Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cambodia News on Video

#27 - News : Elections - 30.07.2008



#26 - News : Preah Vihear - 30.07.2008



#25 - News : Preah Vihear - 29.07.2008



#24 - News : Elections - 29.07.2008

Sacravatoons " The Victory "

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

Russian paedophile freed after serving 6 months in jail

Samleang Seila, director of Action pour les enfants Cambodge © C. M

Cambodge Soir
30-07-2008

The Sihanoukville Municipal Court decision to release a man who abused three minors is under question.

Nikita Belov, age 26, disappeared immediately after his release.He might have already left the country. The Russian received a three year jail sentence after being found guilty of "indecent acts" on two teenagers of 13 and a seven year old. He spent only six and a half months in jail. Two days before he was released he had to pay US$ 500 to the Court and US$ 250 to each of the victims.

Sihanoukville

According to Samleang Seila, director of the NGO Action Pour les Enfants (APE) in Cambodia, the decision of In Manith, the judge, works against the protection of victims. The NGO complained to the Ministry of Justice : “to release on bail a convicted individual and to suspend his sentence is a negative stance towards potential offenders,” said Samleang Seila. Cambodian criminal procedures provide for three cases in suspending a sentence : if the offender is very old, sick or if he is the only breadwinner of an underprivileged family, “and M.Nikita Belov did not fit into any of these categories”, added Samleang Seila.

Sihanoukville Municipal Court officials claim that they do not make any “complacent decisions” in dealing with foreign paedophiles.

Norodom Sihanouk against Thaksin’s projects in Koh Kong

Koh Kong Island © C. M.
Cambodge Soir
29-07-2008

Thailand’s ex prime Minister plans to build a large tourist resort on the Cambodian island of Koh Kong.

The King-father is against this development project in Koh Kong, he indicated in an official release on his website. Thaksin and business partners from the Arabian peninsula back the project.

“ Our great neighbour, Thailand, has been eying Koh Kong for a long time” asserted Norodom Sihanouk. He added: “I myself had to fight hard against Thai expansionism” between the 1940s and 1960s.

The ex-Prime Minister—still facing legal proceedings in his home country—is compared to a “Croesus”, “ extremely wealthy” and as having “ colossal financial resources.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s project was revealed in April by the weekly newspaper Matichon . The Bangkok post revealed in its May 1 issue that the ex-head of government would like to turn Koh Kong into “a new Hong Kong”.

Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime Minister agreed to the project during a round of golf with Thaksin Shinawatra in Phnom Penh early April.

The Thai opposition also criticizes the Koh Kong project, accusing the Samak government of siding with Cambodia on the Preah Vihear dispute, to promote the ex-prime Minister of Thailand personal business interests.

Illegal cattle endanger border area

(30-07-2008)

HCM CITY — Hundreds of cattle are brought into Viet Nam from Cambodia every day, at the risk of exposing the population to possible diseases as most are believed to be not thoroughly quarantined, officials have warned.

The high demand for red meat in urban areas is in part to blame for the surge in smuggling, according to Pham Van Son, head of the My Quy Tay Commune’s People’s Committee in Long An Province.

He says that most cattle imported from Cambodia are shipped to big cities like HCM City and adjacent areas.

"It is hard to manage the number of cattle in the area since people trade them as their assets all the time," Son says.

The southwest border area, especially Tri Ton and Tinh Bien Districts of An Giang Province, has the biggest market for smuggled cattle.

Most cattle transported to Viet Nam from Cambodia are bought at low prices from family farms unable to raise livestock due to a drought and lack of grass this year, according to Binh Co, a resident near the Tinh Bien border.

More and more people are lured by the high profit margins of VND200,000 – 250,000 (US$12.50-16.30) from smuggling an animal.

Smugglers usually drive small herds of cattle on foot or larger herds by boat past the border at night.

Others take advantage of the government’s policy on free goods exchange at border gates to import cattle.

Upon being discovered, smugglers tell border agents they had fed the herd in neighbouring fields and were driving them home, Binh says.

Smugglers began to expand operations to border areas like An Giang or Dong Thap Provinces – places with sporadic market management.

An official from Long An Province’s Animal Health Agency admits that the situation is out of control.

Animal Health Agencies do not have the right to hold cattle if they are healthy, which is an advantage for smugglers, says Duong Minh Phi, deputy director of Long An Province’s Animal Health Agency.

Given the current influx of imported cattle, Phi says he is not sure if all of them are really healthy. — VNS

Fuel smuggling over border continues

VNS
30-07-2008

MEKONG DELTA — Smuggling of fuel from Viet Nam over the Cambodian border continues despite the recent petrol price increase.

The fuel price in Cambodia increased to US$1.5 per litre, VND5,000 (US$0.3) higher than that in Viet Nam.

Most of the smuggling take place at night and sometimes during the day, usually by motorboat. Canvas covers hide the plastic containers that contain the fuel, police said.

In Kien Giang Province, some smugglers pour fuel in nylon bags and lay them onboard to transport them more conveniently.

During the flood season, smugglers often take advantage of the local terrain to escape the control of the anti-trafficking force.

Deputy PM quits Thai coalition

Suwit, second left, says he is leaving in protest at government policies [EPA]

Al Jazeera
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thailand's deputy Prime Minister has pulled his party out of the country's ruling coalition.

Suwit Khunkitti said his Puea Pandin Party was protesting against the misguided policies of the government, including the handling of an ongoing border dispute with Cambodia.

The move does not mean that the ruling coalition will be unable to govern, but the pullout is another blow to the struggling administration of Samak Sundarajev, the Thai prime minister.

Samak is facing daily demonstrations demanding his government resign with protesters claiming that the government is interfering with corruption charges against former Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Protesters have also accused the government of trying to change the military-backed constitution to cling to power. Samak has denied the allegations.

Commenting on the border dispute with Cambodia, Suwit said he was concerned about the "sovereignty of Thailand" but did not elaborate.

Both countries have stationed soldiers near the disputed Preah Vihear temple since July 15, although they agreed in principle on Monday to move the 800 Cambodian troops and 400 Thais stationed in the area.

Border tensions intensified earlier this month after Unesco, the United Nations' cultural body, approved a Cambodian application to have the 11th century temple designated a World Heritage Site.

Exports to Cambodia hit potholes in Mekong Delta

A steel shop in HCMC.

Thanhnien
July 30, 2008

Businesses have complained of the excessive cost of transporting export goods from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia because of the appalling condition of the roads in the Mekong Delta.

The excessive costs discourage domestic firms who want to expand their business into the neighboring country, they said.

Hoang Hai, a car driver who delivers goods from HCMC to Mekong Delta’s border provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang, said the road, Highway No. 80, was very rough.

It takes eight hours to drive 290 kilometers from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province, and 10-11 hours to Ha Tien border gate in Kien Giang Province, which is 340 kilometers, he said.

Vehicles on the highway can average 65-70 kilometers per hour so if the highway was better it would only take four hours to travel to Tinh Bien and five hours to Ha Tien.

Traffic is held up repeatedly by construction work along the highway, Hai said, adding many vehicles also got bogged in the worst sections.

Twelve bridges on Highway No. 80 are in danger of collapsing, restricting vehicles over 20 tons from using them, according to Road Management Zone No. 7.

The bridge problems hit exporters hardest putting transport fees for one ton of iron from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate up to VND700,000 (US$42), steel and iron exporter Hong Phuc Ltd.’s Nguyen Thien Chi said.

Trucking firms said they were cautious about delivering goods to Mekong Delta because the rough roads damage their trucks.

Drivers said they usually drove in fear that they’d hit a big pothole caused by last years flood, but the upgrade for No. 80 is still waiting for Ministry of Transportation’s instruction.
Canal hidden dangers

An official from a domestic steel exporter, Hoang Dung, said the volume of exported construction materials to Cambodia would increase when dredging was done on Vinh Te Canal, which leads to the Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province.

An Giang Province has begun a VND2 billion ($119,000) dredging project in the canal.

They expect to clear it by next month so vessels over 500 tons can use the waterway.

At present only barges of 250 tons and less can use it, because there are many submerged rocks and snags.

In addition canal loading fees of VND75,000 per ton ($4.50), push the cost of transport up, impacting export business’s competitiveness.

An investor, who wanted to be anonymous, has agreed to help the provincial authority build a port on the canal to speed up shipping.

An Giang Province Custom Office bureau director Le Viet Thai said infrastructure at border areas had improved at a snails pace over the past five years.

Thai said it was also time that the eight ton rated Huu Nghi Bridge on Vinh Te Canal was upgraded.

Election win fuels fears for Cambodian democracy

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The landslide election victory of Cambodia's ruling party puts the country under one party-rule and risks damaging its fragile democracy, rights groups said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's party claims it swept 90 of 123 seats in last weekend's parliamentary elections.

The result is expected to usher Hun Sen, who has ruled for 23 years, to a new 5-year term and give his party total domination of the lower house — a result that human rights groups are calling dangerous for democracy.

"We have long feared that the country was heading toward becoming a one-party rule," said Thun Saray, a prominent human rights activist and head of election monitoring group Comfrel.

"The election results are only confirming our fears. The power of the ruling party is now so great that no one can challenge it."

Cheam Yeap, a senior ruling party member, dismissed the criticism, saying his party is not a "dictatorship."

The ruling party will use its victory to strengthen, not weaken, democracy and the rule of law "to win more support and trust from the people."

Official results from the election are expected later this week. But few dispute the tally issued by the CPP, which appears to have cemented a two-thirds majority in the lower house and increased its presence from the 73 seats it held in the outgoing chamber.

Hun Sen's government has often been accused of corruption, human rights abuses, curtailing people's rights to peaceful protests and forcibly evicting poor citizens off their land so that it can be used for commercial development. The government has dismissed the accusations.

Independent Cambodian election monitoring groups say the opposition Sam Rainsy Party appears to have won 26 seats — a two-seat gain from the 2003 polls — and back the ruling party's tally of 90 for the ruling CPP.

Hun Sen has been at the center of Cambodian politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.

Sunday's voting was the fourth parliamentary election since the United Nations brokered a peace deal for the country in 1991, a process meant to end decades of civil unrest that included the 1975-79 genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, said Tuesday that the elections fell short of international standards because of biases in favor of the ruling party. But he said alleged vote irregularities would have to be on a very large scale to invalidate the result, which is that Hun Sen's party "clearly has a very large majority."

Doctor sees need, brings medical skills to impoverished region

Media Credit: Kaitlin Johnson
The Northern Light
7/29/08

Walking among the crowd that gathers daily outside the office at Children Surgical Centre there are some graphic sights. Children sitting in their mothers' arms display their empty eye sockets. Young men's burns bubble over with rancid pus. There are women wearing scarves to cover their melted faces; the acid victims.

Doctor James J. Gollogly strides through the crowd with impatient energy. He hollers at a Khmer nurse who hovers in his wake.

"Have you prepared the samples yet? They have to be sent to Belgium! This is very important now," he says with a smile fixed on his face. The more frustrated he gets, the wider his smile grows.

Gollogly - or Dr. Jim as everyone calls him - is founder, CEO and head surgeon of CSC, located outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Each day he and his team of local surgeons provide free treatment to impoverished Cambodians. Each year they save hundreds of lives and improve the lives of thousands.

CSC is an Alaskan non-governmental organization. Gollogly is an Alaskan doctor. He spent 20 years in Fairbanks, Alaska, teaching part time at UAF.

Gollogly decided to take a six month sabbatical to do volunteer work with the Red Cross in 1992 and was asked to come to Cambodia. Initially he rejected the request.

Cambodia was ravaged after years of political instability following first the American-Vietnam War and then the Khmer Rouge's genocidal communist regime in the late 70's. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted, they continued to terrorize the country in guerilla style warfare for the next decade. The country had only semi-stabilized recently, at the beginning of the 90's.

"I said; 'look guys, I'm British. I had nothing to do with your war. I don't have anything to do with cleaning up your mess.' When I said volunteer, I meant Africa," Gollogly said.

He reconsidered and went to Cambodia, although his first day there made him wish he hadn't.

While he was sitting bored in a meeting, people outside began to shout. Three land mine victims had arrived in the back of a trailer. One had lost part of an arm, the other had a head wound and a third looked fine but was obviously in shock. Gollogly was asked to operate immediately on the boy who had lost his arm. He amputated below the elbow and stabilized the boy.

It was noon so the local staff left for lunch. Before following, Gollogly decided to check on the other victims. The head wound boy had disappeared but the third was still lying in the trailer covered in blood. Shrapnel had punctured an artery and no one had noticed. Gollogoly tried to revive him, but the boy died.

Gollogly returned to the amputee. What he saw was shocking.

"There was no one around him. He was dead on the table," he said.

The boy had choked on his own vomit and died.

"I thought; 'what kind of hell hole is this?'" Gollogly said.

He spent the next six months performing surgeries and training local doctors. When he left however, there was no one to replace him and the local team fell out of practice. Cambodia was still in desperate need of qualified surgeons.

With the help of contacts he'd made during his time with the Red Cross, Gollogly began to conceptualize CSC. He returned to Cambodia in 1998 and opened the center.

At first CSC focused on treating land mine victims, however, as Gollogly saw need for other types of medical care, his center expanded.

CSC has grown into one of the most respected hospitals in Cambodia. Gollogly's team includes plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, and physiotherapists as well as frequent visiting specialists. Gollogly is the only orthopedic surgeon in Cambodia.

CSC is a bright point in Cambodian health care. It provides food and transportation to rural patients and is involved in many rural outreach programs. The staff is well trained and supervised by Gollogly.

One 5-year-old girl arrived at CSC with a large tumor growing from her face. The tumor had grown so large that it swallowed her face and Jachriel, the child, couldn't eat except through a tube. Her parents had already sold all their farmland at a much reduced price to pay for treatment at a government hospital. After their money had been bled dry, someone suggested they try CSC.

Gollogly authorized free chemotherapy for the girl and sought more advanced treatment in Hong Kong. After hospitals in Hong Kong determined that any attempt of surgery was too risky, Gollogly found room for the child at Cambodia Acid Survivor Charity - another of his clinics - where Jachriel can live out the rest of her life.

"She's 5 years old. She understands when people point at her and what they say about her. She pulls a blanket over her face. At CASC she can get some privacy," said Gollogly.

He employed Jachriel's father as a maintenance man at CSC. This gives the family a source of income and allows her mother to spend time with her.

Gollogly predicts Jachriel will not live long. The child asked to have her tube taken out so she can taste food while she's alive. Gollogly says that she will slowly starve to death. Her family is now impoverished as they have sold their home.

Many families share Jachriel's story, said Gollogly. They go to the government hospitals and loose everything they own and when money stops, so does treatment. Then they have no where to turn, except towards Dr. Jim.

Cambodian opposition supporters rally against election results

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (left)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — About 300 supporters of Cambodia's main opposition party rallied in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to protest the results of the weekend election and to demand a re-run of the poll.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party has claimed victory in the Sunday poll, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament, giving it more than a two-thirds majority.

"We cannot accept the results of the election. Please cancel the results of the election and hold a re-vote," opposition leader Sam Rainsy told the crowd gathered inside his party headquarters in the capital.

Sam Rainsy has estimated that one million out of 8.1 million registered voters were cut from the rolls, although European Union election observers have pegged that figure at 50,000.

"It is very unjust," Sam Rainsy said to the cheering crowds, adding that he will file complaints against National Election Committee (NEC) officials.

Dozens of police were deployed along the streets near Sam Rainsy Party headquarters to prevent a public demonstration. The party's deputy secretary general Mu Sochua stood at the entrance, shouting over a loudhailer that the election was "not free and unfair" and urging people to join the rally inside.

NEC secretary general Tep Nytha denied the opposition allegation that one million people had been denied a vote and said there was no law that permitted a re-run of the entire election.

"The case that one million people could not vote because their names had been disappeared from voting lists is not correct," he told AFP.

International monitors said Tuesday the election was flawed and did not meet key standards despite improvements in electoral processes.

EU monitor says Cambodian election biased in favor of ruling party

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: July 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's recent elections failed to meet international standards because of biases in favor of the country's ruling party, the European Union said Tuesday.

The criticism came the day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party claimed it had won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The results were expected to usher in a new term for the premier who has ruled the country for 23 years.

Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, said all aspects of organizing Sunday's polls were "dominated by the Cambodian People's Party," which allow "accusations of lack of impartiality to be made," he said.

Callanan said there was bias during the election campaigns, citing "a widespread use of state resources," including the use of government-registered vehicles by ruling party officials.

He also said the party dominated the media coverage "which was not consistent with international standard on free and equal access to the media."

But Callanan declined to characterize the election as unfair despite allegations of widespread vote rigging from smaller parties, including the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party. They have called on the international community to reject the results.

Tep Nitha, the election committee's secretary-general, declined to comment on the issue.

in a joint statement Monday, four small parties including Sam Rainsy, said Hun Sen's party won through "illegal and fraudulent practices." They cited the National Election Committee's alleged removal of tens of thousands of legitimate voters from electoral lists to prevent them from casting ballots for other parties.

They also accused the electoral body of acting as "a tool for the CPP to organize a sham election and present a facade of democracy."

Khieu Kanharith, the spokesman of the ruling party, dismissed the allegations of fraud.

Callanan said his team will release its final findings on the election in October.

The CPP has claimed a landslide victory with up to 91 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, which is the lower house of Parliament. Official results are expected in a few days.

Hun Sen has been at the center of Cambodian politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.

Sunday's voting was the fourth parliamentary election since the United Nations brokered a peace deal for the country in 1991, a process meant to end decades of civil unrest that included the 1975-79 genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun sen insists Thais must pull back first

By The Nation, Agencies
July 30, 2008

Army chief says withdrawal will take time; govts still trying diplomacy

Phnom Penh -Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen placed the ball firmly in Thailand's court over the Preah Vihear issue, saying it was up to Bangkok to decide on withdrawing troops from the border.

Speaking to reporters in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen indicated that Thailand would have to pull out first.

"For us, there is no problem at all. The issue is that it is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, [we are ready] any time," he said.

"The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to get a political decision from the government."

His comments came one day after Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag held talks on Monday in Siem Reap with a handful of top military officials from both countries.

The two countries agreed in principle to a redeployment of troops from the area near the 11thcentury Preah Vihear temple, where thousands of soldiers have been facing off for two weeks. After about 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to redeploy the troops.

Although the territorial dispute was not solved, the two sides agreed to continue to use "utmost restraint" to avoid an armed confrontation and to continue discussions on a bilateral basis.

Thailand's Army chief confirmed that any withdrawal from the border area would take time.

"The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand [on Monday] will help relieve tension and improve the situation," Anupong Paojinda said by phone.

"Reducing the troops at the border, however, needs an order from the government first."
But Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej sought to reassure the public, telling reporters: "The Foreign Ministry is talking to the military. Everything is fine."

"Both sides are convinced that the bilateral mechanism is still there for us to utilise," said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

Prior to the Siem Reap meeting, Cambodia had appealed to both Asean and the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the border row. More than 1,500 troops from the two countries have been dispatched to the area.

"We carry pens and pencils," said Tharit. "We cannot speak for those who carry guns and weapons."

But Tharit claimed the Foreign Ministry had received assurances from the Thai military, which has a tendency to act independently of the government in Thailand, that they would avoid a confrontation at all costs.

"They confirmed that they said the first gunshot will not be from the Thai side, and if there is a first gunshot they will not immediately respond but investigate the source first," said the Thai foreign ministry spokesman, who attended the Siem Reap meeting.

‘Cambodian troops ready to withdraw from Thai border’

Daily Times
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cambodian PM says Thai troops will have to pull out first

PHNOM PENH/BANGKOK: Cambodian troops are ready to withdraw from a disputed border area, but Thailand will have to pull out first, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

“For us, there is no problem at all. It is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, (we are ready) any time,” Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh, adding, “The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government.” His comments came one day after the two countries agreed to consider a redeployment of troops from the area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where thousands of soldiers have been facing off for two weeks. The soldiers have been mobilised since July 15 around a small patch of land near the temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the Cambodian jungle.

The ruins of the Khmer temple belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the surrounding territory. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his newly appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag held talks on Monday in Siem Reap with a handful of top military officials from both countries. After around 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to re-deploy troops. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia. Cambodia had asked the UN Security Council to take up the latest conflict over the temple, but suspended its request to allow the current talks to proceed. Both sides have toned down their rhetoric after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced concern about the conflict and called for a peaceful resolution.

Thailand: Meanwhile, Thailand said on Tuesday it might be weeks before it could re-deploy troops from the disputed border zone. The Thai army commander responsible for the border area confirmed that any withdrawal could be delayed. “The redeployment process takes time and it needs to pass a high-level process first,” Major General Kanok Netrakasana told reporters.

Still, both countries agreed that the 12-hour talks in Cambodia’s Siem Reap had served to defuse tension surrounding the border issue. “The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand will help relieve tension and improve the situation,” said army chief Anupong Paojinda, adding, “Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first.” afp

Cambodia, Thailand continue troop withdrawal talks

30/07/2008

Cambodia and Thailand have shown willingness to withdraw troops deployed along their disputed border.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen says his country's troops are ready to withdraw, but indicates Thailand will have to pull out first from the disputed patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

He says the problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government.

His comments came as a Thai foreign ministry official said the government in Bangkok may ask parliament for approval before withdrawing troops, which could delay the process by several weeks.

Thailand's army chief confirmed that any withdrawal from the border area would take time.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says the foreign ministry is talking to the military about the matter and everything is fine.

High-level talks on Monday discussed removing up to 1,500 soldiers from the temple area and ending the two-week long dispute.

Produced by Radio Australia and Australia Network

Quest for freedom and justice has no end

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years.

July 30, 2008

Nobody likes to be criticized, especially when criticism touches on national pride. Yet, it has been said, justified criticism provides room for improvement; unjustified criticism speaks volumes about its author's values and worth.

I am reminded that my recent columns on Cambodia "rattled" many, even though anyone can read much of a similar nature on the Internet. My former students of politics would recall my lectures on how existing freedoms, if not cherished and defended, are hard to regain. They should remember a Chinese proverb I often quoted, "Great souls have wills. Feeble ones have only wishes," and Edmund Burke's words, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," as I encouraged action.

I am not writing in this space to sell a political or ideological point of view, although I have my own political and ideological preferences and have expressed them. My intent is to share ideas and provoke thought, for that's how knowledge grows. If ideas and thoughts lead to positive action for society, that's not a bad thing.

Cambodia's July 27 national elections have ended. Some have applauded the outcome; others see the outcome in dark terms.

Eric Pape's "The Rule of Murderers and Thieves," in the July 23 Newsweek Web exclusive should give readers pause; Chhan D. Touch's July 24 "Why you should not vote CPP," (Premier Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party) on the Internet outlined three "simple reasons ... a Vietnamese puppet: personal gain, fear, and ignorance."

At the same time, the Thai-Cambodian conflict, which put two armies at a standoff over the ownership of the ancient Temple of Preah Vihear, awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, clouded the emotionally charged Cambodian election. Interestingly, the Singapore Straits Times reported, Singapore foreign minister George Yeo told a news conference after the Association of South-East Asian Nations' annual security meeting, "It was not a problem, even a few weeks ago. It suddenly became a problem." This, in itself, is a topic worth dissecting.

Like it or not, the flawed Cambodian elections put "elected" leaders in government to lead the country. While Albert Einstein's words should be remembered, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," we know that in most nation-states in the world the common goals of government are to maintain the country's independence and sovereignty (including Preah Vihear and Koh Tral for Cambodia); security (the order and the security for citizens); and economic and social well-being of all citizens (the promotion of individual and general welfare). How to get the newly elected leaders to achieve these goals?

Last week, I quoted Burma's dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who advised those feeling "hopeless and despairing: 'Don't just sit there. Do something.'"

"Change does not roll in on wheels of inevitability," civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. declared. Change "comes through continuous struggle. And so we must strengthen our back and work for our freedom," he told African-Americans. "A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." African-Americans' fight for change continues today.

There is a Khmer proverb that says, "Live with cow, sleep like cow; Live with parrot, fly like parrot." Such is the power and influence of the socialization that shapes and molds man's behavior, a process that begins at birth and ends only in death.

Being human, we all think. As with most things, however, it is the quality of the thought that matters. I have written about the Foundation of Critical Thinking that posits, "all thinking is not of the same quality," and the "quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought," and "the quality of everything we do is determined by the quality of our thinking."

"To think through," the Foundation advises, we need to "ask essential questions" on "what is necessary, relevant, and indispensable to a matter at hand."

"A mind with no questions is a mind that is not intellectually alive," asserts the Foundation.

I also wrote about Tim Hurson's book, "Think Better," that posits, "Every brain, regardless of its intelligence quotient (IQ) or creative quotient (CQ), can be taught to think better; to understand more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively." Thus, people can learn.

Hurson advises: even when an answer "seem(s) so clear, so obvious, so right," -- as there are Cambodians who think Premier Sen and the CPP's corruption and repressive rule destroy Cambodia -- we should not settle on these answers but "keep asking new questions ... resist the urge to answer, the urge to know ... (because those) who 'know' ... don't need to learn because they already have the answers.

This brings me back to Suu Kyi's call on people to develop a "questing mind" that not only questions but also seeks answers.

The quest for freedom and justice has no end.

A good start for Thai-Cambodian border talks

Editorial Desk
The Nation (Thailand)
30-07-2008


The latest round of talks between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear Temple was successful because the two sides agreed to continue to work for a solution. But it will take time. Granted, with the current situation in both countries it could be a long process, but as long as the two countries agree on the modus vivendi, it will help lower tensions along the border.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, on his inaugural mission, has done well in creating trust with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong. On a personal level, they are friends and have known each other for a long time. However, both foreign ministers will protect their national interests

Both sides will recall troops from the adjacent areas to the temple. This will be done discretely to ensure security along the volatile border. They also agreed to de-mine the areas. The sensitive issues of legality and sovereignty were not discussed. These can be picked up in the future.

Cambodia would like to push for a meeting at the UN if the current bilateral talk fails. But Thailand views the talks as an ongoing process which will require time and patience. Bangkok views the temple quarrel as a bilateral issue. Given the current state of Thai-Cambodian relations, it is not hard to foresee that both sides will need longer to deal with it.

With calm, tourists, both local and foreign, will return to the temple site. Thai and Cambodian vendors, who have both benefited from tourism, must cooperate to ensure that no fighting or any form of violence occurs which could spark armed intervention. At the moment, there are more Cambodian stands set up in the overlapping area, so everyone needs to be sensible in solving perceived local imbalances.

As long as the potential for armed conflict has been reduced, the border can be managed agreeably by both sides. More dialogue is pivotal, and when the political climate improves, maybe something more positive will emerge from this episode.

International election monitors say Cambodia poll 'flawed'

EU monitors outside a polling station during Sunday's election. [Radio Australia]

Radio Australia

International election monitors in Cambodia say despite improvements in processes the country's recent national election was flawed and did not meet key standards.

A preliminary report by 130 European Union election monitors the poll was marred by the ruling Cambodian People's Party domination of media coverage.

Also the improper deletion of people from registration lists so they could not vote, and other irregularities.

Martin Callanan, who led the EU observers says ultimately, it's up to the Cambodian people to accept or reject the results, adding that the EU will issue a more detailed report with recommendations in October.

He says the campaign was generally conducted in a more peaceful and open environment compared to previous elections.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted lower violence from previous elections but says it observed threats, intimidation and inducements directed against political activists to get them to change parties.

A partial count by Cambodian electoral authorities shows Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party won 59.6 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, compared with nearly 21 percent for the nearest rival, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Thailand defensive as Cambodia acts tough

The Star Online
Wednesday July 30, 2008

By BUNN NAGARA

New Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag was appointed to his post on Saturday, took his oath of office on Sunday, and was in urgent talks in Cambodia by Monday.

Bangkok is scrambling to make up for lost time, after its former foreign minister Noppadon Patttama seemed as indifferent to Thai interests as Phnom Penh was consistently focused over the disputed 11th-century Preah Vihear Hindu temple site.

In 1962, the World Court (ICJ) ruled that the temple stood on Cambodian soil, and Cambodia unilaterally filed for World Heritage List status. In May this year, Thailand agreed to that only if Cambodia’s filing excluded the disputed area around the temple.

But Noppadon and his Cabinet colleagues had apparently forgotten that access to the temple was on Thai territory. Different historical maps and border demarcations further complicated the plot.

Thai opposition critics chastised Noppadon, arguing that filing for world heritage status should have been a joint effort by both countries. Meanwhile Cambodia raised the nationalist stakes, applying for Asean and the UN Security Council to intervene, which nicely helped the governing party win last Sunday’s election with an increased majority.

Phnom Penh’s high-profile activism contrasts sharply with Bangkok’s sedate approach. Both countries had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000, after which Cambodia let its soldiers and citizens enter the disputed area.

Earlier this month Unesco declared the area a World Heritage Site, pouring more attention on it. Thailand moved troops into the area it considers in dispute but which Cambodia interprets as its own.

Three Thai protesters got into the fray, military forces on both sides accumulated at the border, tensions soared, Thailand’s Constitutional Court annulled an earlier joint communique and Noppadon had to quit. His successor moved in swiftly, and Tej is seen as Thailand’s best hope.

The new minister is a royal adviser as a Privy Council member, after retirement as an experienced and respected career diplomat with no personal political agenda to distract him. He also happens to be chairman of the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Association.

Yet his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong is no pushover, has been a foreign minister for decades and is known to be a tough negotiator. On a personal level, both Hor and Tej are known to have worked alongside each other as ambassadors to France in the mid-1990s.

Earlier talks between Thai Supreme Commander Gen Boonsang Niempradit and Cambodia’s deputy premier Gen Tea Banh had already proved fruitless. The latest talks that began the week in Siem Reap started as a volatile mix of hope and anxiety.

They began on Monday morning, followed by a lull in the afternoon, then continued late into the night for a 12-hour stretch. The three major agenda items were a military pullout from the site, relocation of citizens in the area, and the disputed 4.6sq km territory itself.

By yesterday, both negotiating teams had agreed to advise their governments to “adjust” their respective troop levels from about 2,500 massed in the area. This would be done after official approval from both governments.

But fresh from an election win, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thailand would need to pull its troops out first. The Thai government, already in a weakened state, said this could take weeks since the Cabinet might first have to refer it to Parliament.

Further talks would focus on border demarcation and the job of clearing landmines in the disputed area. Both sides also agreed to establish a joint task force for the larger issues.

The decades-long dispute could have been more than a storm in the proverbial teacup, as the risk of spillage and escalation can be unpredictable. A reliable gauge of political temperament is business sentiment, and traders and investors have not been alarmed.

Politically, both countries know they stand to lose if the dispute drags on and extremists on both sides are allowed free rein. After initial nationalist spasms are allowed to work themselves out and subside, diplomacy would regain the initiative.

Thailand 'undecided' on troop withdrawal from Cambodian border

ABC News
By South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy

Thailand's Government has not yet decided on a timetable to withdraw troops from the disputed part of the border with Cambodia.

Tensions flared up over a Hindu temple and several thousand Thai and Cambodian troops have been staking out the area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple for the past few weeks.

Yesterday the foreign ministers of both countries agreed to pursue a troop withdrawal.

The situation became heated this month when Cambodia succeeded in getting world heritage listing for the Hindu temple, which is surrounded by disputed territory.

Thailand had initially supported the bid but was forced to withdraw after a public outcry.

During a Cabinet meeting today the Government says it will talk to the country's senior military leaders about when and how to scale back the military presence.

Cambodia has not yet indicated when it will remove its soldiers from the area.

EU criticises Cambodia election

EU monitors said thousands of people were prevented from voting

Tuesday, 29 July 2008
By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Monitors from the European Union say Cambodia's recent general election fell short of international standards.

They said the governing party dominated the media and the National Election Committee (NEC), and tens of thousands of people were disenfranchised.

But they also praised the smooth running of what was described as a "technically good" election.
The EU observers were among 17,000 local and international monitors who observed the election.

While their findings were a mixed bag, there was certainly more criticism than praise.

The key issue was impartiality and the role of the governing Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Large majority

The EU team said the CPP had made "consistent and widespread" use of state resources for its own campaigning efforts.

The party dominated media coverage to an unacceptable degree, and the presence of officials connected to the CPP on the NEC compromised that institution's independence.

The monitors said the NEC had disenfranchised 50,000 registered voters by allowing their names to be removed from the electoral roll.

But the EU's chief observer, Martin Callanan, said that had not affected the result of the election.
"Under the provisional results that have been published, the CPP clearly has a very large majority," he said.

"Therefore any irregularities which were proved would have to be on a very large scale in order to invalidate that result.''

The opposition parties beg to differ.

Four of them have rejected the provisional results, which give the CPP an overall majority.

They claim that hundreds of thousands of their supporters were unable to vote and that similar numbers of ineligible people were allowed to cast ballots.

Cambodia, Thailand reluctant to act in border standoff

Graphic on the situation at the Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodian soldiers sit at the Preah Vihear temple

Thai soldiers sit near a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple

BANGKOK (AFP) — Cambodia and Thailand both signalled their willingness Tuesday to stand down troops amassed along their disputed border, but neither showed any immediate signs of making the first move.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that his country's troops were ready to withdraw, but indicated that Thailand would have to pull out first from the disputed patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

"For us, there is no problem at all. The issue is that it is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, (we are ready) any time," Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh.

"The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government," he said.

His comments came as a Thai foreign ministry official said the government in Bangkok may ask parliament for approval before withdrawing troops, which could delay the process by several weeks.

"Both countries need to pass their domestic legitimacy processes," ministry spokesman Tharit Charunvat told AFP.

Thailand's army chief confirmed that any withdrawal from the border area would take time.

"The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand (on Monday) will help relieve tension and improve the situation," Anupong Paojinda told AFP by phone.

"Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first."

But Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej sought to reassure the public, telling reporters: "The foreign ministry is talking to the military. Everything is fine."

The current uncertainty follows high-level talks on Monday aimed at removing up to 1,500 soldiers from the temple area and ending the two-week long dispute.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met with his newly-appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag in the northeast Cambodian town Siem Reap.

After about 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to redeploy the troops from the area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, a decision which eased tensions on the border.

"The situation is now a little bit better than in past days. Soldiers keep their weapons in one place and are walking around," said Major General Srey Dik, commander of Cambodian forces in the disputed area.

"We hope that soon the troops from both sides will withdraw from the area," he added.

The ruins of the Khmer temple belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the surrounding territory.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but surrounding land remains in dispute.

Cambodia had asked the United Nations Security Council to take up the latest conflict over the temple but suspended its request to allow the current talks to proceed.

The latest conflict has inflamed nationalist sentiment in both countries. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen's strong stance on the temple helped him win general elections on Sunday.

In Thailand, embattled premier Samak is threatened by nationalist protesters who have made the temple a core issue in calling for his resignation.

Both sides have toned down their rhetoric after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced concern about the conflict and called for a peaceful resolution.

National Election Committee Announced that the Election Was Fair, but Civil Society Organizations and Party Representatives Claim It Was Not

Posted on 30 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 571

“The fourth term election day passed, but what is left are irregularities during the election day, leading to the accusation that the election was not fair. As for the National Election Committee [NEC], it announced that the election proceeded freely and fairly, and that there were no significant problems disturbing the election.

“Mr. Mao Sophearith, a member of the NEC, made some general announcements about the election day in a press conference in the afternoon of 27 July 2008, one hour after the election stations had closed, that all election stations had been operational, although it was raining and windy in Koh Kong and in Sihanoukville. There were problems with some ballots, because one election office had dropped the ballots into water in Prey Veng, and the ballots of two election stations in Poipet were not usable, but they were substituted in time. As for security, there was no problem.

“Mr. Mao Sophearith added that there were some irregularities, such as the irregular issuing of Forms 1018, and names missing from voter lists, but these problems happened only in Phnom Penh, there were no such problems in other provinces, he said.

“When asked about the problem that some parties had raised, that for this election tens of thousands of voters had been omitted from the voter lists, Mr. Tep Nitha, the secretary-general of the NEC, responded that during the elimination campaign in 2006, the NEC had eliminated 585,723 names countrywide, and the NEC had announced the elimination of names to clean the list publicly and broadly, and there were monitors from the political parties and from civil society organizations involved.

“Many people said about these irregularities in the election, that they had registered very correctly, some asserted that they had voted two or three times in past elections, but now their names were not found in the voter lists, though they had not changed their place of residence; but the names of some others who had died already, were still on the voter lists.

“A person in Boeng Tumpun said that only one of the four members of their family was on the voter list - the names of the other three could not be found. An old woman said that she had voted during former elections already three times, and she had never changed her residence to any other place, but in this term, she could not find her name; then, she had to go back home with disappointment.

“A man rode on a motorbike to many election offices, but he could not find his name. He just could not believe this, so he decided to ride on his motorbike back to his home, and then returned on foot to many election offices to find his name, but he still could not find it. He said he regretted it very much that he could not vote because his name could not be found. He still cannot imagine how his name can be missing, because he has already voted there times in past elections, and he even had checked and had found his name clearly on the list before the election day.

“Different sources reported that in addition to the aforementioned people, many other people raised similar questions, and some people walked repeatedly to the election stations to find their names, because they could not believing that their names were lost.

“Unofficial sources reported that alone in Chak Angrae Kraom, in Boeng Tumpun, and in Stung Meanchey, tens of thousands of names were missing on the lists.

“Ms. Pong Chiv Kek [Dr. Kek Galabru], the director of LICADHO, said that if it is true that many names were missing, the election was not fair.

“Mr. Thun Saray, the president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections’ Board of Directors [COMFREL], mentioned in a press conference at about 7:00 p.m. of 27 July 2008 that names were missing mainly in Phnom Penh. ‘Therefore, we have not estimated the definite number of voters who could not vote.’ However, Mr. Thun Saray stressed that during the elimination of names to clean the voters’ lists, COMFREL had already voiced their concern, because COMFREL had found that approximately 50,000 to 60,000 people’s names had been omitted incorrectly.

“An announcement about preliminary results showed the following:

“On the election day of 27 July 2008, there were serious problems because many voters could not find their election stations, or their names on the lists. Such cases happened in almost all provinces and cities. These irregularities will affect the results of the election, as many people could not vote; though there are many people who could vote, but there are problems as a result of the elimination of voters from the lists, and of the relocation of election stations in some big provinces and cities, such as in Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey, and Kompong Cham, especially in the following areas of Phnom Penh: in Tonle Basak [Dey Krahom and 'Building Block' communities, where there had been evictions and relocations], and in Boeng Tumpun.

“Mr. Thun Saray, the president of the board of COMFREL and the director of ADHOC, said, ‘Voters’ lists problems, that many names of voters were missing, that voters did not have information about voting stations (they had not receive the voters’ information papers), misunderstanding among voters about the purpose of voters’ information papers, or they had not received information papers, was the result of technical procedures as well as of political reasons. Mr. Thun Saray added, ‘There is strong disappointment about the voters’ lists problems, with the missing voters’ names, and with voters who did not get get the voters’ information papers; all this led to the decline in the number of voters [to only about 70% of the registered voters, less than during the election in 2003].’

“Mr. Kumaoka Michiya [熊岡路矢], co-chairperson of the People’s Forum on Cambodia Japan [PEFOCJ – active since 1993 – more information is here – カンボジア市民フォーラム – only in Japanese], said that he ‘was disappointed that the voter listing systems was still not reformed.’

“Civil servants and representatives of the local authorities were often present at election stations like in previous years, affecting the decisions of citizens to choose their parliamentarians.

“The issues related to Form 1018, to be provided as identification to voters, still continued into the election day, like in Mondolkiri, although the instruction by the NEC allowed only to issue this form not later than 5:30 p.m. of Saturday, 26 July 2008.

“COMFREL would like to highly appreciate the work of the NEC and of the Armed Forces regarding the election - they worked hard on the election day to process everything peacefully, they prevented the sale of alcohol on the White Day (26 July 2008), and they intervened effectively to prevent the rising of the price of transportation by taxis (to ease the financial burden of citizens traveling to their home towns and villages to vote).

“However, some parties provided transportation to voters, workers from Phnom Penh, to go to other provinces on the White Day, and to cities such as Svay Rieng and Kompong Cham. Political parties also distributed presents to voters in Champei village, Angkor Chey commune of Kampot, and in Kompong Rou and Kompong Trabaek districts in Prey Veng.

“Also, the Armed Forces were sent by the Ministry of Information to stop the broadcasts of Radio Moha Nokor, FM 93.5 MHz, at night (at around 11:00 p.m. of 26 July 2008), without any related documentation from this ministry until the morning of 27 July 2008, when the Ministry of Information announced to revoke the license of this radio station, stating as the reason that this radio station had disregarded the instruction of the Ministry of Information, and the guiding principles of the NEC, which had asked the Ministry of Information to intervene. Mr. Kol Panha [the director of COMFREL] said, ‘The implementation of legislation to punish any media who violate the laws, the procedures, and the guiding principles of the NEC was not handled fairly, according to the law.’

“COMFREL primarily has found some irregularities such as the following:

White Day [26 July 2008]

-An activist of the Cambodian People’s Party was murdered in Siem Reap.

-A political party activist was intimidated in Kampot.

-There were four cases of distributions of presents in Champei commune, Angkor Chey district, Kampot, and in Svay Rieng.

Election and Ballot Counting Day [27 July 2008]

-A Human Rights Party activist was murdered in Kandal.

Violation of Procedures

-Local authorities, village chiefs, and commune chiefs, were present near election stations to observe voters, making them afraid; this happened in almost all election stations in Labansiek of Ratanakiri, Kratie, Phnom Penh, Prey Veng, Kompong Speu, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, and Svay Rieng.

-Voters’ names were missing (the voters came to the election stations, but they could not find their names) in Boeng Tumpun for more than 30% of the voters (of a total of about 10,000 voters), about 50% in the Tonle Basak district and the Dey Krahom community, about 20% to 30% in the Stung Meanchey School [the schools serving as election stations], and in the Chak Angrae Kraom School of Chak Angrae Kraom district, Boeng Reang district, Boeng Trabaek School, Tuek L’ak, Kouk commune, Dambae of Kompong Cham, Traeng Trayueng commune, Phnom Sruoch of Kompong Speu, Daem Mien commune, Takhmao of Kandal, Ou Ambel commune, Serei Saophoan of Banteay Meanchey (Prohuot Primary School), Kompong Chhnang, Pailin, Oddar Meanchey, Kandal, and Battambang.

-There were cases that local authorities and village and commune chiefs continued to create Form 1018 identification documents on the election day in Labansiek, commune and district of Ratanakiri, Prek Pnov commune, Ponhea Lueu district of Kompong Cham, Sihanoukville, Kompong Speu, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, and Phnom Penh.

-There were at least 12 cases of vote buying by giving money to voters, or promising to give money to some if they do not go to vote, which happened in Khvav commune, Traeng district of Takeo, Kompong Thom, Stung Treng, Kompong Rou commune of Prey Veng, Kompong Chhnang, and Svay Rieng.

-There were at least two cases where cars with sign of the Cambodian People’s Party were driving up and down repeatedly in front of election stations in Pailin and in Kandal.

-There were cases where political parties transported citizens to vote in Sampov Lun commune and district of Battambang (Office Number 0722), Labansiek of Ratanakiri, Svay Rieng, and Oddar Meanchey.

-There were cases that the manager of a restaurant and hotel in Phnom Penh prohibited about 60% of 40 employees to vote.

-There are five cases known where voters voted instead of another person, in Sralau commune, Malai district of Banteay Meanchey, Phsar Daeum Thkov, Kompong Cham, and Svay Rieng.

-There were cases that thousands of voters as groups wore campaign T-shirts in Takeo.

-There were four cases where voters wore police and soldier’s uniforms into the election station at the Department of Culture of Ratanakiri, in Takeo, and in Phnom Penh.

-There was a case that a person went to the secret voting booth to talk to a voter.

-There is one case of taking back a voters list from observers in Takeo.

-There was one case that an office was closed during lunchtime in Russey Keo district.

-There were 10 cases where voters could vote because they had just the voter information papers and their party member identification.

-There was one case where one person was able to vote twice in Phnom Penh.

-There was the case that observers were not allowed to go into the Chroy Ambel election station in Chambak, Kratie.”

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3371, 29.7.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Tuesday, 29 July 2008

New Government Could Still Face Deadlock


The Cambodian People's Party claims to have won 90 parliamentary seats, but analysts say a functional National Assembly must be agreed to by all.
By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Phnom Penh and Washington
29 July 2008

The ruling party may have won a sweeping victory Sunday, but analysts say the government could still face a political crisis.

Cambodia has adopted a system of simple majority, or 63 National Assembly seats, for the formation of a government, a number of seats the ruling Cambodian People's Party appears to have won by a wide margin.

But analysts said that even the 90 seats claimed by the CPP after Sunday's election may not avert a deadlock, as the Cambodian constitution requires all National Assembly members to swear in following an election.

If the roughly 33 elected parliamentarians from four non-ruling parties refuse to be sworn in within the next 60 days, the Cambodian government will face a post-election crisis.

"According to the constitution, the National Assembly can be created if all lawmakers participate. It is not difficult to create a government," said Chhim Phal Vorun, an expert in constitutional law. "But the question is to make a functioning National Assembly, because we have to set up a structure in which all members elected, 123, can go to work."

Once the National Assembly is functioning, it can vote to create the new government, resolving a deadlock, he said.

"But if other parties do not participate in the process, the CPP alone cannot make a functional National Assembly," he said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday the question was now whether the four main parties with seats in government will demand another round of elections.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the parties were now working together to demand another round. Without a new election, the parties will not accept the result of Sunday's polls, he said.

"The only one way to avoid a crisis is to reorganize an election throughout the country," Sam Rainsy said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday, however, the CPP can run a government and National Assembly on its own, if the other parties refuse to have their members sworn in.

"If they aren't sworn in, they will not have parliamentary immunity," he said without elaborating. "So they are not lawmakers by law, and in 60 days the National Assembly will open the session. So each party must think for themselves, starting now, whether they want to participate or not."

Members of the four parties planned to meet Wednesday.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha said there was no law for a second round elections. Parties can only request a recasting of ballots in stations where they can prove irregularities.

Even if a government were to go ahead, Sam Rainsy said his party, which won as many as 27 seats Sunday, would maintain a strong opposition voice in the National Assembly.

"There is enough voice to pressure the government to do a better job," he said. "We will go to the seat and serve the interests of voters by not giving up all the results we received, even though it was fraudulent."

Cambodia Awaits Thai Withdrawal of Troops

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Cambodia
29 July 2008

Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Sarita Nuch, click here (267 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Sarita Nuch, click here (267 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Heng Reaksmey, click here (1.05 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Heng Reaksmey, click here (1.05 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Vong Dara, click here (1.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio on Preah Vihear, by Vong Dara, click here (1.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodian troops have not moved away from the border, and will not, until Thailand withdraws its troops, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.

Hun Sen's comment follow a meeting between the Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers Monday that yielded little results in the two-week military standoff between the neighbors.

Both sides have agreed that a joint border committee should meet as soon as possible to discuss demarcation and surveys of the disputed border.

Region 4 Deputy Commander Noun Nov told VOA Khmer Tuesday 18 unarmed Thai troops had crossed the Cambodian border Tuesday, similar to the crossing of 12 unarmed troops last week, looking for a border demarcation post.

Fair Elections, With Irregularities: Observers

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Cambodia and Washington
29 July 2008

Khmer audio on EU, Japan observers, by Seng Ratana, click here (805 KB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio on EU, Japan observers, by Seng Ratana, click here (805 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio on Nicfec monitoring, by Chun Sakada, click here (1.04 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio on Nicfec monitoring, by Chun Sakada, click here (1.04 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio on Human Rights warnings, by Taing Sarada, click here (950 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio on Human Rights warnings, by Taing Sarada, click here (950 KB) - Listen (MP3) Khmer audio on International Reactions, by Taing Sarada, click here (1.04 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio on International Reactions, by Taing Sarada, click here (1.04 MB) - Listen (MP3)

International monitors, observers and rights groups stopped short of calling Sunday's polls unfree or unfair this week, though at least one mission said the parliamentary election did not meet international standards.

Japan's monitoring mission supported the election as credible, while EU observers said many irregularities, including intimidation, vote-buying and unfair use of the media by the ruling party marred the election standards.

"The [Japanese] mission members witnessed no violent activities, intimidation or irregularities that may undermine the overall credibility of the election," the Japanese Embassy said in a statement.
"The Mission considers that the 2008 National Assembly election has shown[n] an impression internally and externally for its democratic advancement in the Kingdom of Cambodia."

Irregularities took place ahead of and on Election Day, said Martin Callanan, chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission. The CPP used state resources and government property to campaign and swayed voters with money and gifts, he said.

Election booths allowed the use of unauthorized identification forms, and about 50,000 voter names were omitted from registries, he told VOA Khmer.

Asked whether the elections were free and fair, Callanan said he had no role in that decision, which was up to the Cambodian people to decide.

Voters turned out in a "peaceful and orderly way" on Sunday, Callanan added in a statement. "It is disappointing that this commitment was not reflected in the overall electoral process, which fell short of a number of key international standards."

The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia said Tuesday the election had been "administered well and largely free of intimidation and violence."

But the election was also "marred" by a number of irregularities, including the omission of a "significant" number of voter names for registries.

In sample observations of 378 polling stations, the group said, at least a quarter of them "reported more than five cases of voters who had proper identity documents but could not find their names on the voters list."

"Since many voters who could not find their names on the list did not bother to enter the polling station, this figure likely under-represents the true scale of the problem," Nicfec said.

A US spokesman said that while their appeared to be "some irregularities," the "vast majority" of Cambodians were able to express their will.

"Of course we are concerned about the irregularities that were spoken out today by some of the parties and right now we are coordinating with the impartial and neutral observers from the embassy and from the other international observing of another country to see if can understand what those were,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told VOA Khmer.

"We are aware that some political parties have raised questions about the electoral process, and it appears that there were some irregularities which prevented some Cambodians from expressing their will, although the vast majority was able to do so," Johnson added in an e-mail. "There are existing mechanisms by which these parties can address their concerns and we encourage them to work within this framework. However, we remain concerned about the irregularities and are coordinating with Embassy and other neutral observers to further our understanding of them."

Mar Sophal said, chief of monitoring for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said around 60,000 voter names were omitted from voter registries.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha said 58,500 names were deleted from voter registries ahead of the elections, but that number had been exaggerated by some.

"If they say there are 2 million names missing, it could be an exaggerated number from a political party or NGOs," he said.

Ahead of the elections, Human Rights Watch had cautioned observers to monitor the elections carefully.

Cambodia had a "real history" of Election-Day problems, as well as irregularities ahead of the polls, Sophie Richardson, an advocacy director for the group based in Washington, told VOA Khmer Friday.

Ahead of the elections, monitors noted that the campaign period had seen seven murders and 56 cases of physical abuse.

The UN's rights office issued a statement Tuesday claiming it found "no credible evidence" of political motivation in the killings.

No Re-Vote Likely: Election Official

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
29 July 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (7.29 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 July 2008 (7.29 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Cambodian People's Party apparent election sweep will not likely be contested by a second round of voting, despite calls from the opposition party and others that the election was tainted, an election official said Monday.

"There is not a possibility of having a re-vote unless you have particular evidence to prove irregularities," Heu Rong, head of the National Election Committee's operations department, said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Four main parties have alleged irregularities in nearly every province, including the omission of thousands of voter names from registries, intimidation and vote-rigging.

"Voters' names were deleted, and names were missing from the list," said Mar Sophal, monitoring chief for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. "Right now we can't evaluate the election process. We'll wait and see if the NEC tackles the issues, such as complaints from parties, first."

Heu Rong said the NEC was investigating the allegations, but they had not received official complaints yet at the national level. Some complaints may still be held at the commune or provincial levels, he added.

Cambodia and Thailand to pull back 1,200 troops from Preah Vihear


AsiaNews.it
07/29/2008


CAMBODIA – THAILAND

No results come from a day of talks; a solution seems faraway. Troop reduction is a good step, but if impasse persists the United Nations might step in.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Cambodia and Thailand agreed after 12 hours of tense talks on Monday to pull back 1,200 troops stationed near the Preah Vihear temple, but failed to end the long-running border dispute.

“It was a successful meeting," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told a press conference, saying discussions between the ministers were cordial. “We are [. . .] trying to solve the problem peacefully.”

“This agreement should be without prejudice against the rights of both sides,” he said, keeping channels of communication open.

Experts note that talks were made more difficult by the presence of newly-appointed Thai Foreign Minister Taj Bunnag who lacks the necessary experience and capacity to talk with seasoned veteran Cambodian foreign minister, who has held his post for decades.

Speaking to the press the Thai minister said that he would report on the meeting with the Thai cabinet.

Both countries claim an area that contains the Preah Vihear temple along their border where they deployed troops.

For Cambodia there is no issue since the United Nations’ International Court of Justice ruled that the temple belonged to it.

Thailand would like to see the area come under joint control, stressing that this would better respect the area’s status as a World Heritage Site that it received from UNESCO.

Bangkok is under pressure from nationalists.

Phnom Penh in pushing for United Nations mediation if bilateral talks fail.

Cambodia's poll 'did not meet key international standards'

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Despite improvements in electoral processes, Cambodia's recent election was flawed and did not meet key standards, international monitors said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 59.6 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, compared with nearly 21 percent for the nearest rival, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, according to a partial count by Cambodian electoral authorities.

But the poll was marred by the CPP's domination of media coverage, the improper deletion of people from registration lists so they could not vote, and other irregularities, said a preliminary report by 130 European Union election monitors.

"While the campaign was generally conducted in a more peaceful and open environment compared to previous elections, the 2008 National Assembly Elections have fallen short of a number of key international standards for democratic elections," said Martin Callanan, who led the EU observers.

"Ultimately, it's up to the Cambodian people to accept or reject the results," Callanan said, adding that the EU would issue a more detailed report with recommendations in October.

The Asian Network For Free Elections (ANFREL) called for an investigation and "a serious penalty" for manipulation of the vote.

"The election was maybe free, but not fair at all," said Somsri Hananuntasuk, head of ANFREL's election monitoring mission to Cambodia.

The main problem was people being deleted from voter lists, while there also needed to be limits on campaign financing and the ruling party's control of media, she said.

The EU calculated that 50,000 voters were left off rolls, but Callanan said that would not have greatly affected the election since early results show a large majority for the CPP.

"Any irregularities that were proved would clearly have to be on a very large scale in order to invalidate that result," he said.

However, the four minority parties rejected the outcome, accusing the CPP of fiddling with the voter rolls to ensure their victory.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy estimated that one million out of 8.1 million registered voters had been cut from the rolls. He said his party members observed 50 to 100 people at each of the country's 15,000 polling stations had been unable to vote.

"The large-scale irregularities here can change the result of the election. I'm disappointed that such a so-called expert could make such a mistake," Sam Rainsy told AFP Tuesday outside the EU's press conference.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted lower violence from previous elections but said in a Tuesday statement it had observed "threats, intimidation and inducements directed against political activists" to get them to change parties.

The CPP has claimed victory, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament, giving them more than a two-thirds majority.

Local rights groups have expressed concern that if the CPP did secure a majority there would be fewer checks and balances in the country's fledgling democracy.

At 55, Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 23 years and has vowed to remain in power until he is 90. He had been widely tipped to win amid a booming economy and nationalist sentiment sparked by a border feud with Thailand.

#23 - News : Preah Vihear - 29.07.2008

#22 - News : Preah Vihear - 28.07.2008

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#20 - News : Preah Vihear - 27.07.2008

#19 - News : Elections - 27.07.2008