Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cameroonian detained for smuggling Khmer gold to Thailand

via CAAI News Media

SA KAEO, April 9 (TNA) – A Cameroon man was abruptly detained with smuggled gold by Thai officials at the Aranyaprathet district immigration checkpoint after having crossed the border from Poi Pet in Cambodia to Thai territory.

Arrested while carrying wheeled baggage, the man was asked to be searched, as said by officials, for he was deemed suspicious.

Grains of gold weighing some 1,250 grammes were found packed in a plastic bag hidden in the suitcase without legal documentation permitting the importing of gold.

Milol Francis, 35, confessed to the Thai authorities he had travelled to Cambodia and bought the precious metal, which he said had been smuggled by various gold mines in Cambodia and later sold in Phnom Penh.

Milol said he had bought the gold for US$2,000 in order to resell it in Cameroon. Thai officials said the gold was seized and legal action will be taken against the suspect. (TNA)

Thai-Cambodian relations improves: Kasit
via CAAI News Media

By The Nation


Thai-Cambodia relations have ameliorated greatly due to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's positive comment, according to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Kasit, who attended the just concluded Asean Summit here this morning, said that on the sideline of the summit, he met Hun Sen. "He was very positive. He also dismissed the report that the red shirts used the Cambodian airwave," Kasit said.

Relations between the two countries were downgraded last year when the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed Hun Sen's economic advisor, which has set off verbal war between both sides.

Kasit said both countries are now considering tangible measures that would increase mutual confidence.

Park near disputed temple to be opened
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By The Nation
Published on April 9, 2010

The Khao Phra Viharn National Park will be temporarily opened for tourists from April 10 to 18, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department directorgeneral Jatuporn Burutpath said yesterday.

The department agreed to open the park's Mor E Daeng cliff and Noen Nub Dao areas for tourists during the Songkran holidays after Si Sa Ket governor Raphi Phongbupakit filed a request for the park to be opened. The park has been closed for six months over security concerns after conflicts erupted between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple being listed as a World Heritage Site. Paramilitary officials would ensure security for the tourists, who are only allowed to visit designated areas.

Thai protesters storm into TV compound

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By KINAN SUCHAOVANICH, Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK – Thai anti-government protesters stormed Friday into a telecom company compound where authorities had shut down their vital TV channel, as soldiers and riot police failed to hold them back with tear gas and water cannons.

It was the first use of force by the government in monthlong protests aimed at ousting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and forcing new elections. At least 10 protesters and three security personnel were injured in the brief confrontation in a northern Bangkok suburb, The Nation newspaper said on its Web site.

Hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, the "Red Shirt" protesters breached the barbed-wire perimeter of Thaicom Public Co. Ltd. within minutes, though they were not immediately able to enter the main building. As they moved into the compound, security forces threw tear gas canisters and fired water cannons but then quickly retreated into the main building as thousands of protesters swarmed around it.

Red Shirt leaders then attempted to negotiate with police to get the People Channel, or PTV, back on the air, while many protesters headed back to downtown Bangkok after hearing rumors that the military would try to clear demonstrators out of one of their encampments in the capital.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn indicated that PTV would remain shut down, saying, "We will restore their signals only when they report the truth again."

After the clash, some security forces were seen throwing down their shields and riot gear and shaking hands with the protesters. In recent weeks, police have frequently shown sympathy with the protesters and analysts say the security forces, especially the police, are split in their loyalties, making it difficult for the government to enforce its orders.

The Red Shirts offered water to soldiers and police, and showed reporters a small cache of weapons, including M-16 assault rifles and shotguns, they had seized from soldiers.

"We've got the upper hand. But we no longer can claim we are peaceful," said Thep Jitra, one of the protesters. "I suppose (those who broke into compound) have been emotionally repressed for so long. I'm sure this is such a release for them. This is pay-back time."

The escalating demonstrations are part of a long-running battle between the mostly poor and rural supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the ruling elite they say orchestrated the 2006 military coup that removed him from power. They see the Oxford-educated Abhisit as a symbol of the elite and claim he took office illegitimately in December 2008 with the help of military pressure on Parliament.

Leaders of the Red Shirt movement initially said they would march to undisclosed locations across Bangkok on Friday in their biggest rally yet, but switched plans after the closure of their satellite TV station, with protest leader Nattawut Saikua telling followers, "We're all moving in one direction."

"We're going to bring back our People Channel," he said.

Columns of protesters, riding motorcycles and pickup trucks, blared horns and waved red flags as they moved out of their two main encampments and headed north 28 miles (45 kilometers) to the offices of Thaicom in the suburb of Pathum Thani.

Thaicom, which relayed the PTV signal via satellite, was founded by Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon turned politician. He no longer owns it.

The government security agency estimated that 15,000 people were in the motorized caravan, but army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd placed the number at about 3,000. Both figures are far below the biggest estimated turnout of about 100,000 during the early days of the protests last month.

PTV was set up and financed by Red Shirt sympathizers. A number of small community radio stations also are allied with the protesters, who also use cell phones and social networking to communicate.

The protesters have camped in Bangkok's historic district since March 12 and have occupied the capital's main shopping boulevard since Saturday, forcing the closure of major shopping malls and causing tens of millions of dollars in losses.

On Friday, the Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for three leaders for seizing the commercial district, the official Thai News Agency said. A total of 27 warrants have now been issued but no leaders are known to have been taken into custody.

Abhisit declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and canceled a one-day trip to Hanoi for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders as he searched for ways to resolve the showdown without the use of force.

The emergency order means the military now has greater power to restore order, but both Abhisit and the army know a crackdown could result in bloodshed that would be political poison.

So far, the government has exerted no significant force to stop the escalating demonstrations. Instead, it has censored the protesters' communication links. On Thursday, it blocked PTV and dozens of Web sites that broadcast the protesters' fiery rallies and calls to the countryside for reinforcements.

Panitan said the media outlets put out false information, including warnings that Abhisit had authorized the use of force against protesters.

Most of Thailand's television stations are owned by the government, but other media are privately owned and reflect a wide spectrum of political opinion.

A group of demonstrators briefly stormed Parliament on Wednesday, forcing officials to flee over a back wall and by helicopter, and prompting the emergency decree, which allows authorities to impose curfews, ban public gatherings, censor media and detain suspects without charge for 30 days.


Associated Press writers Denis D. Gray, Jocelyn Gecker and Grant Peck contributed to this report.

Show features Cambodian artists

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By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/08/2010

This painting by Phung Huynh is titled Good Fortune Good Luck by a Cambodian Chinese woman born in Vietnam, living in Los Angeles. (Brittany Murray / Press Telegram)

Photo Gallery

Artist in Residence Sokhorn Meas from Phnom Penh sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia is in Long Beach on a 3 month visa to create his art. Meas is creating a sculpture using seven thousand chopsticks and wire. The piece, along with others by 33 artists from Cambodia, the U.S. and Korea will be displayed at Hancock University beginning Friday through May 7. (Brittany Murray / Press Telegram)

LONG BEACH - It's called "Self-portrait as a Needle." And artist-in-residence Meas Sokhorn's art piece, which sprawls nearly from floor to ceiling, certainly qualifies as a work in his specialty, called large-scale installation.

While Meas' work may be a kind of centerpiece, it won't be all that's on display. He is one of 33 artists whose work is to be shown at an exhibit opening today with a free public reception at Hancock University from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., entitled Global Hybrid II.

The show builds on a July 2009 show called Global Hybrid I in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that featured Cambodian, Cambodian-American and French artists with Khmer connections.

It is also an outgrowth of a show in Long Beach last April at the 2nd City Council Arts and Performance Space, called Transformation II: Bringing Contemporary Khmer/American Art to Long Beach.

The series of shows are part of an ongoing collaboration between several groups of artists and arts supporters, including Lydia Parusol, the art manager and curator of the Meta House gallery in Phnom Penh, and Denise Scott, who is also curating the exhibit and splits time living in Cambodia and the U.S.

Like last year's show, the current exhibit is a kind of a moveable feast in sculpture, paint and multimedia of contemporary art and artists both from Cambodia and abroad.

Meas, for example, is in the midst of a three-month residency supported by the U.S. State Department. He has been working for seven weeks on "Self-portrait" which is an abstract, flowing sculpture constructed from about 7,000 chopsticks.
The day before the show opened, Meas was still filling in his piece and bemoaning the time constraints.

"The more time I have, the longer the song I can sing," he said with a smile as he snipped off the end of a chopstick.

In another part of the large open space, Parusol displayed a multimedia piece by artist Chath Piersath, an artist, who fled Cambodia after the Pol-Pot regime to Massachusetts but has since returned to his homeland.

The interactive piece is a collection of blocks that can be flipped and rearranged, like a puzzle, to create different faces and identities.

Parusol said the piece is metaphoric in many ways of the changing faces of Cambodia and the country's struggle to find and shape its own identity. This becomes particularly challenging as the once closed nation continues to grow into and be shaped by the global community.

Parusol says in Cambodia, young artists who don't paint Buddhas or classical dancers have a hard time being recognized. Art education is nearly non-existent in schools and there is virtually no funding for the arts and very little interest among the country's leadership, she says.

As a result, many artists use "found objects" or discarded materials to create art and tell stories.

One artist whose work is on display is Sokemtevy Oeur, a 26-year-old woman who has stirred the art scene in her home country with her portrayal, on canvas and in her own life, of women.

Global Hybrid II and other efforts by places like Meta House are trying create avenues for emerging artists.

Parusol says in Cambodia's younger middle class there are flickers of knowledge and appreciation of modern art.

"It's happening slowly, slowly," Parusol said. "But, you know, it's small steps, step by step."

Not unlike what can be made of 7,000 chopsticks.

greg.mellen@presstelegram .com, 562-499-1291