Friday, 13 November 2009

Govt won't deny oil, gas to Cambodia



Published: 13/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand has no plan to cut supply of oil and natural gas to Cambodia even though the diplomatic conflict between the two countries is escalating, Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said on Friday.

Cambodia imported most of its energy needs from other countries.

"Thailand supplies a small amount of liquefied petroleum gas to Cambodia, only 300 tonnes a month,” Mr Wannarat said.

Thailand supplied only 10 per cent of its demand for petrol, diesel and bunker oil.

Cutting off this flow would have only minimal impact.

Thai man arrested in Cambodia not a spy: Thai foreign minister


http://www.chinaview.cn/
2009-11-13

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- A Thai man, who was arrested in Cambodia, is not a spy, Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Friday.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, worked as engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd, was arrested on Wednesday, according to the arrest warrant of prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipality Court.

The Khmer language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea reported that he spied through copying the letters of flights of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Cambodia and Prime Minister Hun Sen from CATS - Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd which has duties to control all flights in country...and he sent those reports to Thailand.

The Thai man was framed and Thai officials at the Thai Embassy in Cambodia have been instructed to help ensure that he will be properly treated with justice by Cambodia, Thai News Agency quoted Kasit as saying.

For the Thai officials, who have remained at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, have been ensured of safety, Kasit said.

Totally, now there are seven Thai officials, who have still worked at the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, Kasit said.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

And, on Thursday the Cambodian Foreign Ministry ordered Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, to leave Cambodia within 48 hours, from 5 p.m., Cambodia's time.

After learning the Cambodian order, Bangkok responded by expelling a first secretary at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok ordering him to leave Thailand within 48 hours, from 5 p.m., local time.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept in exile since then.

He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Puea Thai MPs in Cambodia



Published: 13/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

About 50 MPs of the Puea Thai Party skipped the parliament meeting, travelled to Sa Kaew's Aranyaprathet district and crossed the border into Cambodia on Friday to visit their boss Thaksin Shinawatra in Siem Reap.

The MPs, led by Chiang Mai MP Surapong Towichakchaikul, arrived at Aranyaprathet in eight vans.

Mr Surapong said in a telephone interview that he and fellow Puea Thai MPs had arrived in Cambodia and would have a dinner with Thaksin at a hotel in Siem Reap and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would also join them.

Apart from visiting Thaksin on behalf of the people, the MPs would also on a field trip to see cross-border trade between the two countries, he said.

On the Democrat Party's allegation that they had failed to perform their duty in parliament in violation of the charter, Mr Surapong said he and the other Puea Thai MPs had taken business leave as allowed by parliament regulations.

Cambodia's arrest of Thai is intimidation : Thai FM


By The Nation
Fri, November 13, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Friday that Cambodia's arrest of a Thai engineer on spying charges is nothing more than intimidation with the intention to defame Thailand.

Cambodia has charged Siwarak Chothipong, an engineer of Cambodia Air Traffic Services, for "stealing" the flight information of ex-Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodia's PM Hun Sen.

Cambodian prosecutors alleged that Siwarak stole the information and sent it to Thai embassy's first secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai.

Cambodia on Thursday expelled Kamrob following the accusation that he had executed work in contradiction to his position. He was ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.

"It is clearly intimidation with intent to defame Thailand by Cambodia," said Kasit, who cut short his participation in ministerial preparatory meetings for the Apec Summit in Singapore.

He accused Thaksin of being the major cause of all the problems Thailand having with Cambodia.

He said he had assigned officials of Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to assist and provide legal advice to Siwarak.

Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as the adviser to Hun Sen and his government has seen the start of the current diplomatic rows between the neighbouring countries. Both have recalled their ambassadors and the first secretaries. Thailand has downgraded relations and reviewed cooperation with and loans given to Cambodia.

Cambodian PM welcomes troops pull out from Preah Vihear Temple


http://www.chinaview.cn/
2009-11-13

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday welcomed special troops pull out from the area near Preah Vihear Temple, a gesture showing there is no military confrontations along Cambodia-Thai border despite diplomatic and political relations get sour.

Hun Sen who arrived in Siem Reap province on Friday morning welcoming nearly 1,000 special paratroopers who were deployed in the area near Preah Vihear Temple after the area became a disputed center last year.

Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) told reporters that the pull out of special paratroopers was to show the military situation at the border of the two nations is normal and even eased.

He said the present conflict between the two countries has nothing related to military, but only the two leaders and that he said more troops pull out from the area will likely be taken place if such good situation at the border is realized.

Chea Dara, however, declined to give actual figure of the troops pull out Friday and nor the remaining troops deployed in the area near the temple.

After the border clash last year, both Cambodia and Thailand have reinforced more troops to the area, but were later downsized the number due to less tension.

Relations between the two neighboring countries were further strained recently after Cambodia named ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser on Nov. 4. Thailand recalled its ambassador on Nov. 5, and Cambodia followed suit.

Editor: Anne Tang

Cambodia accuses Thai national of spying


Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stands in front of Angkor Wat, the country's most popular tourist destination, during his private tour to the north province of Siem Reap, about 320 kilometers (199 miles) from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin has accused his detractors of false patriotism in a speech Thursday, following the uproar over his appointment as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


By SOPHENG CHEANG (AP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia has detained a Thai man for allegedly spying on fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the latest sign of worsening relations between the two neighbors.

Thaksin, a fugitive from justice in Thailand, was named an adviser to Cambodia's government on economic affairs last week, angering the Thai government and prompting it to recall its ambassador, with Cambodia following suit. Thaksin then arrived this week for a visit to Cambodia, further straining ties. He was expected to depart late Friday.

Siwarak Chothipong, a 31-year-old employee of the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, which manages flights in the country, was accused of stealing Thaksin's flight schedule and sending it diplomats at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, said National Police Deputy Chief Lt. Gen. Sok Phal.

Sok Phal said Siwark allegedly handed over the flight schedule to the first secretary at the Thai embassy, who was then ordered by Cambodia on Thursday to leave the country for carrying out activities inconsistent with his official duties. Thailand responded by ordering out the first secretary of Cambodia's mission in Bangkok.

Siwarak appeared in municipal court Thursday and was charged with stealing information that could impact national security. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in jail.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not comment on the spying allegation but said the expulsion of the Thai diplomat was aimed at provoking a "violent response" from his government.

"The Thai government didn't fall for their trick," he told reporters in Bangkok.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power. He fled Thailand last year to escape a conflict of interest conviction and a two-year prison sentence.

Critics, including Thailand's government, have portrayed him as a traitor for accepting the Cambodian appointment and have lambasted Cambodia for hosting him while he is a fugitive. The appointment further strained relations already roiled by several deadly skirmishes over disputed territory in the past year and a half.

Cambodia rejected a Thai request Wednesday for Thaksin's arrest, saying the legal case against the former leader was politically motivated.

Thaksin's political battle with the Thai government, which he accuses of being undemocratic, has bitterly divided his country. He retains huge popularity among his rural poor power base who have staged frequent rallies calling for his return to power. But he is reviled by many in the educated urban elite, who led months of street protests against him.

Thaksin claims he was ousted because he threatened the privileges of Thailand's urban-centered ruling class by winning the support of the poor. He came under further attack in Thailand this week for remarks in an interview that critics claimed were insulting to Thailand's revered monarchy.

Karate kids



Photo by: Sovan Philong

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 12 November 2009 15:03 Sovan Philong

Students at the International School of Phnom Penh pose with actor Jackie Chan after his visit as part of the “Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” event in the capital on Wednesday.

Thai national arrested for espionage


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 16:52 Chhay Channyda and James O'Toole

A Thai national has been arrested and accused of espionage for allegedly stealing the flight schedule of fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, amid an ongoing row between Thailand and Cambodia over Thaksin’s appointment as government economics adviser, Phnom Penh police and court officials said.

Sok Phal, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Department, said 31-year-old Siwarak Chotipong, an employee at Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co., was arrested by officers from the Central Security Department at his office on Wednesday.

“He stole the special flight schedule of Mr. Thaksin and handed it to the first secretary of Thai Embassy,” Sok Phal said. “It is not his duty to do so. What he did was beyond his responsibility. He must face legal action.”

On Thursday, the Cambodian government expelled the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, with Thailand responding in kind.

Cambodia Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong would not confirm whether the expulsion was related to the airport case.

“It’s a case of the court. It’s the court’s affair,” he said, adding that the Thai first secretary had “performed his role contrary to his position.”

Sok Phal, however, said the first secretary was directly involved and had been expelled as a result.

"He ordered the man to copy the schedule of Thaksin's return flight, and that's why he was expelled," Sok Phal said.

In Bangkok, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya forcefully rejected the espionage accusations.

"It's not true. It is a malicious and false claim," Kasit said. "Thaksin feels he must destroy Thailand and collaborate with Hun Sen."

Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and self-exiled last year to avoid a jail term for corruption charges. Last week, Cambodia announced Thaksin’s official appointment as government economics adviser, prompting Thailand to withdraw its ambassador to Phnom Penh and Cambodia to reciprocate.

Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said Sivarak is now in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison and is being charged under article 19 of the 2005 Law on Archives, which covers offenses related to matters of national defence, security or public order. If convicted, Sivarak faces a jail term of between seven and 15 years and a fine of between 5 and 25 million riels (US$1198-5990).

Police are now investigating whether more people were involved with the plot, Sok Phal said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Diplomats expelled in tit-for-tat



Photo by: AFP
Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Thursday greets ecstatic Red Shirt supporters at a hotel in Siem Reap province after arriving from Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:04 James O’toole and Cheang Sokha

CAMBODIA and Thailand expelled senior diplomats from their respective embassies on Thursday, the same day that fugitive Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra told an audience in Phnom Penh that Thailand’s current leadership is guilty of “false patriotism”.

“We declared the first secretary of the Thai embassy as persona non grata,” Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said.

“We just declared that, and then Thailand reciprocated, meaning our first secretary to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok will come back, too.”

Asked to explain the Cambodian government’s decision, Koy Kuong said only that the Thai first secretary “performed his duty contrary to his position”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the expulsion was the result of Thailand being “arrogant”.

“Cambodia did not make the first move. This follows the recall of the Thai ambassador,” he said. “We should respect each other through diplomatic channels, but Thailand doesn’t respect them. They overreacted.”

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi confirmed the expulsion, though he added that both countries have maintained personnel at their respective embassies.

“We still have a presence, and they, too, still have a presence. The channel of communication is still open,” he said.

The expulsions mark the latest step in the countries’ ongoing row over Cambodia’s appointment of Thaksin as a government economics adviser. In response to this appointment, Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Cambodia last week, and Cambodia responded in kind.

Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and self-exiled last year to avoid a prison term for corruption charges.

Speaking in his new advisory capacity on Thursday morning, Thaksin emphasised the need for cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia as he told a gathering at the Ministry of Economy and Finance that the two countries’ economic fortunes are inextricably linked. But he added: “Of
course, not all my compatriots see it that way right now.

“I do not believe those who do not share our vision right now are myopic. Their domestic political compulsions force them to false patriotism. Let’s pray that they, too, will one day appreciate this partnership for progress,” he said.

In the conference’s opening address, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Thaksin’s tenure as prime minister “is generally agreed to have been one of the most distinctive in the country’s modern history”.

“Whatever the critics say about Thaksinomics, the achievements were astonishing,” Keat Chhon said.

Thaksin and Keat Chhon were speaking at a conference titled “Cambodia and the World After the Financial Crisis”, attended by about 300 economic experts and members of the business community.

Security at the conference was heavy, with members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit providing protection for Thaksin.
Members of the media were ushered out of the conference hall minutes after Thaksin began speaking.

Following the lecture, Thaksin travelled to Siem Reap, where he visited the Angkor Wat temple complex and planned to play golf with Hun Sen on Friday, Siem Reap provincial Governor Sou Phirin said.

The onetime telecommuncations mogul was greeted upon arrival in Siem Reap by members of Thailand’s Red Shirts, and the Bangkok Post reported Thursday that parliamentarians from the opposition Puea Thai party planned to travel to Cambodia “to drink with their former party leader on Friday night until dawn before seeing him off to Dubai on Saturday morning”.

In Bangkok, about 150 protesters rallied outside the Cambodian embassy on Thursday and delivered an open letter telling Hun Sen not to interfere in Thailand’s justice system, Thai police said.

Speaking before the diplomats’ expulsion Thursday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was considering further retaliatory measures against Cambodia. He added, however, that his government would not seal the border, and that the rift with Phnom Penh would not lead to violence.

“I don’t want the situation going out of control,” he said.

Thaksin in Cambodia: your views


Venerable Sok Piseth, 28

Monk, Wat Botum pagoda


“I don’t know if Thaksin’s case is really politically motivated or criminal in nature. If it is political, I support Hun Sen’s decision not to extradite Thaksin. However, Thaksin’s presence in Cambodia has hurt our relationship with the Thai government. People on the border will lose their good relations if they think the relationship between their governments is bad.”




Mom Chankomoth, 38



National Assembly official


“It is good that we have a new adviser to help the government on economic matters because Thaksin was a successful businessman before he became prime minister of Thailand. The relationship between Thaksin and Hun Sen is unlikely to become a serious issue for the two nations, and I do not believe either side will resort to war.”




Sann Thy, 29



Freelance video producer


“If you talk about Thaksin, don’t talk about politics. He is here as an economic adviser, so he will bring more investors and benefits to Cambodia. But we see already that his presence here is causing tension ... because he is popular among the Thai people. I hope Thailand’s internal problems will be solved because I don’t want such problems to bother our country, too.”


ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP, THET SAMBATH, LAURA SNOOK AND RANN REUY

Rainsy could lose immunity



Photo by: Svan Philong
Sam Rainsy speaks to the Post at his office in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:04 Meas Sokchea

Officials said Thursday that the National Assembly will move to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity on Monday after his removal of posts marking the border with Vietnam last month.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said parliament would remove the Sam Rainsy Party president’s constitutional protection to pave the way for the Svay Rieng provincial court to summon him in relation to the posts’ removal, which could be seen as threatening national security.

“The Assembly will convene on Monday to strip Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity,” Cheam Yeap said, adding that the decision was made at an Assembly standing committee meeting on Thursday. “We are doing this in conformity with procedure, following the request of the court and the Ministry of Justice.”

During a Buddhist Kathen ceremony in Svay Rieng province on October 25, Sam Rainsy led local villagers and SRP officials in uprooting six wooden posts marking the country’s ambiguous border with Vietnam. Villagers said the Vietnamese had illegally shifted the posts onto Cambodian soil. Sam Rainsy’s action prompted a storm of protest from Hanoi, which said he had interfered in the two countries’ sensitive border-demarcation process.

Sam Rainsy said he is not scared of government threats to his parliamentary immunity, and that the action will shed more light on the country’s problems with Vietnam at a time when people are distracted by the conflict with Thailand.

“Hun Sen’s government’s strategy nowadays is to draw the interest towards the West rather than the East. I want to draw the public’s attention towards [Vietnam] as well because there are also serious issues in the East,” Sam Rainsy said by phone from Paris.

“At this time, our Khmers have to be unified to defend our territorial integrity – both the West and East,” he added.

Rights groups opposed the decision to strip Sam Rainsy of his immunity, repeating the SRP leader’s statement that the markers he uprooted were not official border markers.

“It is a political issue because those posts were not legal, official posts,” said Vibol Sim, the national project coordinator for the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, agreed that parliament had no real grounds to strip Sam Rainsy’s immunity.

“This action is just intended to show political muscle. It will only prompt more and more criticism,” he said.

Koh Kong families ask for delay of eviction


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:03 May Titthara

MEMBERS of 43 families in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district whose land is at the heart of a dispute involving two feuding businessmen have asked the Supreme Court to postpone their eviction, a representative of the families said Thursday.

“We are worried that the provincial court will come to evict us, so [Wednesday] we went to Phnom Penh to deliver a letter to the Supreme Court asking the judges to issue a verdict to stop them from evicting us,” said representative Tep Hai.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the land belonged to two businessmen, Sok Hong and Heng Huy.

Sre Ambel district officials signalled that the eviction would be carried out on October 27. Instead, police officers escorted provincial court Deputy Judge Meas Vatanea to the site, where he read the June ruling aloud. He also marked how the land would be divided, with most going to Heng Huy, who has said he plans to turn it into a cassava farm.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho who has been following the case, said at the time that he expected the eviction to be carried out “within a matter of weeks”, though he noted that the authorities had not provided a specific date.

Tep Hai said Thursday that the lack of communication from provincial officials had left the families concerned.

“We are worried because they are quiet,” he said. “We’ve had bad experiences already, and because they are quiet we are worried that they are going to use the Supreme Court verdict to come and evict us soon.”

Meas Vatanea said Thursday that he was aware of no immediate plans to evict the families. Supreme Court President Dith Munty could not be reached for comment Thursday, nor could Sim Thol, chief of the provincial department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

Watchdog criticises jailing of Ros Sokhet


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has criticised the recent jailing of freelance journalist Ros Sokhet, saying his offence did not warrant criminal charges.

Last Friday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong sentenced Ros Sokhet, 40, to two years in prison after convicting him of spreading disinformation by sending disparaging text messages to Soy Sopheap, a well-known CTN anchor.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the IFJ slammed the court for applying the “outdated” UNTAC Penal Code rather than the Kingdom’s more liberal 1995 Press Law.

“There are appropriate civil laws in place to resolve media-related complaints, and Cambodia’s Press Law should be applied to assist in their resolution,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park was quoted as saying.

The IFJ, which represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries, added that it stands “in solidarity” with Ros Sokhet and called on the government to ensure media complaints are dealt with under civil law.

Chhay Kong said he did not have time to comment Thursday, but during last Friday’s hearing, court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun dismissed the argument of Ros Sokhet’s defence lawyer that the case should have been prosecuted under the Press Law.

“The law requires me to accuse the suspect of whatever charge, and the judge will decide in a hearing. The prosecutor always stands behind the plaintiff,” he said.

When contacted on Thursday, Ros Sokhet’s sister Ros Keaveak said she planned to file an appeal against the court’s conviction next week.

ASEAN seeks to negotiate an end to the Thaksin imbroglio



Photo by: AFP
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan (centre) talks to reporters at the APEC Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Singapore ahead of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum this weekend.

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There is now a window of opportunity in Singapore for us to help the two sides calm down.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:03 Roger Mitton

SINGAPORE

SENIOR leaders in the region are urgently discussing how to defuse the rising tension between Cambodia and Thailand, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Diplomacy in Singapore, Surin said the war of words that has flared between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over the arrival in Cambodia of Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has caused deep concern among regional leaders.

It is feared that the bilateral animosity could affect the inaugural US-ASEAN summit on Sunday, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which is currently being held in Singapore.

To prevent that, Surin said, “the highest levels of diplomacy are going on right now in this city to deal with the matter”.

“In ASEAN, we all feel collectively that there is a need to calm down before we meet President Obama,” he said during a keynote address.

Surin said both sides in the dispute will need help to resolve the matter, and the landmark meeting with the US leader will provide the other eight ASEAN leaders an opportunity to collectively help to cool tempers in Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

“They both need a leg up in order to help them climb down,” said Surin.

Whenever nationalistic sentiment is fanned, such as happened over the disputed Preah Vihear temple, the concerned parties ultimately regret it, he said.

“So, to me, there is now a window of opportunity in Singapore for us to help the two sides to calm down.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday that Cambodia supports any means of resolving the dispute, including multilateral ones. “Cambodia does not oppose the initiative proposed by Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan ... so long as the Thais agree to it ,” he said.

However, after a meeting of Thailand’s National Security Council on Thursday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted as saying the conflict “will not be discussed at the ASEAN level”.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that in principle, Bangkok saw the issue as a bilateral one that “should be worked out and resolved bilaterally”.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” he said, in response to the prospect of a third country raising the issue in a multilateral forum.

“A number of countries, I think, may have expressed their views, but I don’t think any country has proposed that it be raised in a regional or multilateral forum.”

However, some say ASEAN mediation may be the only way out of the current impasse, which has seen both countries withdraw their ambassadors and threaten further escalation.

“ASEAN is the only regional institution that can bring the kind of solution that both countries need, because bilateral negotiations and dialogue have not worked,” said Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

“I think that this would be a win-win situation for Cambodia and Thailand if ASEAN plays a strong role. Both of them listen to ASEAN.”

Other observers remained less optimistic. Andrew Walker, a Thailand expert based at the Australian National University in Canberra, said that in the case of a simple dispute, a mediator such as ASEAN could help both Bangkok and Phnom Penh save face, but that the nature of the current dispute makes it especially resistant to outside mediation.

He said the dispute is complicated by the extreme political polarisation in Thailand, which has “energised” the dispute between the two countries.
“In Thailand, there is a very fundamental political polarisation,” he said. “I’m pessimistic about the prospect for external mediation because this dispute is a result of internal political dynamics.”

Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Diplomacy, noted on Wednesday that the one great achievement of the European Union had been not only to prevent wars between its member states but also to eliminate the potential for war.

“In ASEAN, however, we have not yet eliminated that potential for war between member states. That potential remains,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO, JAMES O’TOOLE AND THE BANGKOK POST

Mine victims in need: report


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Sam Rith

THE government has made little progress in assisting the victims of land mines and explosive remnants of war, many of whom lack access to medical care, education and job opportunities, according to a report released Thursday by Landmine Monitor, an independent reporting group based in Ottawa, Canada.

Moreover, the assistance that has been provided to date has come “almost exclusively” from NGOs that are increasingly facing “donor fatigue”, according to the annual report, which states that there are an estimated 43,926 survivors nationwide.

The report singles out the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for having failed to tackle disability issues generally and for ignoring land mine victims in particular.

“Due to [the ministry’s] initial focus on veterans only, its structure at all levels is insufficient to deal with the broader disability mandate,” the report states, adding that many provincial and district offices charged with carrying out the ministry’s work are “under-resourced, inexperienced or reluctant to implement [ministry] directives”.

Sem Sokha, the secretary of state at the ministry in charge of disability issues, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter Thursday.

Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general at the Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority, dismissed the report as lacking in details.

“It just looks at one slice,” he said. “Actually, the government, and especially Samdech Hun Sen, has made an effort both to clear lots of land mines and to help disabled people.”

Thong Vinal, executive director of the Disability Action Council, noted that the government signed a 2008 memorandum of understanding stipulating that it would, by 2011, assume responsibility for physical rehabilitation, which is currently managed by five international service providers.

“However, we still need some support from the international community and also the NGOs to run this smoothly,” he said.

The Cambodia findings matched the situation globally, according to the report, which says that victim assistance has “made the least progress of all the major sectors of mine action” in the past decade.

A(H1N1) infections rise by 25pc


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha

THE number of people in the Kingdom infected with the so-called swine flu virus has jumped by more than 25 percent in just over a week, according to government figures released Thursday.

The A(H1N1) influenza virus has now infected 394 people in Cambodia, according to statistics released on the Web site of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department. The November 4 count was 313 cases. Four people in Cambodia have died from the virus since the first official case this year was recorded in June.

The country’s first fatality attributed to swine flu happened September 27, when a 41-year-old woman with previously existing health problems succumbed to her illness. Since then, three others have died, including a pregnant 25-year-old. Cases have been reported in 12 provinces. To help prevent the spread of the virus, health officials are urging residents to wash their hands frequently, refrain from spitting in public, avoid crowds and use tissues and handkerchiefs.

People showing symptoms of the virus – a fever above 38C, coughing, headaches, muscle aches, sore throats and runny noses – are asked to call the public hotline on 115, 012 488 981 or 089 669 567.

FOREST GRANTS: Land given to forest communities


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

FOREST GRANTS

The Forestry Administration has granted 21,000 hectares of forest in Kampong Thom province to 14 forest communities, members of which will be given free reign to use forest products, provided they do so in a sustainable manner, provincial officials said Thursday. Kampong Thom Deputy Governor Sorm Sophat said this was the second time such a grant had been approved by the government in his province. He added that 10,572 people live in the communities, which are in Sandann, Kampong Svay and Prasath Balaing districts. Ung Sam Ath, deputy director of the Forestry Administration, said the residents will be able to cut down trees as long as they are not selling the lumber. “But they must plant it again,” he said. In addition, they will be given permission to hunt wildlife without interference from government officials. “We will use them only for our daily living,” said Noun Hak, a representative of the communities. Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokun said the government had granted 350,000 hectares of land to forest communities nationwide.

Ancient tongue sits on the brink of extinction



Photo by: Jean Loncle
An ethnic S’aoch child from Samrong Loeu village in Kampot province. According to language experts, as few as 10 S’aoch are fluent in their language, an ancient relative of modern Khmer that predates the empire of Angkor.

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[THE LANGUAGE] iS SO ANCIENT EVEN RESEARCHERS DON’t REALLY KNOW HOW FAR BACK IT GOES.
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IN FOCUS Cambodia's imperiled languages

S’aoch: Population of 110, in Kampot province
Somray: circa 300 (Pursat)
Poa: c 300 (Preah Vihear)
Samre: c 400 (Koh Kong)
So’ong: c 500 (Kampong Speu)
Samre: c 400 (Koh Kong)
Kacho: c 4,000 (Ratanakkiri)
Stieng: c 4,000 (Kratie, Mondulkiri, Vietnam)
Jarai: c 20,000 (Ratanakkiri, Vietnam)
Phnong: c 20,000 (Mondulkiri)
SOURCE: JEAN MICHEL- FILIPPI (2008)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and Sam Rith

Linguists say the language of the S’aoch ethnic group, now spoken by just a handful of villagers, is unlikely to survive into the next generation.

ONE of Cambodia’s oldest known languages is teetering on the brink of extinction, according to language experts who say its loss will erase the last vestiges of a culture stretching back far into Southeast Asia’s prehistory.

The S’aoch tongue, a distant relation to modern Khmer, is now spoken by just a handful of villagers in Kampot province, and linguists say it is unlikely to survive for another generation.
Jean-Michel Filippi, a professor of linguistics at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said the S’aoch, confined to the small hamlet of Samrong Loeu, now number just 110 people, of whom only about a tenth speak the language.

“There are no more than 10 fluent speakers,” said Filippi, who has transcribed around 3,500 S’aoch words in the course of his study of the language.

Even these could only be considered “virtual” speakers, he said, in the sense that day-to-day life no longer gives them any opportunities to use their mother tongue.

Based on interviews with the S’aoch, Filippi said the banning of the language by the Khmer Rouge and the group’s increasing contact with the Khmer majority had sped the “rejection” of their native norms and practices.

He cited one S’aoch villager who said the mother tongue had died out because it no longer had much practical relevance for the community. “The people who have money use the Khmer language. Sometimes we may use it, but strictly between ourselves. And when there are Khmer people, we only use Khmer,” the villager said.

Ancient tongue
S’aoch belongs to the Austroasiatic family of languages, an indigenous language group that also includes Khmer and Vietnamese, as well as minority languages in India, Myanmar and Malaysia. Gerard Diffloth, a historical linguist and retired professor of Austroasiatic languages, said the word s’aoch – a modern Khmer term meaning “skin infection” – hinted at the group’s historically unequal relationship with the Cambodian majority, but belied the tongue’s scientific and cultural importance.

“It’s very ancient, much more ancient than Angkor and pre-Angkor. It’s so ancient that even researchers don’t really know how far back it goes,” he said, adding that its inevitable loss will destroy one of the few remaining links with the ancient history of mainland Southeast Asia.

“When they disappear, a whole chapter of history will just vanish,” he said.

Despite the decline in the language’s use, S’aoch, on the rare occasions it is used, has remained relatively immune to the linguistic influence of Khmer and remains a time capsule from the depths of prehistory.

“The knowledge the elder members of the community have of their language remains intact, a kind of virtual or frozen knowledge,” Filippi said.

Linguistically, S’aoch has “almost unique phonetic peculiarities”, he added, including a “breathy” voice – which adds a “sepulchral” effect to the speaker’s tone – and a “creaky” voice, resulting from the insertion of a glottal stop in the middle of a syllable.

‘Micro-languages’
Ros Chantrabot, deputy director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said studies of S’aoch and the Kingdom’s other “micro-languages” were thin on the ground and voiced concerns they would eventually be lost.

“I am concerned about [losing] the Poa, So’ong and S’aoch languages,” he said.

“We have to research them in depth in order to preserve and understand our history more clearly.”

But experts said the fate of the S’aoch is hardly an isolated case, and that efforts to revive such languages around the world rarely manage to stem the tide of cultural absorption.

Revitalisation, usually pursued through the creation of a written script and teaching materials in native languages, is also unlikely for Cambodia’s smallest language groups.

“It is obvious that a revitalisation would not be possible in the case of the S’aoch,” Filippi said.

“In many cases, the speakers of endangered languages consider that speaking their language and teaching it to their children is a handicap, and they prefer to switch to the majority language.”

Filippi said that two languages disappear each month, and that 94 percent of those spoken worldwide are confined to less than 2 percent of the world’s population. Half of the world’s 6,700 languages, he added, will likely disappear in the next century.

Diffloth said the process of modern nation-building and economic development had gradually eroded the cultural isolation enjoyed by micro-languages such as the S’aoch, exposing them to the use of standardised national languages.

“[The problem] is the idea that a country should speak one language,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid.”

A view of the Thaksin dispute



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

13 November 2009 15:02 Derek Tonkin

Former prime minister’s visit is just another hiccup in relations.

COMMENT
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Derek Tonkin

THE recent tensions in Thai-Cambodian relations are seen in Europe primarily as a reflection of the transition in Thailand from the reign of a monarch who is greatly revered in Thai society and highly respected internationally to an uncertain future that is difficult to predict. It should not be forgotten that the young King Bhumibol Adulyadej felt himself very much influenced by and beholden to the Thai strongman of the time, Field Marshal Phibul Songkran, whom the occupying Japanese suspected of harbouring monarchical aspirations of which they, as devout monarchists, did not approve. Following the coup by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat against Phibul in 1957, only a few weeks after I first arrived in Thailand, the young King Bhumibol established his independence from Phibul’s patronage and, with Sarit’s strong support, became first the national and then the international personality whom we know today, set above politics at the apex of a trinity of Nation, Religion and Monarchy.

Thai revanchism had its heyday in the late 1930s and during the Second World War when arch-nationalists such as Luang Vichit Vadhakarn nurtured pretensions of a Greater Thai nation to include all Tai ethnic groupings in French Indochina, Burma and southern China, and even further afield. It was on the wave of such pan-Thai pretensions that Phibul erected the “Victory Monument” in Bangkok to celebrate a brief Thai military victory over French forces in Cambodia, which led to the wartime occupation of western territories in Cambodia.

Yet relations at the local level between Thais and Khmers in the border regions have historically been friendly and hospitable, with both Thai and Khmer spoken widely on both sides of the border. Around Surin in Thailand, you are more likely to hear Khmer spoken than Thai, though many native Khmer speakers in Thailand do not know the Khmer alphabet, and all will have learned Thai at school. Trading relations, employment and intermarriage across the borders have been traditional and have helped to reduce tensions even at times of serious diplomatic disputes that have flared up in the capitals Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
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As regards Thaksin himself, opinions in Europe are mixed.
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When the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 by nine votes to three that the disputed temple of Preah Vihear was situated in Cambodian and not Thai territory, passions for a time ran high in Thailand, but in due course the Thais accepted the ruling. When Prince Sihanouk visited Preah Vihear in January 1963, bounding up the 525-metre-high cliff in less than an hour, he made a notable gesture of conciliation by announcing that all Thai citizens would be welcome to visit the temple without visas, and that Cambodia would not insist on the return of any antiquities that might have been removed.

From the Khmer Rouge victory in Cambodia in May 1975 until December 1998, when the remnants of the Khmer Rouge in control of Preah Vihear finally surrendered, the temple was unsafe to visit, but in the years that followed when peace was restored, visitors to Preah Vihear enjoyed unfettered access. When in 2007 both Thailand and Cambodia agreed that the site should be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this appeared to the international community as a perfectly reasonable decision reflecting the wishes of both countries. In Europe there was both puzzlement and astonishment that the Thai foreign minister responsible for the understanding with Cambodia, Noppadon Pattama, who was a former legal adviser to Thaksin Shinawatra, was compelled to resign. In the opinion of the Constitutional Court of Thailand, the understanding had allegedly infringed Thai sovereignty by supposedly “consuming” adjacent areas of land whose ownership Thailand disputed, even though these areas had been excluded from the understanding reached.

Cambodia, thus, finds itself enmeshed in a dispute with Thailand that on the Thai side reflects profound uncertainties about the future, bitter tensions between conservative royalists and pro-Thaksin supporters, and intense puzzlement in the international community about the application of Thai laws, which appear to many Europeans archaic and undemocratic. Any allegation of lese-majeste has to be examined by the Thai police, however unreasonable and even malicious the allegation might seem. “This is a petty law”, The Times commented on Wednesday, “which only opens Thailand up to ridicule.”

As regards Thaksin himself, opinions in Europe are mixed. On the one hand, he enjoyed an unchallenged mandate from the Thai electorate, but was forced out in a military coup which induced even the United States to show its displeasure. Such a democratic mandate commands sympathy and support in Europe. On the other hand, Thaksin’s ruthless policies against local Islamic extremists in the south, his support for the use of police violence against alleged narcotics dealers in the north and the use of his financial clout to dominate the media and silence critics led to serious concerns about the extent of his abuse of human rights. Few, though, were all that concerned by the sentence passed on him for financial corruption, not that the charges might not have had merit, but because in that case many thought that a majority of the financial and commercial establishment in Thailand could well have cases to answer.

Thaksin’s arrival in Phnom Penh is bound to arouse anger in Bangkok, but the visit may only be a three-day wonder likely, and no doubt intended, to provoke politically, but not to result in any physical confrontation in the Preah Vihear area. By the time President Obama arrives in Singapore this weekend for the first summit meeting with ASEAN, the president’s advisers must hope that the summit will not be overshadowed by any serious deterioration in relations, particularly as the Americans have made it clear that differences over Myanmar will no longer dictate the agenda. Prime Minister Abhisit has won popular support by recalling the Thai ambassador, though in times of tension interlocutors are so badly needed.

This may give him, though, the clout necessary to restrain the less-responsible elements in the Thai establishment who have no electoral mandate.

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Derek Tonkin was British ambassador to Thailand from 1986 to 1989. He was second secretary at the British embassy in Phnom Penh from 1961 to 1962.

Stock exchange due for soft launch during Q1



by: Tracey shelton
Duk-Kon Kim, vice president of Korea’s World City, points Thursday to the land where Cambodia's stock exchange will be built in Camko City on the outskirts of Phnom Penh (left). At right the company's model of the development shows the proposed location of the four-storey exchange building on a redeveloped waterfront.

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:02 Nguon Sovan

But first three companies still won’t list until the end of 2010 with govt still undecided on the final exchange building design

CAMBODIA’S stock exchange will have a soft opening at the beginning of next year, a finance official said Thursday, thereby missing the government’s previous end-of-year deadline due to delays in passing necessary legislation.

“The soft opening of Cambodia’s stock market will be in January or February next year,” Mey Vann told the Post, adding that the government had only passed about 10 of the 30 required regulations to launch the bourse.

The three state-owned companies the government has pushed to list on the exchange – Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Phnom Penh Port and Telecom Cambodia – would not make their initial public offerings until the end of 2010, he added.

“We will open it without any company listings at the start,” Mey Vann said. “I will just open an office to receive companies that are sufficiently qualified to join the stock market.”

The Ministry of Economy and Finance will house the new bourse to begin with, he said, ahead of the completion of a US$6 million exchange building in Camko City on the outskirts of Phnom Penh which is scheduled to be finished and ready to start trading around October next year.

Duk-Kon Kim, vice president of Korea’s World City, which is the developer of Camko City, told the Post Thursday that it was still waiting for the finance ministry to select one of five conceptual designs for the exchange.

“The Ministry of Finance informed me that they will select the final one … this week, and the construction agreement can be reached at that time,” he said, adding that World City would be able to break ground in December, a month later than it previously planned.

The design, which will be paid for by World City along with construction costs, will mix a traditional Khmer pagoda style with modern design elements, he added.

Inpyo Lee, the Cambodia-based project director of Korea Exchange (KRX), the joint-venture partner on the exchange along with the finance ministry, said Thursday that discussions were continuing on the start date, but that he thought it should be launched without delay.

“I think the sooner, the better. Many countries had a stock market early even when their economic situations lagged behind … Cambodia’s,” he said, referring to South Korea’s decision to launch a securities exchange in the late 1950s despite being one of the poorest countries in the world at the time after the Korean War.

Given the significance of the project, Lee said, the government would push hard to set up the exchange, but public confidence remains the biggest challenge.

“People are still cautious about the stock market,” said Lee, agreeing that the three firms due to list would not be qualified to do so until the end of 2010. “Many people still think the stock market is a form of gambling, but it’s not actually; it will help the Cambodian government boost the economy.”

Add value to compete amid crisis: Thaksin


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:02 May Kunmakara and James O'Toole

FORMER Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra urged Cambodia on Thursday to focus on rural development and infrastructure investment in order to emerge competitively from the global downturn.

Thaksin’s remarks came as part of a conference held at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, titled “Cambodia and the World After the Financial Crisis”, that included about 300 local economics experts and members of the business community.

Last week, the onetime telecommunications mogul was appointed economics adviser to the Cambodian government in a move that drew ire from the current Thai administration. Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and self-exiled last year to avoid a two-year prison term for corruption.

Cambodia must develop its ability to add value as well as exploit its advantages in labour and raw materials, Thaksin said, citing agriculture and mining as two examples of sectors that may be ripe for increased profitability.

In the development of an economy, “the first tier is only selling labour and natural resources. The second tier… starts to have some value added, and also some value creation,” Thaksin said.

The newly appointed economics adviser spoke of the problems that befell developed countries in the run-up to the global crisis, arguing that these nations concentrated too much of their talent in finance.

Thaksin said that only by creating more opportunity within the Kingdom could Cambodia prevent a “brain drain” in which its most capable workers seek their fortune abroad.

Add value to compete amid crisis: Thaksin


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:02 May Kunmakara and James O'Toole

FORMER Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra urged Cambodia on Thursday to focus on rural development and infrastructure investment in order to emerge competitively from the global downturn.

Thaksin’s remarks came as part of a conference held at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, titled “Cambodia and the World After the Financial Crisis”, that included about 300 local economics experts and members of the business community.

Last week, the onetime telecommunications mogul was appointed economics adviser to the Cambodian government in a move that drew ire from the current Thai administration. Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and self-exiled last year to avoid a two-year prison term for corruption.

Cambodia must develop its ability to add value as well as exploit its advantages in labour and raw materials, Thaksin said, citing agriculture and mining as two examples of sectors that may be ripe for increased profitability.

In the development of an economy, “the first tier is only selling labour and natural resources. The second tier… starts to have some value added, and also some value creation,” Thaksin said.

The newly appointed economics adviser spoke of the problems that befell developed countries in the run-up to the global crisis, arguing that these nations concentrated too much of their talent in finance.

Thaksin said that only by creating more opportunity within the Kingdom could Cambodia prevent a “brain drain” in which its most capable workers seek their fortune abroad.

Garment companies record lowest exports drop this year



Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Workers make garments at a Phnom Penh factory. Cambodia’s garment exports have fallen more than 21 percent so far this year, but September was the best month yet in 2009.

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Cambodia's garment exports are losing market share in the US.
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Q3 garment exports
Annualised figures year on year:


September - down 15.15pc
August - down 18.31pc
July - down 18.67pc
Year to date - down 21.66pc

Source: Ministry of Commerce

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Ministry of Commerce figures show 15.15pc drop in September

GARMENT exports declined at their slowest pace this year in September, down 15.15 percent year on year to US$189.7 million, figures released by the Ministry of Commerce late Tuesday showed.

The decline is the smallest year-on-year monthly drop since last December, when exports fell 13.64 percent to $222.1 million, and comes as competitor Bangladesh said September was its worst month for garment exports in six years.

Cambodia’s garment exports have fallen on a year-on-year basis every month since last November, when they fell 0.89 percent to $218.3 million, dragged down by falling consumer spending in the key US market, which accounts for around 70 percent of total garment exports. Exports also fell in July and September last year, before the shockwaves of the US financial meltdown began to be felt around the world, but gained in every other month in 2008.

Garment exports have now fallen 21.66 percent over the first nine months of the year to $1.78 billion.

Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia Secretary General Ken Loo said there was not enough data to predict whether the impact of the global economic recession on the sector was beginning to bottom out, and that the next three months will be critical.

“If the Christmas period this year is good, then maybe we can say we have a bit more confidence of a recovery,” he said. “But, if Christmas is very weak, I don’t think we will see a recovery.”

Bangladesh’s Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) announced this week that its total exports – of which garments represent around 80 percent – fell around 28 percent from a year earlier in September, the steepest year-on-year drop in six years, as the delayed impact of the global recession routed the country’s garment sector.

However, garment shipments, which account for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s annual exports, fell just 10 percent over the July to September quarter despite the bad month. Its garment exports grew 15.5 percent to $12.3 billion in the year to June 30, helped by low prices that undercut rivals such as China, India Vietnam, and Cambodia.

The World Bank said this month that Cambodia’s market share in the key US garment market had fallen from 3.2 percent last year to 2.8 percent in mid-2009, reflecting a possible structural weakness in the country’s competitiveness. All countries in the region had been hit hard as US demand for garments plummeted in the midst of the economic and financial crisis, but as demand began to recover, Cambodia was not sharing in the gains, Ivailo Izvorski, a World Bank economist, said at the time.

“We see a very negative development where Cambodia’s garment exports are losing market share in the US, suggesting that perhaps there are deeper structural problems with competitiveness,” he said. “Whether that will be reversed is very hard to say, but the fact they lost position is something that they have to think about … given how large the garment sector looms for the economy.”

Ok Boung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the downturn was not a big issue, as the sector had grown sixfold since 2005.

“Compared to five years ago, our garment sector is still good even though exports have dropped in many months this year,” he said.

The Ministry of Labour said last month that 77 garment factories were shuttered in the first nine months of the year, costing 30,683 jobs. A further 53 suspended operations at some point over the period, it said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Joining APEC seen as likely for Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 13 November 2009 15:01 ROGER MITTON

SINGAPORE

CAMBODIA will be well-placed to gain Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) membership if a moratorium on new members is allowed to lapse as expected at the ongoing APEC summit in Singapore, sources in Singapore said Thursday.

Among the dozen nations applying to join the trade and investment forum, India and Cambodia are in the strongest position, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. India is in line for acceptance due to the sheer size of its economy, and Cambodia because it already supports open trade and is a member of the World Trade Organisation and ASEAN.

Cambodia also has a coastline open to the Pacific, which other aspiring members such as Mongolia and Laos do not.

APEC, which seeks to liberalise trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, currently has 21 members.

After it was formed in 1989, APEC expanded rapidly before placing a moratorium on new members in 1993. The moratorium, which was originally set to expire in 1996 but has been extended several times, is now set to expire in 2010. It is expected that it will not be renewed in Singapore.

US officials said Cambodia would be a welcome addition because Phnom Penh’s foreign policy supports a more liberal trading system.

Singapore’s senior minister, Goh Chok Tong, will visit Cambodia at the end of this month.

APEC agreed the “Bogor Declaration” in 1994 to create free trade among its developed economies by 2010 and emerging economies by 2020.