Friday, 24 October 2008

Pictures from Preah Vihear

A Cambodian soldier stands guard at the frontline, top of the mountain, of Phnom Trop on the outskirt of the famed Preah Vihear temple, near Cambodian-Thai border, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. The leaders of Thailand and Cambodia resolved Friday to settle their countries' border dispute peacefully, foreign ministers from the two nations said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier, second left, stands in a line of Cambodian soldiers as the other three Thai soldiers, right, talk each other on a road near the famed Preah Vihear temple, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. The leaders of Thailand and Cambodia resolved Friday October 24, 2008, to settle their countries' border dispute peacefully, foreign ministers from the two nations said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai soldiers stand guard next to their tents at the frontline near the famed Preah Vihear temple, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military officials on Friday October 24, 2008, ended their talks without an agreement again for the tense border dispute that almost led the two Southeast Asian neighbors to an outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian soldiers stand guard on the outskirts of the famed Preah Vihear temple, near the Cambodian-Thai border, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military officials on Friday October 24, 2008, ended their talks without an agreement again for the tense border dispute that almost led the two Southeast Asian neighbors to an outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier makes his way in a mountain at the frontline near the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military officials on Friday October 24, 2008, ended their talks without an agreement again for the tense border dispute that almost led the two Southeast Asian neighbors to an outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier holds rocket launchers at the frontline on the outskirts of the famed Preah Vihear temple, near the Cambodian-Thai border, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military officials on Friday October 24, 2008, ended their talks without an agreement again for the tense border dispute that almost led the two Southeast Asian neighbors to an outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian soldier, front row left, checks out B-40 launchers together with Thai soldiers at the frontline, top of the mountain, of Phnom Trop on the outskirt of the famed Preah Vihear temple, near Cambodian-Thai border, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. The leaders of Thailand and Cambodia resolved Friday to settle their countries' border dispute peacefully, foreign ministers from the two nations said.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
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A Cambodian soldier carries a rocket launcher as he guards at the frontline on the outskirt of the famed Preah Vihear temple, near the Cambodian-Thai border, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Thai and Cambodian military officials on Friday October 24, 2008, ended their talks without an agreement again for the tense border dispute that almost led the two Southeast Asian neighbors to an outright war.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thailand's Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn, foreground, gestures during a negotiation about a reset of soldier zones of the Cambodian-Thai border at the frontline near the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. Thai and Cambodian military officials opened Friday a new round of talks aimed at trying to defuse armed tension following a deadly clash in the border spat between the two neighbors' troops.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Maj. Gen. Chea Morn gestures during a negotiation about a reset of soldier zones of the Cambodian-Thai border at the frontline near the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. Thai and Cambodian military officials opened Friday a new round of talks aimed at trying to defuse armed tension following a deadly clash in the border spat between the two neighbors' troops.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thailand's Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn, right, listens to a translator during a negotiation about a reset of soldier zones of the Cambodian-Thai border at the frontline near the famed Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. Thai and Cambodian military officials opened Friday a new round of talks aimed at trying to defuse armed tension following a deadly clash in the border spat between the two neighbors' troops.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Officials attend the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand

Cambodian police officials stand guard in front of a hotel in Siem Reap province. Cambodia's defence minister teed off with Thai military officials Thursday in a spot of golf diplomacy ahead of talks aimed at resolving a fierce border dispute.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thai military officials hold a meeting in Siem Reap province. Cambodia's defence minister teed off with Thai military officials Thursday in a spot of golf diplomacy ahead of talks aimed at resolving a fierce border dispute.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Officials attend the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (R) talks with his Cambodian counterpart General Chea Morn (L), commander of Cambodia's 4th military region, before a meeting in a hotel in Siem Reap October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) toasts with his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Morn, Cambodia general commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Southeast (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) toasts with his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Morn, Cambodia general commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Southeast (Reuters)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) shakes hands with his Cambodian counterpart Chea Morn (R), general commander of the 4th region, after signing documents regarding the two borders at the 11th meeting of the regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2nd Army area of Thailand in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Southeast (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (R) walks with his Cambodian counterpart General Chea Morn (L), commander of Cambodia's 4th military region, before a meeting in a hotel in Siem Reap October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (4th R) attends the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (Reuters)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) exchanges signed documents regarding the two borders with his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Morn, Cambodia general commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Southeast (Reuters)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) signs a document beside his Cambodian counterpart General Chea Morn, commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of the regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (4th L) poses for photographs with his Cambodian counterpart General Chea Morn (C), commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of the regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (2nd R) poses for photographs with his Cambodian counterpart General Chea Morn (R), commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of the regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian LTG Chea Morn (right) and his Thai counterpart Wiboonsak Neeparn at a meeting in Siem Reap province. Thailand and Cambodia agreed Friday to prevent a simmering border dispute boiling over into further armed conflict, in a sign that tensions were easing after deadly clashes last week(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

UNESCO to demarcate Preah Vihear temple

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-24

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage committee expects to determine the boundary of Preah Vihear temple in late November or early December, officially marking the disputed area as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cambodian national media reported Friday.

Despite the ongoing border dispute that has left two statues inthe Preah Vihear temple complex damaged by gunfire, the area would be demarcated and signposted as a UN monument as planned, Phay Siphan, secretary of state at the Cambodian Council of Ministers, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Phay Siphan claimed that Thai soldiers violated international law by intentionally damaging the site during fighting that erupted last week over disputed border territory.

"The Preah Vihear complex and the surrounding areas were invaded by Thais, and the Thai soldiers intended to destroy the temple," he said.

Phay Siphan said that the Preah Vihear Authority has already complained to UNESCO about the damage done to two naga statues, which were allegedly struck by rounds or shell fragments during the Oct. 15 clash between Cambodian and Thai troops.

The 11th-century temple complex was listed as a UN World Heritage site on July 7 in a decision that angered Thai nationalists and escalated tensions over contested border areas.

Min Sovann, a heritage police officer with the Preah Vihear Authority, confirmed that two naga statues and a stairway at the temple complex were slightly damaged by rounds fired from Thai M79grenade launchers.

The naga statues sustained damage to their heads, necks and bodies, but the pockmarks will not cause the naga statues to collapse, he said.

Editor: Du Guodong

Credit crisis rattles civil society

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Major development partners such as the UN may be unlikely to pull out, but local NGOs are concerned about the impact of the global credit crisis on their funding.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Friday, 24 October 2008

Many local civil society groups are concerned that their donations will dry up as the credit crisis takes hold in developed nations, limiting future generosity

CAMBODIA's civil society groups are under threat from the global credit crisis that looks set to severely limit the amount of available donor funding.

"The government collects tax and has other sources of income, but NGOs have only one source of funding: donors," said Thun Saray, president of Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

Adhoc has an average monthly running cost of between US$100,000 and $200,000, which all comes from donors. Were donors to reduce funding in 2009, the organisation would have no option but to cut back on lower-priority projects, Thun Saray said.

According to Eric Sidgwich, senior country economist for the Asian Development Bank (ADB), inflows of foreign aid, or official development assistance, were likely to be "more resilient" than inflows of foreign direct investment, at least in the immediate future, due to the fact that aid comes from government budgets. In the long term, there is a risk that the amount of aid could decrease, but it would not be until 2009 before the effects would really be felt, he said.

"It is a hope that countries like Cambodia, which are still heavily aid dependent, who still have high instances of poverty, will be somewhat shielded from these events," Sidgwich said. "But I think the jury is still out on that," he added.

But for many, such as Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the lack of long-term security is a major concern.

"Now we have to have funds of more than $250,000 to operate our projects for next year," he said. "But we are still worried about [the credit crisis] because it will affect our organisation ... if it continues."

He expressed worry over the chance that hundreds of millions of dollars of aid for poverty alleviation projects would be lost.

"If donor countries have a financial crisis, they will think about whether to donate funds to Cambodia," he said.

Not such a problem
Others, such as Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), were less concerned. He said DC-Cam's annual running costs are approximately $500,000, most of which is covered by the organisation's investment endowment, which is held in New York, and funds from the sale of books, pictures and DVDs about its work.

"Our investment endowment earns interest of about $200,000 per year," he said, adding that the sale of books, pictures and films earns DC-Cam about $100,000 per year. Another $200,000 comes from donors.

The government is also concerned that both aid to the government and donor funding for NGOs could dry up, said Mey Vann, director of finance at the Ministry of Economy.

He said that the government is currently devising a strategy to lobby donor countries to keep providing aid to Cambodia, even in difficult times, saying the Kingdom remains one of the world's least developed countries, he said.

Falling rubber prices put sector's future in question

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Young rubber plants in Ratanakkiri. Despite rubber prices plummeting, analysts say the emerging sector can withstand a downturn.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Nguon Sovan
Friday, 24 October 2008

Rural farmers are seeing their incomes threatened as rubber prices take a hit from soaring Chinese stockpiles and declining global demand

FALLING demand and high stockpiles in China have sent rubber prices tumbling, putting Cambodia's future as a rubber producer in question.

Prices have plummeted from US$3,200 a tonne in April to $1,800 currently, but local experts maintain the commodity will recover.

"We think that the decline in the price of rubber will not cause rubber farmers to lose money. If farmers can sell their goods at a price of more than $1,000, they will make a profit. In contrast, if the rubber price goes below $1,000 per tonne, the farmers will see losses," said Ly Phalla, director general at the General Directorate of Rubber Plantations.

He added, however, that declining prices will not affect the expansion of the rubber sector, which is expected to grow to 150,000 hectares by 2015, an increase of 50 percent.

Cambodia exports 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of latex per year to Vietnam and China. Most of Cambodia's 100,000 hectares of rubber plantation are new fields that have not yet gone into production.

But Ly Phalla said that by 2010, Cambodia would produce enough rubber to support a tyre plant and sponge plant for the export market.

He also said that Cambodia will be able to export 80,000 tonnes of latex rubber by 2015, and 150,000 tonnes by 2020. In 2007, the global rubber demand was 22 million tonnes.

The Financial Times reported that Chinese merchants have defaulted on contracts to buy rubber from Thailand, the world's largest supplier.

"Some are cancelling contracts, but many more are trying to renegotiate to lower the price," Piyaporn Saelim, of the Thai Rubber Association, told the FT. Most rubber is consumed by the auto industry, which is in decline.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said that the precipitous price drop is a concern for farmers, but he is optimistic that the decline is temporary.

"The rubber price in Cambodia in the last 10 years has gradually increased.... Rubber plantations take a long time to produce a yield," Chan Sophal said.

"The decline in price will not discourage farmers from planting rubber trees because the decline may only be short term."

Hak Vantha, 45, a rubber farmer with 70 hectares in Kampong Cham province, said the decline in the price of rubber does not concern him.

"Even if the price goes down, the plantations will still make a profit from both resin and wood," he said.

Aussie program wins UN peace award

THE AUSTRALIAN
October 24, 2008

AN ABC television program about two traumatised Vietnam veterans on a mission to deactivate mines in Cambodia has won an United Nations Media Peace Award.

Bomber and Roy is the story of veterans, Tony "Bomber" Bower-Miles and Roy Chamberlain, who made peace with their difficult lives by deactivating Cambodian mines.

Victorian Minister for Senior Victorians Lisa Neville tonight presented the 2008 UN Media Peace Award for depicting positive images of ageing and older people to ABC TV's Australian Story for their portrayal of the pair.

Ms Neville said the pair were powerful role models for older people and the unexpected benefit of volunteering in later years.

"Bomber and Roy's story is extraordinary, but there are many other older people who stay active and help their communities by volunteering and it is important that their work is recognised."

The United Nations Media Peace Awards aim to promote understanding and awareness about humanitarian and social justice issues, and the values of peace, cooperation and mediation rather than conflict and violence.

Charting a changing Cham

Photo by: PHOTO SUPPLIED: Cham anthropologist Bjorn Blengsli.
Meet Bjorn blengsli
Cham anthropologist Bjorn Blengsli started his field research in 2001 while living in a village without toilets, electricity or running water. He has since been solicited by western embassies and research institutes across the globe, including the Washington DC-based National Bureau of Asian Research, whose interest in Cambodia’s Muslims spiked following September 11. Blengsi has written a chapter about Islamic education in Cambodia in an academic book about Muslims in Southeast Asia to be released in January 2009.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Friday, 24 October 2008

He's survived attacks by armed cattle thieves and been accused of being a CIA spy, but his fascination with the Cham continues

Why did you start your research?
I came to Cambodia because the country has always fascinated me and information about the country's Muslim society was scarce. That the Kingdom's Muslim community also arguably is one of the fastest-changing Muslim societies in the world and the fact that there weren't too many competitors around in 2001 was obviously important.

How did you start?
I came for my dissertation field work in July 2001 and almost immediately went to settle in a Muslim village in the countryside where I learned the Khmer language by participation and observation, and started conducting field work. And I've been here ever since then.

How has the Cham community changed?
Though the first reform movements came in the 1950s, I have focused my research on the rebuilding of Cambodia's Muslim society since the early 1990s. The post-Khmer Rouge society has been rebuilt almost exclusively with foreign money. This process was, and still is, highly competitive and has featured an unprecedented modernisation of the education system. There are two defining characteristics to this modernisation. On the one hand there is the growing consciousness on the part of Muslims that Islam is a coherent system of practices and beliefs, and on the other there is an increasing tendency to make those beliefs concrete by very specific codes of dress and behaviour. The Muslim establishment has realised that education systems have a direct role in giving rise to new social and political identities in the next generation. So, they see control of it as vital and try to promote certain religious ideologies in order to fulfill their strategic ends within the contemporary religious and secular discourses on the kingdom's Muslim society.

How have you collected information?
When I started, I occasionally used a Khmer assistant who came to my village once every three weeks. I did household interviews, participated in day-to-day life, discussed religious differences and basically wrote everything down in my diaries. My village occasionally had problems with cattle thieves and kidnappers. Most bandits used to be armed, but the villagers were not. I remember some scary episodes involving bandits with guns. After September 11, I got arrested and expelled from the village and the district. I was accused of being one of "60 identified CIA spies". A letter from the Ministry of Religion and a meeting with (then undersecretary of state) Zakaryya Adam and later (then undersecretary of state for cults and religions) Ismael Ousman got me out of it in the end. However, if we overlook the CIA episode, and a few incidents involving armed bandits attacking the village at night, I had a fantastic time.

How has your acceptance by the Cham community changed over the years?
Initially I had some problems because I wanted to settle in the Jama'at Tabligh stronghold: Phum Trea, in Kampong Cham's Krouch Chhmar district. When they refused to have me I went to settle in Rokar Popram in the Tbaung Khmum district. I immediately felt welcome and as soon as I got used to no electricity, toilets, roads and running water, I had a great time. Since then I guess Muslims in most parts of the country got used to me, which does not necessarily indicate that they see me as their best friend.

What is the most important misunderstanding Khmers and Westerners have about Cambodian Muslims?
Many Khmers consider Muslims threatening because they see their allegiance extending beyond Cambodia. For Khmers, the Muslims have a reputation as powerful magicians capable of making curses, etc, but more serious are current beliefs that Muslims want to give all the land east of the Mekong to the Vietnamese and that armed youth gangs wants an independent Muslim republic in Kampong Cham. The consequence is that they're seen as both a political threat and culturally different than the Khmer.

Westerners and Khmers alike don't understand why Muslims here are changing. My research into the nature of religious change among Cambodian Muslims shows troubling trends, about both the spread of new religious beliefs and the political and social reorientation of many Cambodian Muslims, especially young people. My research, which has primarily focused on religious schools and foreign donors ,has shown that the education is turning more political when the students reach high school level. It is still too early to say if this will create tensions between the Muslim community and Khmer society, but regrettably it looks as though that may be the case.

What is the most important thing Cambodian Muslims don't understand about Khmer society?
The Muslim understanding of Cambodian society and religion is minimal and tells us that the ignorance of each others' religions is mutual. Their religion also prevents them from celebrating or recognising many Buddhist national holidays.

However, a large minority of Muslims believe, rightly so, that their Khmer neighbors do not like them, that Khmers receive better education and that they would be discriminated against if they applied for the same job as Khmer. I am not claiming that I have found the solution for the path to social advancement, the topic is more complex than that, but secular education should be implemented in all Muslim schools. The secular education among Muslims is still low when compared to that of the Khmer, with Muslim girls most disadvantaged in their pursuit of secular education. Increased knowledge not only about the Khmer society, but also the different sects within Islam is also imperative. As many as 99 percent of Muslim religious students believe there is only one correct interpretation of their religion and this is extremely dangerous.

What areas have been most neglected by researchers?
The religious education systems needs to be further researched. Cambodia has several different religious education systems with distinctively different curricula. My research has found that much of the change in religious orientation, particularly the growing sympathy for fundamentalist understandings of the faith and terrorism, are related to Islamic schooling.

I have successfully uncovered relations between different types of religious schooling and conflicting religious interpretations and political attitudes.

The schools' religious content are closely linked to the type of religion practiced in the donor countries. Precise information is still missing on the role of these religious schools outside of Cambodia. It will be very difficult to predict the future shape and alignment of Muslim institutions in the country - to say nothing about the ability of the Cambodian state and foreign governments to respond to these changes in an informed manner, without proper information about what Cambodian Muslims learn abroad.

Are researchers of Cambodia's Muslim community conducting themselves responsibly?
There are some excellent researchers here. But I am concerned about reports of certain researchers who have pretended to convert to Islam in order to gain the confidence of Muslim informants. Muslims consider such people hypocrites, or munafiq - one who is more dangerous to Muslims than the enemies of Islam. I am afraid that this kind of devious behavior will negatively impact legitimate researchers in the future.

Oxfam America to Expand Community Finance Program in Mali and Cambodia

Friday, October 24, 2008

infoZine Staff

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $11.7 million grant

Boston, MA - infoZIne - International development and relief organization Oxfam America today announced it received an $11.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Saving for Change, the organization's unique community finance program. Oxfam will continue to collaborate with Freedom from Hunger and Stromme Foundation to launch an unprecedented expansion of Saving for Change over the next three years.

Oxfam's innovative approach to community finance breaks with that of traditional microfinance institutions. Saving for Change trains large numbers of savings and credit groups in the poorest regions of the world to save together and make loans to each other with their own resources instead of taking out a loan from a bank, credit union or microfinance institution.

"The first Saving for Change group was trained three years ago. Today, over 150,000 villagers in Mali and Cambodia have already joined savings and lending groups," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will reach close to 550,000 villagers in the next three years."

With this growth, Saving for Change will become the largest microfinance program in these two countries and the only one reaching the rural poor at this scale. Village groups act as their own community banks, providing villagers with a place to save and easy access to loans. As a result, poor people living in remote areas with little or no financial institutions can access self-managed financial services to build assets, increase incomes, and improve the livelihoods of their families.

"Not only is Saving for Change different because it is based on saving instead of borrowing, it also relies on person-to-person training and relationships instead of technology. This helps build trust and ultimately makes the savings and lending groups more sustainable," said Offenheiser.

Oxfam will use this grant to replicate its community finance model in communities throughout Mali and Cambodia. In addition, it will allow the organization an opportunity to explore further program growth in Latin America.

Millions of people in Asia and Africa live on one dollar a day or less, and few have access to savings or other financial services that can help them increase their financial security and improve their lives. Without places to save, it is difficult for families to build savings to pay for educational fees, medical bills, or emergencies. Others have little or no access to micro loans that could improve their incomes through investments like setting up a small sales kiosk, buying crop fertilizer, or acquiring an animal for breeding.

Funding to expand Saving for Change comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative, which works with partners to make savings and other financial services available in developing countries so the poor can better manage life's risks and take advantage of life's opportunities.

"The innovative savings and lending approach has been successful at bringing affordable financial services to people with very low incomes living in remote communities," said Bob Christen, director of the Financial Services for the Poor initiative. "We believe that Saving for Change's groups will open the door to opportunity and increased household financial security for many poor people."

The grant also supports program evaluation and research that will help document and fully measure Oxfam's impact on communities. Researchers will be asking key questions on the affect participating in Saving for Change has including:

Does it affect how-and how much-women save and borrow?
Does it improve risk-coping and food security?
Does it build crucial social networks and businesses?

And, does it improve agricultural production?"The research component of this grant will help us fine tune our program so that it best meets the needs of the poor," concluded Offenheiser. "Documenting Saving for Change's success will also help build momentum for expanding savings-led community finance programs around the world."

Saving for Change is implemented by Oxfam America in collaboration with Freedom from Hunger and Norway-based Stromme Foundation. Freedom from Hunger's support includes developing training manuals, and contributing technical assistance for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the program. Stromme Foundation, along with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, underwrites the costs for the teams training savings and lending groups in Mali.

Local medical team to travel to Cambodia

UNION-TRIBUNE
October 23, 2008

SAN DIEGO: An 11-member team of San Diego doctors, nurses and other surgical staff members is scheduled to perform 20 operations on children with heart defects during a 10-day medical mission to Cambodia at the end of the month.

The team consists of staffers from Rady Children's Hospital and UCSD Medical Center. The trip, which starts today, is being led by Dr. Paul Grossfeld, a cardiologist at Rady and an assistant adjunct professor at UCSD.

The mission is sponsored by Variety Children's Lifeline, a nonprofit group in Solana Beach that provides medical help to children with treatable heart conditions in developing countries. –K.D.

Thailand, Cambodia agree to prevent further border clashes

Cambodian LTG Chea Morn (right) and his Thai counterpart Wiboonsak Neeparn at a meeting in Siem Reap province


Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nambong (left) with his Thai counterpart Sompong Amornvivat in Beijing

BEIJING (AFP) — Thailand and Cambodia agreed Friday to prevent a simmering border dispute boiling over into further armed conflict, in a sign that tensions were easing after deadly clashes last week.

Speaking in Beijing after talks between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Somchai Wongsawat, the foreign ministers of the Southeast Asian neighbours said the two leaders agreed to avoid future clashes.

"The two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontations any longer," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat told reporters, summarising the agreement made on the sidelines of a summit of Asian and European leaders.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, standing alongside Sompong, echoed his counterpart, describing the talks as "very good, very friendly."

"We are moving in a good track. Not only to solve the problem of the borders between our two countries but also on a good track to improve our neighbourliness and cooperation," Hor Namhong said.

Tensions between the two neighbours flared in July when an ancient temple on their border was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

Shots were exchanged last week between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia, leaving one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

Negotiations between military leaders in northern Cambodia on Friday sounded a similar note, with senior Thai officials insisting that talks with their Cambodian counterparts were easing the border tensions.

The Thai commanders, led by Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, said there was a "friendly atmosphere" in the talks with the Cambodians but insisted Thailand's soldiers would stand firm.

"The Thai side strongly reiterates that the position of our troop deployments is clearly inside Thai territory," said a statement from Thai commanders released as the meetings began.

Thailand's terms of negotiation must be approved in parliament on Tuesday before the two countries can hold further border talks.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last week's clashes. But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

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.

Thai and Cambodian PMs pledge peace

Thousands of Thai and Cambodian troops have been facing off across the disputed border land [EPA]

AL JAZEERA
Friday, October 24, 2008

Thailand and Cambodia have put the issue of a deadly border dispute behind them and are now "good friends", officials have said following a meeting between the leaders of the two countries.
However, military officials from the two sides holding separate talks have said they will stand firm in their positions.

Somchai Wongsawat, the Thai prime minister, and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen met for talks on the issue on Friday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit in Beijing.

Speaking after the meeting, foreign ministers from the two sides said they had agreed to take steps to avoid future armed clashes over the issue.

Hor Namhong, Cambodia's foreign minister, described the atmosphere of the talks as "very good, very friendly."

He said the two leaders had agreed to resolve the feud amicably for "the sake of our neighbourliness."

Earlier this month three Cambodian soldiers and a Thai soldier were killed in a firefight close to the 11th century Preah Vihear temple which straddles their common border.

The meeting in Beijing came as military officials from Thailand and Cambodia held separate talks in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap.

The talks between top military commanders began over a round of golf and continued into Friday under what Thai Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn said was a "friendly atmosphere".

However, a statement released by the Thai military delegation insisted that Thailand's soldiers would stand firm.

"The Thai side strongly reiterates that the position of our troop deployments is clearly inside Thai territory," it said.

Last week, a day after the violent clashes between the two sides, Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to hold joint border patrols in a bid to ease tensions.

But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when the Preah Vihear temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Cambodian, Thai border committees ink agreement to ease border tension

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-24

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Regional border committees of Cambodia and Thailand here on Friday signed an agreement to ease their months-long tension along the border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple.

The agreement was reached during the 11th annual meeting of the regional border committees (RBC) attended by officers from the fourth military region of Cambodia and the second army area of Thailand.

According to the deal, Thailand and Cambodia will cooperate to realize peace at the border area and restore the region to its prior situation, General Chea Man, chairman of Cambodian RBC and commander of the fourth military region of Cambodia, told reporters at a press conference.

At the area near the Preah Vihear Temple, both sides are determined to keep the utmost restraint in order to avoid confrontation or armed clash as previously occurred, he said.

The Thai side also made the same promise in its press release issued to reporters here on Friday upon the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

On Oct. 15, a gunfire exchange between both troops near the temple killed two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai trooper.

"Both sides agreed to cooperate with equality and we respect the sovereignty and border of each other," said Chea Man.

"We will continue the talks to solve the issue with peaceful deals. We have to exchange information, protect the environment along the border, take action against crimes, make sure of economic development along the border, and guarantee easiness for the people to have a proper living standard," he said.

Meanwhile, Lt. General Wiboonsak Neeparn, chairman of the Thai RBC and commanding general of the second army area of Thailand, told reporters that the Thai side has affirmed its readiness to coordinate with the Cambodian side to ensure peace, security and tranquility along the Thai-Cambodia border.

In a statement issued here on Friday after that meeting ended, the Thai military said it has achieved its objectives, namely "to develop a good understanding and relationship between the armed forces with a view to easing tension in the border areas."

It said the meeting has discussed how to deal with the narcotics trade, among other things.

Under the Thai constitution, any agreement reached by the government with another state needs parliamentary approval. The army statement said Oct. 28 has been earmarked for parliament to debate border matters, a date mentioned by Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat in Beijing.

On Friday in Beijing, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Somchai Wongsawat reached consensus on the sidelines of the ASEM Summit to avoid future clashes.

"The two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontations any longer," Sompong told reporters.

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, standing alongside Sompong, echoed his counterpart, describing the premiers' talks as "very good, very friendly."

In July, tensions ran high after the ancient Preah Vihear Temple was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

The tension later turned into a military stalemate, in which upto 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for several weeks.

In early October, at least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded during sporadic exchange of gunfire and two other Thai soldiers were seriously injured after stepping on a landmine at the border area, the report said.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice decided that the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding area belong to Cambodia.

Editor: Du Guodong

Talks stall in Siem Reap

Cambodge Soir

23-10-2008

Military commanders took part in a border co-operation meeting on October 23, but the Thai side declared it was not "competent" when the border issue was raised.

Commanding Officer Chea Morn, in charge of military zone 4 in Cambodia, and Lieutenant Wiboonsak, the representative of the Thai military authorities in charge of zone 2,met on Thursday October 23 in Siem Reap.

These are regular meetings where the routine agenda deals with economic and security issues in border areas (Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom in Cambodia, Surin, Boreiram, Ubon and Sisaket in Thailand).

“This time when we tried to touch upon the border issue, at 3pm, the Thai side ended the meeting as it declared that it was not competent to deal with this issue” declared a Cambodian participant to Cambodge Soir Hebdo.

“Usually these meetings deal with trade and tourism but this time we will focus on the border row” had declared on the morning prior to the meeting, Neang Phath, the Cambodian Secretary of State for Defence.

It was the eleventh meeting of this kind. The meeting should reconvene on Friday October 24 but the agenda has not yet been set.

Hun Sen and Somchai Wongsawat should also touch upon the Preah Vihear row on Friday October 24 in Beijing within the framework of the Asean-European Union summit.

Ung Chamroeun

Freedom of press: Cambodia backpedals

Cambodge Soir

23-10-2008

A Reporters sans frontières (Reporter without Borders) report includes a list outlining the situation of press freedom in the world for 2008. The list is based on the liberty of the press per country and highlights a worsening trend in the Kingdom.

Cambodia, like Colombia, ranks 126 out of 173 countries and is not one of the worst countries for press freedom. Overall, Asian countries rank at the lower end of the table as many of them are under totalitarian governments: for example China ranks at 167 and Laos 164. In the region, only Indonesia (111) and Thailand (124) are better ranked than Cambodia.

This report highlights that Cambodia is among a group of countries where strong taboos remain and which are governed by regimes hesitating between repression and more freedom. Gabon, Morocco and Malaysia, among others, are also in this group. The Kingdom’s slip is directly linked to the killing of journalist Khim Sambo, a murder which is not yet solved. It also suffers from the control exercised by the government over the press during the July election. The previous report, published last year, stressed improvement of the press, especially with defamation being decriminalized, a first in the region.

Other interesting points are a set back of the freedom of press in some western countries such as the US (36) or France (35), two countries slipping in the list. The authors of the report also observed that there is a correlation between the loss of freedom of expression in traditionally democratic countries and their involvement in armed conflicts. On top of the list are European countries with a huge GDP and with no war commitments: Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway share the top of the list.

Cambodia gets additional EU funds

Cambodge Soir

23-10-2008

The European Commission announced that it will finance programmes to support women and the underprivileged in the Kingdom’s rural areas.

Almost 1.3 million Euros (around US$ 1.8 million) will be allocated to finance several programmes implemented in Cambodia by Non Governmental Organisations. The budget will be distributed to Cambodian or European NGOs that have passed the selection process. These NGOs must have at least three years experience in food programmes in developing countries.

“Despite improvement of the economic situation of several social groups in Cambodia over the last few years, the nutritional situation of some households, in particular in rural areas have not changed” explained Rafael Dochao Moreno, charg√© d’affaires for the EU in Cambodia. “To tackle these issues considered a priority by the EC, we are committed to fund the best programme proposals, those that are able to improve the situation of women and of the most underprivileged in rural areas. And in particular, programmes focusing on the three most fragile provinces in terms of food, Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri and Oddar Meancheay”, he added.This aid comes within the framework of a bilateral agreement between the European Commission and the Royal government of Cambodia.

Rain Floods the Roads in Phnom Penh because the Lakes Are Filled with Soil - 23.10.2008

Posted on 24 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 583

“Former urban planning and construction organizer of Phnom Penh, the well known architect Mr. Vann Molyvann, said regarding the present flooding of roads in the city, that the city governors should organize a city plan. He commented, comparing the present situation to the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime ['Popular Socialist Community' – 1954 to 1970 - the political movement created by then Prince Sihanouk] when city planning was carefully and properly considered, rain could not flood the city like it is happening now.

“Mr. Vann Molyvann talked especially about the fact that Cambodia is now being assisted by Japan, to plan a new sewage system for the city to deal with floods in the city when rain comes. A few days ago, after a heavy rainfall, water stayed on the roads of the city, around the New Market, in front of the Royal Palace, around Wat Phnom and the US Embassy, at Tuol Kork, with water up to the knees, especially also at the northern suburban regions of Phnom Penh.

“Those who are in charge of the sewage systems in Phnom Penh blamed that the problems are due to housing construction schemes, resulting in the filling of earth into places which used to hold millions of cubic meters of water; therefore, when there is rain, roads are flooded, but it is not because of the obstruction of the sewage system. However, the deep flooding on the roads in Phnom Penh is not blamed only on the filling of soil into the lakes in and around Phnom Penh, which has led to the loss of rainwater overflow areas.

“According to the urban planning expert Mr. Vann Molyvann, who obtained wide experiences in Cambodia, since he had been the head of a working group to plan Phnom Penh city during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime, and also in other countries observing solutions. He recommended that the Phnom Penh governor should plan the city sewage system properly, following systematically infrastructure standards.

“A Phnom Penh road traffic police officer complained again that their office is flooded stronger than before after the recent rain, and there is no drainage to let the water out, and the Phnom Penh municipality does not take any immediate action to pump out the water. The flood makes it impossible for the road traffic police officials to do their work and solve traffic problems easily, because the water goes up to the knee and stinks.

“A road traffic police official, who asked not to be named, living in Chrang Chamreh II, in Russey Keo at the northern end of Phnom Penh, complained to Radio Free Asia that the motorbikes and cars of employees and of the citizens in general cannot reach their place of work. He said, ‘First, our citizens who come to solve problem face dangers, or when they come to contact us for administration work, they have to cross water and now, that road has even been cut. Maybe tomorrow or one day later, the traffic on Road #598 will be impossible, while today it is bad, because if the water would rise just the breadth of a finger, it will reach electricity boxes, and we will have no access to electricity any longer.’

“Regarding the recent flood at different areas in Phnom Penh, Mr. Pa Socheatevong, the deputy governor of the Phnom Penh municipality, said that this problem occurred because citizens filled soil into the sewage systems, adding, ‘This problem does not just happen at the road traffic police office; and now we are opening a canal, so soon there will be relief from the flooding..’

“During this year 2008, the most heavily flooded places are the communes in the suburbs of Phnom Penh, such as Phnom Penh Thmey, Khmuonh, Tuek Thla, and Tuol Sangkae, because the sewage systems are blocked; the residents of those areas protest a lot.

“Cambodia used to be considered to be a pearl of an Asian city, and it was called the Second Paris of the world, or Paris of Asia during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum period before 1970, and Cambodia was named also an Island of Peace. A few years ago, Cambodia woke up from the destructions of a war of many decades, and it used to be ranked as a well developing city in the world.

“Assessments were made from different countries, seeing that the Phnom Penh residents cooperate well with the authorities to repair and to construct the city through a 50 plus 50 formula, 50% of the costs for repair and construction of infrastructure being provided by the municipality and 50% from the residents. There are still corrections required to solve the present problems: both the blocking of the sewage pipes, resulting in flooding in the city – and the traffic jam.

“It is a big problem Phnom Penh is facing: to be changed to a similar situation like 40 years ago, as a capital city of a kingdom, leading developments in the region. It is therefore fortunate for Phnom Penh that at present, Japan has focused and supports to construct a sewage systems, including for the low lying areas around the city, in order to protect the capital city from accidental flood and from rain floods.

“Rain flood on cities are, if one looks at big countries in Europe and the United States, irregular natural disasters, from which many televisions stations in the world share images of rain floods in big cities which destroy part of the infrastructure of those countries as a result of rapid flash flow of water across the cities, making houses to collapse. As for Phnom Penh which has never encountered such events - although there is small rain flooding, which can only flood some roads in the city - it cannot be considered to be devastating. However, they have to take action to prevent it by eliminating the landfill of lakes that can store dirty stagnant water, dirty water that should not flood the city again.”

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3430, 23.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Asean ready to step in on Thai-Cambodia dispute

Yasmin Lee Arpon
Asia News Network
Publication Date: 24-10-2008

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is ready to step in on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, even as the leaders of the two warring countries said Friday that they have put the recent clashes behind them.

"Asean is ready to help but the concerned parties said they will exhaust all resources first," Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan told journalists from Southeast Asia in an exclusive briefing on Friday (October 24) in Beijing.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met at the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Europe meeting attended by 45 leaders from the two continents and said they were confident that both sides will resolve the dispute soon.

The two leaders said the border clashes this month that killed three Cambodian soldiers and wounded a Thai soldier are behind them.

"We are not just neighbours, we are very good friends indeed," Thai foreign minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters after the meeting between Somchai and Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer," Sompong said.

The two sides vowed to resort to "all existing mechanisms to solve the problem on the border".

At the root of the dispute is the Preah Vihear temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, which Thailand has resented.

"Asean is of course concerned with what's happening but we have to live with (the non-interference policy)," Surin added.

He noted that the fact that the dispute was brought up among Asean leaders during dinner on Thursday is "already an improvement".

"Ten years ago, this issue will never come up… so whenever Thailand and Cambodia are ready to resolve their dispute and define their border, let them do it. We are ready to step in only when required and we are not going to use force," Surin said.

Thailand, Cambodia resolve to settle border feud

Asia Pacific

AP
Associated Press

BEIJING - The leaders of Thailand and Cambodia resolved Friday to settle their countries' border dispute peacefully, foreign ministers from the two nations said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Somchai Wongsawat discussed the issue during bilateral talks early Friday on the sidelines of a 43-nation Asian-European summit in China's capital, Beijing.

Fighting near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple last week killed two Cambodians and triggered fears of a broader conflict, and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the leaders were determined to prevent similar conflicts breaking out.

"What happened between us we have to solve peacefully, amicably, for the sake of our neighborliness," Hor Namhong said.

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said it was imperative that the sides order their troops not to provoke or engage in fighting.

Sompong said last week's battle "happened instantly and was uncontrollable at that time," but he added that that now "the two sides must really advise our troops on each side not to have a confrontation any longer."

The Beijing meeting came as Thai and Cambodian military officials were holding talks in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap aimed at defusing tensions along the border.

Thai Lt. Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn said in a statement that both sides plan on exercising restraint to prevent more violence.

Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong says Cambodia wants both sides to redeploy their troops from the area to reduce tension.

The border talks ended with the two sides reiterating pledges to prevent more violence.

Thailand and Cambodia "are committed to exercising their utmost restraint to avoid confrontation or armed clashes," Cambodian regional army commander Maj. Gen. Chea Mon said.

Last week's fighting was the latest flare-up a recently revived dispute over a stretch of jungle near the Preah Vihear temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Thailand, Cambodia say clashes behind them

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (L) toasts with his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Morn, Cambodia general commander of the 4th region, after the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Southeast (Reuters)

Fri Oct 24,2008

BEIJING (Reuters) – Thailand and Cambodia put on a joint brave face Friday saying they were confident this month's border clashes were behind them.

A Thai soldier died Tuesday from wounds sustained on October 15 in a 40-minute firefight near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both countries. Three Cambodian soldiers were also killed.

The leaders and foreign ministers of the Southeast Asian countries met on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit which is focused on the global economic crisis.

"We are not just neighbors, we are very good friends indeed," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters after the meeting between Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer."

The two sides said they would resort to "all existing mechanisms to solve the problem on the border."

The confrontation was the most serious border clash in years but tensions have now eased and both sides have already said they do not expect any escalation.

The hilltop Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since, but it failed to determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the Hindu ruins.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Valerie Lee)

Thailand, Cambodia to step up efforts to fix border

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (4th R) attends the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008.REUTERS /Chor Sokunthea (Reuters)

By Ian Ransom

BEIJING (Reuters) – Thailand and Cambodia struck a reconciliatory note on Friday, putting recent clashes along their disputed border behind them and agreeing to breathe fresh life into long-standing efforts to settle the problem for good.

The leaders of the two Southeast Asian governments met on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Beijing focused on the global economic crisis.

"We are not just neighbors, we are very good friends indeed," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat told reporters after the meeting between Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer."

A Thai soldier died on Tuesday from wounds sustained in the latest flare-up on October 15 near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both countries. Three Cambodian soldiers were also killed.

The confrontation was the most serious border clash in years, although tensions have now eased.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters the two sides had agreed to use "existing mechanisms" to solve the border problem.

He pointed to talks this week between military commanders from the two countries to demonstrate progress, adding: "Already, we have had very good results over this question."

MILITARY MEETING

The senior military officials met in Siem Reap, site of Cambodia's Angkor temple, to discuss the fighting and other border issues. Customs and immigration officials from the two sides also attended.

In a statement on Friday after that meeting ended, the Thai military said it had achieved its objectives, namely "to develop a good understanding and relationship between the armed forces with a view to easing tension in the border areas."

It said the meeting had discussed how to deal with the narcotics trade, among other things.

Under the Thai constitution, any agreement reached by the government with another state needs parliamentary approval. The army statement said October 28 had been earmarked for parliament to debate border matters, a date mentioned by Sompong in Beijing.

Sompong also said the two countries had to work together to demine the border area.

Cambodia's foreign ministry urged Thailand to stick to existing deals on the border issue, including agreement on where certain parts of the frontier lie and a framework to demarcate the rest of border.

"Cambodia remains fully committed to not encroaching on any inch of Thai territory and would be very pleased if Thailand responded with the same commitment," it said in a statement sent to Thailand's foreign ministry and seen by Reuters on Friday.

The hilltop Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since. It did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the Hindu ruins.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Beijing and Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Thailand, Cambodia agree to prevent further border clashes

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nambong (left) with his Thai counterpart Sompong Amornvivat in Beijing. The Thai and Cambodian prime ministers agreed during a meeting here on Friday that their nations would prevent any more armed clashes over a border dispute, their foreign ministers said(AFP/Frederic J. Brown)
by Marianne Barriaux

BEIJING (AFP) – Thailand and Cambodia agreed Friday to prevent a simmering border dispute boiling over into further armed conflict, in a sign that tensions were easing after deadly clashes last week.

Speaking in Beijing after talks between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Somchai Wongsawat, the foreign ministers of the Southeast Asian neighbours said the two leaders agreed to avoid future clashes.

"The two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontations any longer," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat told reporters, summarising the agreement made on the sidelines of a summit of Asian and European leaders.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, standing alongside Sompong, echoed his counterpart, describing the talks as "very good, very friendly."

"We are moving in a good track. Not only to solve the problem of the borders between our two countries but also on a good track to improve our neighbourliness and cooperation," Hor Namhong said.

Tensions between the two neighbours flared in July when an ancient temple on their border was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

The situation quickly escalated into a military confrontation, with up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops facing off for six weeks, although both sides in August agreed to reduce troop numbers in the main disputed area.

Shots were exchanged last week between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia, leaving one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

Negotiations between military leaders in northern Cambodia on Friday sounded a similar note, with senior Thai officials insisting that talks with their Cambodian counterparts were easing the border tensions.

The Thai commanders, led by Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, said there was a "friendly atmosphere" in the talks with the Cambodians but insisted Thailand's soldiers would stand firm.

"The Thai side strongly reiterates that the position of our troop deployments is clearly inside Thai territory," said a statement from Thai commanders released as the meetings began.

Thailand's terms of negotiation must be approved in parliament on Tuesday before the two countries can hold further border talks.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last week's clashes. But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

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.

Thai, Cambodian militaries stand "friendly" but firm in border talks

Thai soldiers secure the entrance of a temporary military base close to the border with Cambodia.

Channel NewsAsia
Asia Pacific News

24 October 2008

SIEM REAP: Thai military commanders insisted Friday that talks with their Cambodian counterparts were easing border tensions after deadly clashes last week, but refused to back down from front line positions.

The senior military officials, whose talks began over a round of golf a day earlier, met to defuse the border dispute near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which erupted into a firefight on October 15 that left one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers dead.

The Thai commanders, led by Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn, said there was a "friendly atmosphere" with the Cambodians but insisted Thailand's soldiers would stand firm.

"The Thai side strongly reiterates that the position of our troop deployments is clearly inside Thai territory," said a statement from Thai commanders released as the Friday meetings began.

Thailand's terms of negotiation must be approved in parliament on Tuesday before the two countries can further border talks.

Separately, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his opposite number Somchai Wongsawat repeated statements that their nations would prevent any more armed clashes over the dispute as they met Friday in Beijing on the margins of a summit between leaders of Asian and European nations.

Cambodian and Thai military officials agreed to joint border patrols a day after last week's clashes between soldiers stationed on disputed land near the temple, which belongs to Cambodia.

But Cambodian commanders have since backed out, saying such patrols are not possible in disputed areas.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Chinese Premier meets Cambodian Prime Minister

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-24

Special Report:
The 7th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit

BEIJING, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met here Friday with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, hailing for the long-standing friendship of the two nations and hoping for further cooperation.

The year of 2008 not only marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Sino-Cambodian diplomatic relations, but also is celebrated as the Year of China-Cambodia Friendship.

China was willing to take the opportunity to work with Cambodia to enhance the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries so as to lift the China-Cambodia relations to a new stage, said Wen.

China would continue to support the economic development of Cambodia and to promote the key cooperation projects, especially in the infrastructure facilities construction on transportation and communication, he said.

On the Friendship Year, Hun Sen said the related celebrations cemented the traditional friendship of the two peoples and the Cambodian people appreciated China's long-term aid.

Cambodia hoped China will continue to support its economic development and further cooperation in water resources projects and infrastructure facilities construction, he said.

The Cambodian Prime Minister arrived in Beijing on Thursday afternoon to attend the two-day seventh Asia-Europe Meeting starting from Friday.

Editor: An

Thai premier to attend ASEM in China

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat

PRESS TV
Thu, 23 Oct 2008

Embattled Thai Premier Somchai Wongsawat is headed to China for a summit and talks with his Cambodian counterpart over border disputes.

Somchai, a brother-in-law to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, left Bangkok Thursday to attend the weekend summit of regional and European leaders in Beijing. The White House has described the 45-member Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) as "critically important" on Wednesday.

Somchai, who took over from his predecessor Samak Sundaravej little over a month ago, has been under intense pressure to resign by protesters who say they want a government independent of Thaksin.

Following a deadly crackdown on the protesters, the military has threatened to stage a coup.

Somchai is also scheduled to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss border disputes over the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

On October 15, the border conflict escalated into deadly clashes, in which two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thai troops injured.

Earlier this month, at least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were injured during sporadic exchange of gunfire.

Young Men Flocking to Join Local Militias

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 October 2008

Hundreds of young men have volunteered to join local commune militias in Oddar Meanchey province since the beginning of a border conflict with Thailand in July, officials said Thursday.

Between 500 to 1,000 young men have joined militias in all five of the province's districts, to bolster the nation's defenses in case of attack from Thailand as an ongoing border standoff continues, said Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sokhen.

Tensions between the two nations increased last week, following armed clashes at three sites near Preah Vihear temple.

The numbers of recruits had risen surprisingly high in recent weeks, Pich Sokhen said, but was due to months of tension between Cambodians and Thais on the border and some attacks of Cambodians.

"The recruitment of the militia right now we keep only for security in communes," he said. "But if the border becomes more tense, and they need the forces, we will send them directly to join the army."

Militia members can be recruited under a Ministry of Defense law and sent forward if trouble arises, Pich Sokhen said. None of the militiamen are currently armed with guns, he said, but many of them have knives, axes and clubs.

Officials in the border provinces of Preah Vihear, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Koh Kong reported no increase in militia recruitment Thursday.

The militia policy of the armed forces sets a maximum of 15 young militiamen, aged 18 to 30, per village, according Ung Narin, a forestry administration official in the Oddar Meanchey's Banteay Ampil district, who attended a commune meeting Wednesday where local leaders discussed recruitment.

Meanwhile, military commanders from Thailand and Cambodia met in Siem Reap Thursday in an effort to diffuse a new round of tensions in a border conflict.

Thursday's meetings took place between low-level secretariats, who discussed an agenda for a broader meeting between commanders on Friday, when the prime ministers of both countries are also expected to meet in Beijing.

Opposition Boycotts Democracy Seminar

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 October 2008

None of the 26 lawmakers of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party attended a UNDP-sponsored seminar at the National Assembly Thursday, including two men scheduled to speak, claiming the training would not strengthen democracy in the legislative body.

SRP lawmakers Son Chhay, who was scheduled to address the seminar on the role of opposition in a democratic parliament, and Yim Sovann, who was to speak on methods of parliamentary oversight, both refused to attend the second day of the two-day seminar.

The seminar was meant to train all lawmakers in their roles in a democracy, including the passage of legislation and responsibility to constituents.

“Our boycott is to send a message to the UNDP that the Cambodian National Assembly right now is not fully enough a democracy,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday. “The opposition does not have any leadership role in the National Assembly, and the National Assembly right now belongs to the [ruling] party, not to the nation.”

UNDP said in an e-mailed statement Thursday it had a mandate “to promote democracy and support democratic processes.”

“As such we are working with the National Assembly, which is made up of democratically elected members of parliament, as we do with other democratic institutions,” UNDP said. “UNDP's role is one of a neutral partner who works with all political parties and democratic institutions to strengthen democracy.”

Following the inauguration of the National Assembly in September, lawmakers of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party were given control of all nine of the legislative body’s committees.

In the former National Assembly, which changed following elections in July, the Sam Rainsy Party’s Son Chhay and Yim Sovann held chairmanship of two committees.

The CPP now has 90 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party’s 26, three by the Human Rights Party, and two each for Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

“If we join this program, it means we recognize the National Assembly’s not following democratic rules,” Sam Rainsy said. “We want to tell the UNDP to suspend this seminar… A UNDP that wants to help promote democracy should not recognize an institution that does not respect democracy.”

Forestry Authorities Arrest Six Villagers

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 October 2008

Forestry officials in Kampong Thom province arrested six villagers on Wednesday, accusing them of illegal settlement and deforestation.

The five men and one woman are representatives of a development village for disabled people in Son Touk district.

“Today, we are preparing a report seeking to prove that they have destroyed reserved forest resources,” Kampong Thom Deputy Governor Heng Sam An said. “We noticed they started destroying the forest since 2006.”

However, villagers say they had not settled illegally, and a human rights official called their arrests illegal.

“The arrests did not confirm with legal processes, because they did not have an arrest warrant,” said Ngoung Samoeurn, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Licadho.

Authorities and villagers have had a dispute over the area since earlier this year, following the investment of a Vietnamese company, Chin Bien, in a rubber plantation where the villagers were living, Ngoung Samoeurn said. “The conflict froze during the election period,” he said.

However, Heng Sam An said the villagers had not been arrested for settling in the investment area but had been occupying protected forest.

Around 90 villagers arrived in Kampong Thom town Thursday to protest the arrests.

“We have been living in that area since 2004,” said Neang Sinath, a representative of the villagers. “We were recognized by [Prime Minister] Hun Sen to create the village.”

“If they do not release our villagers, we will not go back home,” she said.

Heng Sam An said the villagers will be removed from their settlement to another site, a plan the villagers reject.

“They cannot live in the new place, because there is malaria and flooding in the area,” Ngoung Samoeurn said. “It is 20 kilometers from the actual village.”