Cambodia's bid to list the temple, arguing it would not affect Bangkok's claims to 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) of disputed land around Preah Vihear.

Noppadon was forced to resign after a court ruled he had violated the constitution. The PAD is now seeking a similar ruling against Samak's entire cabinet.

Samak, who has slammed the PAD for inflaming tensions over Preah Vihear, has nevertheless engaged in a diplomatic war of words with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen over the temple.

Thitinan said Thai leaders cannot go too far against the nationalist tide, "or you would be accused of being a traitor".

He said the troop build-up on both sides of the border appeared aimed at gaining leverage ahead of hastily arranged talks on Monday to find a peaceful way out of the dispute.

"The talks are critical because if they turn out badly and nothing is agreed, we could see an escalation," he said.

The temple stand-off has also dominated Cambodian politics ahead of a general election next Sunday, allowing politicians to avoid tackling "real issues" such as poverty, rights groups say.

The Sam Rainsy Party, which denied Hun Sen a parliamentary majority in the 2003 poll, has demanded a tougher government response to the "Thai army invasion", including the immediate withdrawal of Cambodia's ambassador.

Hun Sen has accused Bangkok of encroaching "on our territory" and also sent more troops, but the former Khmer Rouge commander's rhetoric has been restrained compared with five years ago.

In the run-up to the 2003 polls, Hun Sen fanned anti-Thai flames after a Thai TV actress purportedly said she would not visit Cambodia until Angkor Wat was returned to Thailand.

Hun Sen said she was "not even worth a blade of grass at Angkor". A few days later, mobs torched the Thai embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh, severing relations for months.

Now, Phnom Penh is working the diplomatic route, calling on the United Nations and regional neighbours to put pressure on Thailand, and downplaying fears of a major escalation if Monday's border talks fail.

"Diplomatically and legally we have a winning case against Thailand. If the talks fail, we'll go to the international courts," Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

(Additional reporting by Ek Madra in PHNOM PENH; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Thailand calls for talks, but Cambodia not optimistic

A Cambodian soldier on guard near a pagoda at the Thai-Cambodia border


Buddhist monks pass Cambodian soldiers near the Thai-Cambodia border

A Cambodian soldier carries a grenade launcher near the ruins of Preah Vihear temple near the Thai-Cambodia border

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Thailand said Sunday that a military standoff with Phnom Penh over disputed land should be resolved through negotiations, but a top Cambodian general said he had little faith in talks.

More than 500 Thai troops and well over 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Top defence officials plan to meet Monday in a bid to resolve the crisis, which comes amid political tensions in both countries, and only weeks after the temple was granted World Heritage status by the UN cultural agency UNESCO.

In his weekly television address, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said it would take time to resolve the dispute, but the commander of Cambodian forces in the disputed area said ongoing talks were fruitless.

"We have very little hope about the negotiations," Brigadier Chea Keo said on day six of the confrontation.

"We have only a little hope because the new Thai government has written a letter to our prime minister saying that the land they are stationed on belongs to them," he told reporters.
"We're on high alert," he added.

The dispute began after three Thai protesters were arrested on Tuesday for jumping a fence to reach the temple.

The standoff nearly erupted into violence late Thursday, when witnesses said troops pointed their guns at each other at the pagoda after 50 Cambodian troops entered the compound to protect food supplies for dozens of monks.

Samak said that it would take time and effort to defuse the standoff.

"The situation at no man's land needs negotiation," Samak said Sunday in his weekly address. "It has to be step-by-step ... They claim the area belongs to them. We claim it belongs to us."

Cambodia has sent letters about the standoff to the United Nations, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

"Cambodia's permanent mission at the United Nations has sent two letters -- one to the Security Council and another one to the chief of the UN General Assembly in order to draw attention about the situation," he said.

"After the Monday negotiations, we will decide what is the next step."

Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) on Sunday called for the government to withdraw its ambassador from Thailand and refuse to negotiate with their neighbours "as long as the Thai army remains on Cambodian territory".

"The only choice for Cambodia is no negotiation unless Thais withdraw their military," SRP lawmaker Son Chhay told reporters.

The renewed tensions on the border between Thailand and Cambodia come amid heightened political situations in both countries.

Cambodia is preparing for general elections on July 27, during which Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to extend his decades-long grip on power.

He has portrayed the UN recognition of the ruins as a national triumph, organising huge public celebrations.

In Thailand, critics of Samak -- already the target of street protests against his months-old government -- have stoked the temple controversy to fire up nationalist sentiment.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the most accessible entrance to the Khmer ruins lies in Thailand and 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles) of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Cambodia informs UN Security Council on alleged Thai incursion into its territory

PR-inside.com
2008-07-20

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia says it has sent a note to the UN Security Council alleging that Thai forces have intruded into its territory near an ancient temple recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith says Cambodia's mission in New York has submitted a letter to the chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly to «draw their attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border.

He said Sunday that Cambodia was not asking for U.N. intervention and hoped to solve the territorial dispute peacefully.

Hundreds of troops from the two countries massed in disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple for which Cambodia was granted World Heritage Site status earlier this month.

The two countries are to hold talks Monday.

Cambodia informs UN Security Council of alleged Thai incursion into its territory

The Associated Press
Published: July 20, 2008

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: Cambodia has complained to the U.N. Security Council that Thai forces have violated its territory near an ancient World Heritage Site temple where hundreds of troops continued to face off Sunday.

Cambodia's permanent mission in New York submitted a letter to the chairman of the Security Council and the chairman of the General Assembly to "draw their attention to the current situation on the Cambodian-Thai border," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

"Cambodia is not asking for U.N. intervention. We still stick to Prime Minister Hun Sen's instructions to try to solve the problem peacefully between the two sides," the minister told The Associated Press in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The conflict over territory surrounding Preah Vihear temple escalated when UNESCO recently approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai activists fear the new status will undermine Thailand's claim to nearby land.

The tension that began Tuesday is centered on the compound of a Buddhist pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple complex. Cambodia and Thailand have both laid claims to the compound.

In his letter to the Security Council on Friday, Cambodia's U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal said the provocative act by Thai troops was aimed at creating "a de facto overlapping area that legally does not exist on Cambodian soil." A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Based on estimates of commanders and Associated Press reporters on both sides of the frontier, more than 4,000 troops have been deployed around the temple and in the immediate border region.

The forces were on the brink of a shoot-out Thursday night, which was avoided when Cambodians retreated from the pagoda compound occupied by the Thais.

Opposing commanders and their troops have tried to defuse tensions, sometimes even sharing meals, snapping photographs and sleeping within easy sight of one another.

A Cambodian general, meanwhile, said he had little hope that upcoming talks between his government and Thailand will resolve the matter.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo said Thai troops have deployed artillery about half a mile northeast of Preah Vihear temple — the latest escalation ahead of Monday's meeting aimed at averting a military confrontation.

"Regarding the talks tomorrow, we have little hope about the outcome," Chea Keo said.

He said the reason for his pessimism stems from a recent counterclaim by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej that the area around a Buddhist pagoda near the historic temple belongs to Thailand. Thai troops have been stationed at the pagoda since Tuesday.

Hun Sen wrote a letter to Samak on Thursday saying relations had been "worsening" since Thai troops "encroached on our territory," and asked him to pull them back.

Responding to his Cambodian counterpart, Samak said the area around the pagoda referred to in the letter "is within the Thai territory," according to a statement Saturday from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While urging both sides to exercise restraint, Samak's letter said the settlement of Cambodians in that area constitutes "a continued violation of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Despite their pledge to hold talks Monday in Thailand to try to defuse the tensions, both Cambodia and Thailand have massed troops at the site.

Maj. Gen. Weewalit Jornsamrit, a senior Thai commander at the border, said an estimated 1,300 Cambodian troops were deployed in and around Preah Vihear. Associated Press reporters estimated the number to be at least 1,100 based on interviews with local commanders.

Weewalit declined to give Thai troop numbers but a senior Thai officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation, said about 2,600 soldiers were in the Thai district opposite the border. Around 400 were seen in the disputed area.

"We continue to be on alert at all time. And at the same time, we keep instructing our soldiers to be patient and avoid being blamed for starting a war," Chea Keo said Sunday.

The dispute has taken a toll on tourism in the area, with the Thai side closed to visitors. It also is starting to hurt economic relations between the two neighbors.

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok, Thailand, and Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

Samak says Cambodia lodges complaint with UN over border dispute

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Sunday that he would no longer comment on the issue of border dispute with Cambodia after the neighbouring country lodged a complaint with the United Nations.

Samak said the issue would now be a matter under responsibility of the Foreign Ministry.

He complained that he earlier warned the government's opponents not to play up the issue but they did not listen to him, causing the situation to escalate until Cambodia lodged the complaint with the UN.

The Nation

Cambodia appeals to UN

The Bangkok Post

By Wassana Nanuman with Agency reports

The Cambodian government has launched a diplomatic offensive, alleging Thai "interference on its soil" at the Preah Vihear temple to the United Nations Security Council.

"The Thai ambassador to the UN has reported to the Thai government that Cambodia has filed a complaint with the UN over the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia," Thai government spokesman Wichianchote Sukchotrat said.

He said Cambodia wanted the UN to intervene and the Thai government would study the complaint before sending a letter to UN officials.

Military commanders from both sides said they were seeking to calm the soldiers to ensure that violence does not erupt ahead of peace talks planned for Monday.

The confrontation began when three Thai protesters illegally broke across on Tuesday vowing to reclaim the Preah Vihear temple, which they say rightly belongs to them.

US, Chinese, French and Vietnamese embassy staff flew to the disputed territory on Saturday, adding to diplomatic pressure to end the confrontation.

They toured the area and took photographs but did not speak to either side and declined to talk to reporters.

"They came here because they don't want to see a confrontation between the troops of both countries. It is useless for both countries if any armed conflict happens," Sao Sokha, commander of Cambodia's military police said of the officials.

Cambodian and Thai top brass briefly met in the small Buddhist pagoda at the centre of the stand-off Saturday morning to discuss disarming troops stationed there.

"The order from the top is to do whatever it takes to avoid a gunfight. I was talking with him (Thai army Colonel Chay Huay Soongnern) to tell him that the armed forces on the frontlines should stash their weapons away," said Srey Dik, Cambodian army commander overseeing operations.

The standoff nearly erupted into violence late Thursday, when witnesses said troops twice pointed their guns at each other.

The atmosphere was less tense Saturday evening, as some Cambodian and Thai troops put down their weapons and chatted.

Despite that, dozens more black-clad Thai troops were observed crossing into the border area during the day, carrying food along with their rifles.

Cambodian military officials said more than 100 additional Thai troops arrived Saturday, but refused to say how many Cambodian forces had been added to the standoff.

A heavy machine gun could be seen just beyond the border gate on the Thai side earlier Saturday, while a heavy gun faced Thai troops from the Cambodian side.

Cambodian troops, who have been banned from drinking wine to avoid any shooting, are positioned around the area and also stationed with Thais inside the pagoda, which sits on the slope of a mountain leading to the ruins of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

The Cambodian commander reiterated his country's claim to own the border territory, including the ancient temple site, and said other countries supported it.

Thai Asean chief urges border restraint

The Bangkok Post

Singapore (dpa) - Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called for "maximum restraint" in the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, news reports said Sunday.

Mr Surin, a former Thai former minister, urged ministers from the two countries to talk, The Sunday Times said.

The tense confrontation comes just as Asean foreign ministers are planning to discuss further integration and cooperation. The 41st Asean ministerial meeting is to start late Sunday in Singapore.

"The ministers may wish to address the issue ... trying to encourage early resolution and maximum restraint, in order to avoid any repercussion on the image of the organisation," Surin was quoted as saying.

Cambodia reportedly wants the UN to intervene.

Referring to a possible bilateral meeting between Thai and Cambodia ministers, Surin said, "I think the ministers certainly will discuss the issue and try to encourage reconciliation as soon as possible."

Cambodians seek stability after decades of misery

The Financial Times
By Raphael Minder in Phnom Penh
Published: July 19 2008

Sovan, a cadre from the ruling Cambodian People's party, has been driving around Phnom Penh to rally voters for next Sunday's legislative election.

"We will certainly win," he says, his voice turned hoarse from shouting slogans into his megaphone.

Few Cambodians seem ready to dispute that prognosis. Although the CPP is being challenged by 10 opposition parties, the contenders have been weakened by internal bickering and high-profile defections.

Hun Sen, a former communist who has led the government since 1985 when Vietnamese troops occupied the country, is expected to secure not only another five-year term but also enough votes to end his coalition with the royalist Funcin--pec party, a power-sharing arrangement in place since Cambodia's first multi-party election in 1993.

In a country ravaged by decades of war and a genocide, the CPP's guarantee of stability appears to have more clout than calls for government rotation, particularly among a business community that has benefited from average annual growth of 9 per cent over the past decade.

"Until a few years ago, Cambodia was not considered investable because of a perception of political instability and a weak legal structure," says Douglas Clayton, who has been investing in south-east Asia for 20 years and manages Leopard Capital, a Cambodian fund. "We can now predict who will be running the government for the next five or even 10 years - and a government that is pro-business - which isn't the case in Thailand, Malaysia or the Philippines."

But legal concerns remain, with Cambodia regularly among the worst performers in international corruption studies. The World Bank has also been forced to shelve some Cambodian projects because of corrupt procurement procedures.

Stories of forced land evictions abound, while evidence that newly acquired wealth is often coupled with disregard for the law can be seen on the streets, where limousines and SUVs speed along without number plates.

As a latecomer to Asia's decade-long boom, Cambodia has benefited from some of the more recent difficulties of others. Its biggest industry, textiles, has grown as Chinese exporters have struggled with anti-dumping duties and, more recently, higher labour costs.

"This country is coming from a very low base," Mr Clayton argues, "so there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit and very little downside."

As long as foreign property companies continue to invest in redrawing Phnom Penh's skyline, government officials show little inclination to discuss Cambodia's underground economy.

"Corruption exists everywhere in the world," says Chea Vuthy, deputy secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, the agency that vets investment proposals. "They [international agencies] can rank us wherever they want, but look at our GDP growth and improved living standards. If investors want to judge us by looking at the reports of the World Bank and others, it's better for them to stay at home."

In a sign that the government is worried that surging prices will weaken its power base, it stopped publishing relevant indicators at the start of the year after inflation hit 18.7 per cent, up from an annual rate of 5 per cent in 2007. A local economist says he has seen recent data showing inflation accelerating to 32 per cent.

The government also recently doubled reserve requirements for banks to 16 per cent, a move seen by some as evidence of panic. In Channy, chief executive of Acleda Bank, which has Cambodia's largest branch network, says: "By increasing reserves, they think they can reduce spending. I don't see how this is a good measure. It means we cannot effectively use collected deposits."

Economic hardship is expected to reduce voter turnout, which was above 90 per cent in the 1990s but fell to 65 per cent in 2003. The main textile workers' union forecast that 40 per cent of the country's 340,000 garment workers would be unable to vote, as they could not afford the trip to their home constituency because of higher travel costs.

The campaign has been marred by allegations of vote-buying and intimidation in the countryside, and unfair CPP control of the media, as well as some killings. Still, the Asia Foundation US development group said this week: "Although these reports are shocking and the methods unacceptable, the current situation is nevertheless a marked improvement from the characteristic suppression and violence of past elections."

Sam Rainsy, leader of the eponymous party that is the CPP's most resolute opponent, remains optimistic about next Sunday's vote, but also gives a bleak forecast should the CPP secure an absolute majority. "We will simply go the Burmese way," he said.

Preah vihear situation #2

Preah vihear situation #1

Border moves halted, pending Monday talks

The Bangkok Post

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to temporary suspend all armed forces movements along the Thai-Cambodian border at Si Sa Ket province which is adjacent to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province of Cambodia, and Thailand's Second Army Area Command is on round-the-clock alert, according to a senior Thai military official.

The Second Army Area Command is responsible for overseeing the northeastern provinces which includes Si Sa Ket.

Meanwhile, Pol.Lt-Gen. Vichienchot Sukchokrat, a Thai government spokesman, said he was informed by Don Pramudwinai, Thailand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations that Cambodia has asked for UN help in dealing with the border dispute.

The content of the Cambodian petition is not known to the Thai govenment, and Thailand is awaiting the details, he said.

Gen. Vichienchot said the pressure by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) earlier this week forced Cambodia to ask for help from the United Nations.

He added that Thailand's image was tarnished from the dispute, so he appealed to the PAD and other groups to stop their movement.

Thai News Agency reporters on the scene at Si Sa ket said that both sides of the border in the vicinity of the 11th century temple are quite tense after the two countries built up their armed forces along the border.

Second Army Area Deputy Commander Maj-Gen.Weewalit Jornsamrit said he was assigned by Second Army Area Commander Lt-Gen. Sujit Sitthiprapa to inspect the area and discuss the situation with Cambodia's Preah Vihear province deputy governor.

He said after meeting with Cambodian authorities that both sides agreed to suspend military movements that may cause further tension, but the military officials would remain stationed at strategic points pending the result of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) meetng to be held in Sa Kaeo province on Monday.

Thailand's Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit would lead Thai delegates to meet Cambodian Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh.

Gen.Weewalit said the situation at other Thai provinces bordering Cambodia was normal.

Meanwhile, Gen. Sujit said he has ordered military officers under his command to be on alert for 24 hours as Cambodian troops had built up their troop numbers at Preah Vihear temple border side.

He believed that the GBC border meeting could find a joint solution to ease the tension.

The military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand entered its fifth day Saturday after the tension build up after UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thai activists fear the new status will undermine Thailand's claim to nearby land since the border has never been properly demarcated. (TNA)

Cambodia requests mediators

HE. Tea Banh
BORDER DISPUTE: The Cambodian military plans to take foreign observers on a tour of the temple at the center of an armed confrontation with Thailand

DPA, PHNOM PENH
Sunday, Jul 20, 2008, Page 4

Cambodia’s Defense Ministry announced it would fly military attaches from China, the US and other countries yet to be named to the Preah Vihear temple complex to view a border dispute first hand, local television announced yesterday.

The Khmer-language private television station CTN made the announcement in a lunchtime bulletin, adding that the tour of the temple by the international delegation would take place imminently and would be led by Cambodian armed forces chief Sao Sokha.

Although private, CTN is owned by powerful businessman Kith Meng and is viewed as close to the government.

Thailand has maintained the temple is in a disputed no man’s land and that a Thai presence in the area was not breaching Cambodian sovereignty. Cambodia disagreed and asked for the tour by international observers.

Meanwhile CTN announced Thai troops had withdrawn from a pagoda a few hundred meters from Preah Vihear and had camped in nearby jungle.

Tensions have been running high on the border since Cambodia asked UNESCO to list the temple as a World Heritage site despite there being a dispute over a 4.6km swath of land nearby.

UNESCO obliged earlier this month, but tensions spilled over on Tuesday when Cambodia briefly detained then released three Thais it said had illegally crossed the border, prompting first dozens, and then hundreds of Thai troops to follow in an alleged incursion.

On Friday, Thailand warned the situation was deteriorating but Cambodia has said it will not be intimidated.

“I would rather lose my life than lose my country’s territory,” veteran parliamentarian Cheam Yeap of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said regarding the temple on Friday.

Meanwhile, Cambodia and Thailand continued to reinforce their troops along the disputed section of border area near the temple yesterday, even as they prepared for talks to avert a military confrontation.

Some 300 more Cambodian soldiers and 100 Thais were seen by reporters arriving near Preah Vihear late on Friday, although commanders declined to confirm those numbers.

Earlier, Cambodian Brigadier General Chea Keo said Cambodia had about 800 troops against 400 Thai soldiers in the area as the standoff entered a fifth day.

The countries are to meet tomorrow in an attempt to defuse the conflict over territory surrounding the ancient temple. Thai activists fear the World Heritage status of the temple will undermine Thailand’s claim to nearby land since the border has never been demarcated.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said the area around a Buddhist pagoda where Thai troops have been stationed since Tuesday belongs to Thailand.

Cambodia’s Chea Keo said troops from the opposing forces were on the brink of a shoot-out on Thursday night when Cambodian monks gathered to celebrate Buddhist lent at the pagoda about 200m from the ancient temple.

The incident occurred when Thai troops tried to evict about 50 Cambodian soldiers from the compound of the Buddhist pagoda, where they sought to camp for the night to provide security for the monks.

Cambodian prince calls for family's Khmer Rouge killers to be brought to justice

Telegraph.co.uk
by Nick Meo in Phnom Penh
19/07/2008

In a whitewashed mansion of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Prince Thomico Sisowath gestured wistfully towards a table covered with black and white photos of his parents from the happy time before they were arrested by the Khmer Rouge.


Outside, an election slogan blared from a van's loudspeaker, interrupting the murmur of chanting at a nearby temple.

Next Sunday, almost 30 years after his mother and father were led out to the killing fields after years of being starved and beaten in a "re-education" camp, Cambodia will go to the polls.

One of those standing for re-election is a man whose role in the camp where they were held has become the subject of a furious argument in the election campaign: Cambodia's foreign minister, Hor Namhong.


Early in the campaign, an opposition leader publicly accused Mr Namhong of having been a member of the Khmer Rouge, whose four-year reign of terror ended only after an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians had died from starvation or mass murder – about one third of the country's population.

Mr Namhong angrily denied that he was ever part of the Khmer Rouge and has always insisted that he himself was among its victims – as an inmate of Boeng Trabek, the special prison camp for the Marxist re-education of diplomats and civil servants, where Prince Thomico's family was also held.

The camp's name remains a deeply emotive one for Cambodia's educated middle and upper classes. For many, it was the last place where their relations were seen before they were taken away and murdered. Out of 3,000 men, women and children who were held there, an estimated 2,700 perished, Prince Thomico's parents among them.

The accusation against Mr Namhong is that he was among prisoners recruited by the Khmer Rouge to run the camp, and thus had a hand in the fate of its other inmates.

The editor of an opposition newspaper which printed the claims about Mr Namhong was jailed, and the minister threatened legal action against Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader concerned. Genocide investigators say there is no evidence against the foreign minister.

Even if there were, he would not be the only member of Cambodia's ruling party who was once in the Khmer Rouge.

The prime minister, Hun Sen, in power since 1985, has never denied that he was in the party for a time, although it has not been suggested that he was involved in the mass killing. But it is Mr Namhong, an ambitious politician in his mid-seventies who is described by both friends and enemies as a man with a brilliant mind, whose past has become part of the election campaign.


Prince Thomico would not be drawn on whether he held Mr Namhong responsible for the deaths of his parents. A small, wiry man with a mischievous grin, he spoke quietly but intensely.
"There is a question mark over who took decisions," he said. "This is very difficult for me and I have thought about what happened to my parents for 30 years. So have other Cambodians, though – the whole nation was bereaved."

He said that as a good Buddhist he bore no grudge against the foreign minister, who had personally assured him with an earnest handshake several years ago that he was not in a position of authority at the camp when his parents died. But he added that those who might have led the killings should be investigated, and justice done. "So many people had to join the Khmer Rouge in order to survive," Prince Thomico said. "Now the main problem is to find out whether they were in a position to give orders for murder or torture."

The fate of Prince Thomico's family was typical of almost anyone of his generation in Cambodia, whether royalty, middle-class professionals or peasants. His three-year-old daughter was lost in the chaos, and his parents were humiliated, then murdered. Five of his cousins, princes and princesses of the ancient Sisowath line of the royal family, are all presumed to have died in the killing fields, along with their 14 children.

No one has ever been charged with the murders, and there are no witnesses to any of their killings.

Now, semi-retired after a career in opposition politics, Prince Thomico, 59, lives surrounded by scented gardens and gilded spires in the palace, which was confiscated by the Khmer Rouge and used as a prison after it came to power in 1975. Recalling those grim days, the prince tells how his father, Methavi Sisowath, was Cambodia's ambassador to East Germany at the time, appointed by his uncle, the then King Sihanouk.

The king was so popular with Cambodians that the Maoist Khmer Rouge at first appointed him head of state. Like many other diplomats who were abroad as Phnom Pehn fell, Methavi swallowed his fears and answered the Khmer Rouge's call to return home, hoping that Sihanouk could protect him. "My father thought it was his duty to go home but I think he guessed he could be going to his death," said Prince Thomico. It was a fatal mistake. The next year, King Sihanouk was arrested, sent to the Boeng Trabek camp, along with Methavi and other family members.

Methavi's wife, Princess Anne-Marie, defied her children's pleas and also returned from Europe, to find him. They were reunited in the prison camp, and were last seen being led away in November 1978. No one doubts that they were killed soon afterwards, but how they died is one of the many questions about that time that haunts modern Cambodia. There is scant prospect of any answers. The prince is one of many disillusioned with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which has cost £25 million in the past two years and put just five men on trial

"It is painful, but I think this question about my parents' deaths will remain unanswered," said Prince Thomico.

Terror of the Pol Pot regime

The Khmer Rouge guerrillas seized power in Cambodia in 1975 after overthrowing King Norodom Sihanouk in a bloody agrarian revolution.

Led by Pol Pot, also known as “brother number one”, they declared “year zero” and set about abolishing money, private property and religion.

In a quest to create a peasant paradise they emptied the cities, forcing people to work as labourers in the paddy fields.

Anyone deemed too intellectual was killed, sometimes just because they wore glasses.
The violence was so extreme that communist Vietnam invaded in 1978 to install a more moderate regime and drive Pol Pot’s guerrillas back into the jungle.

Many former party members stayed in power, including Hun Sen, the current prime minister.

Too much adoration at Cambodia's Angkor temples

There are still moments when the temples, such as the normally popular Bayon, allow for solitude. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)


The roots of a towering kapok tree clutch at the walls of Ta Prohm, which was built about 800 years ago as a monastery. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)
Giant stone heads with enigmatic smiles have looked down from Bayon temple's 49 towers for centuries. Experts disagree on whether they are images of an ancient Khmer king, Buddhist divinities or the Buddha himself. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)

Wear and tear from tourists has made the towers of Angkor's largest temple, Angkor Wat, unstable, and officials have closed them to visitors. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)

Angkor Wat is reflected in a pool at dawn, a popular time for tourists to arrive. They are disgorged by the busload to get a snapshot of the sun rising from behind the temple. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)


The 12th century Angkor Wat temple is the world's largest religious monument. Lost to the jungle for centuries, it soon could draw 3 million visitors a year if things go according to the Cambodian government's plans. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)


Statues line a roadway in the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia. A decade ago, the site drew about 300,000 tourists a year. This year, more than a million are expected. (Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)

The crush of tourists at the sandstone ruins is taking a toll, conservationists say.

By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times
Staff Writer,
July 19, 2008

ANGKOR, CAMBODIA -- The ancient sandstone temples of Angkor have stood up to endless assaults down the centuries, from medieval raiders armed with clubs and spears to genocidal looters laying land mines.

These days, the onslaught begins in the early-morning darkness, when invading columns of buses, taxis and sputtering tuk-tuks converge on a dirt parking lot across from Angkor Wat's broad moat.

They disgorge hundreds of camera-wielding tourists, who march through the gray light toward the awesome gates of the world's largest religious monument.

Hindus constructed it in the 12th century, with a gilded central tower representing Mt. Meru, mythical home of the gods and the center of the spiritual and physical universes. They built it facing west, perhaps in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu, preserver of all things.

For today's tourists, the alignment has a more mundane appeal. It's a great place to snap a picture of the sunrise behind sprawling Angkor's best-known temple.

When the shutters stop clicking, tour guides herd their groups into the monument all at once. Tourists jostling for space bump, scrape and rub their fingers against exquisitely carved stone, adding to centuries of damage to the friezes of soldiers depicted in epic battle atop chariots and elephants.

By dusk, the mob of sightseers has moved to Phnom Bakheng, where buses drop off hundreds of people who then scramble for position on large, delicately balanced stone platforms at the small temple, Angkor's oldest.

Obscured from the road by dense forest, it was safely off the regular tour routes until sappers cleared land mines that Khmer Rouge guerrillas had placed to defend the strategic hilltop.

"Now it's suddenly become the destination where everybody wants to be at the end of the day to see the sunset, and to see the views, which are spectacular," said Bonnie Burnham, president of the New York-based World Monuments Fund. The nonprofit group helps conserve historic sites around the world.

Many of Phnom Bakheng's 108 shrines stand on platforms that have shifted over the centuries as water trickles in and loosens sand and dirt, and the tourists are gathering where they shouldn't. So many people have clambered up stones next to the crowded stairs that erosion is accelerating, with loosened sections poised to tumble, Burnham said.

"The platforms where people stand are not really stable," Burnham said. "They're eroding very rapidly. The magnificent sculpture on the shrine at the center of the temple is in very fragile condition and has not been treated for conservation yet.

"People shouldn't really be touching it, or going anywhere near it," she said.

Burnham's fund received almost $1 million last month from the State Department for a project to stabilize the eastern side of Phnom Bakheng, the temple's most endangered section.

As night falls, the tourists feel their way back down the hill and onto air-conditioned buses. They're delivered to their hotels in nearby Siem Reap, where they rinse off the sweat of a long day's touring with a dip in the pool or a soothing shower before dinner.

As the taps open up, more of the dwindling ground water is drained. UNESCO has warned that the receding water table could undermine Angkor Wat's fragile foundations, causing the temple to gradually sink.

There hasn't been enough research to say how much the heavy demand for water affects Angkor Wat's stability, said Dougald O'Reilly, a Canadian archaeologist who heads , a nonprofit group working to protect Cambodia's historic sites from looters and overuse.

A decade ago, about 300,000 tourists visited Angkor Wat each year. It was possible to have a quiet, spiritual moment alone in nearby temples that had been swallowed up by the jungle.

But peace, after decades of civil war and upheaval, opened the tourism floodgates. More than a million people are expected to file through Angkor Wat's narrow stone corridors this year, and the government hopes to draw 3 million to the site by 2010.

With more hotels and resorts on the drawing board, conservationists are pushing hard to prevent a destructive free-for-all of development and tourism.

"It's going to mean some sacrifices," Burnham said. "People aren't going to be able to do some of the things, in an unregulated way, that they've been permitted to do in the past."

Angkor's temples aren't new to the indignities of visitors with sharp elbows.

Numerous armies have barged through the city-state founded 1,200 years ago. Its temples were abandoned to the jungle during almost half that period. Angkor Wat suffered its worst damage when Khmer Rouge fighters looted it in the late 1970s as they were committing mass murder in the name of an agrarian revolution.

Foreign donors and governments, led by the U.S., France and Japan, have spent as much as $50 million over the last 15 years to repair the scars of time and abuse. But the work is far from finished, and new threats are building.

Sokimex Group, which has used its connections with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to become the country's biggest company, plans to build a 900-room hotel and spa, with shopping mall, water park, slot machines and conference center, on a 56-acre site in Siem Reap.

Sokimex also controls the ticket concession to Angkor. Passes cost $20 a day, $40 for three days and $60 a week. It's small change for a company that deals in oil, gas stations, pharmaceutical products, garment making, property development and luxury hotels and resorts, in addition to running an airline.

Sokimex's share of the admission take is set by a contract with the government, and Burnham said it leaves most of the profit in the company's hands. One-third of the revenue is supposed to go to Apsara, a Cambodian agency set up by royal decree to preserve the Angkor sites and manage development.

But some people dispute the ticket sales figures, saying Apsara -- which takes its name from the heavenly nymphs of Hindu and Buddhist mythology whose bare-breasted figures adorn the Angkor temple walls -- gets enough only to cover basic expenses.

"Apsara has virtually no money for conservation," Burnham said. "All of the conservation at Angkor is being done through international assistance.

"The effect of millions of feet pounding on Angkor Wat's steps and floors already has led officials to close some areas. The towers, the tallest of which rises 213 feet, are off limits because the constant wear and tear made the structures unsafe.

A first step toward reducing congestion could be as simple as insisting that visitors walk through Angkor Wat in the same direction, from beginning to end, Burnham said.

She also wants to see Cambodian officials set time constraints on tickets for the busiest of Angkor's temples, to limit pressure during peak hours.

The day may come when a strict quota is placed on the number of visitors allowed at certain monuments, Burnham said. But O'Reilly hopes to avoid that by persuading tourists and their guides to make better choices.

O'Reilly is deputy director of the Greater Angkor Project, a team of researchers at Australia's University of Sydney who in recent years have discovered how vast ancient Angkor was by studying images taken by NASA satellites and an ultralight plane.

Their theory is that the city's 15th century collapse occurred largely because people neglected their environment, cutting down too many trees to expand rice paddies, causing waterways to fill with silt.

If they're right, it's a cautionary tale for the 21st century, as overdevelopment threatens the magnificent buildings and art that ancient Angkor left behind.
paul.watson@latimes.com

World Bank Granted US$30 Million to Cambodia to Support Big Health Projects

Posted on 20 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 569

“Phnom Penh: The Ministry of Economy and Finance released information that the World Bank has provided a credit of approximately US$30 million to the Royal Government of Cambodia to support the Second Health Sector Support Program [HSSP2], which is a project to promote the health care of Cambodian people, especially it focuses on the health of women, of children, and of the poor.

“Senior Minister and the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon, representing Cambodia, signed an agreement to accept the credit with Mr. Ian Porter, Country Director of the World Bank for Cambodia, on Thursday evening [17 June 2008] at the Ministry of Finance.

“According to an announcement of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the project to support the HSSP2 of the Royal Government of Cambodia will be implemented for a period of five years, and up to US$130 million will be spent in total. Now, the World Bank agreed to provide US$30 million, the Australian Agency for International Development [AusAID] granted US$30 million as grant aid, the Department for International Development [DFID] of Britain granted US$50, and the Royal Government of Cambodia contributes US$20 million.

“Senior Minister Keat Chhon said during the signing ceremony that this project aims to support the health strategies of the Royal Government, to promote accesses to, and to receive and to use efficient and qualified health services. He added that the project will be organized following a new mechanism by transferring and by supplying primary health services from non-government organizations to health staff at lower national levels.

“He continued that this project has been created to support the implementation of the 2008 to 2015 health strategic plan of the Royal Government, specifically, this project will contribute to help the Cambodian government to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the health sector.

The three Millennium Development Goals in the health sector are (among eight goals):

4.Reduce child mortality
5.Improve maternal health
6.Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

“Professor Eng Huot, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Health, said that over the past decade, the health of Cambodian citizens is improving significantly. The life expectation of men increased from 52 to 58 years, and for women from 56 to 74 years; infant and child mortality declined, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been arrested.

“He added that Cambodia still faces several big problems – the maternity death rate is high, the improvement of the malnutrition situation is slow, health services are expensive, health care is not qualified yet, and accidents and noninfectious diseases increase. He went on to say that now, because of the support through the credit granted by the World Bank and by many other development partners, we expect that these major problems will be reduced.

“Also, Mr. Ian Porter said that the World Bank has been involved to promote the health sector in Cambodia since 1996 through two projects: one project to get rid of infectious diseases, and another project to support the health sector. He continued that the Bank is very pleased to see the HSSP2 off the ground, in line with the Country Assistance Strategy for Cambodia.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4645, 19.7.2008