Monday, 15 March 2010

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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US 2009 Human Rights Report Released

Saturday, 13 March 2010 03:18 DAP-NEWS

The US Department of State released its 2009 Human Rights Report Mar 11.
The report examines the status of human rights in 196 countries during 2009 and assesses the performance of governments in putting into practice their international commitments on human rights.

The, a widely respected human rights reporting mechanism, has become one of the most significant tools available to the US Government to help determine foreign policy strategies that promote the development of democratic systems and principles, remedy abuse and disregard for human rights, and facilitate partnering with countries to develop their capacity to address human rights concerns.

For Cambodia, the report noted the Government’s promulgation of the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a positive step forward, as well as efforts to implement National Minimum Standards for the Protection of Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking, which will help assist those who are most vulnerable.

The report found that improved training and discipline by leaders of security forces led to fewer serious abuses than in 2008, such as arbitrary killings by members of the security forces. However, the report noted concerns in several areas including the Government’s restriction of free speech and freedom of the press through disinformation and defamation lawsuits; the forcible removal of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China without the benefit of a credible process to determine refugee status; and continuing concerns related to land disputes and forced evictions. Endemic corruption and the continuing challenge of a weak judiciary were also highlighted by the report.

“The government’s human rights record remained poor,” the report found. “Security forces committed extrajudicial killings and acted with impunity. Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison conditions were harsh. Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, underscoring a weak judiciary and denial of the right to a fair trial. Land disputes and forced evictions were a problem. The government restricted freedom of speech and the press through defamation and disinformation lawsuits and at times interfered with freedom of assembly. Corruption was endemic.”

EU Lawmakers To Visit Cambodia

Saturday, 13 March 2010 03:17 DAP-NEWS

The Delegation of the European Parliament for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN will visit Cambodia from 18 to 20 March 2010, a statement from the EU office here said.

The Delegation will include nine Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They will meet with high-level representatives of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Parliament, as well as with representatives of civil society and the private sector.

Through the visit, the Parliament Delegation aims to update its knowledge of recent political and economic developments in Cambodia. Specific themes of interest include the impact of the international financial and economic crisis and the bilateral trade issue; the state of affairs in human rights; the EU cooperation program in Cambodia; and the commercial relations between the EU and Cambodia.

The delegation will be led by Chairman Dr. Werner Langen. The other MEPs participating are Ivo Belet (2nd Vice-Chair) Ms Christina Gutierrez-Corine, Barbara Weiler, Norbert Neuser, Csaba Ory, Liem Hoang Ngoc, Francesco Enrico Speroni, and Adam Bierlan.

The Members of the European Parliament represent respectively the Group of the European People’s Party - Christian Democrats; the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament; the Greens and European Free Alliance; the European Conservatives and Reformists Group; and the Europe of freedom and democracy Group.

During their three-day visit, the Delegation will have meetings with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong; Minister of Interior Sar Kheng; and Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers Sok An.

The Delegation will further meet with the President of the Cambodian Senate Chea Sim, the President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin, and members of the Cambodian Parliament. Other interlocutors include the political leaders of CPP, SRP, HRP, FUNCINPEC, and NP; and members of the international community.

MFA Rejects UN Comments on Anti-Corruption Law

Saturday, 13 March 2010 03:16 DAP-NEWS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday rejected UN comments on the Anti-Corruption Law.

The UN Cambodia country team had suggested that the draft be considered for longer than the mere few days offered by the government.

“In any case, the Royal government of Cambodia cannot accept lessons given by a few individuals,” the statement said. “As in the case of other democratic countries around the globe, the Royal Government of Cambodia came to power by the will of the majority of the Cambodian people through free and fair elections. Like any democratic country, the Royal Government of Cambodia governs the country on the basis of laws passed by the parliament, Royal Decrees and other Directives.”

The statement claimed “that no democratic country would be required to delay parliamentary debates on a draft law in order to allow time for further scrutiny by the opposition parties or the civil societies,” though the UN did not “require” Cambodia delay, only suggesting a longer consultation. It is “utterly unacceptable,” the statement said, for the UN to “demand publicly through the media such a move by the Cambodian government.”

The statement was surprisingly light on references to the massive support provided by the UN to Cambodia since 1993, including technical assistance to help lawmakers draft many of the Kingdom’s new laws.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia had also sent delegations to learn form the experience of anti-corruption institutions of various countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. In August 2005, a seminar participated by Cambodian government institutions and a number of non-governmental organizations was conducted in order to collect more inputs and recommendations for improving this draft law,” the statement noted.

The statement warned that the UN “should not act out of its mandate, in flagrantly interfering in the affairs of a UN member State. Furthermore, it should refrain from acting as if it were the spokesperson of the opposition parties.”

All caught up

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:03 Heng Chivoan

Women in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district weave fishing nets last Thursday.

Court formally charges Rainsy

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy addresses supporters of his party via a live video feed from Paris during a press conference on January 28.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:06 Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Friday formally charged opposition leader Sam Rainsy with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation, two weeks after government lawyers filed complaints against the embattled Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president.

Sok Roeun, the court’s deputy prosecutor, said that preliminary investigations had led to the filing of the charges, but that further investigations were necessary before a trial date is set.

“Sam Rainsy was charged on Friday, and the investigating judge will continue investigating the cases and then will submit it to the trial judges,” he said.

Government lawyer Ky Tech filed the complaints against Sam Rainsy on February 26, after the SRP president released maps that the party said offered “unprecedented evidence” of Vietnamese border incursions. Sam Rainsy, who has already been sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for uprooting six wooden posts along the Vietnamese border in October, faces an additional 18 years in prison if convicted on the new charges.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he was not surprised by the court’s decision to pursue the complaints, saying the government tried to silence the criticisms of all those who tried to expose its abuses of power.

“I’m not concerned about the trial against president Sam Rainsy because the trial is under the pressure of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and is politically motivated to silence and exhaust the opposition party,” he said.

Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, said he would wait until the trial judge sends him a summons before taking any action.

“I’m not worried about the case, and I will commit to fulfill the obligation of defending my client according to legal procedures and will try to bring justice for him,” he said, expressing hope that the court would play an independent role in the proceedings.

Chea Vannath, an independent analyst based in Phnom Penh, said the continued self-exile of Sam Rainsy the country’s main opposition leader was an indictment of the current state of democracy in Cambodia. She also said that a negotiated settlement would be to the benefit of all parties involved.

“I think both the opposition party and the ruling party would benefit if the ruling party continues to practise its ‘win-win’ policy as a way of resolving this issue,” she said.

A sore point
However, the Vietnamese border is a sensitive issue for the current government, which has long enjoyed close relations with Hanoi. In 2005 and 2006, several government critics, including Mom Sonando, director of Beehive Radio, were taken to court after criticising the signing of a border treaty with Vietnam in 2005. That treaty, which supplemented a 1985 border agreement, forms the basis of the current demarcation efforts.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said that Sam Rainsy’s attempts to keep the Vietnamese border issue on the agenda had clearly irked the government, which is keen to keep the spotlight on its much-publicised standoff with Thailand.

“When Sam Rainsy produced maps showing where the border posts were, it just prolonged the incident,” he said. “The government wants to flex its muscles and send a message that they don’t want these issues to continue.”

Others said it was unclear why, after sentencing Sam Rainsy to two years’ prison in January, the government was pursuing additional charges.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said last month that the threat of a two-year prison term was “sufficient to keep [Sam Rainsy] out of politics for a while”, or at least until international pressure necessitates his return to the country.

In February 2006, Sam Rainsy returned from a similar spell abroad after receiving a Royal pardon for a defamation conviction, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh waited for the annulment of an embezzlement conviction before returning to Cambodia in October 2008.

Ou Virak predicted that a similar political deal would herald Sam Rainsy’s return, but warned that, as with Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a prolonged absence from in-country politics could damage his political standing.

“By the time they reached a political solution, [Ranariddh’s] political career was dead,” Ou Virak said.

Villagers write to Hun Sen over dam

Photo by: David Boyle
Ethnic Jarai minority children in Ratanakkiri province play in the Sesan River, which advocates argue will be severely affected by the proposed Lower Sesan II dam.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 David Boyle and Phak Seangly

REPRESENTATIVES of 74 indigenous minority villages in Ratanakkiri province have prepared a letter calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to halt construction of a dam that they say will devastate the flow and biodiversity of the Sesan River, endangering the livelihoods of tens of thousands, a plea timed to coincide with the premier’s scheduled visit to the province this week.

The letter is to be delivered to provincial officials today, two days after the launch of a weeklong trade fair in the province intended to facilitate investment opportunities in the so-called “development triangle” of neighbouring border areas in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.

Meach Mien, project coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, said Sunday that Hun Sen was expected to arrive in Ratanakkiri this week to formally open National Road 78, though officials could not confirm the details of the visit.

He said village representatives believed the prime minister was the only person who could act on their concerns that the planned Lower Sesan II dam would exacerbate flooding and river degradation problems caused by dams that had already been built – notably the Yali Falls dam in Vietnam.

“The purpose of the statement to Hun Sen is, for one, to help to find a solution for existing problems, and also, relating to the Lower Sesan II dam, they want the prime minister to find a new alternative,” he said.

The letter also calls on local authorities to explore small-scale, decentralised power sources such as solar panels and micro-hydropower dams.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA), commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and

completed by Key Consultants Cambodia in July 2008 for the Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1, found that more than 5,000 people would be displaced by the dam, and that about 30,000 hectares of forest would be submerged as a result of its construction.

The letter to Hun Sen says that a new EIA should be conducted because the producers of the previous one did not consult the tens of thousands of villagers who stand to be affected by the dam.

Meach Mien expressed frustration that, regardless of their findings, EIAs have previously had little influence on major projects such as the Lower Sesan II dam.

“Actually, for me, the EIA is only a report, but after conducting that they keep [the original plan] – nothing changes,” he said in an interview in Ratanakkiri last week.

Pich Dun, secretary general of the National Mekong Committee, said Sunday that government officials and employees of the company building the US$816 million dam – Electricity Vietnam – were aware of the villagers’ concerns.

In response to them, he said, the capacity of the dam had been revised downwards from 450 megawatts.

“I think that the government already discussed this, and I think many of the stakeholders concerned agreed that the dam could generate about 400 megawatts. That was the last discussion,” he said.

Construction of the Lower Sesan II dam is set to be completed in 2014. The dam is being funded through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme, and though officials have been unable to confirm when control of the dam will be transferred to the Cambodian government, the normal period for such schemes is 30 to 40 years.

Meach Mien said the government had failed to secure a single power-purchase agreement for the sale of the electricity generated by the dam, despite the fact that officials have said it would generate revenue from foreign sales.

He added: “The experience from the upstream dams, firstly from the Yali Falls dam and then the five other dams that were built, is that the water quality has changed since the building of the dams.”

Kham Nav, deputy governor of Voeun Sai district, said that since construction of the Yali Falls dam in Vietnam began in 1993, the river had been increasingly prone to flooding.

“The river has been flooding at least three times a year, and the level of the water has become irregular,” she said.

“Fish have declined, and the ecosystem has changed now – before, we could see many birds and fish, but now there are almost none.”

Blaze ravages protected Pailin forest


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 Tep Nimol and Mom Kunthear

MORE than 1,000 hectares of protected forest land in Pailin, Kampot and Siem Reap provinces have been destroyed by forest fires in the last 30 days, and all three fires are suspected to have been caused by human activity, officials said Sunday.

None of the fires led to any reported casualties.

The biggest of the three fires, in Pailin, raged for three full weeks – from February 16 to March 8, said Sous Siyat, the governor of Pailin town. He said the blaze ripped through 966 hectares of protected forest land at the base of Keav mountain, adding that the area’s remote location and numerous land mines made combating the flames impossible at first.

“We couldn’t put the fire out when it started, because reaching the area would have taken such a long time,” Sous Siyat said.

Kong Doung, director of the provincial Information Department, said 12 houses were destroyed.

He said officials believed the fire had been caused by villagers burning trees to claim land, a practice he said he was trying to discourage.

“I’ve spoken with local authorities and addressed citizens over the radio, asking them to stop burning trees down to claim habitable land,” Kong Doung said. “We fear more fires will occur if this doesn’t stop, especially now, while we’re in the dry season.”

The illegal burning of trees to expand plots of land is also believed to have caused a fire that destroyed 50 hectares of protected forest in Siem Reap’s Angkor National Park, said officials at the Apsara Authority, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak with the media.

Bokor National Park in Kampot was the site of a March 3 fire that began after residents left burning refuse unattended.

The fire destroyed 4 hectares of protected forest land that was home to hundreds of banana trees before park staff and employees at a nearby hotel successfully extinguished it, said Yang Phyrum, the park’s director.

French society lauds Sihamoni for supporting art, archaeology

Photo by: AFP
King Norodom Sihamoni is flanked by French historian Helene Carrere d’Encausse (left) and academician Gabriel de Broglie during a ceremony held Friday in Paris.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 James O'Toole

KING Norodom Sihamoni was inducted Friday into France’s Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, a society that celebrates scholarship in the humanities, in recognition of his patronage of the arts and support for archaeological preservation.

In a ceremony held in Paris, the King thanked the academy for the honour, though he said his father, King Father Norodom Sihanouk, deserved much of the credit for instilling a sense of duty within his children.

“At the side of our father, who made history, we have learned never to cede to despair,” Sihamoni said.

“Furthermore, in times marked by tyranny, we have learned definitively that the dignity of the human condition lies in the refutation of servitude and the rejection of the voices of dishonour.”

The academy praised Norodom Sihamoni for his commitment to archaeology, particularly that of the Angkorean period, saying the King “brings a new force to the defence of an archaeological treasure and support to a field of scientific research of primary importance”.

“He who continues to play an essential role in the international community in favour of historical and archeological research of his country and for the defence of inheritance has sealed a moment of great emotion in France and in all of Cambodia,” the academy said in a statement on its Web site.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STEVE FINCH

Impeachment: Legal adviser of Thaksin not censured


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 James O'Toole

Thailand’s former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama has avoided impeachment for the 2008 signing of a communique in support of Cambodia’s bid to list Preah Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A Friday vote by Thailand’s senate, according to the Bangkok Post, gathered just 57 of the 90 votes necessary to impeach Noppadon retroactively and bar him from politics for five years, a fate that has befallen dozens of politicians aligned with Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in recent years. Noppadon, who is currently Thaksin’s legal adviser, served as foreign minister under former prime minister Samak Sundaravej. Critics of Noppadon say that he violated the Thai constitution by authorising the communique, signed jointly with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18, 2008, without first consulting the Thai parliament for approval. The government of Thailand’s current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has since expressed its opposition to Preah Vihear’s UNESCO inscription solely for Cambodia. Since then, at least seven troops have been killed in skirmishes between Thai and Cambodian troops.

Govt defends human rights record


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 Chean Sokha and Irwin Loy

The 2009 Human Rights Report noted ongoing concerns with the country’s “harsh” prison system, where inmates face squalid, cramped living conditions. Monitors said government rations for prisoners’ food were routinely “misappropriated and inadequate, exacerbating malnutrition and disease”. The report also laments a “weak” judicial system in which corruption is widespread. “Government officials or members of their families who committed crimes often enjoyed impunity,” the report stated.

Arbitrary arrests and detention continued despite being explicitly outlawed, the report stated. The rights group Adhoc counted at least 103 such cases. The report noted the controversial trial last December of a little-known herbal medication, Bong Sen, developed in Vietnam, on drug users. Participants released after the trial reported that they had resumed using drugs within days. The report noted that systematic, arbitrary arrests of sex workers, homeless people and drug users had continued.

Forced evictions continued in 2009, according to the report. “Cases of inhabitants being forced to relocate continued to occur when officials or business persons colluded with local authorities,” the report stated. Adhoc reported 186 land-related cases during the year, while another NGO reported 115 cases involving more than 8,800 families. The report highlighted last January’s eviction of Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community (shown above), the site of which is being developed by a private company.

CAMBODIAN officials said Sunday that the country’s track record on human rights was improving, after a US State Department report released last week pointed to evidence of extrajudicial killings, a weak judicial system and limitations on freedom of speech in supporting its conclusion that the Kingdom’s rights record last year remained “poor”.

 
“The human rights situation in Cambodia is moving forward, not backward,” Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Sunday in response to the 2009 Human Rights Report. “No country is 100 percent perfect with human rights, even the US itself. But in Cambodia we see the situation has improved.”

Kandal villagers blame bio-ethanol plant for loss of 54 tonnes of fish


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:05 Khuon Leakhana and Thet Sambath

VILLAGERS in a Kandal province commune who say they lost more than 54 tonnes of fish in a mass die-off last week have asked authorities to investigate a nearby bio-ethanol factory that was temporarily shut down last year over environmental concerns.

The 43 families in Prek Phnov commune, Ponhea Leu district said they suspect a chemical spill may be to blame for the kill.

“I know [the fish] were killed by pollution from the factory. If there was no pollution, my fish would not be dead,” said Moth Pov, a local fisherman.

Villagers in the same commune complained last year that a chemical spill led to the deaths of roughly 60 tonnes of fish.

Representatives of a nearby bio-ethanol factory owned by MH Bio-Energy Group acknowledged that a broken water-treatment system resulted in a spill last August, but denied that the spill had killed the fish.

In response to the most recent allegations, Fisheries Administration officials said Sunday that it was too early to lay blame. Samples from the water and dead fish are being examined, and results are expected within “a few days”, said Nao Thuok, the administration’s director general.

“We can’t accuse this factory, even though its pollution went into the river to make fish die before. We need to investigate, and the results will come,” Nao Thuok said.

Officials with MH Bio-Energy could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Verdict in teacher attack expected Tuesday: court


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

PREAH Sihanouk provincial court began hearing the case of a naval officer accused of attacking two teachers late last week, and a second hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, court officials said.

Prosecutor Bou Bunhang said Sunday that Keo Monysoka, deputy commander at Ream Naval Base, was arrested on Thursday, and that the court had heard the prosecution’s case against him on Friday. He has been charged with causing intentional injury for allegedly attacking two teachers at the International Home of English School after a 10-year-old male student there frightened his 14-year-old daughter with a turtle.

“We heard the case against [Keo Monysoka] over unintentional injury on Friday, but we haven’t convicted him yet because the defence lawyer requested a delay before the next hearing so there would be time for finding evidence and witnesses,” Bou Banhang said.

Witnesses say Keo Monysoka’s adult son attacked the 10-year-old male student, though Bou Bunhang said the son had not been apprehended or charged, adding that the court was investigating the allegations against him.

Judge Hang Sitha said Keo Monysoka was being held in the provincial prison, and that a verdict would likely be handed down on Tuesday.

Complaint possible in police shooting

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Tuot Chanka, 37, receives treatment for gunshot wounds to his leg suffered during an altercation with police in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district on March 7.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

THREE men who were shot during an altercation with police in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district last week plan to meet with workers from the rights group Adhoc today to discuss the possibility of filing a criminal complaint – despite the fact that they remain in hiding and refuse to go back to Kampong Thom themselves.

On the afternoon of March 7, police opened fire on a group of 40 villagers who had returned to a section of land in Kraya commune from which 1,700 families were evicted last December. Local authorities have said the police were acting in self-defence after being provoked by the villagers.

Police on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint against eight villagers for their alleged involvement in the altercation, though the three men who suffered bullet wounds were not among those listed. Nevertheless, all three – 59-year-old Chhum Chhorn, 37-year-old Tuot Chanka and his younger brother, 35-year-old Tuot Veasna – have fled Kampong Thom province for fear they will be arrested.

Luon Bunthy, who helped bring the three men to hospital after the shooting, said Sunday that they planned to file a criminal complaint of their own soon, adding that he and other villagers would join them.

“We are afraid to go back to Kampong Thom because they have threatened to arrest us, so we are not sure that we can file a complaint against police who shot our villagers or not. But we really want to file a complaint against them, because the shooting was a sign of anarchy,” Luon Bunthy said.

Chhum Chhorn, who, like the other two injured men, has relocated to Kampong Cham province, said, “If we go back to Kampong Thom they will arrest us, so tomorrow we will talk with the provincial Adhoc officials here to see what we can do to file a complaint against them.”

Officials in Kampong Thom have said they have no intention of seeking the arrest of the injured men, a statement that Santuk district governor Pich Sophea reiterated on Sunday.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for Adhoc, which filed its own complaint last week, said the rights group had already prepared the documents for the complaint to be filed on behalf of the injured men.

He compared the Kraya case to an ongoing land row in Siem Reap province, adding that he hoped the Kraya case would be handled differently.

On March 22 of last year, officers opened fire on a group of villagers from Chi Kraeng commune who refused to leave land that Siem Reap governor Sou Phirin had ruled belonged to neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune. Nine villagers are currently behind bars because of their alleged involvement in the incident, but no police have been arrested or charged.

Battambang villagers say authorities torched homes in land dispute


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 Kim Yuthana

VILLAGERS in Battambang province’s Kos Krala district have accused government officials of destroying three homes in the district’s Doun Ba commune last week as part of a long-running land dispute.

Hourn Bourn, 63, said that on March 7, local officials travelled to her commune and told the families living in the houses to move off the land or face forced relocation.

On Wednesday, Hourn Bourn said, government officials of unspecified office and rank returned to make good on the threat.

“A group of about seven men, wielding three guns and a bulldozer, came to the village to burn down two houses and dismantled another one,” Hourn Bourn said Sunday.

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A group of about seven men... came to the village to burn down two houses.
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Touch Vandy, 42, also of Doun Ba, said the incident was the result of a dispute that began in 2006, when district officials announced plans to build a road to develop the area and connect it to Koh Kong province. Though the Kos Krala district Committee of Land Dispute Resolution has been called to mediate on numerous occasions, Touch Vandy said the committee was sympathetic to business interests and thus biased against the villagers.

“That committee has intervened many times in an effort to help solve the dispute, but their intervention has never been fruitful,” Touch Vandy said.

Kos Krala district police inspector Lay Nan rejected the villagers’ allegations.

The homes that were destroyed, he said, were uninhabited dwellings that villagers had cleared themselves to increase the size of their farmland.

Kos Krala district governor Sin Nha said only that the case was “very complicated”, and that he had transferred it to Battambang provincial authorities for arbitration.

Provincial officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Villagers said that in 1999, the government granted 415 families formerly associated with the Khmer Rouge a total of 1,672 hectares of land in Doun Ba commune, including the land on which the three homes were destroyed.

Govt slams UN over statement


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

GOVERNMENT officials have accused the United Nations of “flagrantly interfering” in their affairs after the UN’s office in Cambodia expressed concern about last week’s swift passage of the Anticorruption Law.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the UN Country Team in Cambodia expressed concern that the long-awaited law was made public just days before being tabled in parliament.

“The draft Anticorruption law should undergo a transparent and participatory consultation process to ensure that it is consistent with international standards,” the statement said.

“The UNCT also hopes and encourages the National Assembly and the Senate to debate the law, with the possibility to amend the draft if and where considered relevant.”

The statement drew the immediate ire of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which accused the UNCT of “exceeding the limit of their mandate” in Cambodia.

“No democratic country would be required to delay parliamentary debates on a draft law in order to allow time for further scrutiny by the opposition parties or the civil societies,” it stated. The statement requested that the UNCT refrain from acting as a “spokesperson” of the country’s opposition parties.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, on Sunday repeated the government’s position that the UN statement had gone too far.

“The UN must not criticise the National Assembly for adopting this law, because it is the full right of the parliamentarians and represents the Cambodian people who voted for them,” he said. “When this law is adopted, it will be used for Cambodian citizens – not for the UN.”

One observer said the ministry had clearly taken the UN’s statement out of context, misinterpreting it as an attack.

“The government should at least acknowledge what the UN has said ... and recognise that it’s legitimate for the UN to criticise the handling of the debates,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

UNCT spokeswoman Margaret Lamb declined to comment Sunday.

Clinic closed by govt after traffic death


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

THE Health Ministry has opted to shut down a medical clinic that was accused of negligence in its treatment of a man who succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident last week, the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department said Sunday.

Ty Somala, 49, died on March 7 after an accident in Stung Meanchey commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. His relatives blamed the death on employees of the Cambodian Virtuous Professional Association clinic for failing to treat him while transporting him from the scene of the crash to the hospital.

“The association ran a health-care business without approval from the Ministry of Health and was shut down,” Sok Sokun, the municipal Health Department director, said Sunday. “It will be allowed to reopen only after it receives an official licence to operate from the ministry.”

Sok Sokun said the Cambodian Virtuous Professional Association clinic was formerly known as Bopha Meas, a clinic that was shut down late last year, after officials deemed its staff to be insufficiently trained.

Soeun Sothea, manager of the Cambodian Virtuous Medical Professional Association clinic, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Sean Borith, the brother-in-law of Ty Somala, said Sunday that he welcomed the Health Ministry’s decision to shut down the clinic.

“The clinic was illegally operating and has been closed down once already, but it still ran its business in violation of the ministry’s decision,” said Sean Borith. “The clinic cannot adequately treat patients. The ministry must take strict measures against this clinic so it can’t operate under another name and cheat residents again.”

Mok Chito, head of the Interior Ministry’s penal police, said he had received a complaint filed by Ty Somala’s family against the clinic and had launched an investigation.

“We will take action on the case after the victim’s funeral is completed,” Mok Chito said.

Bovine breeding time leads to traffic snarls


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

POLICE in the capital’s Dangkor district have seized 15 wayward cows and bulls after a recent spate of incidents in which lustful bulls have vigorously pursued potential mates, disrupting traffic and endangering passersby, officials said.

Authorities began rounding up the animals, which are in breeding season, last week following an order issued by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.

Khin Sim, first deputy chief of Dangkor’s Pong Teak commune, said officials had noticed that cows were wandering about “in anarchy”, strolling across Russian Boulevard and the public park near Phnom Penh International Airport.

“We have educated local villagers for a year not to release their cows in the street because it causes many traffic accidents, but villagers have ignored the advice,” said Khin Sim.

Villagers, he said, should be especially wary now that it is breeding season, as libidinous bulls are more likely to chase after desirable mates.

“The villagers know that breeding season can be very dangerous for passersby, because the bulls run after the female cows for breeding,” Khin Sim said. “Recently in my commune, someone was knocked unconscious after he was struck by a bull.”

Commune authorities have agreed to buy seven of the animals seized last week; they are to be slaughtered and used as food for soldiers stationed at Preah Vihear temple, Khin Sim said.

Officials are still waiting for the owners of the eight remaining animals to take responsibility for them.

Petrol prices rise again

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Motorbikes fill up at a Total petrol station displaying increased prices Sunday in Phnom Penh. Total's premium brand Excellium hit 4,600 riels a litre Sunday, and other fuel retailers also raised prices on the back of climbing crude costs on international markets.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:03 Soeun Say

Fuel costs are increasing rapidly this year, taxi drivers complain

PETROL pump prices rose again Sunday to a high of US$1.08 per litre for premium petroleum as fuel retailers in the Kingdom cited the rising cost of oil on international markets for the latest hikes.

On Sunday, Caltex, Total, Tela Cambodia and Total Cambodge were all selling premium petrol for between 4,550 and 4,600 riels per litre ($1.07 to $1.08) from between 4,450 riels and 4,500 riels per litre Saturday. Retailers said they had raised the price of regular fuel earlier in the week.

“We started to increase the price on Tuesday and Wednesday last week,” Stephane Dion, managing director of Total’s downstream operations, said Sunday. It’s “the same reason the oil price has risen – because the crude oil price on international markets has increased”.

Regular grade sold for between 4,300 riels and 4,350 riels per litre on Sunday at Phnom Penh petrol stations, compared with a range of 4,150 riels to 4,200 riels per litre Wednesday.

Crude for April delivery fell 1.1 percent to $81.25 on the New York Mercantile Exchange by the close Friday on weak US consumer sentiment data, the first slide in three days last week.

A Societe Generale’s Cross Asset Research report released the same day said that crude was expected to climb above $90 a barrel in the second half of the year before heading above the all-important $100-a-barrel mark in 2011, a sign that fuel prices are likely to rise further in the Kingdom.

On Sunday, Total’s Excellium remained the highest-priced premium fuel on the Cambodian market at 4,600 riels per litre. “We didn’t increase [the price] much more than other companies, no more than one cent a litre,” Dion said.

The government has in the past criticised foreign fuel sellers for what it says are higher prices than domestic retailers.

Bin May Mialia, business division manager at Thai fuel firm PTT, said oil prices had risen sharply in the past few days.

Chhun Aun, managing director of Tela, and Heu Heng, deputy director general of Sokimex Co, both domestic firms, were not available Sunday.

Last week’s price rises meant retail fuel prices hit the highest level since the start of last year when the economic downturn was at its most severe, a point that was not lost on the capital’s taxi drivers who again complained that their livelihoods were under threat.

“How can I earn a profit to support my family if the oil prices increase every day like this,” said 34-year-old tuk-tuk driver Chin Veasna, complaining that prices were rising in larger increments than they had fallen.

Touch Sea, a 52-year-old taxi driver between Phnom Penh and Takeo province said recent price rises had been rapid. “I earn only 25,000 to 35,000 riels per day.”

Playing games with rockets

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A BM-21 truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher in Kampong Chhnang province on March 4 during a missile test by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:03 Sokchea Lim

The prime minister’s rocket test was intended to prevent war, not provoke it

COMMENT

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By Sokchea Lim

Cambodia’s recent testing of rocket launchers has sparked some political responses in both the country and the region. Dr Carlyle Thayer, a professor of politics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, called the launch “a bit of theatre” on Hun Sen’s part. My personal response to him is that that “bit” can bite, in a strategic sense.

Thayer also added that the action would entrench the political influence of the military in society, making it harder for real civilian control to take place.

A similar analysis was made by Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. This was “an opportunity for Hun Sen to militarise or gain support for the military”, he said.

I guess the above comments were made on the basis of Cambodia’s political history and the current state of Cambodia’s politics. However, if we have a deeper look into the issue and from a conflict and resolution perspective, it should give more insights into the strategies played by commander in chief Hun Sen in order to achieve peace.

This is a game played by two players. Each player acts in complex interactive situations by choosing strategies that provide the best outcomes for each side. Game theory has been widely applied to the concept of conflicts and resolutions by studying the incentives that lead to war and the incentives that prevent it. Dr Robert Aumann, a game theorist and Nobel Prize laureate in economics, explained that what prevented the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union from turning hot was not disarmament, but the bombers in the air.

Likewise, actions taken by Cambodia including troop deployment, the establishment of a border committee, military budget increases, rocket testing, etc, are to assert a “threat to punish” or go to war if Thailand chooses to invade. If Thailand chose to invade and Cambodia chose to go to war, the result would be devastating. However, this outcome could not happen due to the reason that it was not in the best interest of Thailand to go to war, and engaging in war would earn Thailand nothing.

The stand of the Cambodian commander in chief, Hun Sen, is clear: Cambodia is committed to positioning itself as a peaceful neighbour and desires no war. As Hun Sen said, “This is a normal drill and preparation to defend the nation in case there is an invasion.”

Therefore, the signal sent by Phnom Penh should not be perceived as “regional instability”, which was noted by Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is an agreement strategically reached by both sides to prevent war. It is not in the best interest of either party to stage war, since war would result in huge losses for both countries. And a threat is necessary for the agreement to be enforceable.

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Sokchea Lim is a PhD candidate in economics at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the United States.

Vendors meet for regional trade fair


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:03 May Kunmakara

RATTANAKIRI

TRADERS from provinces with borders adjoining Laos and Vietnam opened a trade fair Saturday in the Rattanakiri provincial capital, Banlung, aimed at further cementing economic ties.

The event featured 93 booths from 46 companies based in Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces, along with companies from four provinces across the border in Laos and five from Vietnam. In addition, Banlung played host to a Triangle Development Areas conference attended by 250 delegations from the three neighbouring countries.

“We are holding the conference … to draw private-sector as well as development partners to help us,” Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Sunday.

Souksavanh Vilayvong, a Laotian trade promotion officer, told the Post he had brought many products over the border on what was his first visit to the exhibition, the fifth time it has been held.

“We are very close now because roads have improved,” he said, adding that he was actively seeking Cambodian partners for export.

Phu Doc, a processed-food vendor from Ang Yang province in Vietnam, said she had visited Cambodian trade fairs previously, but had never before sold her own items to visitors.

“They like our products a lot because we offer affordable prices and good quality,” she said.

Bilateral trade with Vietnam suffered an 18.7 percent slide to $1.332 billion last year due to the economic crisis, while trade with Laos rose 4 percent from a tiny base to just $274,780, according to official figures.

$59m spent importing electricity


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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:03 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA spent US$59 million on electricity imports from Thailand and Vietnam last year, according to Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy figures.

The Kingdom purchased 226.76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2009 from Thailand for $19 million, and 500.74 billion kWh from Vietnam for $40 million.

New factories and apartment buildings had led to rising electricity demand, said Ty Thany, director of the Department of Finance and Price Setting at the ministry.

“We will import 25 to 30 percent [of our electricity supply] for this year in order to reduce costly local power generation,” said Ty Thany.

Cambodia buys electricity from Thailand at 2.7 baht ($0.083) per kWh and from Vietnam at $0.08 per kWh compared with a cost of $0.18-0.20 per kWh using oil-powered generators.

“We may be able to reduce imports of electricity in 2013 because we will have hydroelectric dams and coal power plants to generate electricity by ourselves then,” said Ty Thany.

The Ministry of Industry forecasts that Cambodia will require about 400 megawatts of electricity this year, 50 percent more than current domestic supply.

Canadia targets home loans

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Canadia Bank employees wait to assist customers last month at the lender’s Phnom Penh headquarters. Canadia will raise housing loans 20 percent this year, said bank Vice President Dieter Billmeier.

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The most important thing is the quality of the customers and ... cash flows...."
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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:02 Nguon Sovan

Bank to lend as much as $95m to property sector this year, vice president says

CANADIA Bank says it is set to increase housing loans by up to 20 percent this year, but other banks said they would remain cautious towards the sector following a difficult lending year in 2009, in which bad loans rose and property financing dried up.

“We are looking into an increased housing market for end-users and have a budget set aside of about [US]$90 to $95 million for housing loans in 2010, from $79 million last year,” said Dieter Billmeier, vice president of Canadia Bank, adding that he was confident Cambodia would see double-digit growth in property financing this year.

Canadia plans to lend about $450 million overall in 2010, he said, with commercial loans forecast to make up 60 percent of the total.

“We are looking into the sectors of agriculture, services – including tourism and retail – and wholesale lending,” he said, emphasising flexibility over a fixed weighting to different sectors of the economy.

ANZ Royal did not have a specific lending target for this year, CEO Stephen Higgins told the Post, adding that loan disbursement would depend on customer demand.

“We have the resources to lend a significant amount to the right customers. We are focusing on a range of sectors, including agribusiness, wholesale and retail trade,” he wrote in an email Thursday. “But the most important thing is the quality of the customers and the cash flows they generate.”

Higgins reiterated that ANZ Royal was about to resume lending for private mortgages but that the lender had “a low appetite for commercial real estate”, a sector that was hit hard as the economic crisis struck the Kingdom in the last quarter of 2008.

ACLEDA Bank would maintain low involvement in the property lending sector for the remainder of the year because the sector was of low importance within the bank’s overall strategy, according to Senior Vice President In Siphann.

“Lending to the real estate sector is not our target, our main targets are sectors serving productivity and agriculture,” he said, adding that last year the bank lent $538 million overall, of which 43 percent – or $235 million – went to trade, 20 percent – or $110 million – was to services and $85 million to agriculture.

Only 1.3 percent, or $7 million, was lent for commercial real estate last year, said In Siphann, with a further 8.5 percent, or $46 million, for housing loans.

This year “we plan to increase our loans – about 30 percent to $699 million, mainly to trade and services as well as agriculture”, he said, adding that ACLEDA would also remain mostly versatile in regards to targeting different sectors depending on customer quality and demand.

But “for real estate and housing loans, we will cap ourselves at less than 15 percent of total lending for this year”.

With almost no real estate investments taking place, Keuk Narin, general manager of Bonna Realty Group, said property remained an unattractive sector in which to invest with little growth.

Since the start of this year, transactions have increased, he said, “but prices were about 50 percent down on those in the first half of 2008 when the sector was booming”.

PKR sack Prak Sovannara

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Former Cambodia national team coach Prak Sovannara has confirmed he will not be at the helm of Preah Khan Reach this domestic season.

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Monday, 15 March 2010 15:00 Ken Gadaffi

Preah Khan Reach oust their technical adviser after Cup disappointment

WITH barely two weeks before the start of the 2010 Cambodian Premier League – now branded the Metfone Cambodian League – military police backed club Preah Khan Reach (PKR) have terminated their appointment of technical adviser Prak Sovannara. According to a club official who declined to give his name, the former national team handler has been shown the door due to his inability to lead the team to triumph in the recently concluded 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup.

“The management set a target for him to win the Hun Sen Cup after failing to win the league in 2009, but were disappointed that we ended up with a bronze medal,” the club official stated.

PKR under Prak Sovannara had led the pack for the majority of the 2009 domestic season, only to relinquish the summit to Phnom Penh Crown in the final rounds. However, due to the Super 4 post-season playoffs format introduced by the Cambodian Football Federation, the team ended the league in third place after losing to eventual runners up Khemera Keila in the semifinals, and then defeating Phnom Penh Crown in the third place final.

The source at PKR revealed the club is set to install a foreign coach for this year’s league competition. “[He] is expected in Cambodia this week,” the club official revealed without disclosing the identity.

This will be the second time in three years that the team, who are also known as PM after their affiliation with the military police, will employ a foreigner as coach. In 2008, Czech born tactician Niklas Deia steered PKR to fifth place in the league before Prak Sovannara took over for the 2009 season.

'Red Shirt' protesters swarm Bangkok



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AlJazeeraEnglish
March 13, 2010

Large parts of downtown Bangkok have turned red, where tens of thousands of opposition supporters - part of a "Red Shirt" movement - are demanding the government's ouster and fresh elections.

The Red Shirts are supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the country's deposed prime minister, and they want political change now.

The demonstrators have warned that they will press ahead with their agitation until their demands are met - even if it means "paralysing" Bangkok.

Aljazeera's Wayne Hay reports from Bangkok, where about 50,000 troops have been deployed.

Swarm of protesters rally for new Thai elections

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gather in a street during a protest on Sunday, March 14, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters rallied in Thailand's capital Sunday to press their demand that the government dissolve Parliament or face massive demonstrations at key locations in the city.(AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

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By THANYARAT DOKSONE, Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK – As many as 100,000 people demonstrated peacefully against Thailand's government at a party-like rally Sunday, but the capital was being kept on edge by their threat to continue protesting until Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva calls new elections.

Loud pop music and rural delicacies such as spicy papaya salad competed with fiery rhetoric for the attention of the crowd, many of whom had come from provinces in the countryside. The festive tone was aided by hundreds of new arrivals disembarking from boats festooned with red banners on the Chao Phraya River.

The so-called Red Shirts — comprising followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and their allies — rallied along a boulevard that is a traditional venue for political protests.

The protesters, formally grouped as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, have been flexible in their tactics and deadlines, but are demanding Abhisit dissolve Parliament and call new elections, which they believe will restore their political allies to power.

They believe Abhisit took office illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional ruling class who were alarmed by Thaksin's popularity, particularly among the poor. Thaksin, who became prime minister in 2001 and whose party easily won two elections, was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The Red Shirts set a deadline of noon Monday for Abhisit to heed their call, or face disruptive street protests. They said they would go Monday morning to an infantry base on Bangkok's outskirts to confront Abhisit, who has taken the precaution of sheltering there.

Abhisit indicated Sunday that for now, he had no plans to dissolve Parliament.

Thaksin spoke to the rally by video link Sunday night, urging the crowd to continue their struggle peacefully, and emphasizing that he considered the so-called ammart, or elite, the enemy. Thaksin himself is a billionaire businessman who fled Thailand in 2008 ahead of being convicted for a conflict of interest violation and sentenced to two years in jail.

"The people who caused the problems in the country these days are the ruling elites," declared Thaksin, speaking from an undisclosed location outside of Thailand. "To solve problems related to democracy, equality and justice — the ruling elites won't be able to do that because they don't have the conscience. The people will have to do it."

He accused his opponents of keeping Thailand in a state of underdevelopment, and suggested that if he returned to power, he would redistribute wealth, stop flooding in Bangkok, and keep Thailand economically competitive with its neighbors.

Other speakers employed crude personal invective, especially against 89-year-old Prem Tinsulanonda, a former prime minister who is the top adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The demonstrators blame Prem for orchestrating the 2006 military coup that toppled Thaksin.

The protest had been billed as a "million man march," though organizers had said they hoped for a turnout of 400,000-600,000. Protest leader Natthawut Saikua, said he believed more than a half million people turned up, while estimates from the police and other government agencies ranged from 50,000-150,000. Associated Press reporters said it was one of the biggest turnouts in the past five years of frequent protests, which would put it over the 100,000 mark.

There had been widespread worries ahead of the protest about possible violence, and a force of 50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel was mobilized in the capital area. The Red Shirts' last major protest in Bangkok last April deteriorated into rioting that left two people dead, more than 120 people injured and buses burned on major thoroughfares before the army quashed the unrest.

"We are being vigilant. We are still concerned about the third hand that might instigate troubles. But the Red Shirts are adamant about keeping their rally peaceful, and so far they have been peaceful. Everything has been done step by step. Every side is cautious," government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn said Sunday night.

Thailand has been in constant political turmoil since early 2006, when anti-Thaksin demonstrations began. In 2008, when Thaksin's political allies came back to power for a year, his opponents occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months and seized Bangkok's two airports for a week.

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Associated Press writer Grant Peck and photographer David Longstreath contributed to this report.

Opposition rally against Thailand PM


Associated Press, Sunday March 14, 2010, Bangkok
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AFP Image

Leaders of tens of thousands of protesters who swarmed into Bangkok from Thailand's rural areas on Sunday threatened mass street demonstrations if the government didn't respond to their demand for a dissolution of Parliament within 24 hours.

The demonstrators, popularly known as the Red Shirts, want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call new elections, which they believe will allow their political allies to regain power.

They believe Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional Thai ruling class who were jealous and fearful of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's popularity while in office from 2001 until he was ousted in a 2006 coup.

"We demand that the government will dissolve the parliament and return the power to the people," a protest leader, Veera Musikapong, told a sea of red-shirted followers.

"We will give the government 24 hours to take a decision and will camp out here until we get the answer," he added.

The protesters, who had on Saturday given a similar ultimatum which expired on Sunday, said they will march on key locations in the city if the government fails to respond by noon Monday.

These are to include the headquarters of the 11th Infantry Regiment, where Abhisit has been living in recent days.

In his weekly radio address Sunday morning, Abhisit indicated he had no plans to dissolve Parliament.

He also denied rumours that a military coup was possible and said he would not impose a state of emergency that would give the army broad powers to deal with the protests.

Traffic in Bangkok was light, businesses were shuttered and social events cancelled as many feared the four-day demonstrations, which officially began on Sunday but have been building for two days as caravans of protesters pour in from the north and northeast, would repeat past violence.

But protesters stressed they would use only peaceful means in their quest for new elections.

Police General Wichai Sangprapai, commander in the main protest area, estimated that the number of protesters throughout Bangkok could reach 150,000 on Sunday.

Local newspapers estimated the numbers at between 80,000 and 100,000, although more were still arriving from outlying areas, travelling in trucks, buses, motorcycles and boats down the Chao Phraya River.

A force of 50,000 soldiers, police and other security personnel was mobilised in the capital area. There were no reports of violence. Despite newspaper headlines warning of a "red tide" about to swamp the city, the protests took on an almost festive atmosphere with musical performances and dancing interspersed with political speeches.

The march is regarded by some as the last chance for Thaksin to return to Thailand.

The protesters, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, are made up of followers of Thaksin, along with other people who oppose the coup that toppled him.

Thailand has been in constant political turmoil since early 2006, when demonstrations accusing Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power began.

In 2008, when Thaksin's political allies came back to power for a year, his opponents - the Yellow Shirts - occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months and seized Bangkok's two airports for a week.

Last April, the Red Shirt stormed a convention centre in the town of Pattaya during a scheduled conference of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) forcing the Prime Minster to cancel the summit and airlift the leaders out by helicopter.