Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Boonsang calls on leaders to talk on Preah Vihear

(BangkokPost.com) - Supreme Commander Boonsang Niampradit called on leaders of Thailand and Cambodia to engage in a talk in order to solve conflicts over Preah Vihear matter.

Gen Boonsang, speaking before joining meeting in Indonesia, said he would use this opportunity to explain to the matter to leaders of this country.

Asked what Thailand should do if Cambodia raised the matter to the International Court, he replied that Thai leaders should be extra careful about this as there were lessons learned in the past.

He said Thailand has the right to decide whether to go to the court.

In 1962, the international court ruled that Thailand should hand the temple to Cambodia based on a map drawn in 1908.

UN Security Council to discuss Thai-Cambodia dispute

Cambodian Buddhist monks at Preah Vihear temple


Cambodian and Thai soldiers (black uniforms) near the temple

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — The UN Security Council is expected to discuss a tense military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand this week as more troops amassed along the border, officials said Wednesday.

Thailand's ambassador to the UN, Don Pramudwinai, said the Security Council on Thursday would discuss the border dispute that has troops from both countries facing off near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple .

"I have been informed that the UN has included Preah Vihear on the emergency agenda to be discussed at the Security Council meeting tomorrow," he told reporters in Bangkok.

More than 500 Thai troops and at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are squaring off over the small patch of land near the temple ruins, but Cambodian officials said Wednesday thousands more Thai troops were positioned along the border.

Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan estimated about 4,000 Thai troops in total have gathered along the frontier in several areas -- not just near Preah Vihear.

"They just want to show off their muscle, but we don't care about that. We stick to a peaceful way to solve the problem," Phay Siphan told AFP.

Cambodia has sent heavy weapons to reinforce troops on its northern border in Anlong Veng, where there is also disputed territory, said a military official on condition of anonymity.

"There are more (Thai) troops now at Anlong Veng than there are here (at Preah Vihear). There are tanks and artillery," said the Cambodian colonel with close ties to Thai armed forces.

But Thailand denied it was reinforcing the frontier.

"Thailand has not been building up forces along the border," deputy army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong told AFP.

"We maintain the same amount of soldiers, and more than 400 soldiers were sent to the overlapping area."

Cambodia said Wednesday that it hoped the UN would help broker a solution to the standoff after the countries failed to make any headway in two days of talks over the disputed land near Preah Vihear, which legally belongs to Cambodia.

But Thailand insists the two sides should settle the matter without an outside mediator.

"The best solution to this problem is to solve it between the two countries -- to have a third party as a mediator may blow up the issue," said Wichianchot Sukchotrat, a government spokesman.

"I think we can handle it because we are the ones who know the problems best," he told reporters.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Wednesday accused his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen of capitalising on nationalist sentiment ahead of Sunday's general election in Cambodia, saying talks would be "less intense" after the polls.

Hun Sen was widely tipped to cruise to victory even before the standoff broke out.

However in Thailand critics of Samak -- already the target of street protests -- have stoked controversies over Preah Vihear to fire up nationalist sentiment against him.

Thailand and Cambodia both claim land near the temple, positioning their troops by a small Buddhist pagoda at the foot of the mountain leading to Preah Vihear.

Cambodian and Thai soldiers gathered inside the pagoda compound did not carry weapons Wednesday, but troops in other parts of the disputed area remained armed as Thai soldiers dug a half-metre-deep trench.

The dispute erupted after three nationalist Thai protesters were arrested last week for jumping a barbed-wire fence to reach the temple, prompting armed troops to head to the border.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia. But the easiest entrance lies in Thailand.

A spat in 2003 over Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple -- the most significant symbol of the country's ancient Khmer empire -- sparked a night of riots in which Thailand's embassy and several Thai-owned businesses were burned and looted.

Thais living on Cambodia border brace for clashes



Thai villagers take part in a weapon drill at Baan Dan village near the Preah Vihear temple complex, 590 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, July 23. Clashes seem imminent between the two southeast Asian nations.
Photograph by : Sukree Sukplang/Reuters

Sukree Sukplang , Reuters
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

KHAO PRA VIHARN, Thailand - Thais living along the border with Cambodia began evacuation and weapon drills on Wednesday, fearing a land dispute might escalate into violence after talks failed this week.

In villages near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, where hundreds of Thai and Cambodian troops faced off for a ninth day on Wednesday, workers dug holes for new bomb shelters.

They also renovated old bunkers dating back to the 1980s, when stray shells often landed during fighting between Khmer Rouge guerrillas and Cambodian government troops.

Thai schoolchildren take part in a weapon drill at Baan Phum Salon village near the Preah Vihear temple complex, 570 kilometres northeast of Bangkok on July 23. Thais living along the border with Cambodia began the drills Wednesday, fearing clashes between troops of the two countries if talks to resolve a land dispute fail.
Photograph by : Sukree Sukplang/Reuters

"We have nowhere to move to and we don't want Cambodian infiltrators," 79-year-old guard Mee Kaewsanga told Reuters, cradling a five-year-old pump-action shotgun.

At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6-square-kilometer-area around the temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary and is claimed by both nations.

The build-up of troops and heavy artillery on both sides of the border has worried neighbouring countries and the United Nations, which Cambodia has appealed to for help.

While there have been no major incidents at the temple so far, Thai border villages that are home to some 4,000 people are braced for the worst.

Authorities have begun arming volunteers with shotguns and training villagers how to defend against potential invaders.

"We hope there won't be any violence, but we can't be complacent," Prasert Aramsriworapong, an official in the border town of Kantaralak, told Reuters.

In Bangkok, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said he believed tensions would ease after Sunday's general election in Cambodia.

"After the elections, they will soften their stance and talks will be easier," the pugnacious Thai leader said in Bangkok.

"Everything has been done for the July 27 poll and I need to keep quiet so as not to discredit Prime Minister Hun Sen."

The temple dispute has whipped up nationalist fervour in Phnom Penh, where leaflets and mobile phone text messages appeared on Wednesday calling for a boycott of Thai goods.

Politicians have also denounced the "Thai invaders" at campaign rallies, reviving memories of the anger whipped up over historical claims to Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple in 2003, when a mob torched the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

But analysts say Thai politics are probably more to blame for the dispute over the temple, which an international court awarded to Cambodia in 1962. The ruling still rankles with many Thais.

Preah Vihear's listing as a World Heritage site this month inspired pride and joy in Cambodia, but triggered political uproar in Thailand.

Bangkok's initial support for the heritage listing has been used by anti-government groups to stoke nationalist passions in Thailand and fuel street protests against Samak.

Groups opposed to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup, accuse Samak's government of selling Thailand's heritage to support Thaksin's business interests in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh and Thaksin denied the charge, but the controversy forced Thailand's foreign minister to resign this month.
With files from Nopporn Wong-Anan

Temple row 'to ease after polls'


The number of soldiers from both sides at the site has increased in recent days

BBC News
Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A stand-off involving hundreds of troops at a border temple will ease after Cambodia's general election on Sunday, the Thai prime minister says.

Samak Sundaravej said his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen was using the row to win votes, but added that talks would be easier after the polls.

Troops from both sides are camped on disputed land near Preah Vihear temple.

On Wednesday Cambodia appealed to the UN to resolve the row, after no deal was reached at bilateral talks.

The stand-off erupted after Unesco listed the temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site, reigniting nationalist tensions on both sides.

'Easier to talk'

Speaking in Bangkok, the Thai leader linked the row to Hun Sen's general election campaign.
"Let them play - they merely want a result for the election on 27 [July]," he told reporters.

Tensions would fall after the polls, he predicted.

"They (the Cambodians) will find it easier to talk ... After the elections, I will talk," he said.

Thai troops moved into an area both sides claim more than a week ago, after Cambodian guards arrested three Thai protesters there.

Since then, both sides have increased their military presence. Several thousand troops are now reported to be in and around the temple area.

The two sides held talks earlier in the week but failed to reach agreement.

The issue will now be discussed at the UN Security Council, Thailand's ambassador to the UN said.

"I have been informed that the UN has included Preah Vihear on the emergency agenda to be discussed at the Security Council meeting tomorrow," Don Pramudwinai told journalists.

Despite the diplomatic furore, the atmosphere at the temple remains calm, according to officials.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962, but areas around it remain the subject of rival territorial claims.

In Thailand, opposition forces have used the Unesco listing to attack the government - which initially backed the UN move. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has resigned over the issue and Mr Samak has also faced calls to quit.

In Cambodia, the listing generated a wave of national pride - which, analysts say, will serve Prime Minister Hun Sen well in Sunday's polls.

Thailand, Cambodia Assure ASEAN of "Utmost Restraint" in Border Dispute

By: iStockAnalyst
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Text of report in English by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat website on 22 July

["Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo datelined Singapore, 22 July 2008"]

I held informal discussions on 22 July 2008 with ASEAN Foreign Ministers to discuss the latest developments in the Preah Vihear issue. Both Cambodia and Thailand reiterated that they were committed to a peaceful resolution of the issue and assured me that the General Border Commission would continue to meet, and that the next meeting would be held in the near future.

The ASEAN FMs had earlier offered ASEAN's facilities at the disposal of Cambodia and Thailand as they recognised the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region. There was a proposal for an ASEAN Contact Group to help support the efforts of Thailand and Cambodia to find a peaceful resolution to the issue. The proposal found favour with a number of Foreign Ministers, but there was also a general view that the bilateral process should be allowed to continue, and there is still no consensus for the formation of such a group.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers remain seized by the issue, and I have requested Cambodia and Thailand to provide an update at the next Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in New York.

Thailand and Cambodia gave the assurance that they would exercise utmost restraint and resolve the issue amicably in the spirit of ASEAN solidarity and good neighbourliness. Both sides also reiterated that they would handle the situation in accordance with their ASEAN and international obligations.

Originally published by ASEAN Secretariat website, Jakarta, in English 22 Jul 08.

Story Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific

CTN, Preah Vihear

More on Preah Vihear #1



More on Preah Vihear #2

Pictures from Preah Vihear Temple: 23 July 2008

Cambodian soldiers eat at the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian villager carries food donated by the royal palace for soldiers and villagers at Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian worker arranges food donated by the royal palace for soldiers and villagers at Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian villagers carry food donated by the royal palace for soldiers and villagers at Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodians on ox carts leave Dang Reak mountain, site of the Preah Vihear temple compound, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian soldier walks past Preah Vihear temple, near the Thai border in the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear, July 22. ASEAN held crisis talks with member states Thailand and Cambodia but failed to defuse a military standoff which is threatening to escalate into an unprecedented test for the regional bloc.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian soldier sits at the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. Southeast Asian foreign ministers nudged Thailand and Cambodia on Tuesday to resolve a stand-off over an ancient temple on their border before bullets start flying.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier sits at the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. Southeast Asian foreign ministers nudged Thailand and Cambodia on Tuesday to resolve a stand-off over an ancient temple on their border before bullets start flying.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers stand guard in front of a Cambodian pagoda close to Preah Vihear temple. Thailand and Cambodia have built up forces at more points along their common border, stepping up a week-long standoff over disputed territory, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thai soldiers are seen near the Thai border with Cambodia. Thailand and Cambodia have built up forces at more points along their common border, stepping up a week-long standoff over disputed territory, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Thai soldier stands guard at Preah Vihear national park along the Thai-Cambodian border July 22, 2008.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Sacravatoons : " SAM RAINSY PARTY "

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Politiktoons : " The ennemy of my ennemy..... "

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Politiktoons : " Vietcong Tunnel "

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Thai: No more response to Cambodia on border dispute

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-23

BANGKOK, July 23 (Xinhua) -- The Thai government will avoid responding to Cambodia on the border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said here on Wednesday.

Thailand expected that "after Cambodia finished its general election scheduled on July 27, it will be more willing to discuss the issue with Thailand," Samak was quoted by local news network The Nation as saying.

Meanwhile, at the request of Cambodia, the United Nations (UN) has included the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia in its emergency session scheduled on July 24.

Thai Permanent Representative to the UN Don Pramudwinai said that the inclusion of the dispute in the agenda is in line with the UN regulations which will consider any complaint from member states.

"We have expected this to happen because it is in line with the UN regulations. Now we are discussing the matter," Don was quoted as saying.

The military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand has entered second week. Both countries historically laid claim to the 11th century temple, which now sits on Cambodian soil following the action of the International Court of Justice which awarded the ancient temple to Cambodia in 1962. However, the temple can practicably only be accessed from Thailand.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

NCCC to probe Cabinet over Preah Vihear controversy

July 23, 2008

The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) has resolved to investigate the entire Cabinet regarding its resolution on the Preah Vihear Temple, the agency's spokesman said Tuesday.

NCCC spokesman Klanarong Chantik said yesterday that it resolved to investigate all the seven petitions filed against the entire Cabinet for its resolution to endorse Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama's joint communique with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

These complaints include one filed through the Senate speaker that sought to impeach all the Cabinet members for intentional violation of the Constitution. The Cabinet is accused of failing to comply with the constitutional clause that requires the government to seek parliamentary endorsement for any international agreement that affects the country's territorial areas.

Klanarong said the NCCC members agreed that all the seven petitions were related and therefore should be included in the same investigation.

He said that all the NCCC members would take part in the investigative committee.

The Nation

Traders fret over border talks failure

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 23, 2008

Temple row taking its toll on trade and tourism, writes Anucha Charoenpo in Sa Kaeo

Border traders here are fretting about the effects of the deadlock in the spat over the area around the Preah Vihear temple ruins. ''If the situation doesn't improve soon, my business could suffer severely,'' said Wanchai Kiatdamrongwong, who runs an import-export firm trading with Cambodia.

Mr Wanchai is deputy chairman of the Sa Kaeo chamber of commerce.

He said business between the two countries would continue to suffer until the two governments came to an agreement on the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area on the border between Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

His Cambodian customers, especially those living in Phnom Penh, would stop ordering the goods he deals in, such as fishing equipment and plastic products.

Cambodian importers would be reluctant to spend if they thought tensions along the border were escalating, Mr Wanchai said.

''Thai businessmen don't think the situation will lead to the closure of the border,'' he said.

''What we are afraid of most is the declining number of Thai and Cambodian shoppers and tourists.''

Ratree Sangrungruang, chairman of the Tourism Business Operators Association in Aranyaprathet and owner of Aran-Sri Sophon Travel, said a group of Russian tourists cancelled a trip to Cambodia yesterday morning after learning Monday's meeting between the Thai and Cambodian delegations had failed to make any progress.

''Since the Preah Vihear row escalated nearly a month ago, about 90% of my customers, mostly Thais, have cancelled trips because they were worried about their safety,'' Mrs Ratree said.

Other tour companies were encountering the same problem.

''We want the government to seek the best way out as quickly as possible,'' she said.

At Rong Klua border market, a major tourist attraction in the district, both Thai and Cambodian shop owners were unhappy with the failure of the talks.

''I had expected to see good results, but I was disappointed,''

said Jatuporn Promsiridej, who owns a shoe shop.

''My profits have now dropped by 70% since the border conflict started. I worry how much more money I will lose if the situation gets worse,'' Ms Jayuporn said

Danet Long, the Cambodian owner of a shop selling second-hand jeans, said the atmosphere in the market was quite different than in past months because the number of both Thai and Cambodian customers had dropped sharply.

''If things continue like this I will have to close the shop and return home in Kampong Cham, as I won't be able to afford the 7,000 baht a month rent,'' Mr Danet said.

Song Lot, owner of a used clothing shop, said he was in a similar position. ''I'm not really familiar with the situation. The market is quieter than normal. I want it to return to normal as soon as possible,'' he said.

UN ponders intervention

The Bangkok Post

The Security Council will decide whether it will hold an emergency session to discuss an escalating border spat between Thailand and Cambodia over an ancient Hindu temple.

On Monday Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, claiming he feared an "imminent state of war," appealed to the 15-member UN Security Council to intervene in the Thai-Cambodian dispute over conflicting claims to territory adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple, perched on a cliff that partly defines the two neighbouring countries' common border.

Thailand has informed the UN of its preference to resolve the dispute through bilateral talks, Thailand's Ambassador to the UN Don Pramudwinai confirmed in an interview with the state-run Thai News Agency (TNA).

The UN will decide on whether to hold an emergency session over the border row on Thursday, said Don. "The council will call a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) and we will see to it whether or not the council will hold an emergency session upon Cambodia's request," he told the TNA.

Cambodian Defence Minister Teah Banh and Thai Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niempradit met at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet on Monday in an attempt to defuse the temple dispute bilaterally but failed to find a solution to the legal obstacles involved.

The problem dates back to a map drawn up in 1908 by French cartographers to define the Thai-Cambodian border when Cambodia was still a French colony. Although the French insisted the border should be defined according to the watershed - where the rain water falls in opposite directions - along the Dongrak mountain range, in their map the ancient Preah Vihear, perched on the tip of a 525 metre high cliff that is a steep fall on the Cambodian side and a gradual slope on the Thai one, oddly ended up on the Cambodian side of the watershed.

Thailand's failure to officially object to the questionable map-making led to their losing the temple in 1962 when a dispute over the temple's ownership was settled in the Hague at the International Court of Justice.

Thailand Reaffirms Bilateral Stand To UN On Border Dispute

BANGKOK, July 23 (Bernama) -- Thailand handed a letter to the United Nations Security Council reaffirming its intention to solve the Thailand-Cambodia dispute through bilateral talks, Thai Ambassador to the UN Don Pramudwinai said.

He said the Thailand had made the move following Cambodia's seeking UN intervention in its dispute with Thailand over ownership of the land adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple.

The land in dispute is a 4. 6-square-kilometre parcel overlapping area claimed both by Kanthalarak district in Thailand's Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

Speaking to the Thailand News Agency's morning news TV programme on Wednesday, Don said that Cambodia wanted the UNSC to hold an emergency meeting over the issue on Monday despite Thailand's objection.

However, he said that Thailand will ponder further moves pending the council's response over the issue.

"The council will call a meeting tomorrow and we will see to it whether or not the council will hold an emergency session upon Cambodia's request," Don said.

"How the council members will react and any implications that would affect Thailand remains to be seen," the Thai ambassador said, adding that Bangkok had disagreed with Phnom Penh's move from the start for fear that it might undermine the solidarity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Meanwhile Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong commented that: "In the face of this imminent state of war, this very serious threat to our independence and territorial integrity, we have an obligation to resort to the UN Security Council".

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the escalating tension, calling on Thailand and Cambodia to peacefully resolve the conflict after talks between Thai Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit and Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh failed to end a military standoff around the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Both Thailand and Cambodia are members of ASEAN which is currently holding its annual foreign ministers meeting in Singapore.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat suggested that the two countries should avoid using multilateral platform.

Asked what the ministry would do if the Cambodian government urges the International Court of Justice to intervene and make a ruling on the disputed area surrounding the ancient temple, he said Thailand has the right to decide whether it should go before the Court with Cambodia.

The 11th century temple site was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, Tharit said, but the ruling did not concern the disputed area.

He said further that Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal team is studying the power of the Court.

-- BERNAMA

Thais brace for border clashes with Cambodia

Cambodians on ox carts leave Dang Reak mountain, site of the Preah Vihear temple compound, 245km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 22, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

By Sukree Sukplang
Wed Jul 23, 2008

KHAO PRA VIHARN, Thailand (Reuters) - Thais living along the border with Cambodia began evacuation and weapon drills on Wednesday, fearing clashes between troops of the two countries if talks to resolve a land dispute fail.

But Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said tension would ease after a general election in Cambodia on Sunday, playing down Phnom Penh's diplomatic offensive and its plea for United Nations mediation.

"After the elections, they will soften their stance and talks will be easier," Samak told reporters in Bangkok, two days after talks between senior defense officials to end the dispute failed.

"Everything has been done for the July 27 poll and I need to keep quiet so as not to discredit Prime Minister Hun Sen," Samak said.

At the heart of the dispute is the Preah Vihear temple, perched on a disputed border where troops faced off for a ninth day on Wednesday.

Similar nationalist fervor was whipped up over historical claims to Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple in 2003, when a mob torched the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

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

Local Thai authorities near the temple braced for the worst, arming defense volunteers with shotguns and giving people training on how to guard their villages if violence erupted.

"We hope there won't be any violence, but we can't be complacent," said Prasert Aramsriworapong, head of the town hall in Kantaralak, near where the 900-year-old temple is located. "If it does happen, people won't panic."

If fighting erupted, up to 4,000 villagers living along the border might have to be evacuated, he said.

PREPARING BUNKERS

Villagers living near the temple, known in Thai as Khao Pra Viharn, have started renovating bunkers used in the 1980s to shelter from stray shells from fighting between Khmer Rouge guerrillas and Cambodian government troops.

"We have nowhere to move to and we don't want Cambodian infiltrators," said 79-year-old village guard Mee Kaewsanga.

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

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

Bangkok's initial support for the heritage site listing has been used by anti-government groups to stoke nationalist fervor in Thailand and fuel street protests.

Groups opposed to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a military coup in 2006, have accused the pro-Thaksin government of selling out Thailand's heritage to support his business interests in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh and Thaksin have denied the charge, but the controversy forced Thailand's foreign minister to resign.

Cambodia's diplomatic offensive over the ancient temple dispute was ultimately meant to gain more land from Thailand, Don Pramudwinai, Thai ambassador to the U.N., told a Bangkok radio.

"The issue has escalated beyond Preah Vihear, which already belongs to them," Don told Business Radio from New York.

Don said Phnom Penh was trying to get the international community to recognize a French map dating from the time when it was a French colony, which would give it several areas Thailand claims as its territory.

"Sometimes, our sincere friendship had prompted us to overlook our neighbor's ultimate motive. In this case, they are using guerrilla tactics to ambush us," he said.

(Writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)

Thai, Cambodian forces build up along border: Cambodia

Cambodian soldiers stand guard in front of a Cambodian pagoda close to Preah Vihear temple

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk at Preah Vihear temple

Thai soldiers are seen near the Thai border with Cambodia

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — Thailand and Cambodia have built up forces at more points along their common border, stepping up a week-long standoff over disputed territory, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.

More than 500 Thai troops are facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers over a tiny area of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, but thousands more Thai troops have been positioned along the border, they said.

"There are about 1,000 Thai troops in their territory -- there's a military build-up there," said Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan, who estimated about 4,000 Thai troops in total have gathered across the entire border.

But Thailand denied it was reinforcing the frontier.

"Thailand has not been building up forces along the border," deputy army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong told AFP.

"We maintain the same amount of soldiers, and more than 400 soldiers were sent to the overlapping area."

Cambodian officials said both sides had sent more troops and heavy weapons to a spot near the former Khmer Rouge stronghold Anlong Veng, where there is also disputed territory.

"There are more (Thai) troops now at Anlong Veng than there are here (at Preah Vihear). There are tanks and artillery," said a military official on condition of anonymity.

Cambodia has also sent heavy weapons to the area, said the Cambodian colonel, who has close ties to Thai armed forces

In neighbouring Banteay Meanchay province, police chief Hun Hean said Thailand had increased its troop presence directly across the border by up to 600 since the standoff began July 15.

Thailand and Cambodia have both stationed troops on a small piece of disputed soil near a small Buddhist pagoda at the foot of the mountain leading to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Although Thailand says it wants to solve the dispute through bilateral talks, Thailand's UN ambassador said the issue would be raised at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday at Cambodia's request.

The dispute erupted after three nationalist Thai protesters were arrested last week for jumping a barbed-wire fence to reach the temple, prompting armed troops to head to the border.

Towards Hun Sen's Cambodia

The one-eyed, Chain-smoking "strongman of Cambodia"

Asia Times Online
Southeast Asia
Jul 23, 2008

By Craig Guthrie PHNOM PENH - Even though Cambodia goes to the polls Sunday for the country's fourth general election since Vietnamese occupation ended in 1989, Prime Minister Hun Sen can comfortably escape the chaotic campaign noise in his heavily guarded, villa-studded compound in suburban Phnom Penh and light up a well-earned 555 cigarette - his smoke of choice since his soldiering days.

The one-eyed, chain-smoking "Strongman of Cambodia" could play a casual round of golf at the private course kept groomed at the complex known to locals as the "Tiger's Lair", or maybe take a helicopter trip from the adjacent military airfield used to whisk him up and down his impoverished nation. In fact, as his foes rally and march around the capital, it probably doesn't matter much what Hun Sen does.

Outside in the streets, colorful campaign convoys are clogging Phnom Penh's frangipani-lined boulevards, with truck-mounted bullhorns and the frenetic clashing of cymbals and drums promoting their respective candidates. The scenes are colorful and vibrant, the atmosphere intense, but many say the underlying political picture is actually black and white.

By all accounts, 57-year-old Hun Sen, in power since 1985, has little to worry from the oncoming polls; in recent months he has increasingly consolidated his hold over the electorate through a masterful opera of jibes, scaremongering and gold-toothed charm.

By outfoxing an already fractured opposition, wooing billions in foreign investment and artfully placating the once-powerful labor movement and previously hostile superpowers, the master manipulator has again outmaneuvered his rivals.

Hun Sen - riding a booming economy, hard-won social stability and a vast network of patronage and blood relations [One big happy family in Cambodia, Asia Times Online, March 20, 2007] - has all but ensured that he and his formerly communist Cambodian People's Party (CPP) will head the country when the potentially boundless riches from oil deposits, found by Chevron off the southwestern coast, begin to flow.

Hun Sen is in full grip of the nation's institutions and tightly aligned with its wealthiest tycoons. He has predicted that his CPP machine will win 81of the National Assembly's 123 seats and 73% of the vote. The margin of victory is probably immaterial, since the country, as proposed by opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, adopted a 50-plus-one seat requirement in 2004 to form a government, replacing the previous two-thirds of the vote rule. The proposal was passed to avoid a repeat of the political stalemates which destabilized the country following the 1998 and 2003 elections, and resulted in fractious coalition governments.

Even so, Hun Sen has been openly deriding his opponent's chances for months. In recent weeks he has told them they can "stay at home" on election day, and has announced that he himself will sit out the last few weeks of the campaign in order to avoid "verbal confrontations".

In another speech, the prime minister pre-picked his cabinet while comparing his management style to Manchester United's football manager Alex Ferguson. This is classic Hun Sen: a powerful orator who mixes paddy-field populism, personal potshots and home-spun humor to embolden his allies and intimidate his foes. In 2006, he laughed at a foiled government attack, saying in a speech reported by the Phnom Penh Post: "I know all. Even if you farted, I would still know. You cannot hide from me."


In the past he has said he has no intention of standing down as prime minister until he is at least 90 years old. This would be a remarkable run: he became the Vietnamese-backed premier of Cambodia in 1985, when he was 33.

As the country some call Asia's "best kept secret" heads into its Fourth Mandate - what the new government will be called - Cambodia is more than ever Hun Sen's nation. This sits poorly with his legion of critics, some of whom have labeled the CPP regime a corrupt "kleptocratic elite" with little regard for the millions of rural rice farmers living in abject poverty. Others, including diplomats, say worse.

In 2006, UN high commissioner for human rights Louis Arbour called the problems within the Cambodian judiciary "profound". Dr Lao Mong Hay, senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, wrote in a June 18 editorial,

...institutions remain subject to the control inherited from pre-1993 communist days, and are utilized to serve the interests of the ruling class rather than those of the people. Although Cambodia has held periodic elections, and preparations for the forthcoming election are underway, its multi-party, liberal democracy has little substance

The National Election Committee is regularly accused by the opposition of a lack of independence, and many independent election monitoring groups have alleged that state resources and media have been deployed to the ruling party's electoral advantage.

"Never assume that Cambodia is a democracy," said Chea Vannath, a political commentator. "If a democracy is when a nation is ruled by a government chosen by its people, yes, Cambodia is democratic. But in terms of governance, Cambodia is a different story. There is no check and balance on the executive branch, the judiciary or the monarchy."

In recent weeks he has also even veered away from an earlier commitment to adopt a long-awaited draft anti-corruption law, which foreign donors and civil society groups have long clamored for. And he's deployed old-fashioned scaremongering to justify the controversial move.

"Will corrupt officials agree to any confiscation of their riches? No. Then war will erupt," said Hun Sen in a speech broadcast on national radio at the end of May. "After confiscating for a while, all the rich people will all become poor - as in Khmer Rouge times - more than 3 million people will be destroyed. Don't play with that," he said.

A temple revisited The country's millions of impoverished farmers and fishermen, for years saturated with state-controlled media looping four-hour-long Hun Sen speeches interspersed with reels of CPP officials handing over packs of instant noodles to needy villagers, are likely headed towards five more years of inequality, drudgery, and bad TV.

The premier's media-influenced popularity was recently pushed to greater heights by the listing last week of the Preah Vihear temple complex as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) national heritage site. When the decision was announced live on national channel CTN, Hun Sen's image was shown with revolving stars around it. A televised concert held to celebrate the listing was attended by hosts regularly shouting words of support for Hun Sen among other cheers of national glory.

The ensuing border tension with Thailand over the controversial listing will be a strong test of his government's ability to stand up to stronger neighbors before a watchful Cambodian public in the heat of an election season. Aside from the temple tiff, a closer look at the less-monitored countryside has revealed that the level of political killings, threats and intimidation that have marred previous elections has substantially diminished in the run-up to this weekend's polls.

But the lack of violence is probably more a testament to the CPP's successful vanquishing of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party's (SRP) grassroots machinery. The opposition's hardship has been brewing for months, due in part to some deft political maneuvers by Hun Sen and the CPP political machine. But their spectacular collapse in the lead-up to the July 27 election has still surprised many political observers. The SRP has been deflated by the defection of more than 20 high profile lawmakers and tens of thousand of grassroots members party executives claims the CPP has bought to switch sides.

"We have seen a people buying campaign ... Prime minister Hun Sen actively seeks out SRP members by using money as bait Each member receives at least US$2,000, and those with high positions in the SRP receive US$200,000," said Rainsy in a recent letter. "I am worried and feel pity for those [defectors] who get cheated. After the election they will be kicked out," he said. Hun Sen responded by saying that SRP defectors "are not goods or animals to be bought and sold".

The SRP has been left meek, and hoping for a highly unlikely post-election "people power" movement to challenge a CPP-dominated government. The SRP campaign has revolved mostly around the now globally recognized opposition stratagem of pointing to high oil and food prices as the incumbent government's failure to serve its people. But both strategies seem doomed to failure: a planned "mass rally" of SRP supporters against inflation saw a mere 300 supporters turn out, leading Hun Sen to quip that a local midget comedian usually has more people in his audience.

The punch-drunk party has also lost one of its more meaningful friends in the trade unions movement, which has the power to mobilize hundreds of thousands of garment and factory workers in a mass protest. The leader of the largest union, Chea Mony - whose brother popular SRP-affiliated union leader Chea Vichea was gunned down in 2004 - announced earlier this year the bloc was withdrawing from politics. The decision almost immediately followed Hun Sen's announcement of a $6 monthly increase to garment workers monthly salaries - bringing them to $56.

The loss of the trade unions - the largest organized sector in Cambodia - is a double blow to Rainsy, who, along with Chea Vichea and Ou Mary, founded the labor movement in 1996.

Opposition off the rails

Rainsy, a former minister of finance who was sacked for complaining about corruption, has tried another political tack. In several well-publicized broadsides, he has attacked the personal backgrounds of what he claims to be former Khmer Rouge members in Hun Sen's government. He recently alleged to supporters at a Buddhist ceremony at the Choeung Ek "killing fields" that CPP stalwart and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was once chief of the Khmer Rouge-run Boeung Trabek "re-education" center, where thousands of diplomats and intellectuals were interred before execution.

Hor Namhong rebuked the accusation, claiming he was instead a liaison between the prisoners and the wardens at the camp and insisting that several of his close family members were executed there. He filed a defamation lawsuit against Rainsy, but the salvo provided little political capital for the SRP. The arrest of an opposition-aligned newspaper editor who reprinted Rainsy's allegations drew international condemnation, but hardly enough to improve the SRP's electoral chances. Nor has international outcry over the assassination of SRP-aligned journalist Khim Sambor and his son, who were shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on July 11.

The other main opposition party, the royalist Funcinpec, has also disintegrated in the run-up to the polls. Crafty, almost choreographed, moves saw the party's past leader and erstwhile Hun Sen rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, ousted in an inter-party coup. The move was orchestrated by Nhiek Bun Chhay, secretary general of the party and a former defense minister. Funcinpec is still the coalition partner of the CPP, but since the ouster of Ranariddh, has been widely seen as a puppet of the ruling party.

Ranariddh was subsequently convicted for pocketing $3.6 million from the sale of Funcinpec's former headquarters and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, a move some have attributed to Hun Sen's alleged influence over the courts. He fled the country in December 2005, and has since resorted to giving telephone speeches to embattled supporters of his new Norodom Ranariddh Party from self-exile in Malaysia.

In June, Ranariddh reportedly sent Hun Sen a humbling private note asking for the return of his private jet. Meanwhile, his magnificent $2 million colonial-era villa in the center of Phnom Penh has already been sold off by the government to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia, which plans to turn it into a carbon-friendly boutique hotel. Hun Sen has said Ranariddh will be "handcuffed and taken to jail", if he returns to Cambodia and has blocked any chance or a royal pardon.

The fledgling Human Rights Party, led by self-styled people's champion Kem Sokha and backed by controversial former head of state Pen Sovann, is assured of winning at least a handful of seats. The party may have carved a small nationalist niche among the electorate, and like the SRP is known to have had US backers. Sokha left his previous organization, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, under a cloud of scandal as 16 former employees accused him of corruption and embezzlement from the US-financed group.

Despite Sokha's grassroots popularity, his HRP is not seen as a major threat to the CPP juggernaut. Nor is the US seen as overtly supporting any particular opposition party, as it has been perceived of in the past. Washington, which in 2004 threatened Cambodia with sanctions for lack of progress on trafficking issues, has since given the nation a glowing report its latest human trafficking report.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh has commended the lack of violence in this year's election build-up, though it reacted strongly and offered Federal Bureau of Investigation assistance following the murder of Sambor. Washington has taken a softer line towards Cambodia in the past year as China moves to increase its local influence. After Chevron's apparent discovery of oil and gas, the US this year lifted a 10-year ban on direct aid to Cambodia in February and re-started direct military aid in May.

Assuming that the oil and gas deposits are actually there, an energy bonanza would profoundly change the Cambodian economy and its terms of trade. Drilling by a Singaporean firm began in mid-July and state and private companies from China, South Korea, Japan and France are currently negotiating contracts related to the find. Although the government is still awaiting a key assessment from Chevron, estimates range from anywhere between $200 million to $2 billion a year in potential revenues. That should provide plenty of resources for Hun Sen to further consolidate his political dominance, and if this weekend's elections produce the landslide win for his CPP many analysts project, could signal the beginning of a new era of one-party rule in Cambodia. Craig Guthrie is a reporter for the Mekong Times newspaper in Phnom Penh. He has covered Cambodian affairs since 2004.

Two Cambodian Journalists Win Hellman/Hammett Writer’s Award

Human Rights News

Rights Group Honors Defenders of Independent Media in Cambodia

___________
Chheang Bopha and Duong Sokha represent a small minority among Cambodia’s press corps who dare to challenge corrupt and politically biased institutions through their writings and their actions.
Sara Colm, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch
___________

(New York, July 22, 2008) – Two young Cambodian journalists, Chheang Bopha and Duong Sokha, are among a diverse group of 34 writers from 19 countries to receive the prestigious Hellman/Hammett writer’s award, which recognizes courage in the face of political persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses. The grant program began in 1989 when the American playwright Lillian Hellman willed that her estate be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.

“Chheang Bopha and Duong Sokha represent a small minority among Cambodia’s press corps who dare to challenge corrupt and politically biased institutions through their writings and their actions,” said Sara Colm, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Bopha, 28, and Sokha, 27, worked as reporters at Cambodge Soir, Cambodia’s leading French language daily newspaper. They quit in 2007 to protest the dismissal of a colleague who was fired for writing about a report by Global Witness, an international environmental organization, that documented the alleged complicity of top government officials in illegal logging.

Striking Cambodian staff elected Sokha as their spokesperson to demand that Cambodge Soir reinstate the fired journalist and guarantee editorial independence. The newspaper’s owners responded by closing the paper and reopening it several months later under new editorial management. Most of the former employees eventually returned to work without reassurances of editorial independence, but Sokha and Bopha refused despite intense pressure to do so.

They both pursued far less lucrative work in journalism teaching before eventually joining forces with other journalists to start an independent internet publication in Cambodian and French, Ka-Set (http://www.ka-set.info). Bopha will soon be leaving to pursue a master’s degree in journalism at the Training Center for Professional Journalists in Paris.

“In a climate of increased suppression of free expression and attacks against independent media – including from the highest levels of the government – few journalists dare challenge the system,” said Colm. “Sokha and Bopha aim to uphold professional media standards in a country with few truly independent media outlets.”

Ka-set was the brainchild of a group of four former Cambodge Soir journalists and a Magnum photojournalist. Originally launched in March 2008 with the journalists’ own money, the internet publication uses a multimedia approach to cover a wide range of issues – politics, justice, human rights, economics, Khmer Rouge, environment, culture and society. Access is free, and income comes from advertising, although the team, now numbering 10, is currently seeking additional support.

“The rare professional skills, ethics and courage exhibited by Duong Sokha and Chheang Bopha should be applauded and encouraged, especially at a time when independent journalism in Cambodia is increasingly at risk,” said Colm.

The Cambodian government controls all broadcast media and regularly suspends, threatens, or takes legal action against journalists or news outlets that criticize the government. In addition, reporters risk dismissal, physical attack, or even death for coverage of controversial issues. Earlier this month, for example, gunmen shot and killed Khim Sambo, a journalist for Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience), a newspaper affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

“As political power is increasingly consolidated in Cambodia in the run-up to the July 27 national elections, so is control over the media,” said Colm.

In June, military police arrested Moneaksekar Khmer editor, Dam Sith, who is also running as a SRP candidate in the elections, after the paper reported on allegations about the current foreign minister’s role during the Khmer Rouge regime.

In 2007, a reporter in Pursat Province was the victim of two attempted arson attacks on his home, which the local police chief attributed to the reporter’s coverage of illegal logging. In June 2007, the government banned Global Witness’s report on illegal logging. Journalists who covered the report and people who helped prepare it received anonymous death threats.

Bopha holds bachelor’s degrees in French literature from Phnom Penh University and in management from the National University of Management. At Cambodge Soir she covered the human rights beat, vividly documenting the plight of Khmer Rouge victims, garment workers, women, ethnic minorities and children. She has also worked as a correspondent for Radio France International, Radio Free Asia, and International Press Service. In 2003, she assisted with the production of a documentary film, “Les Artistes du Theatre BrulĂ©”, by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh. Bopha has also taught print journalism at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Sokha studied French at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

During his four years at Cambodge Soir, Sokha was known for his reporting on justice, human rights and politics. In addition, he has worked as a French lecturer at the Royal University of Law and Economics, an event promoter for the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, and a television reporter for “Cambodian Voices,” broadcast on TV-9 in Cambodia.

“Though young, both Bopha and Sokha are respected for their leadership and integrity during and after the newspaper strike, as well as their hard-hitting coverage of social issues and human rights,” said Colm.

Since 1989, Human Rights Watch has administered the Hellman/Hammett awards, which have been given to nearly 700 writers – including 10 Cambodians – over the 19 years of the program. The Hellman/Hammett program also makes small emergency grants to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country or who need immediate medical treatment after serving prison terms or enduring torture.

ASEAN to discuss Thai-Cambodia tension - diplomat

A police officer walks past the national flags of countries attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting and ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Wed Jul 23, 2008

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Thailand and Cambodia will meet on Tuesday, a Thai diplomatic source said, after marathon talks failed to end a week-long military stand-off over an ancient temple on their border.

The meeting at noon (0400 GMT) in Singapore will be chaired by Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo and is in response to a letter sent to him by Cambodia's government late on Monday, asking the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to intervene to cool escalating tensions between the neighbours.

"The meeting will be held at 12 p.m. today, and will be attended by the foreign ministers from Thailand and Cambodia and will discuss the situation over the temple," the diplomatic source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other ASEAN foreign ministers may also be at the meeting, an ASEAN official said.

At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6 sq km area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary and is claimed by both nations. The temple was awarded to Cambodia by an international court in 1962.

The military showdown began last Tuesday when Thai troops moved into the disputed area after three Thai protesters were briefly detained there. Since then, both sides have sent hundreds more soldiers and heavy artillery to the border.

After complaining to the United Nations on Friday that Thailand had violated its "sovereignty and territorial integrity," Phnom Penh took its case to ASEAN.

Cambodia has asked ASEAN to form an Inter-Ministerial Group of foreign ministers from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos to "find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and to avoid a military confrontation between two ASEAN members."

ASEAN foreign ministers are holding their annual series of meetings first amongst themselves, then with Asia-Pacific powers culminating in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which has ambitions to deal with issues such a the Thai-Cambodia spat.

Monday's talks on the Thai-Cambodia border partly bogged down over which maps should be used to settle ownership of the temple and surrounding area, officials said.

A Rumble in the Jungle?

Cambodian soldiers patrol around the Preah Vihear temple where Cambodian and Thai troop levels were recently escalated. The temple is in an area being disputed by the two countries.
Heng Sinith / AP

TIME
Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2008
By KEVIN DOYLE

There's a lot of talk about mortality in the Hindu temple at Preah Vihear right now. "I won't leave the temple," vows Hang Soth, the Cambodian government official responsible for maintaining the World Heritage site. He has been holed up in his office for more than a month. "This is a life-and-death place for me. If I die here, I die with honor." The reason for Hang Soth's dark mood is evident everywhere you look around the 11th century temple complex. A Cambodian-army heavy machine gun stands near the entrance; three times in the past week, it has been prepared for firing and then stood down. All around the complex, an estimated 3,000 Cambodian and Thai troops face one another in a hair-trigger standoff that began on June 15, when Thai troops entered a contested border area. Cambodia claims the crucial piece land that provides access to the temple site; Thailand disagrees. And diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation have yet to bear fruit.

The Thai military acted after Cambodia succeeded in getting Preah Vihear listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site despite Thailand's insistence that the Khmer temple be jointly managed by both countries. Over the years, the area around Preah Vihear has come under the sway of both nations as well as of Cambodia's former colonial overlord, France. But in 1962, in a decision that still rankles the Thais, the International Court of Justice ruled that the temple belongs to Cambodia. Still, that judgment did not quite settle the issue of who owns the 1.8 sq. mi. of land surrounding the site. It is on this land that Thai troops have moved in and bunkered down near the pagoda. Although Thailand does not officially dispute Cambodia's ownership of the temple itself, it has now taken charge of the land used to access Preah Vihear.

Talks on July 21 between Cambodia's Minister of Defense, Tea Banh, and Thailand's Supreme Commander General, Boonsrang Niumpradit, failed to resolve the standoff. That was no surprise to the Cambodian officials gathered at Preah Vihear to organize what they characterize as a to-the-death defense of Cambodia's most sacred national symbol after Angkor Wat. (Cambodian nationalism has been inflamed by political rhetoric ahead of this month's general election.)
More than 200 Cambodian women and children are camped under sheets of plastic at a wooden pavilion inside the temple complex, having been forced to move from the ramshackle market area at the locked entrance gates to the temple from the Thai side. Coils of razor wire now bar those gates, through which hundreds of visitors usually pass daily to climb to the top of Preah Vihear and take in its stunning mountaintop view over the plains of northern Cambodia. "I am very afraid," says 8-year-old Ol Srey Mao as she hides behind her grandmother's sarong. At least she has an escape route planned. "If the Thai troops come, I will run up there," she says, pointing to the temple's ornately sculpted stone entrance.

In the air-conditioned halls of power in Bangkok, few are expecting war at Preah Vihear. On the Thai side, the dispute has been turned into an issue by an opposition alliance that is berating the government for initially failing to challenge Cambodia's bid for World Heritage status for the site. Hundreds of Thais have gathered on the border to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and to vow to protect the land that they believe belongs to Thailand. But cooler heads may prevail. Thailand has written to the United Nations emphasizing that the "prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia have already pledged utmost restraint and expressed their conviction in resolving the issue."

But such reassuring words mean little to the terrified Cambodians at Preah Vihear. "If bombs are dropped in the temple, there is nothing we can do," says Van Kim Yan, a 57-year-old grandmother. The Cambodian government says its troops are under orders to fire only if fired upon. At first glance, its soldiers don't look too impressive, though. Most are wearing flip-flops and mismatched uniforms and each is armed with little more than a rusty AK-47 rifle or a rocket launcher whose shoulder strap is an old rope. Over the past week, they have ridden on motorbikes or walked up the steep 3-mi. mountain road to the temple. Don't be fooled, says Captain Thor Bun Hong: some of these men are actually fearsome former Khmer Rouge guerrillas who once controlled this entire area. "The real soldiers wear flip-flops," he boasts. "The men with boots can run away. The men with flip-flops stand and fight."

Thai-Cambodian conflict enters 2nd week

AP foreign , Wednesday July 23 2008

By KER MUNTHIT
Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Thailand accused Cambodia of eyeing even more of its land and leaflets appeared in the Cambodian capital calling for a boycott of Thai goods, as a military standoff over disputed border territory entered a second week Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Cambodia asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the dispute over the 1.8 square miles of land near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, warning that the two sides were at ``an imminent state of war.''

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had no choice but to appeal to the United Nations after discussions with Thailand on Monday failed to produce a breakthrough in the crisis.

He made a similar request to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but the region's key bloc urged the two countries to continue bilateral negotiations.

In a countermove Wednesday, Thailand's Ambassador to the United Nations Don Pramudwinai said Cambodia was bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because ``the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border.''

Don told Bangkok's Business Radio that Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map as the document that demarcates the border, stretches of which are disputed.

The French map generally favors Cambodia, and Thailand rejects it saying it was drawn up by a colonial power to its own advantage. Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

The fight over the land near Preah Vihear escalated this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application to UNESCO. They claim the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to land around the temple. Cambodia responded with its own deployment.

Both sides have pledged not to use force, although some 4,000 troops are now amassed in the area.

The dispute has shaken Thailand's domestic political scene.

The National Counter Corruption Commission has begun to investigate Samak and his entire Cabinet over accusations that the government violated Thailand's Constitution by not consulting Parliament before supporting Cambodia's application.

The investigation could lead to the impeachment of all members of the government, although the process would be a long one, commission spokesman Klanarong Jantik said Wednesday.

Cambodian police were meanwhile investigating leaflets distributed in Phnom Penh that call for a boycott of Thai products and services.

``While the government is trying to solve the dispute with Thailand, we do not want to see any discrimination against Thai products, and people should not be aroused by such incitement,'' police chief Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth said.

The atmosphere remained calm among Cambodian and Thai troops at the hilltop Preah Vihear temple Wednesday, despite the intense diplomatic rhetoric by the respective governments.
Troops from both sides ``continued interacting cordially,'' said Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo without elaborating.

---

Associated Press writers Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sopheng Cheang in Cambodia, and Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

The win-win way for Cambodia and Thailand

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday July 23, 2008

DR. SOMKIATI ARIYAPRUCHYA

The recent military buildup along the Thai-Cambodian border is proving to be very disturbing because both sides have a lot to gain and a lot more to lose if the matter is not quickly brought to a peaceful end.

One must look at the big picture. Continued good relations between the two countries would reap huge benefits for Cambodia and Thailand in terms of increased tourism, cross-border trade and investment, and people-to-people contact.

Conflicts among neighbours in Indochina on border issues are nothing new, however. They are often the legacy of brutal, schematic and unjust colonialism in the 19th century.

France came to Indochina in the mid-19th century and by 1862 had subdued most of Vietnam. It then cast its greedy eyes over all of Southeast Asia right up to Yunnan, with an aim to rival England's colonial influence in Burma and India.

The Franco-Cambodian Treaty of 1863 made Cambodia a French Protectorate. Next, it was Siam (as Thailand was known then). By the Treaties of 1893, 1904 and 1907, parts of Siam were ceded to France which would later become known as the territories of Laos and Cambodia. This explains why there were treaties between Siam and France regarding the borders between Siam and her neighbours, Laos and Cambodia. These treaties were unequal treaties, one-sided, and imposed upon the weak by the strong.

For a clear understanding of the Phra Viharn temple case, it is necessary to delve into the details.

The 1904 Treaty stipulates that the watershed would form the borderline between Siam and France's Cambodia around the region where the temple is located. The Treaty of 1904 leaves the demarcation of the actual watershed line to the Mixed Delimitation Commission.

The so-called Annex I map drawn up by the Delimitation Commission placed the temple within the border of Cambodia even though it did not conform to the principle of the watershed line.

The watershed line, as determined by experts, would place the temple within the Siamese border.

The International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962, by 9 to 3 votes, declared that sovereignty over the Temple of Phra Viharn belonged to Cambodia.

The Court, while recognising the principle of the watershed line, placed more importance on the Annex 1 map, which it believed was based on the work of the Mixed Delimitation Committee.

The Court also noted that Siam, and later Thailand, had never protested against the inaccuracy of Annex 1 when it had several opportunities to do so until 1958.

The Court therefore ruled that Thailand was stopped from claiming territorial sovereignty over Phra Viharn temple.

However, the Court's decision was considered by the government and the public of Thailand to be contrary to international law, the principles of justice and the facts of the case. It was deemed as yet another injustice inflicted on Thailand.

The Court's decision, while awarding Phra Viharn temple to Cambodia, was silent on the frontier demarcation. Thus, the border demarcation issue remains. Cambodia and Thailand remain at loggerheads over the demarcation of the frontier.

The temple issue must be viewed in the right historical context. Prior to the colonial encroachment of France and England in the late 19th century, there was no fixed and clear border demarcation among countries in the Southeast Asian region.

The region was loosely structured under a tributary system. The practice of clear territorial demarcation was then alien to both Cambodia, Thailand and indeed the non-Western world.

The issue of Phra Viharn should be considered by both Cambodia and Thailand as an unwanted legacy of colonialism. The past should not be allowed to cloud the bright future ahead for all concerned.

Both countries have tremendous benefits from peace, bilateral cooperation and regional cooperation through the various regional mechanisms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion) and ACMECS (The Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy).

What, then, is the win-win way forward?

In my view, the Asean way should be utilised. In other words, disputes should be settled through diplomatic means.

At present, Cambodia has gone ahead with its unilateral inscription of the Phra Viharn temple as a World Heritage Site.

Looking at the big picture, Cambodia should be magnanimous enough to invite Thailand to jointly inscribe the temple. Such an action would be in the national interest of Cambodia. Phnom Penh may still invite a joint inscription even at this late hour.

There is nothing in the rules and regulations of the World Heritage Committee that forbids joint inscription even after a unilateral inscription has been granted.

This magnanimous act would in one fell swoop cool down the current dispute and make the temple of Phra Viharn truly a world heritage site of universal value and a symbol of cooperation between the two countries for years to come.

Looking further into the future, the win-win way to cement good relations between Cambodia, Thailand and indeed Laos, would be to form a CALATHAI Community (acronym for Cambodia, Laos and Thailand), a la Benelux and the wider EU. Through positive functionalism, they will achieve a deeper integration in the areas of goods, capital and labour. The prosperity and destiny of these countries will thus become inextricably intertwined.

As citizens of the member countries find it easier to live and practice their profession wherever they want in the community, so would the question of territorial sovereignty decline in importance.

The greater goal of joint prosperity, stability and peace would therefore be achieved.

This win-win way forward is not easy; it requires magnanimity, bravery, vision and political will on the part of leaders. Now is the time to rise to this challenge.

The author is dean of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, Rangsit University.

This article is based on his speech at the 6th IDIS Forum on July 11, 2008.

Strong economy boosts Cambodia's ruling party ahead of polls

Cambodians buy vegetables at a market outside their garment factory in Phnom Penh


People walk past a cut out model of the International Finance Complex (IFC) Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh

A Cambodian man pushes his cart past the Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Once sleepy streets in Cambodia's capital are crammed with construction sites, crowned by towering cranes building the first skyscrapers in the leafy, low-rise city.

Phnom Penh's building boom is one of the most visible signs of the sweeping changes in one of the world's poorest countries, which according to some estimates has averaged 11 percent economic growth over the last three years.

It's also a key reason why voters are expected to hand Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) a victory in general elections on Sunday, analysts say.

"Generally we agree that economic growth in Cambodia is a very good sign" of the country's progress, said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for the Study and Development of Agriculture, which monitors the effects of the economy on the rural poor.

Thirty years ago Phnom Penh was almost deserted, after the Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated the capital as they plunged the nation into the darkness of the "Killing Fields" that would claim up to two million lives.

They dismantled the economy and even banned the use of currency in a genocidal drive to create a Maoist agrarian utopia.

After the Khmer Rouge were forced from power, they continued to battle the government until 1996, leaving a shattered nation strewn with landmines and a population struggling to survive.
Now that's slowly changing.

Economic data on Cambodia remains sketchy, but international estimates agree that the country's growth in recent years has been among the strongest in Southeast Asia. Foreign investment, mainly from other Asian nations, is pouring into hydro-electric dams, property and tourism.

Tourism, which brought in 1.4 billion dollars last year, is expected to grow by at least 20 percent in 2008, according to the government.

The garment industry has also thrived, sheltered for years under a unique labour-friendly deal with the United States.

The growth has helped power the construction boom, with realtors estimating that prime pieces of property in the capital can fetch 3,000 dollars a square metre (yard), a six-fold increase from eight years ago.

But the growth also has a dark side. Soaring land values have resulted in mass evictions and land grabs in Phnom Penh.

The garment industry faces tough competition from China and Vietnam, creating fears of job losses in an industry that is the country's biggest private employer.

Corruption remains rampant, posing a drain especially for small entrepreneurs trying to start up local businesses that could help Cambodia end its dependence on imports for many basic goods, said Yang Saing Koma.

"You have to take a lot of time, and you have to pay extra money to get something done," he said.

Inflation, driven by high fuel and food prices, hit 18.7 percent in January and prices for staples such as rice have risen by as much as 80 percent. The government has since stopped releasing inflation data, drawing accusations that it's trying to hide the bad news.

"Income of the poor has to keep up with inflation," said Chan Sophal, head of the Cambodian Economic Association, warning that poor farmers were struggling to cope with rapidly rising prices.

Some 35 percent of the country's 14 million people live on under 50 US cents a day. Those people in desperate poverty spend most of their money on food, but are struggling to keep up with rising prices, he said.

Despite the troubles, Cambodians overall are still pleased with the visible signs of their nation's recovery -- the construction in Phnom Penh and the main tourist areas, as well as new roads and bridges spreading into the countryside, said political analyst Chea Vannath.

"Cambodia needs infrastructure, and that's what the ruling party provides to the people," she said. "The CPP gets support from the people for that."

Cambodia warns Thai 'aggression' threatening region

Radio Australia

Cambodia's prime minister has accused Thailand of unwarranted aggression by moving troops into disputed border territory, warning the action threatens peace in the region.

Hun Sen made the statement in a letter to the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, after two days of diplomacy failed to resolve the week-long military stand-off centred on the ruins of the Preah Vihear temple.

The tensions began after UNESCO early this month awarded World Heritage status to the temple, considered the finest example of ancient Khmer architecture after the famous Angkor Wat complex.

The UN recognition infuriated Thai nationalists, and now more than 500 Thai troops are facing at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers over a tiny area of land near the temple.Recent crisis talks among Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Singapore failed to make any headway.

Senior Cambodian and Thai defence officials have also ended eight hours of negotiations with no resolution.

#11 - News : Preah Vihear - 22.07.2008

Thailand negotiations provide no resolution to Cambodia border dispute

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Deirdre Jurand

[JURIST] Thai and Cambodian officials agreed Monday that neither country will use military force against the other in their dispute over the border area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple [Telegraph backgrounder], over which both countries claim ownership. The meeting was designed to resolve the major border dispute issues, but the sides made no further agreements because Thai officials want to employ US cartography [TNA report], while Cambodian officials want French materials to be controlling because they mark the border at a different place. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo said [statement text] of the meeting:

Thailand and Cambodia gave the assurance that they would exercise utmost restraint and resolve the issue amicably in the spirit of ASEAN solidarity and good neighbourliness. Both sides also reiterated that they would handle the situation in accordance with their ASEAN and international obligations.

Both countries will keep troops at the border, and talks have been suspended until after the Cambodian general elections scheduled for later this month. Xinhua has more. The Bangkok Post has additional coverage.

Tensions have long existed between Thailand and Cambodia concerning the Preah Vihear temple, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided [opinion, PDF] in 1962 that it was located in Cambodia. In early July of this year, the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [official website] approved a Cambodian application [UNESCO press release, in French] for recognition of the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Two weeks ago, Thailand's Constitutional Court [official website, in Thai] ruled that current prime minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] violated the country's constitution by dropping Thai claims [JURIST report] to the temple without parliamentary approval. Opponents of the temple transfer have called for those involved to be impeached and charged with treason [JURIST report], while others have called for the government to rescind its recognition of the bid or join in the multinational force [Bangkok Post reports] that will guard the site. Cambodia has sent sent a letter to the UN [JURIST report] seeking to draw attention to the border dispute.