Tuesday, 19 August 2008

No agreement yet for Thai-Cambodian foreign ministers' border dispute meeting

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-19

CHA-AM, Thailand, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- No new agreement has been reached yet after hours of negotiations between Thai and Cambodian delegations led by respective foreign ministers over the disputed border around the Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday at Thailand's central resort town Cha-am, Phetchburi province.

The meeting between Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong and a parallel study group by military and related border affairs officials opened on the morning at a hotel in Cha-am, some 220 kilometers southwest of Bangkok and near the beach resort town Hua Hin.

The meeting is aimed to find a peaceful solution to a long border dispute regarding a 4.6-sq-kilometer area around the 11th-century ruins of the Khmer-style Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, listed recently by UNESCO as a World Heritage, and to lay down foundations for future cooperation on demarcation and demining work along the disputed border.

The meeting lasted some six hours with a short lunch break before the two ministers left for a scheduled audience to the ThaiKing Bhumibol Adulyadej at the royal summer palace at nearby Hua Hin, where the King now resides, at around 4:30 p.m. (0930 GMT).

They will return to the hotel in the evening to continue the meeting, which was supposed to end within the day. However, the anticipation for a conclusion of success or breakthrough was low, as both sides had strong claims over some points that made the negotiation hard to pass through, sources said.

This is the second-round talks on a ministerial level. The two foreign minister had their first talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no big breakthrough.

As a result of the talks and a good gesture before the second meeting, however, the two sides did remove most of their military personnel, which have been quickly strengthened since mid-July to an estimated 1,000 more from each side, along the disputed border around the temple since Saturday.

On Tuesday afternoon, outside the hotel, a number of Thais had a quiet protest against Cambodia's "occupation" of Preah Vihear site and surrounding border areas, by raising banners which reads "Cambodia get out."

Earlier before the meeting started, Tharit Charungvat, spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry, said the atmosphere between the two ministers was good on Monday when they met and joined in a dinner, and that the situation has been improving a lot, as the tensions at the border have been eased as a result of the military "redeployment" following previous talks under bilateral mechanism including the General Border Committee which started early July and the Foreign Ministers' first meeting.

Tharit reiterated that territorial dispute is normal for any two neighboring countries, and that the situation for Thailand and Cambodia has now cooled down.

Thailand hopes that Tuesday's meeting would turn out positive results, and "the situation will go back to normal as soon as possible", but he could not give the timetable for when the planned border demarcation work and complete military retreatment from the zone in question would start or finish.

Before Tuesday's talks, only about 10 soldiers from each side remain at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda on the access to the Preah Vihear temple, which sits at the border between Thai northeastern province of Si Sa Ket and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, following a respective "redeployment" since Saturday, and some 20 others from each side at areas nearby for patrol.

The military stand-off, which has seen a quick increase of military personnel along the disputed border zone by each side, started after three Thais, including a monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian authorities on July 15 for "intruding Cambodian territory" by breaking into the Preah Vihear temple compound to declare Thai sovereignty over the temple.

The temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which some Thais have been reluctant to accept. The dispute became a hot issue when Cambodia launched efforts to bid for the listing of the temple as a World Heritage Site last year.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia's application early last month, triggering a wave of national sentiment in Thailand urging the Thai government to take counter actions in defense of territorial sovereignty.

Then Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign last month for signing a joint communique to endorse Thai support for Cambodia's World Heritage bid without prior parliament approval, which was later held unconstitutional. Veteran diplomat Tej Bunnag was appointed as the successor just in time for the first ministerial talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no breakthrough but an agreement on "military redeployment" along the disputed border.

Earlier Reports from Phnom Penh quoted Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying before leaving for Thailand on Monday that he was optimistic about the second bilateral meeting "to seek peaceful resolution to withdraw the troops totally from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and the surrounding areas of the Preah Vihear Temple."
Editor: Yan

Council Weighs Election Results Appeal

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 August 2008

The Sam Rainsy Party filed more than 17,000 documents as evidence of vote fraud to the Constitutional Council Tuesday, in the party's final appeal contesting the results of July's election.

The leading opposition party maintains that the results of the elections, in which the ruling Cambodian People's Party claims to have won 90 of 123 National Assembly seats, are not valid.

The party, which has claimed 26 seats, has called for a nationwide re-vote, joined by the Human Rights Party in a denial of the results.

The National Election Committee ruled earlier this month the election results should stand, and the Council now has between 10 and 20 days to determine whether a hearing is necessary for the complaint.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has said he will wait to hear the results before determining whether to attempt to deadlock the government by boycotting a National Assembly swearing-in ceremony next month.

The SRP complaint included more than 100 administrative forms, numbered 1018, which the party claims was used in lieu of photo identification to add votes to the CPP count.

"We have additional, new evidence to support our complaint to the Constitutional Council," SRP lawyer Kong Sam On told reporters Tuesday. "We have witnesses, witness reports, form 1018, and nearly 20,000 voter's with their names omitted [from registries]."

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Tuesday he had no faith in the Constitutional Council.
"We've come here for hopelessness," he said. "But we must follow the procedure."

The Council's decision was likely to serve the interest of the CPP only, he said.

The Council has denied two previous SRP appeals. The Council upheld a fine against the party for insulting CPP leaders, and denied a hearing on the validity of the 1018 forms for voter registration.

Opposition Party Secretary-General Resigns

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 August 2008

Eng Chhay Ieng, who had been the secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, has chosen to resign, following disappointing results in July's election

Eng Chhay Ieng, who had campaigned in Battambang province, said that the election had only resulted in two seats for the party there, the same number of seats as in the previous government.

The resignation comes as the Sam Rainsy Party continues to boycott July's election results.
Eng Chhay Ieng said he was stepping aside to make room for others, but he would not leave the party. He did not know who would replace him, but he said the party has many people capable of doing the job.

Eng Chhay Ieng had been criticized within the party and publicly by Prime Minister Hun Sen for excessive gambling. However, he said Tuesday the gambling accusations were not a reason for his resignation, and that he had now stopped the habit.

Eng Chhay Ieng resigned from his position in 2005, following gambling accusations, but he took up the position again in 2006.

Chea Vannath, former director of the Center for Social Development, said the resignation would bring two positive developments to the opposition party.

Firstly, it will reduce internal tensions within the party, she said. Secondly, Eng Chhay Ieng's willingness to resign rather than struggle for power would set a good example for others in the party.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday the Sam Rainsy Party had suffered weakened support because of its election strategy, not because of Eng Chhay Ieng.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment.

Minority Girl Alleges Two-Month Kidnapping

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 August 2008

A teenaged ethnic minority from Ratanakkiri province filed a lawsuit in the provincial court Monday, alleging she had been kidnapped by a local farmer for more than two months.

The complaint alleges illegal confinement, attempted rape and defamation, because the girl, Klen Chhoeu,17, was forced to tell neighbors she was the second wife of the defendant, Tun Liem.
Tun Liem could not be reached for comment.

According to the complaint Tun Liem, 40, who has a soybean and cashew farm in Or Chum district and also works as a motorcycle taxi driver, took the girl June 2 after she traveled with him from her home district of Andong Meas to Ratanakkiri town but did not have enough money to pay the fare.

The girl had been traveling to meet her aunt in Ratanakkiri town and had been promised by her aunt money on arrival. When the girl arrived at the meeting place, her aunt was not there, and Tun Liem asked for 50,000 riel, according to the complaint.

When the girl could not pay, Tun Liem sped towards his farm, where he forced her to work, promising her 150,000 riel per month. During her stay, according to the complaint, Tun Liem also tried to force her into sexual intercourse and did not pay her salary.

The girl finally escaped after she fell ill and was taken to the Ratanakkiri town hospital by Tun Liem's wife, who also advised the girl to call her father.

The girl's father, Sorl Nhoung, then picked her up and took her home, on Aug. 13, more than two months after her alleged abduction.

The girl filed a lawsuit with the help of local Adhoc rights workers.

"This is the first time I have seen such a case," said Adhoc coordinator Pen Bunnah.

A court prosecutor confirmed Tuesday receiving the complaint, but declined further comment, and police said Tun Liem had not yet been arrested.

No Shot Fired Over Preah Vihear: Official

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
19 August 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen sought, and earned, a peaceful resolution to the standoff at Preah Vihear temple over the past month, a government spokesman said Monday.

Thai and Cambodian troops executed a partial withdrawal from a pagoda near the temple and surrounding areas, as the foreign ministers from each country met in Thailand Monday.

The apparent resolution to the standoff occurred without a shot fired and without violence, said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

"It's a sovereign battlefield, in the position of Prime Minister Hun Sen, not a war," Phay Siphan said.

Cambodia deployed more than 1,000 troops, after Thai soldiers occupied a pagoda near the temple July 15. Hundreds of Thai troops followed suit, and both sides deployed heavy weaponry.
Both sides have drawn down, and the foreign ministers will now seek continued solutions to the ongoing conflict over border demarcation.

US Cambodian Boatmen Lose Will to Race

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Massachussetts
19 August 2008

Every third week of August, in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai and Vietnamese residents celebrate a boat racing festival. This year, six racing groups used two boats to compete, without the Cambodian teams.

The race included two American groups, two Laotian and two Thai. Cambodian-Americans were represented by traditional dancers, but no racers.

"I am so sad, you know," said Souen Sayon, who leads a Cambodian boat racing program. "Since 2005 Cambodian boat racing groups do not care anymore to join the competition."

Souen Sayon had tried many times to encourage boat racers, "to keep our culture and tradition alive."

Each attempt met with failure, he said. "They don't even want to preserve our Cambodian reputation and civilization."

The boat-race festival began in Lowell in 1997, and, held in the summer month of August, has slowly gained in popularity.

"There were around 3,000 people participating in the boat racing festival during the start of this event, but now there are more and more people who come and are aware of this event," said Khoeun Samkhan, former head of the Cambodian Mutual Assistant Association. "Some people are from many different states, and some are from other, neighboring countries."

Chea Bun Heak an out-of-town visitor from Takoma, Washington, said he'd learned about the festival from relatives in Lowell.

"I have so much fun down here," he said. "I am so proud that our Cambodian people are able to celebrate this wonderful event."

Anxious for his life, Dam Sith seeks refuge in the US

Cambodge Soir
19-08-2008

The editor in chief of Moneakseka Khmer left Cambodia for the US in fear for his life.

“Dam Sith left the country because his life is threatened” declared Mu Sochua, the deputy general secretary of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in the Mekong Times.

Son Chhay, SRP MP stated that Dam Sith obtained his US visa before the general elections, following a SRP application.

The journalist, who failed to be elected on the SRP list in the last general election, was jailed from June 8 to 15 on charges of defamation and spreading false news in the Sam Rainsy - Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affaires dispute.

The chief of diplomacy, who was confronted with accusations related to his Khmer Rouge past, withdrew the complaint against Dam Sith but upheld that against Sam Rainsy.

Cambodge Soir Hebdo interviewed Dam Sith when he was released. He told of his concern for his safety and that of the other journalists working for Moneakseka Khmer.

On July 11, Khim Sambor also a journalist working for Moneakseka Khmer, and his son were shot dead by unidentified men.

Despite the government’s agreement to accept assistance from the FBI in the investigation, the murderers still remain at large.

Presses stop rolling for Mekong Times

Cambodge Soir
19-08-2008

The Mekong Times started in February 2008 as an English language newspaper. Published by the MCD (Media Consulting and Development) group, the last issue came out on Monday August 18.

Publisher Sébastien Drans declared that "the publication is stopped from today onwards as one of our investors decided to cease his collaboration with us. No immediate solutions are available but we are considering other options such as publishing in a different format”.

The 16-page Mekong Times was published five times a week: four of its pages were in Khmer. Pierre Gilette, the former editor-in Chief of Cambodge Soir in its daily version was co-editor with Jérôme Jaymond. Neth Pheaktra was editor-in-chief.

Interviewed by Cambodge Soir Hebdo, Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information declared that “[he] regretted the closure of this professional newspaper. The end of this title marks the end of a voice. The Cambodian Market is a difficult one due to the lack of readers. Also, many readers are more inclined to rent newspapers from the newsstands rather than buy them. It is also difficult to find its position among older titles such as the Cambodia Daily.”

Cambodia now has two daily English publications The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodian Daily.

King to preside over first National Assembly session

Cambodge Soir
19-08-2008

Though the date is not yet set, the opposition questions the relevance of this announcement, as the session will mark the start of the National Assembly’s work before the announcement of the official election results, which are to be announced between August 13 and September 7.

The holidays are coming to an end for Cambodian MPs. “The King will soon preside over the opening of the fourth legislature of the National Assembly” stated a Monday August 18, press release from the general secretariat. But the exact date of this opening session has not yet been set.

Cambodge Soir Hebdo contacted Sonn Chhay, an MP and Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) member who declared that he was not yet aware of the National Assembly release.

The Deputy went on by saying “I wonder how such an announcement planning the first legislature session can be made before the official results are announced? The usual procedure is that the elected parties meet collegially to set the opening date. It is not up to one party to decide.”

The MP refused to talk about his party’s position on SRP MPs participating in this first session as “we focus on dealing with election complaints”.

Sam Rainsy, the SRP leader, announced that in order to protest against the July 27 ballot frauds, the SRP would boycott the first session of the National Assembly. The Human Rights Party declared that it was ready to follow suit.

Day in Pictures

Tensions over an ancient Khmer temple have eased following the withdrawal of most soldiers from the ruins, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday as new border talks opened with Cambodia
Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag right) shakes hand with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong during dinner at the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin on August 18. Tensions over an ancient Khmer temple have eased following the withdrawal of most soldiers from the ruins, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday as new border talks opened with Cambodia.(AFP)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (L) speaks with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong at a hotel in Thailand's Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok, August 18, 2008.The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple. The meeting ends on Tuesday.REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (R) shakes hands with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong before a meeting at a hotel in Thailand's Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok, August 19, 2008. The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple. REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND).

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (R) walks with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong before a meeting at a hotel in Thailand's Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok, August 19, 2008. The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple.REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND)

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (L) is seen with his delegation during their bilateral with Thailand at a hotel in Thailand's Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok August 19, 2008. The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple. REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND)

Thailand's Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (R) and his delegation take part in a bilateral with his Cambodian counterparts at a hotel in Thailand's Phetchaburi province, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Bangkok, August 19, 2008. The two ministers held a two-day meeting to resolve disputes over the 900 year-old Hindu temple. REUTERS/Handout (THAILAND)

Three Cambodian soldiers, center, take a souvenir photo with Thai soldiers next to a Cambodian Buddhist temple complex near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia July 20, 2008. Border talks topped the agenda Monday, Aug. 18, 2008, for Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers heading into a meeting to find a lasting solution to a lingering territorial dispute that brought the two neighbors close to an armed clash.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk down the staircase at Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province. Tensions over an ancient Khmer temple have eased following the withdrawal of most soldiers from the ruins, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday as new border talks opened with Cambodia.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday

Cambodian Buddhist monks wait for a ferry at a pier on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh August 18, 2008 .The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Children play near a boat on the Mekong river in Kandal province, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 18, 2008. The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian child plays near a boat on the Mekong river in Kandal province on the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 18, 2008 .The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

People ride a ferry on the Mekong river in Kandal province, in the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 18, 2008. The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

People ride a ferry on the Mekong river in Kandal province, in the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 18, 2008. The Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Sacravatoons :" The Guardian "

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

Cambodian media war claims Mekong Times daily newspaper

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Aug 19, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's mushrooming media outlets and a crisis of advertising revenue has claimed the English-language Mekong Times daily, the paper's editor said Tuesday.

Editor-in-chief Neth Pheaktra said by telephone that a lack of funds had forced the closure of the hard copy edition but that the paper, which also published in Khmer, was still considering options.

'We are not sure (about an internet edition) yet - we are not sure what we will do,' he said.

The paper, which opened in February last year, had published groundbreaking stories, including a rare exclusive interview with Prime Minister Hun Sen, but failed to pull advertising revenue away from the more established Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post.

The closure announcement came just days after the Phnom Penh Post went from a fortnightly to a daily.

A cash injection rumoured to amount to around 1 million dollars from an Australian group has buoyed the veteran Phnom Penh Post, and the popular Cambodia Daily claims it operates primarily as a training ground, with profit a secondary consideration.

Cambodia's Khmer and English-language media market has exploded recently, giving advertisers a much broader range of choices.

Magazines on subjects from specialty computer and mobile phone glossies to interior design advice decorate news stands as the country's burgeoning middle class spreads its consumer wings.

Short-lived English-language weekly magazine The Advisor closed for 'a hiatus' earlier this month, saying advertisers were increasingly embracing the cheaper option of internet websites, and its parent Expat Advisory Services continues to operate online.

Fugitive Vatana gets 10 years in prison for graft

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday August 19, 2008

Seen in Cambodia, extradition bid likely

POST REPORTERS

The Supreme Court sentenced former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame to 10 years in jail yesterday, convicting him of corruption in the long-running Klong Dan wastewater treatment plant scandal.

Vatana, 71, was again not present at the court to hear the verdict. A new arrest warrant was issued with a validity of 15 years under the statute of limitations.

The court was told Vatana is hiding in Cambodia, where he has business and political connections.

Police were authorised to find him and try to have him extradited.

Eight of the nine judges sitting on the bench of the court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found the former Samut Prakan MP guilty as charged. The court read out its 88-page verdict in the fugitive's absence.

On July 9, the court seized Vatana's 2.2-million-baht bail and issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear to hear the verdict, which was then rescheduled for yesterday.

Police said the then chief adviser of Puea Pandin was thought to be in Cambodia, where he has two resort casinos in the border town of Poi Pet, opposite Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district.

Before the verdict was delivered yesterday, deputy national police chief Jongrak Juthanont said he had a report from Pol Maj-Gen Itthipol Piriyapinyo, the Sa Kaeo police chief, that Vatana had been seen in Poi Pet and Phnom Penh. Members of his family had also been seen crossing into Cambodia.

Pol Gen Jongrak said at the weekend that an application for Vatana's extradition would be made if the court found him guilty.

Surasak Treeratkul, deputy director-general for special litigation at the Office of the Attorney-General, said the Royal Thai Police Office must formally request that the attorney-general seek Vatana's extradition.

Poolpol Asavahame, Vatana's son and secretary-general of the Puea Pandin party, said his father had been informed of the court's decision.

In 2002, the Pollution Control Department lodged a complaint with the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).

They accused him of abusing his power as deputy interior minister 16 years ago, conspiring with land and pollution control officials in the illegal issuance of title deeds for 1,900 rai of public land that was then sold at an inflated price to the Pollution Control Department for construction of the 23-billion-baht Klong Dan wastewater-treatment facility in Samut Prakan's Bang Bo district.

The NCCC and the OAG investigated the case against Vatana. It took 15 years to complete.

Prosecutors filed separate cases against five other officials involved. Legal experts doubt the five will be brought to justice as the 15-year statute of limitations in the case expires in October.

Construction of the plant, which is about 90%-complete, was suspended years ago due to strong opposition from local people who said it would damage the local coastal ecology.

Villagers and anti-corruption activists also came up with evidence of the corruption that led to the court cases.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is considering whether the project should be completed.

Local communities and environmentalists demand it be restructured as a coastal research station.

Vatana is the second politician to be convicted by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

Rakkiat Sukthana was convicted of accepting bribes while public health minister from 1997 to 1998 and was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2004.

He jumped bail but was later caught.

Thousands flee as Mekong breaks flood records

A Cambodian woman swims with her cattle to higher ground. Photo: Reuters

The Age.com.au
Seth Mydans, Hanoi
August 19, 2008

TORRENTIAL rain and overflowing rivers have brought some of the worst flooding in decades to Vietnam and its neighbours in the past week, affecting cities and farmlands in five nations.
In northern Vietnam, at least 130 people have been killed, dozens are missing and thousands have been driven from their homes. Hundreds of tourists were evacuated near the hill tribe resort area of Sa Pa.

Flooding has also hit parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos as well as Burma, where waters rose in the Irrawaddy Delta, still recovering from a cyclone that left 138,000 people dead or missing in May.

The floods have hit much of Burma, including the main city, Rangoon, as well as Mandalay in the centre and the Karen and Mon states in the south-east.

In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, officials said the Mekong River had brought the worst flooding in memory, rising to nearly 15 metres above its lowest level in the dry season.

The high water in Vientiane broke a record set in 1966 and overflowed a levee that was built after that flood.

Mud-slides also cut the main road from Vientiane to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang, a city of temples and monasteries where the Mekong also rose.

Laotian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalansy said four people, including a child, had died in Vientiane after being injured in landslides triggered by the flooding.

Speaking by phone from Vientiane, Mr Yong said there were reports that the flooding was receding.

The flooding also cut electricity in Luang Prabang, a popular tourist destination.

In parts of north-eastern Thailand, officials said, the Mekong had reached its highest level in 30 years, inundating farmlands and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in three provinces along the river, which divides Thailand from Laos. Officials said the high water had been caused by downpours in southern China, Laos and Thailand.

As the high waters of the Mekong moved downstream, Cambodia and eastern Thailand prepared for major floods, and officials were telling residents in some areas to move to higher ground with their livestock.

In the southern Mekong Delta of Vietnam, where the 4800-kilometre river flows into the sea, forecasters said rising waters had reached a critical level two weeks earlier than last year and that worse flooding lay ahead.

The most destructive flooding in recent years came in late 1999 in Vietnam's central provinces, leaving 750 people dead or missing.

Agencies

Junta commander: Thailand violating Burmese sovereignty

Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe at the recent regional level border meeting

Shan Herald Agency for News

In a public speech given to the local officials and people yesterday at a location in Shan State’s Mongton township, opposite Chiangmai, the Burma Army commander of the Triangle Region Command had charged Thailand of “violating the territorial integrity” of Burma, according to sources on the border.

Map of Doilang

19 August 2008

Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe, who was appointed to his new post in June, succeeding the outgoing Min Aung Hlaing, added, “Just as they (Thailand) have unilaterally taken possession of the Cambodian territory, they are doing the same at Loilang (the 32 square kilometer disputed area between Burma’s Monghsat and Thailand’s Mae Ai). The time will come when we’ll have to deal with the issue properly.”

The general, a graduate of legal affairs from India and military affairs from UK, according to him, was referring to the ongoing border dispute over the Preah Vihear temple area between Thailand and Cambodia.

Kyaw Phyoe had been on an inspection trip on the Thai-Burma border since 16 August. He also charged the kingdom of employing the anti-junta Shan State Army (SSA) South of Col Yawdserk as a buffer against the Burma Army. “As for Yawdserk, we are open to talks with him anytime he’s ready,” he said. “But there is only one condition for him: he has to exchange arms for peace (a euphemism for surrender).” Kyaw Phyoe left for Mongton, 53 miles from the border, at 18:00. The SSA South has 5 main bases along the Thai-Burma border:

Loi Wa Her opposite Maehongson
Loi Taileng opposite Maehongson
Loi Lam opposite Chiangmai
Loi Hsarmsip opposite Chiangmai
Loi Gawwan opposite Chiangrai
Loilang, under the now defunct Mong Tai Army (MTA)’s control since 1982, was taken over by the Thai Army in 1987.

The issue, after reportedly debating at length at the Regional Border Committee (RBC) #25 meeting in Chiangrai, 6-8 August, has now been forwarded to the respective governments for resolution, according to Bangkok Post. The Burmese side, which included Kyaw Phyoe, had demanded “full rights” over the disputed territory.

Thailand says border tensions eased as Cambodia talks open

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag (right) shakes hand with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk down the staircase at Preah Vihear temple

HUA HIN, Thailand (AFP) — Tensions over an ancient Khmer temple have eased following the withdrawal of most soldiers from the ruins, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday as new border talks opened with Cambodia.

"The situation is moving in a positive manner. The tension is now being cooled down," Tharit Charungvat told reporters as foreign ministers from both countries began meeting in the Thai beach resort town of Hua Hin, southwest of Bangkok.

At the weekend, up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops pulled back from a small patch of disputed land near Cambodia's 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, suggesting that an end to the month-long military stand-off could be near.

Twenty troops from both sides remain stationed at a small pagoda in the contentious border area, while 40 Cambodian and Thai solders remain nearby.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag met for dinner late Monday in Hua Hin, and were expected to hold talks through the day Tuesday.

"The situation has improved quite a lot in regards to the standoff between the militaries from both sides," Tharit said. "The tension around the area has been eased. We hope very much that the situation will go back to normal as soon as possible."

Relations between the neighbours flared up last month after Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the ancient Khmer temple.

On July 15, Cambodia arrested three Thai protesters for illegally crossing the border to try to reach the temple, sparking the deployment of troops from both sides on the tiny patch of disputed land near Preah Vihear.

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

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Be patient, Samak tells troops on border

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday August 19, 2008

WASSANA NANUAM AND AFP

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej yesterday advised soldiers guarding the border to be patient as Thailand and Cambodia attempt to resolve the row over the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple through negotiations.

"All soldiers should help maintain ties between Thailand and Cambodia. You should be patient and ignore any attempt to cause rifts between the two countries,"the prime minister said during a visit yesterday to the border in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket, which is adjacent to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

Mr Samak stressed the importance of Thai-Cambodian relations as the two countries are immediate neighbours and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

He hoped Cambodia would reduce troop numbers in the disputed area to the same level as Thailand.

Thailand has 300 troops in the 4.6-sq-km overlapping zone, while Cambodia has 500 in total, the prime minister said.

The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers, Tej Bunnag and Hor Namhong, were to meet at an informal dinner last night in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi. They will co-chair the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting today.

Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda visited the area and the Ta Moan Thom temple in Phanom Dong Rak sub-district in neighbouring Surin yesterday and said later he was not worried about the border situation in the area.

Neither country wanted a military stand-off, Gen Anupong said. He hoped the two ministers would agree at the JBC talks to withdraw more troops from the overlapping zone.

Thailand and Cambodia completed the first round of troop reductions on Sunday. The pullout agreement was reached at the JBC meeting in Siem Reap on July 28.

Hor Namhong was also optimistic that a new round of talks with Thailand would result in a lasting solution to the long-running border dispute.

"The meeting will achieve good success in resolving the problem step by step," the Cambodian minister said in Phnom Penh before departing for Thailand.

Hor Namhong insisted his government wished to resolve the problem peacefully, amicably and by legal means. The two countries share "a lot of economic and trade interests", he said.

Thailand and Cambodia meet to defuse border temple tensions

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Aug 19, 2008

Cha-am, Thailand (dpa) - The foreign ministers of Thailand and Cambodia began bilateral talks Tuesday on how to defuse tensions over a border temple dispute that sparked a military standoff between the two countries last month.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, met in the Thai beach resort of Cha-am, 110 kilometres south-west of Bangkok, to discuss long-term solutions to the dispute over the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been a flash point for relations between Thailand and Cambodia since the late 1950s.

'All channels are open,' Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said before the meeting began. 'We want to return the situation to normal and end the confrontation.'

Although no specific goal has been set for Tuesday's meeting, it is hoped that it would result in a complete withdrawal of troops from around Preah Vihear, located about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok on a cliff that defines the border between Si Sa Khet and Preah Vihear provinces in Thailand and Cambodia, respectively.

Over the weekend, both Thailand and Cambodia withdrew hundreds of troops from around Preah Vihear, each leaving 10 soldiers posted in the contested zone.

The two foreign ministers last met July 28 to try to defuse the temple spat, which was then in danger of turning into a military conflict.

Separate claims on the area surrounding Preah Vihear turned into a military standoff after UNESCO agreed to name the Hindu sanctuary a World Heritage Site.

Although Thailand has long accepted a 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice that granted Cambodia sovereignty over the temple, it has disputed Cambodia's claim to the area surrounding the temple complex.

Many Thai historians and academics refute The Hague court's ruling, claiming it was based on a faulty 1907 border map drawn up by the French, who were the colonial masters of Cambodia at the time.

The court ruled that since Thailand had not officially objected to the border demarcation placing the temple in Cambodia, it had forfeited the temple, but the court stopped short of ruling on the legitimacy of the French-drawn map's border.

Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.

In fact, the 798-kilometre-long Thai-Cambodia border still has many disputed areas with Preah Vihear being just the most controversial to date.

The Preah Vihear dispute has stoked nationalistic sentiments on both sides on the border.

Tourist visits double at Preah Vihear Despite a Dispute Between Thai and Cambodian Soldiers

Travel Blackboard
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Domestic tourism to Preah Vihear has more than doubled since its UNESCO World Heritage listing on July 7, despite the dispute between Thai and Cambodian soldiers which has been centred on the temple grounds.

The presence of machine guns and rocket launchers could not deter proud Cambodians from visiting Preah Vihear to pay their respects to the mythic 11th-century temple and its new hoard of guardians.

"Since Thai troops entered the temple, there have been fewer foreign tourists, but the number of locals visiting has doubled," general director of the Preah Vihear National Authority, Pheng Sameoun told the Post on Sunday.

According to Pheng Sameoun, the dispute has stirred such a torrent of interest in the temple that, if the surrounding infrastructure was developed considerably, it could come to rival the Angkor Wat temple complex as Cambodia’s leading domestic holiday destination.

Chheang Solina, 22-year-old Phnom Penh high school student, said she was shocked last Sunday when she saw Thai and Cambodian soldiers occupying the temple, but was reinvigorated walking through its corridors.

"When I arrived at the top of the temple, and breathed in the fresh air, I had a feeling of great pride to be born as a Khmer," she said.

She added that she was happy because the Naga statues seemed to eat the Thai troops.

Bad roads and high transportation costs didn't stop Seng Vireak, 19, and his family from making the daylong trip from the capital, bearing food and supplies to hand out.

Many locals have been witnessed making donations of money to monks and soldiers living there.

Cambodia optimistic about Thai talks

Thai-Cambodian relations soured last month over a dispute involving the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the shared border. [Reuters]

Radio Australia
August 19, 2008

optimistic that a new round of talks with Thailand will result in a lasting solution to a long-running border dispute.

At the weekend, up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops pulled back from a small patch of disputed land near Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple, suggesting that an end to the month-long military stand-off could be near.

Twenty troops from both sides remain stationed at a small pagoda in the contentious border area, while 40 Cambodian and Thai solders remain nearby.

Mr Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart, Tej Bunnag, are in the Thai beach resort town of Hua Hin to launch another round of talks aimed at finding a long-term solution to the dispute.

Relations between the neighbours degenerated last month after Preah Vihear was awarded World Heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the ancient Khmer temple.

On July 15, Cambodia arrested three Thai protesters for illegally crossing the border to try to reach the temple, sparking the deployment of troops from both sides on the tiny patch of disputed land near Preah Vihear.

Cambodian National Bank predicts 20 pct inflation for 2008

Source Xinhua
18/8/2008

The National Bank of Cambodia ( NBC) has predicted annual inflation could rise to 20 percent this year, substantially less than earlier in the year, local newspaper the Mekong Times reported today.

NBC Governor Chea Chanto was quoted as saying that "the annual inflation rate may stand at 20 percent owing to the effectiveness of the package of measures though the inflation rate rose to a remarkable level early this year.

"He did not reveal how high inflation was earlier in the year, saying only that price rises were driven by global problems, including a mortgage crisis, the depreciation of the US dollars, the slowing of the US economy, rising oil prices, regional natural disasters and insufficient harvest.

The NBC has strengthened macroeconomic stability for sustainable economic development, Chea Chanto claimed.

Though growth dropped slightly and has been affected by outside factors, the exchange rate of the riel and value is stable compared to the US dollar, he said.

Govt pressure drive Cambodian fuel prices down

NST Online
2008/08/19

PHNOM PENH, TUES:

Pressure from the government has propelled the fuel providers in Cambodia to decrease their retail prices a little, and more price cutting can be expected in the future, China’s Xinhua news agency quoted a report in English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post Tuesday.

Petrol and diesel prices at most Phnom Penh stations dropped 400 to 500 riels (about US$0.10) per liter at the weekend, following a meeting last week between the government and oil companies, where finance officials pressed for a cut in pump prices, said the paper.

“We ask all major companies to consider reducing petrol and diesel prices,” Chuo Vichet, chief of cabinet at Ministry of Finance and Economy, was quoted as saying.

“We didn’t order (oil companies) to cut petrol prices, but being partners, we hope companies to reduce prices step by step,” he said.“We understand that this is a free-market economy, but the government is hoping petroleum distributors to drop price to a reasonable level for consumers,” he added.

During the meeting here Thursday, Minister of Finance and Economy Keat Chhon talked with petroleum majors Sokimex, PTT, Kampuchea Tela, Total Cambodge, Caltex and Savimex on price cut.

After the preliminary cut, petrol and diesel at most Phnom Penh stations now sells at 5,200 riels (some US$1.27) a liter for premium fuel.

Cambodia’s oil consumption totally depends on imports and about 100,000 tons are imported per month, according to the government.

Thai, Cambodian FMs meet again for border dispute

August 19, 2008

Foreign Ministers from Thailand and Cambodia met Monday at a central Thai resort for a second-round ministerial talks on a border dispute.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag greeted his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong and the two had a diner together Monday evening at a hotel in Cha-am district, Phetchburi province in central Thailand, some 220 kilometers southwest Bangkok, near the beach resort town Hua Hin.

The meeting was to start officially on Tuesday morning here, ina bid to find a peaceful solution to a long border dispute regarding areas around the ancient Khmer-style Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, the 11th-century ruins listed recently as World Heritage, and to lay down foundations for future cooperation on demarcation and demining work along a 4.6-sq kilometers disputed border area.

Taking apart in the meeting also include Lt. Gen Sujit Sithiparpa, Thailand's Second Army Commander who is responsible for security in the northeastern region including the disputed area, and his Cambodian counterpart Gen. Chea Mon, Cambodia's Fourth Army Commander.

As a good gesture ahead of the talks, the two sides began pulling out their troops, believed at over 1,000 from each side earlier, stationed around the Preah Vihear Temple, which sits at the border between Thai northeastern province of Si Sa Ket and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

Only about ten soldiers from each side remain at a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple now after the pull-out since Saturday, and some 20 others from each at areas nearby for patrol.

The military stand-off, which has seen a quick increase of military personnel along the disputed border zone by each side, started after three Thais, including a monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian authorities on July 15 for "intruding Cambodian territory" by breaking into the Preah Vihear temple compound to declare Thai sovereignty over the temple.

The temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which some Thais have been reluctant to accept. The dispute became a hot issue when Cambodia launched efforts to bid for the listing of the temple as a World Heritage Site last year.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia's application early last month, triggering a wave of national sentiment in Thailand urging the Thai government to take counter actions in defense of territorial sovereignty.

Then Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign last month for signing a joint communique to endorse Thai support for Cambodia's World Heritage bid without prior parliament approval, which was later held unconstitutional. Veteran diplomat Tej was appointed as the successor just in time for the first ministerial talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no breakthrough but an agreement to reduce military deployment along the disputed border.

Thai Foreign Ministry officials reiterated to Xinhua that the Thai side did not instigate the situation by deploying more troops to the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple, but that Thai authorities had sent letters to Cambodian government a few times to protest the setting up of Cambodian communities around the disputed border area in breach of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by two sides in 2000, which was long before the July 15 incident.

The Cambodian authorities had not acted in response to Thailand' protests, the Thai officials said.

On Monday morning, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Army chief General Anupong Paochinda inspected border points near the Preah Vihear temple.

Reports from Phnom Penh quoted Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying before leaving for Thailand on Monday that he was optimistic about the second bilateral meeting "to seek peaceful resolution to withdraw the troops totally from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and the surrounding areas of the Preah Vihear Temple."

Following the meeting, Hor Namhong will also be granted an audience by the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej Tuesday afternoon at the royal summer palace in Hua Hin, where the King now resides, before going back to Cambodia.

Source:Xinhua

Six-month-old Cambodian newspaper shuts down

The Standard
08-18 19:20

The Mekong Times, one of Cambodia's three daily English-language newspapers, will stop publishing after just six months of operation because of financial troubles, its editor said.

The Mekong Times, which also published in the Cambodian language, hit the stands in February, entering the nation's burgeoning media market.

''We have decided to stop publishing because of a budget crisis,'' Neth Pheaktra, editor-in-chief of the daily, said.

The announcement comes 10 days after The Phnom Penh Post, one of the kingdom's leading papers, launched its first daily edition.

Cambodia now has two English-language dailies, one English weekly, a number of glossy magazines and a large and lively Cambodian-language press.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Thailand and Cambodia meet to defuse border spat - Summary

The Earth Times
Mon, 18 Aug 2008
Author : DPA

Bangkok - Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong arrived in Thailand Monday for bilateral talks on the Preah Vihear border temple dispute that sparked a military standoff between the two neighbouring countries last month.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag was scheduled to host a dinner for Hor Nam Hong Monday night at Hua Hin beach resort, 150 kilometres south-west of Bangkok, where the two ministers will hold talks Tuesday on long-term solutions to the Preah Vihear dispute that has been a flash point for relations between Thailand and Cambodia since the late 1950s and recently caused a border showdown.

Over the weekend, both Thailand and Cambodia withdrew hundreds of troops from around Preah Vihear, leaving 10 soldiers posted in the contested zone each.

The two foreign ministers last met July 28 to try to defuse the temple spat, which was then in danger of turning into a military conflict.

Separate claims on the area surrounding Preah Vihear turned into a military standoff between Thailand and Cambodia last month after UNESCO agreed to name the Hindu sanctuary a World Heritage Site.

Although Thailand has long accepted a 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice that granted Cambodia sovereignty over the temple, which sits on a 525-metre cliff that defines the two countries' common border, it has disputed Cambodia's claim to the area surrounding the temple complex.

Many Thai historians and academics refute The Hague court's ruling, claiming it was based on a faulty 1907 border map drawn up by the French, who were the colonial masters of Cambodia at the time.

The court ruled that since Thailand had not officially objected to the border demarcation placing the temple in Cambodia, it had forfeited the temple, but the court stopped short of ruling on the legitimacy of the French-drawn map's borderline in Preah Vihear's vicinity.

Thailand claims a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.

In fact, the 798-kilometre-long Thai-Cambodia border still has many disputed areas, with Preah Vihear being just the most controversial to date.

"We think this issue is complex, and it will take a long time to solve," Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

The Preah Vihear dispute has stoked nationalistic sentiments on both sides on the border.
About 200 police were deployed in Hua Hin to assure the safety of Hor Nam Hong, media reports said.

No room at the inn

TRACEY SHELTON The lobby of The Quay hotel on the Phnom Penh riverside, one of the capital city’s new small boutique hotels catering to a more upscale clientele.

LOW-RENT LODGING
Cambodia has about 350 hotels with roughly 20,000 rooms, including 140 in Phnom Penh, 100 in Siem Reap and about 50 in Sihanoukville, with the rest in other provinces. Most of Cambodia’s accomodation is targeted at the low-end segment.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 18 August 2008

The number of high-end hotel rooms serving luxury and business travellers is failing to keep up with strong annual tourism growth, officials say

CAMBODIA is facing a shortfall of 3,000 hotel rooms in the face of tourist arrivals growing at an annual rate of up to 20 percent, said a tourism official in Phnom Penh.

"There is a shortage of about 1,500 hotel rooms in Phnom Penh and of about 1,500 rooms in Sihanoukville due to tourist growth and the business boom," said Kousoum Saroeuth, director general for the Ministry of Tourism.

"But the shortage is mainly for high-end hotels.

" He added, "We have enough hotels and guesthouses for common tourists, but we need more high-end hotels for luxury tourists and business people."

He said that Cambodia had about 350 hotels with roughly 20,000 rooms, including 140 in Phnom Penh, 100 in Siem Reap, about 50 in Sihanoukville, with the rest in other provinces.

The hotel industry was a major revenue-earner but no figures were available on how much hotels earn every year, Kousoum Saroeuth said.

He noted that two million tourists were visiting Cambodia every year, generating revenues of about US$1.4 billion last year. He added that tourism was responsible for generating about 300,000 jobs.

So Mara, undersecretary of state at the Tourism Ministry, said that even with the shortfall, the industry had grown quickly to meet demand.

"The good side is that this industry is mostly owned by local investors, so revenues are not flowing out of the country," he said. "Tourism has grown about 19 percent year-on-year, so demand for accommodation will grow, too."

But Cambodian Hotel Association President Luu Meng said there was still too little investment in top-end accommodation.

"In this industry, what we need is high-class hotels for high-class guests. Currently, we have a lot of hotels, but only a few are top class," Luu Meng said.

He noted that the hotel industry was responsible for creating about 22,000 jobs in the Kingdom but that the industry carried risks for investors as it was vulnerable to economic downturns and political instability.

Regional hotels have also been affected by high fuel prices and increased airfares, as well as a slowing global economy, he added.

"Security and safety are the major priority for this sector, and road infrastructure comes next," Luu Meng said.

Kousoum Saroeuth said that, in a bid to strengthen the hotel industry, the Tourism Ministry would require hotels to obtain proper classifications or risk having their licences pulled.

The classification ranges from one to five stars, he said.

"Since the subdecree on hotel classification took effect in 2003 ... only 15 out of 350 hotels in Cambodia have been classified: 12 in Siem Reap, two in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville.

"He said that, since 2003, the Ministry of Tourism has warned hotel owners to apply with the ministry for classifications, but most had ignored the notice."As soon as the new government is formed, if hotel owners still ignore having their hotels classified, they will be denied extensions to their operating licences, which they need to apply for every year," he said.

The hotel standards conformed with ASEAN rules, he said, and "will build credibility among foreigners as well as trust that the hotels they are staying in are as good as others in ASEAN. It will also allow hotels to promote themselves and strengthen their service.

" He said that the classification procedures were not complicated and would take only three days to complete.

Past Post: Big bribes key to US baby-buying

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY; Vol. 9, No. 17August 18 - 31, 2000

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 18 August 2008

AMERICAN agencies facilitating adoptions from Cambodia must pay thousands of dollars to Government officials to expedite the approval of their clients' paperwork.

A source with intimate knowledge of the foreign adoption business told the Post money is passed to Government officials by employees of the American agencies responsible for moving the paperwork through the system.

The source said the amounts of money paid depends on whether the Government perceives a problem with the adoptive parents' application. On average a minimum of US$3,000 is pocketed by officials who must sign approval documents, but several thousand dollars more might be demanded if officials are concerned about the applicants' suitability to adopt.

He said American facilitators in Cambodia are fully aware of the need to pay bribes. When clients of the American agencies agree to accept a child available for adoption they must immediately wire $5,500 to Cambodia.

The source said adoption centers, including the Woman and Orphan Vocational Association (WOVA) used as a source of babies by American agencies, have a network of village, commune and district chiefs across Cambodia who encourage poor mothers to hand their babies to the centers. These chiefs are paid between $10 to $15 each to sign papers stating the babies were abandoned.

According to the US Embassy, 240 visas were issued for adopted Cambodian babies to go to the United States in 1999.

He said brokers buying babies for the adoption centers are also active throughout Cambodia, but they are not the major source of children.

Chhim Naly, director of WOVA denied allegations that WOVA was involved in any baby buying.

Nim Thoth, secretary of state, refused requests to comment on adoption bribery, but said in a written statement that the Ministry of Social Affairs could not say when the suspension of adoptions imposed earlier in the year would be lifted.

While Nim Thoth did not comment about the nature of the reforms to be included in the subdecree on foreign adoptions, a source at MoSA told the Post he expects only minor changes to the adoption law. One of the most significant changes under consideration being the elimination of foreign adoption agency involvement in the paperwork process.

The source said there are officially no adoption fees charged by the Government and he did not know why American agencies charged their clients - though he did acknowledge it could go towards bribes to expedite approval.

Clandestine sexual encounters drive up HIV infections: UN

The Bangkok Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Lyria Eastley
Monday, 18 August 2008

Social stigma is keeping same-sex relations among men in the dark, discouraging STD testing and leading to their spiraling HIV rate

NEW HIV infections among men having often secret sexual relations with other men is five times higher than the national prevalence rate, according to United Nations figures.

The Country Progress Report by the United Nations' General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), conducted from 2006 to the end of 2007, found 8.7 percent of Phnom Penh's MSM, or "men who have sex with men", are infected with HIV, compared with the national prevalence rate of 1.6 percent amongst adults age 15-49.

Denial and ignorance of same-gender sex have kept many MSM from seeking testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases for fear that their friends and relatives would find out about their sexual activities.

The UN's report said that around 42 percent of MSM have not tested for HIV.

MSM make up about four percent of Cambodian men, according to Tony Lisle, the country coordinator for the Joint United Nations Program in HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Cambodia.

The problem is particularly strong amongst "short-haired" MSM - those who identify themselves as heterosexual and often have wives and families but secretly pursue sex with often multiple male partners each month.

Public health challenge

Cambodia has been able to tackle its HIV/Aids crisis through aggressive public service campaigns targeting mostly sex workers and their male customers.

But so far little has been done to address the risk of infection among MSM, and the UN report cites concerns that these men are spreading HIV to their spouses, threatening the Kingdom's otherwise downward trend in the rate of new infections.

Even MSM who are open about their sexual preferences face sharp discrimination that often discourages them from seeking proper healthcare.

Pech Sokchea, 42, who has been in a relationship with his 25-year-old partner Nay Heng for four years, said that while he has learned to endure insults, the harsh words have taken a toll.

"I think I am just as much a member of society as other people are, and I have the right to love who I want, but I've come to hate myself sometimes," he said.

HIV/Aids infection rates down

AFP; An HIV-positive former sex worker in her house in a Tonle Bassac slum.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 18 August 2008

But virtually no data exists on the number of people dying each year from Aids, raising questions about Cambodia’s success in dealing with one of its worst health epidemics

THE percentage of Cambodia's adult population infected with HIV fell again this year and is expected to half by 2012, according to research conducted by the National Center for HIV/Aids Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS). But less than half of those currently infected have access to anti-retroviral drugs and no figures have been released this year for AIDS deaths, which increased sharply at the last count.

According to NCHADS statistics, just 1,330 people contracted HIV in 2006, a figure officials expect to drop to 900 in 2008 and 460 in 2012. Aids prevalence among high-risk groups such as sex workers is down.

"The HIV prevalence among female sex workers declined from 23.4 percent in 2003 to 14.7 percent in 2006," said NCHADS Director Mean Chhi Vun, at a conference Friday.

NCHADS estimates that HIV/Aids prevalence among the general population aged 15-49 has dropped to 0.9 percent - a total of less than one person per 100. They say that between 67,000 and 100,000 people in the country live with HIV, of which some 30,000 receive the proper medicine.

NCHADS officials said that no data was available on the number of Aids deaths in the Kingdom in 2006, but 2002 NCHADS figures indicated that Aids deaths were soaring: from 2000 to 2002 they increased by 18,000 to 78,600.

Moreover, despite the declining prevalence rate, HIV/Aids infection rates are still high in regional terms. According to a 2008 UNAIDS report, Cambodia has the second highest prevalence rate among South Asian countries and ASEAN countries.

War not yet won

Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state in the Ministry of Health, told the conference that despite the drop in infection rates, the war against HIV/Aids was not yet won. "We have to go on fighting HIV/Aids," Mam Bun Heng said.

Keo Tha, executive director of the Women's Network for Unity, which has worked with over 5,000 sex workers across eight provinces, applauded the decline in infection rates, saying that sex workers were the group most likely to become HIV-positive.

She said that sex workers are now becoming aware that using condoms with their clients is a dependable way of preventing the spread of the virus.

But she said some sex workers still did not care about using condoms and had many sex partners per day so they could earn more money.

Monks walk for the environment

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Camilla Bjerrekear AND Thomas Gam Nielsen
Monday, 18 August 2008

MORE than 40 monks from Kampong Chhnang province who are members of the Association of Buddhists for the Environment (ABE), recently took to the streets in a Peace Walk to increase local villagers' awareness of environmental issues.

As the megaphone bellowed out its message asking villagers to protect the environment by planting trees, the locals who joined the procession received blessings, saplings and ‘good deeds' from the Kampong Leang district monks.

"In the Buddhist religion, anyone who plants a tree will receive a good deed. So we give saplings to the villagers and use Buddhism to educate people about the importance of planting trees," said Sun Sokhen, chief monk at Saray Rotanaram pagoda and member of ABE.

As the procession moved slowly through two villages at the foot of Krengley Mountain, whole families of villagers gathered at the side of the road to receive the monks' blessings along with saplings to plant in their gardens.

"We use the Peace Walk to bring attention to the environment. People are Buddhist here and trust our message," said Hiek Sopheap, executive director of ABE.

Before the monks started "action against the exploitation of the forest", some villagers made charcoal of the trees, and several times a year would start forest fires to trap animals. The trees were also cut down to make space for fields, said Sim Soklim, project officer of ABE.

"Three years ago you could see 10 to 20 oxcarts a day driving trees away, but now we only see a couple oxcarts per week," Sim Soklim added.

At first, the villagers questioned how they could earn money if they were not allowed to exploit the surrounding nature. "We had to make the villagers understand that they could survive without damaging the land," said Sim Soklim.

ABE, in collaboration with the UN Development Program and the Small Grants Program under the Global Environment Fund, has helped villagers to start sustainable fishing and mushroom-farming operations. Some of the poorest families in the area were given seeds to grow vegetables.

Sun Sokhen is happy with the result of the project, and has vowed to continue working for the environment. "We want to protect natural resources for the next generation."

Monument bombers to appeal convictions

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 18 August 2008

FIVE Kampuchea Krom activists sentenced to lengthy prison terms for plotting to bomb the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in July 2007 will launch appeals this week, their lawyers said Sunday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Suon Samnang sentenced the men to between 15 and 17 years and fined them 500,000 riels (US$125) Thursday after convicting them of terrorism and the use of illegal explosives.

Kin Toeurn, 53; Soeng Khang, 42; Sok Kim Sovat, 51; Lim Phen, 32; and Soeng Vy, 31, were found guilty of taking part in a conspiracy to blow up the monument using three homemade fertiliser bombs, allegedly in protest against the treatment of ethnic minority Khmers by the Vietnamese government.

Lawyer Khun Sovanrithy of the Cambodian Defender's Project, who is defending Kin Toeurn and Soeng Khang, said he was not satisfied with the court's decision, labeling it "unacceptable".

"It was unfair and the sentences from the court are serious," Khun Sovanrithy told the Post Sunday. "I will talk to my clients on Tuesday and then we will file our appeal on Thursday.

"Moeun Sovann, another lawyer defending the group, said that when the explosion occurred his clients were not in town, but were in Kampong Speu province with their families. "My clients were tortured and forced to confess while they were in police custody," Moeun Sovann said, adding that "the court decision was based on the police report.

"Judge Suon Samnang declined comment about his decision on Sunday.

Minority girl kidnapped in elaborate ruse

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 18 August 2008

Teen held hostage 2 months on farm, rights group says

Rights workers said Sunday they are investigating allegations that a Ratanakkiri farmer snatched an ethnic minority girl and held her captive on his farm for two months until she escaped with the help of her kidnapper's wife and called her parents from hospital last Thursday.

Pen Bonna, Adhoc's provincial coordinator for Ratanakkiri, told the Post Sunday that he will file a complaint on behalf of the parents of the girl, 17-year-old Klan Chheou, against the farm's manager, accusing him of illegal confinement and attempted rape.

"The girl was confined on this farmland [some 60km from her family home] because [the man], who manages the land for a local policeman, pretended to be a moto taxi driver," Pen Bonna said.

"When the girl asked him to take her to her uncle's farm, he took her to his farm instead. He wanted her to pay him 50,000 riels for the ride but she didn't have that much money and was forced to work on his land for two months."

Klan Chheou said that the farmer took her to his farmland against her will and then promised to pay her 150,000 riels per month to work for him.

He "threatened to tell the neighbors that I was his second wife and so I did what he told me and didn't try to call my parents," Klan Chheou said.

"Luckily, I wasn't hurt or damaged. I protected myself from rape or him touching me," she added.

Missing personPen Bonna said that the girl's parents came to ask him for help after their daughter went missing on June 9 . He said he filed a complaint with the authorities requesting help.

" I WASN’T HURT OR DAMAGED. I PROTECTED MYSELF FROM RAPE OR HIM TOUCHING ME. "

"I learned on Thursday that the girl's parents found her at [the man's] farmland and now I will be filing another complaint against him on their behalf directly to the prosecutor on Monday," Pen Bonna said.

The girl was found after the farmer's wife took her to a local hospital and advised her to call her parents last week.

The wife "brought me to the hospital because I was feeling very unwell and she told me to call my parents", Klan Chheou said.

Sol Njong, Chheou's father, told the Post that he was very worried when his daughter went missing and that her captor has contacted him. "He wanted to give us 320,000 riels for the two months that my daughter worked on his land and asked me not to file a complaint against him but I rejected the money and I will file a complaint to seek justice for my daughter."

Dam Sith quietly leaves for America

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 18 August 2008

AFTER enduring a weeklong incarceration and the assassination of his colleague, Dam Sith, editor in chief of a pro-opposition newspaper and a parliamentary candidate for the Sam Rainsy Party, has left the country, a colleague said Sunday.

"Since Dam Sith was released from prison and particularly since his colleague [Khim Sambo] was assassinated, he has been hiding in his house and afraid to go outside," said a journalist associated with Dam Sith, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Sith left for the United States on August 5, he asked people not to talk about his trip.

"Chan Soveth, a monitoring officer with the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc, said Dam Sith had been living quietly in the country since his release from Prey Sar prison on June 15 and that his family was not releasing any information about his current whereabouts.

Defamation charges

Dam Sith was arrested on charges of defamation and spreading disinformation over an April 18 article in the Moneaksekar Khmer linking Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong to the Khmer Rouge. Prime Minister Hun Sen requested Dam Sith's release from prison in a letter dated June 14 and addressed to Chev Keng at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Eng Chhay Ieng, secretary general of SRP, denied that Dam Sith had fled the country and said he had merely taken a holiday.

"Sith left the country last week ... not out of fear or intimidation. He plans to return within a month and has no personal security concerns since the court decided to release him on bail," he said.

Risk of flash floods drops

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 18 August 2008

RECENT flash floods in Laos appear to be subsiding and do not pose an imminent threat to Cambodian provinces downstream, officials said Sunday.

Hatda An, operations manager at the Mekong River Commission's Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre, said that the floods in Laos' capital Vientiane have ceased to be a major cause for concern as the water level, which was at a critical point from August 8 to 10, has dropped in recent days.

"If there is no more rain it will not affect Cambodia badly," said Hatda An, who visited the flooded areas in Vientiane last week. "The water will subside."

Mao Hak, director of the Hydrology and River Works Department at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the water levels for upstream provinces such as Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham had declined, but the department was still monitoring them closely.

Officials last week expressed alarm at rising river levels.

Pao Samy, secretary general of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said that authorities at all levels are preparing for the worst and are ready to intervene if a natural disaster should strike.

Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management at the Cambodian Red Cross, said his department had set aside some 100 tonnes of rice to distribute to flood victims this year.

KRT opens anti-graft drive

AFP; A tourist looks at photographs in Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Former prison leader Duch is set to go on trial in September.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by GEorgia wilkins
Monday, 18 August 2008

Cambodian court officials vow to stamp out corruption, but new 'ethics monitors' will not address graft allegations under review by the UN

OFFICIALS at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal maintain that newly implemented oversight rules would curb corruption at the UN-backed court, but acknowledged that the regulations were vague and would not address the serious graft allegations currently under review by a UN body in New York.

"We are talking about the future," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said on Saturday, when asked if the new measures would address pre-existing allegations.

He was speaking a day after the court named Chief Cambodian Judge Kong Srim and tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis as "ethics monitors".

He said the new positions were proof of the court's willingness to deal with any new graft head-on amid reports of donor uneasiness over the allegations of financial mismanagement.

"[Top Cambodian court official Sean Visoth] has put his career at stake to show that Cambodia is willing to put in place anti-corruption measures," he said.

"We don't have to disturb the donors any more," he added. "Cambodia can work by itself to fight corruption."

The appointments were made as the beleaguered tribunal faces another round of scrutiny over allegations that some Cambodian staff had to kick back a percentage of their salaries to their bosses.

The UN Office of Internal Oversight is reviewing the allegations, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds have been frozen by the UN Development Program.

" Cambodia can work by itself to fight corruption. "

Neither Jarvis, who was not at Friday's meeting, nor Kong Srim, who began work at the court last month, said they knew exactly what the monitoring position would involve.

Jarvis also said that she knew nothing of the kickback allegations, saying that she had "never seen them", but added that the UN had no legal jurisdiction over graft charges on the Cambodian side of the joint tribunal.

"It is lawful that any reports of wrongdoing by national staff are handled initially by the national side of the court," Jarvis said in an email on Sunday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has also written a formal complaint to the UN over the review, disputing the world body's jurisdiction over Cambodian operations at the court, but tribunal staff have declined to give details of the correspondence.

The latest upheavals come as the court prepares to try its first defendant, former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, who is more commonly known by his revolutionary name Duch.

Duch was indicted last Tuesday on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, becoming the first of five former regime leaders currently detained by the tribunal to have his case go the trial chambers.

Court officials said last week that potential funding shortfalls at the court would not jeopardise Duch's trial as an emergency infusion of US$2.9 million, pledged to the Cambodian side of the court by Japan before the UNDP froze funds, will be used for Cambodian staff salaries, which went unpaid in July.

Troops leave temple as top diplomats to meet

HENG CHIVOAN Union leader Rong Chhun leads a protest in Phnom Penh on Sunday against the Thai presence at Preah Vihear.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 18 August 2008

Military commanders say redeployment of Cambodian and Thai soldiers is a good omen for today’s border talks between foreign ministers

ALMOST all Cambodian and Thai troops have left their positions at Preah Vihear ahead of talks later today aimed at resolving the military standoff over disputed land around the 11th-century World Heritage Site, commanders said over the weekend.

The redeployment of hundreds of soldiers has raised hopes that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart, Tej Bunnag, will reach a solution to the crisis when they meet in Thailand for a second round of negotiations over the issue.

"Both sides have withdrawn most of their armed forces," Long Sovann, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said on Sunday. "The [tensions] have mostly eased ... I believe the negotiations will solve the situation."

The talks come a day after police broke up a gathering by about 100 factory workers and teachers protesting the Thai presence at Preah Vihear, led by Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.

"Why do the Cambodian police ... fight with the Cambodian people but against foreign aggressors they become cowards," Rong Chhun said after riot police halted the protest.

Rights groups Licadho and Adhoc condemned the authorities' handling of the demonstration, saying that several people were pushed around by the police while dozens of factory workers were illegally detained on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as they tried to enter the city. "The government should solve the Preah Vihear border issue as soon as possible," said Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth.

Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers from both sides dug in at Preah Vihear following the July 15 border incursion by Thai troops in the latest flare-up over 4.8 square kilometres of disputed land around the temple complex.

A first round of talks last month ended with an agreement that both sides would recommend troops be redeployed but little progress was made on the ground. Troops began to withdraw last week as Cambodia and Thailand prepared for Monday's meeting, leaving only a handful at a pagoda on the temple grounds and on the road leading to Preah Vihear.

"We hope we will get some successes from this meeting - we will try our best to get a fruitful result," Sin Bunthoeun, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told the Post on Sunday.