Saturday, 2 August 2008
Author : DPA
- Thailand canceled fruit exports this weekend to neighbouring Cambodia in the latest fallout over joint claims to an ancient Hindu temple on their borders that had threatened to turn into a military conflict. Thailand's Department of Export Promotion canceled plans to ship more than 10 tons of longan, a fruit grown in northern Thailand, to sell in two malls in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the government-run Thai News Agency reported Saturday.
The Thailand Exhibition scheduled for later in the month with more than 200 producers planning to show products in Phnom Penh had already been canceled, the DEP said.
A strong sentiment among Cambodians against Thai products was the reason, TNA reported.
Last Monday Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong met to defuse an escalating border spat over joint claims to portions of the Preah Vihear temple perched on their common border.
At the meeting the two sides agreed to redeploy more than 2,000 troops that had been sent to the border between Si Sa Khet and Preah Vihear provinces in Thailand and Cambodia, respectively. The temple is situated about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.
Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Hindu temple built on a 525-metre- high cliff on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai- Cambodian border, has been the cause of a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia for decades.
In 1962, the two countries agreed to settle joint claims to the temple at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Cambodia won, but the court stopped short of defining the border in the area.
Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.
The ancient spat got a fresh start in July when UNESCO agreed to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site. The inscription excluded the 4.6 square kilometres of disputed territory, and Thailand protested the listing.
The spat escalated from a diplomatic row to a potential military conflict in mid-July when three Thais were detained for entering the disputed temple territory.
Although the threesome were quickly released, troops were called in from both sides to protect their border.
EVERETT -- Some people just jump right in.
That's what MiChelle Moore and Van Phan did.
Early Friday morning, the two Everett nurses boarded a plane together and headed to Cambodia.
For Moore and Pham, getting on the plane was nothing short of a miracle. Until Wednesday, neither woman knew she was going to the southeastern Asian country.
But then, miracles are the point.
Phan and Moore were headed to Cambodia as part of a missions team made up of 32 medical professionals and support staff that New Life Foursquare Church was sending to Pursat, Cambodia. The team plans to work at a medical outreach clinic from Monday to Aug. 15.
Moore, who had never traveled overseas, didn't get her passport until 11 a.m. Wednesday. Somehow, she was able to get the document at the Seattle Passport Agency at the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle within a day; the process can sometimes take weeks.
Both women also managed to get their airline tickets -- the trip cost $3,000 apiece -- within days of the departure date.
It was a trip where everything fell into place, Moore said.
This time she couldn't back out.
"I thought about it last year but I don't do hot, I don't do bugs and I don't do planes," she said.
So she didn't go.
"I felt really called last year and I was really disappointed that I backed out," Moore said.
So after finding out about the trip on Sunday, Moore, 42, a registered nurse, had all her shots, a passport and plane tickets -- all within a few days.
"I was so scared," she said. "I have never felt the presence of God in such a tangible way. Honestly when I got off the phone with Rick, I thought, 'No way.' I was so scared, so I said, 'OK, God, seriously it's going to have to be so stinking easy for me -- truly, God.'
"Then, Rick Sawczuk, New Life's outreach pastor, and the trip's team leader, called to tell her she was on the same flight as the rest of the team. That sealed the deal.
About the bugs? On Thursday afternoon, Moore was dipping the clothes she planned to take in a mosquito repellent, hoping they'd dry in time for the trip.
Phan, 68, decided to go on the missions trip after Moore called her to tell her she was going. Phan and Moore had worked together at Physicians Eye Center in Everett.
Phan spent the first 17 years of her life in Cambodia. Now, she'll celebrate her 69th birthday there. Thirty-three years ago, Phan escaped to Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and eventually ended up in America, where she raised her five daughters alone. Her husband was murdered by the communists the night her family was trying to leave the country. At the time, her oldest child was 14, her youngest just 20 months, Phan said.
"I'm Christian," Phan said. "I told MiChelle when my kids can take care of themselves, I'll go help others."Phan went to the bank on Thursday to have money changed into small bills so she could buy items from the children she knew she would see on the streets, she said.
Fred Hawley, a medical doctor in private practice in Arlington, is going on the trip. Now that his two children are older, he said, it's time.
Hawley expects to be treating myriad conditions, he said.
"I've spoken at length with others. You don't know exactly what you'll treat before you go," he said from his office in Arlington on Thursday. "Infections and wounds are common problems -- and injuries."
Hawley said he expects to treat malaria and other illnesses.
When the team arrives in Pursat, at the tent city that has been temporarily set up for the two-week clinic, they will be working with members of Warm Blankets International and Foursquare Children of Promise, nongovernmental organizations that work with orphans and are part of the Foursquare Cambodia outreach. The team expects to treat anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people, some who will arrive by donkey cart from 40 miles away, and most who have never seen a doctor, especially not a Western doctor, Sawczuk said.
They plan to give everyone they see a month's supply of multivitamins and de-worming pills.
On Thursday, Sawczuk was rushing around, making last-minute preparations -- including helping to load trucks with some of the 130 suitcases, filled with medicines, including 400,000 multivitamins, his team planned to take to Cambodia.
Sawczuk organized the trip to give medical professionals an opportunity to use their skills in missions work, he said.
Other than a few groups such as Doctors Without Borders, there are not enough organized trips specifically for medical professionals where they can go to serve countries in need, he said.
Next year, Sawczuk hopes his team will include 35 to 40 people. Hopefully, they won't wait until the last minute to decide to go.
If they do, Sawczuk will be ready.
"There's never a dull moment, I have to make room for the unexpected," he said.
By TOM COCKREM
Kompong Chhnang in Cambodia is a fantastic destination in itself — exotic and chaotically old world.
The flood waters had not come. The houseboats sat low at the foot of their long-legged neighbours — the stilt houses on the land.
The soaring height of these informed how far the river might soon be expected to rise. The floaters would rise with them, until almost eye to eye with their stilted counterparts.
The river here was busy with the comings and goings of so many kinds of craft — fishing boats, ferries, sampans, hawker boats and canoes, some motor-driven and some propelled by oar. The women at the helm wore multi-hued pajamas, just like in Vietnam.
But this was Cambodia. The river was the Tonle Sap, and the town, Kompong Chhnang. I was on a ferry heading north from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, with a view to visit Angkor. But Chhnang seemed to me a fantastic destination in itself — intriguingly exotic and chaotically old-world.
I decided then and there to make it back here some time, and get to see close up how these people of the river live their lives.
So a few years down the track, and I am back in Phnom Penh, and off to Kompong Chhnang. Only this time I cheat a bit, and travel by bus instead of boat. It would take just two hours.
I am dropped off at the market end of town. It’s some 2km inland from the river, and looks like any other small Cambodian urban centre, with nondescript shophouses and a good amount of grunge. The market itself, though, would be good fun to explore.
To get to the river you take a moto (taxi motorbike) down the long main street to Pasar Krom — the waterfront market.
It feels a little strange sneaking up on the river from behind, so to speak. The road is lined by a motley assortment of small businesses and shacks.
In between, you glimpse the countryside — the vivid green wetlands given over to rice, commanded here and there by thatched cottages on piles. Meanwhile, greetings are coming thick and fast — “Hello, sir”, “Good afternoon”, “What’s your name?”. It’s nice to feel so welcome.
I pass a temple complex with saffron-robed monks smiling hellos from the yard. A dirt road branches off to the right, and heads down to a stream. It crosses a breakwater — one that draws a crowd. Net casting fishermen share it with the traffic, as well as sporting kids, as a bevy of motor bike owners wash their machines.
Now there’s a novel scene!
When it gets to the river, the road does a sharp left to become a kind of esplanade. On the riverbank side are lots of little eateries and stalls. The “esplanade” soon turns into a track, and I am in amongst a maze of wooden stilts.
Then the fun begins.
The people are so friendly here, I reach celebrity status before I’ve made a hundred yards. Ladders lead steeply up to the cube-like domiciles perched atop the piles. Once ensconced up there you must feel pretty safe, except maybe in a storm.
Backtracking now, I stand on the riverbank and overlook the houseboats down below. There are far more than I could ever have imagined. They are moored in neat rows stretching away as far as you can see.
A high rickety bridge takes you over the stream — the one with the breakwater. A lady wearing a conical hat awaits my arrival.
“Boat — five dollar one hour!”
Gliding serenely on the Tonle Sap; (below) a domicile on stilts by the river.
And who could resist her charming smile. I tell her I’ll be back tomorrow morning. An even bigger smile!
The scene here is simply amazing. Makeshift plankwalks lead out to rowboats that take commuters and school kids to and from their homes. Neighbours sit and chat across the decks.
Fisherman mend engines and nets, and the kids just lark about. Boat builders and mechanics work away on the river or the shore, and floating shops sell everything from groceries to soup.
Most of the boat dwellers are, in fact, Vietnamese. They are fisherfolk who have ventured up the Mekong from the Delta, then worked their way up the Tonle Sap.
Around 150,000 Vietnamese make Cambodia their home. Most reside in Phnom Penh, but many are fishers and rice farmers who have followed in the wake of the not infrequent Vietnamese invasions of Cambodia. The first of these occurred in the 17th century, and the most recent was in 1979.
Next morning, I’m as good as my word. Traversing the bridge again — risking life and limb — I am met by the boat lady with the hat and the smile. She soon has me seated in her boat and conveyed out amongst the other crafts.
She works a single oar while standing at the bow — how I wouldn’t know. The houseboats have a surprising array of mod cons — TV, karaoke and the like. The rowers sidle up to one another for a chat. A hawker boat stops by, and they maybe grab a coffee or a snack. Gee, it ain’t so bad here living on the water, after all.
Kompong Chhnang on the river. — TOM COCKREMBack on terra firma, I find an alternative route back up town. It’s a dirt road lined with shrub-enshrouded homes. Motorised traffic here is light, and the road is given over to vendors, cyclists and strollers such as me.
Life seems idyllic in these parts, in a minimal communal kind of way. I am invited onto verandahs, and get to meet the family — all three generations — plus relatives and friends. It’s not hard to really like Chhnang.
Sundown sees me back on the “esplanade”, relishing this cooling river breeze, a chilled Anchor beer in my hand. The hawker stalls get busy around this time. Any wonder.
I drink to cheery fellow diners and to the houseboat residents below, to everyone I’ve met in Kompong Chhnang, and also to this ferry on the river passing by. Now I bet it’s on its way from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
Malaysia Airlines flies from KL to Bangkok daily. Thai Airways International flies from Bangkok to Phnom Penh daily. Battambang buses leave from the bus terminal near Central Market at 10.45am and 12.45am, and stop on request at Kompong Chhnang.
WHEN TO VISIT
Friday, August 01, 2008
Kuwait Premier To Visit Cambodia Soon
Phnom Penh, July 30, 2008 AKP -
Kuwait Premier Prince Shaykh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah will pay an official visit to Cambodia on August 3-5 at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a news release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
During his stay in Cambodia, the Kuwait premier will pay a courtesy call on acting Head of State and Senate President Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim and hold talks with Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen. - AKP
Originally published by Agence Kampuchea Presse website, Phnom Penh, in English 30 Jul 08.
(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.Story Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific
Saturday August 02, 2008
Japanese envoy says bilateral talks enough
THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL & WASSANA NANUAM
Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag has suggested that France play a role in helping Thailand and Cambodia find a solution to the sensitive dispute over the overlapping border areas surrounding the 11th century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear. The suggestion was made yesterday after French Ambassador to Thailand Laurent Bili called on Mr Tej to congratulate him on his appointment as foreign minister.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat quoted Mr Tej as saying that France could play a role in solving the problems between the neighbours.
''The role of France in this region is long-standing since the colonial period. But in the new era, France can play a constructive role in cooperating with the region and countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam or Thailand,'' Mr Tej was quoted as saying.
Cambodia is a former French colony and France was the only one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which supported Cambodia in bringing the two-country border issue to the UNSC.
Mr Bili accepted that he pass on the information to his country and to an envoy based in the UNSC as the dispute was sensitive in nature and very important for the Thai people.
The ambassador also expressed his understanding over the sensitivity of the issue and said France's position was that this issue be resolved bilaterally or within the region, according to the statement of the Foreign Ministry.
Japanese Ambassador to Thailand Hideaki Kobayashi, who also called on Mr Tej yesterday, agreed that talks at the bilateral level would be enough between Thailand and Cambodia to resolve this thorny problem.
''Japan is ready to support de-mining in the area of the Preah Vihear temple as this kind of project will be a way out to help rebuild the relationship between the two countries,'' said Mr Tharit.
Mr Kobayashi praised Mr Tej for getting the talks off to a good start despite being in the job for just one day before the Siem Reap meeting.
At the National Security Council meeting on Wednesday, the operational-level officials could not reach any agreement on troop withdrawals.
However, a meeting of policy-makers will be held soon to discuss the issue again.
Meanwhile, Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niempradit has given assurances Thailand and Cambodia would remain on speaking terms despite their problems.
He was speaking after a meeting of supreme commanders of the Asean countries at a hotel in Bangkok yesterday.
The Asean supreme commanders met to discuss military measures at the regional level needed to tackle problems such as epidemics, terrorism and disasters.
Regarding the Thai-Cambodia border dispute, Gen Boonsrang said soldiers of the two neighbouring countries know each other well enough and can talk to each other.
Soldiers would be instrumental in bringing about understanding as they speak ''the same language'', he said.
Gen Boonsrang said he was told by Cambodia's supreme commander at the meeting that there was no problem.
He said soldiers had nothing against each other, but sometimes those in power tend to dictate to soldiers.
Gen Boonsrang said military commanders are due to discuss the Thai-Cambodia border issue with the foreign minister in the next few days.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
IF there was anything absolutely certain about the fourth Cambodian general election last Sunday it was that the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) was poised to win handsomely. This was an accepted certainty well before the spat between Cambodia and Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple.
Official results are awaited but the unofficial count suggests that the CPP has done better than initially expected and may well have won more than two-thirds of the 123 seats contested by 11 political parties.
If it crosses the two-thirds mark, it will be the first time ever since the landmark 1991 Paris Peace Agreement that a single party has achieved such success. The CPP, which started off as a communist party following the Khmer Rouge overthrow in 1979, would have very good reason to celebrate.
This election has also seen much less violence than the elections in 1993, 1998 and 2003 -- which is a good enough reason for everyone and the neighbourhood to celebrate.Even if the two-thirds is denied the CPP, there is reason for celebration as it will be the first time since 1991 that a single party has taken control of government in a general election. Previously, a party had to secure two-thirds of the seats to form a government and no party was able to do so.
This led to the formation of a fractious coalition after each of the previous elections between the CPP and the royalist Funcinpec party led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Following the last elections in which the CPP scored 73 seats, the formation of the coalition with Funcinpec (26 seats) took one long year -- seen by many as a debilitating and wasted year.
It is different this time around. The Constitution was amended with the support of the opposition to allow any party which obtained more than 50 per cent of the seats to form a government. While there was no doubt then that the CPP would form the next government, the party did not take this for granted.
Importantly, it had no delusions that it was not universally liked in Cambodia and that the opposition and the royalist parties had good people with good ideas and with significant support in the country.
The CPP addressed the obvious challenges by ensuring that its parliamentarians and workers were in the field, in their constituencies and in the opposition constituencies, day in and day out, listening to the rural folk, rebutting opposition claims or explaining government action. The CPP badly wanted to rule by itself, having decided after the last elections that it would no longer waste a year negotiating a coalition government.
Much of the credit for the CPP success must go to the collective CPP leadership in running a tight ship on the one hand and delivering roads and irrigation canals and schools and clinics across the country on the other. Above all, there was a prevailing sense of stability in a country that had shed so much blood and so much tears.
In that context, there can be no denying that Prime Minister Hun Sen was pivotal in the CPP success. Like him or dislike him, the 2008 general election is in particular Hun Sen's personal success story.
While it may now appear that Hun Sen has stamped his authority over the CPP, it is more complex than that. Although he is now more powerful than at any time before in the party, the reality is that he is not all that powerful. He will be but not just yet.
Some things will have to be handled gingerly. Hun Sen will have to negotiate with the CPP leadership on the cabinet appointments. Given the CPP's track record, much of the horse-trading would already have been worked out -- it will be the fine tuning now and that is where sensitivities lie. If anyone knows power play in Cambodia it is Hun Sen and former King Norodom Sihanouk.
There is also a strategic question on the table -- whether or not to reach out to Funcinpec despite its poor showing and there being no need for a coalition. Better to have some of the losers in the tent theory.
The greater problem for Hun Sen in the cabinet line-up is to persuade some of the old faithful to retire in favour of fresh blood. In any country this has to be handled delicately. Hun Sen may not be able to achieve this in the forthcoming cabinet but can be expected to set the pace to do so the next time.
In this, a quality that is often missed in the media is that for several years now Hun Sen has been able to nurture and surround himself with a group of young officials who are all educated, committed, competent and hardworking. They prepare papers, head committees, negotiate with foreign governments and organisations and provide leadership. Several are heading major institutions and ministries. Some will gradually move to cabinet. If Hun Sen had his way, he would accelerate the process.
Challenges lie ahead for the new CPP government. One-third of the population still live below the poverty level in a country that will have oil on-stream in 2011. More youths are entering the employment market and these are potential opposition voters if they continue to remain unemployed.
These are perennial challenges. The two major challenges the CPP cabinet will have to employ all their talents. This is to address the endemic corruption and to enhance good governance. In particular, there is growing demand from the Cambodian people themselves for the tabling of a comprehensive Anti-Corruption Bill. When the bill is passed in Parliament it would be a significant start and another reason to celebrate.
In the meantime, Cambodia remains the unsung success story of Asean.
The writer, the Singapore High Commissioner to Bangladesh, was a former ambassador in Cambodia
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters, an anti-government coalition, on Saturday morning marched to the capital's revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha to oppose the government's plan to amend the constitution and to pray for Thailand to regain the Preah Vihear temple from Cambodia.
More than 200 democracy-activist PAD security guards provided security as the demonstrators marched from their main protest site at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge, passing by the Democracy Monument to go to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Historically the private chapel of the kings of the present Chakri dynasty, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the spiritual 'heart' of Thailand.
The number of Bangkok police on duty has also been reinforced to make sure that pro-government groups would not attack the anti-government PAD during its demonstration.
More PAD supporters from upcountry joined the rally late Friday amid a downpour.
The 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962 and was declared a World Heritage site in early July. The two neighbouring countries are now locked in a dispute over a 4.6-square-kilometre overlapping zone surrounding the temple.
PAD demonstrators led by another core leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, on Friday held a ritual ceremony and sought a 'blessing from the sun' during Friday's eclipse, with the purpose of driving away evil and that Thailand could get back Preah Vihear temple.
The event was held after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's wife hosted a ritual at the Preah Vihear temple, also on Friday, to bless her country with good luck and to also give it power for its dispute with Thailand.
Department of Export Promotion (DEP) has canceled longan and Thailand Exhibition fair scheduled to be held in Cambodia this month due to a strong sentiment among Cambodians opposing Thai products following the temple row between the two countries, a senior Thai commerce ministry official said Saturday.
Northern Export Promotion Center director Boon Inthirat said longan growers in three districts of Chiang Mai province in Thailand's north had planned to transport more than 10 tons of longan for sale at two shopping malls in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Saturday and Sunday.
But the plan was canceled following advice by the Thai commercial office in Phnom Penh relating to strong sentiment among Cambodians boycotting Thai goods following a dispute between the two neighboring countries over an overlapping area around the Preah Vihear temple.
Also, another fair called the Thailand Exhibition in which more than 200 Thai producers would participate in displaying goods in Phnom Penh later this month has already been canceled. The fair was held in August in the past years, said Mr. Boon. (TNA)
Published: August 2, 2008
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia will seek help from the FBI in trying to solve the murder of a journalist affiliated with the opposition party and his son, an official said Saturday.
The government has contacted the FBI office in the capital, Phnom Penh, and plans to send a formal request for assistance on Monday, said Ministry of Interior Spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak. He said the FBI could help in arresting the culprits.
Khem Sambo, 47, and his 21-year-old son were gunned down in a drive-by shooting July 11.
The reporter covered corruption and other social ills for the opposition newspaper Moneaseka Khmer.
Cambodian human rights groups have said they suspect the slaying was linked to the many articles Khem Sambo wrote about illegal logging, illegal fishing deals and land grabbing that involved powerful officials in the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Saturday. But days after the attack, the embassy said the FBI stands ready to help investigate the case.
Khieu Sopheak said the police investigation has uncovered details of the shooting but no arrests have been made. He said investigators concluded that the assailant took off on the back of a motorbike driven by another man after shooting Khem Sambo. The duo returned minutes later to shoot the journalist's son.
Agreement on the Protection of Activities and on the Promotion of Investments between Cambodia and Japan Now in Force
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 571
“Cambodian and Japan had signed an agreement [last year on 14 June 2007 – see The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 512: 15.6.2007: Cambodian Prime Minister Attracts Japanese Investments by Promising to Combat Corruption] about the protection and the promotion of investments, in order to open ways for Japanese investors to enter the Cambodian investment market.
“According to an announcement by the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia on 21 July 2008, this agreement [came now into force and] will bring two important positive results. ‘First, it is the first symbolic step to strengthen economic relations between Cambodia and Japan; second, it contributes strategies to develop Cambodia to promote economic development through direct foreign investments.’
“This announcement continues to say that besides the two points mentioned above it is an agreement which guarantees Japanese investors a clear investment process, with the freedom to transfer financial gains, and with equal contracts and equal rights in solving problems to increase transparency.
“So far, Cambodia could not attract big private investments from Japan.
“According to figures from the Council for the Development of Cambodia in 2007, Japanese investors ranked fifth, compared to other foreign investors, such as investors from China, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia, with total investments of approximately US$81 billion, while Japan is the biggest donor country for Cambodia. These statistics show that from 1992 to 2006, Japan granted approximately US$1,177 million, and the Japanese government maintains a policy to always grant approximately US$122 million to Cambodia each year.”
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Friday, 1 August 2008
The service there is free of charge, as the patients are oftentimes beggars and vagabonds. It is a service that hopes to be a witness to Christian care of the poorest of the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no one to care for them, not even family or the state.
The Elizabeth Health Center was opened one year ago at Child Jesus Parish in the Beong Tompon neighborhood and its fame soon spread all over the country, from all over Cambodia patients came seeking assistance at the Center. The volunteers there work with a smile, with a spirit of profound care, unconditional love, always accompanied by a word of hope for these terminally-ill patients. Oftentimes the patients begin asking questions about the Catholic faith.
The structure now holds nearly 100 patients and is renowned by private citizens, public institutions, and Buddhist religious leaders for its manner of operation, founded on openness, mercy, and loving service. The hospital has begun thanks to the priests, religious, and laity of Child Jesus Parish and continues operating thanks to private donations and small individual donations from faithful, mainly in Europe, Hong Kong, and Australia.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 31/7/2008)
By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 August 2008
Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy had a brief exchange over the deadlocked government Friday, as they waited for former king Norodom Sihanouk to leave the country.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told opposition leader Sam Rainsy Friday if the opposition party does not attend a swearing-in ceremony for the new government later this month, the ruling party would divide the party's 26 parliamentary seats among all the other parties.
The National Assembly swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 24, but constitutional experts say competing parties can maintain a governmental deadlock by not attending.
Hun Sen made his remarks to Sam Rainsy at Phnom Penh International Airport, as they waited for former king Norodom Sihanouk, former queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, King Norodom Sihamoni and a royal entourage to depart for Beijing Friday morning.
The two spoke in full view of reporters and high-ranking political officials from several parties.
"I don't care if you deny the election results or not," Hun Sen said. "What I said is that on the 24th, whether you attend the swearing-in ceremony or not, I don't care. If you don't attend the swearing-in ceremony, you will have invalidated 26 seats, and we will divide them to other parties."
"I have 2 million votes," Sam Rainsy said.
"Yes, you mention 2 million votes," Hun Sen replied, shaking his finger at his long-time political opponent, "but if you don't attend the swearing-in ceremony, if you want to know, you will see," a Khmer expression that means, "If you don't believe me, wait and see."
Contacted at his party headquarters later Friday evening, Sam Rainsy declined to comment on the exchange.
"I'm worrying about the number of people who could not vote [Sunday]," he said. "We deny the result of the election. I don't care what Hun Sen said."
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 August 2008
The demonstrated weakness of two royalist parties in Sunday's polls should not be a worry that royal sentiment among Cambodians is down, analysts and observers said this week.
Instead, the poor numbers from both Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party point to one thing: royalist politicians.
"The result of the election shows that the potential of royalism [for political gain] is down. The decline was unexpected," said Ros Chantraboth, a doctoral professor of history at the Royal Academy.
The problem stems from royalist politicians, he said, who cannot serve the needs of citizens.
Ros Chantraboth and other analysts and observers said royalism was strong, even if royalist politics are not, especially through the popularity of the former king Norodom Sihanouk, and the king, his son, Norodom Sihamoni.
Prince Sisowatch Thomico, a former personal secretary of Sihanouk, said royalism is remains popular in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
"I think if royalism has declined, it is not linked to political parties, which have affirmed they are royalist," he said. "But I think after this election, they will prepare a draft law to prevent royal family members from engaging in politics."
Prince Thomico said the weakness of royalty or royalist parties is due to the division of the royalist parties.
Funcinpec had 58 of 120 National Assembly seats in 1993, a majority followed by the Cambodian People's Party 51.
The party was down to 26 seats by 2003, before the party fractured following a party coup in October 2006 led by now Secretary-General Nhiek Bunnchay.
At a party congress that month, Nhiek Bunnchay led a vote to oust then-party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh and install Keo Puth Reaksmey, a son-in-law of Sihanouk.
Prince Ranariddh went on to form his own self-named party, but neither royalist party fared well in Sunday's poll. Unofficial results show they both won just two seats apiece.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, second vice-president of Funcinpec, and You Hockry, secretary-general of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, both said this week that the poor election showing had to do with election irregularities, such as vote-buying, intimidation.
So the defeat of the parties did not reflect on the strength of royalty, they said.
If the royalist parties are to do better in the next election, they will have to unify, You Hockry said.
The decline of the royalist parties is explained by individual factors, said Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilization Fund and director of Eurasia Travel.
Royalist politicians "can endanger royalty," he said, through political mismanagement or not serving the interests of the people.
Cambodia has remained a kingdom for more than 2,000 years old, reaching the peak of its development during the reigns of Soryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, the Angkor period.
For 23 years, between 1970 and 1993, there was no royal regime, when the Khmer Rouge and civil war prevented the arrangement of a government. The 1993 constitution made Cambodia a kingdom again, a constitutional monarchy where the king, then Sihanouk, reigned but did not rule.
The defeat of the two royalist parties would not be able to pushdown sentiment for royalty, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, even if his party won 90 seats this election.
The CPP would continue to support royalty, he said. "The article of the constitution that says that Cambodia is a royalist regime…cannot be modified."
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 August 2008
The Norodom Ranariddh Party sent a letter to King Norodom Sihamoni Wednesday, requesting a pardon for Prince Ranariddh, following the Supreme Courts decision to uphold a breach of trust decision against him.
Prince Ranariddh, who is in exile, faces an 18-month prison sentence and $150,000 fine if he returns to Cambodia. He led his self-named party from Kuala Lumpur during the national election and has said he would not be able to return if his party did not win the election.
"We, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, want the king to use his role in the constitution to pardon Prince Norodom Ranariddh to return to Cambodian politics and social activity," party spokesman Muth Chantha said. "The prince is still very important for the nation in the course of legal democracy and the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
King Norodom Sihamoni joined former king Norodom Sihanouk on a trip to Beijing for the opening of the Summer Olympics Friday, and Royal Palace officials were not available for comment.
"We lost in the Municipal, Appeals and Supreme courts, so we can only depend on the king to pardon the prince," he said. "We strongly hope the king will pardon the prince."
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 August 2008
A provincial election observer has been in hiding for nearly a week, fearing arrest after an argument with a relative of a ruling party village chief in Kampot province.
Police say they are seeking the arrest of Chea Som Borun, 25, an observer for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections and the son of a Sam Rainsy Party activist, for assault.
Human rights officials say the threat of his arrest is political.
Police allege Chea Som Borun struck Phan Sophear, the relative of a Cambodian People's Party village chief, in an altercation the night before the national election.
Witnesses told the human rights group Licahdo Phan Sophear was not hurt.
"If Chea Som Borun is arrested, it will only further highlight the level of intimidation surrounding these elections and the continuing misuse of the courts for political reasons by the government," Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in a statement.
Hang Puthea, executive directior of Nicfec, said Chea Som Borun he was seeking to find a way to bring him out of hiding without arrest.
Chea Som Borun's father has asked other villagers to file a complaint against their village chief over an alleged land sale. This may be one reason Chea Som Borun was threatened with his arrest, Chea Pov, his father, said.
The case was not related to politics, but Chea Som Borun was being sought for assault, Tem Savuth, police chief of Ponhea Leu district, Kandal province.
Om Sam Arth, an investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the argument came a day before the election and stemmed from politics.
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 August 2008
Police deported 32 Montagnards to Vietnam without incident Friday, following a protest at a similar deportation two weeks ago.
The 32 Montagnards, who had been denied refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, were quietly ushered onto a bus at a house in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district in the early morning Friday. The bus left the refugee compound as the sun rose.
Friday's operation was conducted without protest, following a street demonstration by Montagnards two weeks ago. During that deportation, armed intervention police were called in before negotiations with the protesters allowed the operation to continue.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the deportation was the result of a decision by UNHCR and Cambodian police, who found that the Mongtagnards did not qualify as refugees but were nevertheless seeking repatriation in a third country.
"They have no rights as refugees, so we have to carry out the immigration law of Cambodia," Khieu Sopheak said. "They must be deported to their country, Vietnam."
The policy of the Vietnam government is to allow the Montagnards to return to their homes and work and make business "as usual," Vietanm Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said Friday.
The Montagnards remained simple people, he said, as they had been when they came to Cambodia.
"They will not be accused of doing something, or mistreated by Vietnamese authorities," he said.
A US Embassy spokesman said Friday the US continues to monitor the security and protection of the Montagnards.
"Embassy officials observe repatriations from the UNHCR sites to ensure that the departures are conducted in accordance with UNHCR and Cambodian procedures," the spokesman, John Johnson, said in an e-mail.
US State Department missions in Vietnam have "determined that many Montagnards making the dangerous cross-border journey to Cambodia are doing so motivated by economic factors, rather than fear of persecution," Johnson said.
01 August 2008
The domination in the polls of the Cambodian People's Party Sunday could lead to one-party rule and a decline in democracy, a local human rights official warned Thursday.
"One-party rule will affect democracy," said Ny Chakya, monitoring chief for the rights group Adhoc.
"We are concerned about the future freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and others; that's what we think about," Ny Charya said, as a guest on "Hello VOA"
The government remains at a deadlock following Sunday's polls, with the CPP leading an unofficial vote tally with 90 of 123 National Assembly seats. A new government must be formed within 60 days, but all elected members must join, by swearing in, said Sok Samoeun, director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, who was also on "Hello VOA."
Original report from Washington
01 August 2008
A daily newspaper reporter in Sihanoukville was allegedly slapped in the face by a millitary policeman following a report on illegal logging.
"It's a threat against journalism, that's how I can classify it," the journalist, Ros Phina, said.
The alleged incident occurred July 25, when Ros Phina and military police Capt. Nget Vutha failed to reach an agreement on a correction to an illegal logging article in Koh Santepheap, a daily newspaper.
The military police were quoted in the article saying they had a license to transport logs, and Ros Phina said there was not enough evidence to retract it.
Ros Phina said he was then slapped by Nget Vutha, who could not be reached for comment.
Var Chanthan, chief of the security unit for Sihanoukville military police said he would look into the incident.
Twelve journalists have been killed in Cambodia since 1994, including the recent shooting death of opposition journalist Khim Sambor. Others have fled the country, or have faced assaults.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemned the alleged assault, calling on top officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, to take disciplinary action against Nget Vutha.
01 August 2008
An imbalanced National Election Committee will not be able to fairly resolve issues stemming from Sunday's polls, a senior researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission warned this week.
The NEC should work neutrally for all parties, said researcher Lao Monghay, but a majority of its members are part of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.
"The mechanism to solve the election dispute during or after the election should be separate from the election organizer," he said. "Otherwise it can be wrong for the principle of justice."
The NEC always reacted in favor of the ruling party, he said, as many members of government acted for the party instead of the public.
"Most of the government officials are members of the ruling party," he said. "The more they work, the more they serve the ruling party. For example, parliamentarians are working to speak for the people in parliament but the parliamentarians are speaking to protect their own party.
They don’t think so much about the people. They forget about the people's concern. They work for only their party's benefit."
Four non-ruling parties who won seats in the National Assembly Sunday have protested the election results, and observers have said a number of irregularities marred the election.
But CPP officials have maintained this year's election was an improvement over elections past.
"The election this year was so much better than the election last year," CPP lawmaker Nhim Vanda said. "There was no violence, but there was fairness, justice, equality and transparency.
There was no manipulating [the vote], as those political parties accused, because after the election finished, they counted the ballots at that electoral office. Even in the city or in the local level."
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodian elections were the freest ever held in the Southeast Asian country, the United States said Friday, though it concluded media coverage of the campaign was biased toward the ruling party.
The upbeat assessment of Sunday's election in which Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party won a landslide victory comes as the opposition is refusing to recognize the results. It claims there was widespread irregularities.
Voting irregularities «were relatively low in number and they do not appear to have affected the outcome or to have distorted the will of the Cambodian people,» the statement said.
Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won 90 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, or lower house of parliament. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party won 26 seats, according to unofficial results.
The opposition party has rejected the results, accusing the National Election Committee of acting as a tool to help Hun Sen win.
It cited the committees alleged removal of tens of thousands of legitimate voters from electoral lists to prevent them from casting ballots for parties other than the ruling one. The election committee has dismissed the allegations.
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.
Some 8.1 million Cambodians were registered voters, but the electoral body has not yet declared how many of them were able to cast their ballots.
While praising the ability of Cambodians to vote, the embassy concluded the atmosphere leading up to the vote was biased toward the ruling party.
Although the opposition had better access to state-run television during the campaigning than in the past, the CPP still dominated the airwaves of private stations that traditionally support it, the embassy said.
This «reflects a virtual monopoly by the CPP on the media and imbalanced the desired level playing field for contesting the elections,» it said.
On Tuesday, Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, gave a similar assessment of biases for the ruling party during the campaign.
But he said alleged vote irregularities would have to be on a very large scale to invalidate the outcome since Hun Sen's party won with «a very large majority.
Friday, August 01, 2008
By Krupa Vora Mumbai
SKAL International, a networking club in the travel industry is looking at setting up clubs in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam. The process of setting up the club is currently on and will be completed by the end of this year. Speaking with TravelBiz Monitor, Phillip Sims, President, SKAL International, on his tour to India and other countries said, “Currently, we have about 20,000 members in 500 clubs with a presence in 98 countries. We will come up with our clubs in Cambodia and Vietnam soon.” The President visited countries like South Africa, Kenya, Dubai, India, Singapore, Bali and Australia in order to promote its concept of ‘doing business with friends.’
In India, the President of SKAL International visited six cities, namely New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Goa, Mumbai and Chennai. “We recently launched a charity programme for children in Chennai. The objective of the SKAL club is to provide the networking platform and bring the travel trade together. Doing charity work completely depends upon the individual club,” added Sims. The President’s visit also promoted and encouraged the SKAL members to visit the upcoming SKAL World Congress in Taipei, Taiwan from October 12-17, 2008. The SKAL Bombay International (144) has plans to go on membership drive where it will target 300 members from the current count of 100 members.
French ambassador to Thailand Laurent Bili told Mr. Tej that the temple issue is sensitive and gained considerable interest among the Thai public, and that his embassy had reported developments on the issue to the French government and to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Mr. Tej, who assumed the ministerial post July 27, told Ambassador Bili that France could now act as a bridge in solving the temple row.
Japanese ambassador to Thailand Hideaki Kobayashi supported Thailand to solve the border issue on a bilateral basis and would be willing to assist in clearing landmines around the disputed area, according to the spokesman. The Japanese government has in the past helped with both finance and technical work in relation to landmine clearance on the border. The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers agreed in their meeting to redeploy troops in and around the new pagoda located in the temple complex, so that a meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission could be held to continue to demarcate the border line, to clear landmines around the ancient temple, and to avoid any armed confrontation.
Also, Eric John, US ambassador to Thailand, called on Mr. Tej on Thursday and reaffirmed American "support for bilateral talks between Thailand and Cambodia to peacefully resolve the situation in the border area adjacent to" Preah Vihear temple, according to a statement released by the Thai Foreign Ministry.
Thanking Thailand for its preparations regarding next week's official visit of US President George W. Bush scheduled for August 6 and 7, Mr. John gave assurances that the "US stood ready to cooperate and work closely with Thailand to further strengthen the two countries' relations," the statement said. (TNA)