Sunday, 20 February 2011

Thai PM: ASEAN not to Interfere with Thai-Cambodian Dispute

via CAAI

2011-02-20
Xinhua
Web Editor: haodi

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday said ASEAN will not interfere with any substance of negotiation between Thailand and Cambodia on their border dispute.

"I would like to stress that the position of ASEAN, as we have been following, is it will not interfere with any substance that we will talk to Cambodia," Abhisit said in his weekly national televised address.

The premier said the United Nations Security Council, which met on the Thai-Cambodian border dispute last Monday, was of the view that the two countries should talk to each other with ASEAN, or the Association of South East Asian Nations, acting as the facilitator or coordinator.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, as the current ASEAN chair, has called a meeting of the regional grouping's foreign ministers on Feb. 22 in Jakarta to discuss the issue.

Abhisit has repeatedly said that the border dispute was a bilateral issue and should be solved through the existing mechanism between the two nations.

The premier also said UNESCO now seemed to share Thailand's view that the organization should not proceed with any decision on the administering plan of a disputed 4.6-square-kilometer area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as Thailand and Cambodia both claim sovereignty over the area.

He said he talked to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova over the phone last week to explain Thailand's position on the issue.

Abhsit said Ms. Bokova seemed to understand that any implementation of the administering plan, while there was still a border dispute, "could not proceed."

UNESCO's World Heritage committee is scheduled to discuss the administering plan, as proposed by Cambodia, in June this year.

Abhisit said instead of holding any discussion on the plan, UNESCO, or the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, should let Thailand and Cambodia negotiate bilaterally on their border demarcation first, and suspend any proceeding in regarding to the Preah Vihear temple.

Phnom Penh unilaterally has the temple enlisted as a World Heritage site on July 7, 2008.

PAD: Ceasefire agreement ‘dangerous’


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011

The border truce agreement made by the Thai and Cambodian generals on Saturday is dangerous as it will make Thailand lose its territory, spokesman of the yellow-shirt people group Panthep Puapongpan claimed on Sunday.

At a press conferen held at Makkhawan Rangsan rally site, Mr Panthep said the eight conditions under the ceasefire deal, including no more troops are to be deployed in the conflict zones and no building or structure of any kind may be constructed inside the disputed 4.6 square kilometer border zone, would lead to a permanent lose of Thai soil.

He claimed that the truce agreement has put Thailand in an underdog situation.

Core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang said the eight conditions would only allow Cambodia to 100 per cent occupy the disputed border area.

Other points of the ceasefire deal, took effect from Saturday, are; the existing troops stationed in the conflict zones must not move; no heavy armaments and artillery in the conflict areas may be moved; neither side may attack the other using heavy weaponry; no more military bunkers are to be built, no more road construction is allowed; and the senior military officers of both countries are to communicate via a dedicated mobile phones hotline in discussing border issue.

“ Paro Para Panhaha Khmer Siem” a Poem in Khmer by Ung Thavary

Protest against Thai Aggression at Canadian Parliament Hill and Thai Embassy in Ottawa 18th Feb 2011




Sowing the seeds of a lengthy conflict


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011

Ironically, Cambodia, which was one of the leaders on the convention to ban cluster mines, backed out of signing it in December 2008 citing the Preah Vihear border conflict.

EXPLOSIVE: Kim Samnang, who lost his forearm; and what is believed to be a cluster bomb, found near Svay Chrum village.

Cambodia argued it was in no rush to sign, as Thailand was not yet a signatory. Cluster bombs are considered a major threat to civilian populations as they spread across a large area and can lay dormant for long periods of time.

ALLEGED CLUSTER BOMB ATTACK

''My base was shelled between 3:15-4:10pm on Feb 4,'' said Lt Col Sok Min of the Cambodian border police in Svay Chrum.

''I was standing at the gate looking at the mountain and I heard the sound of a bomb approaching, and made it just in time to the bunker.

''The only thing I could hear was BOOM, pop, pop, pop _ like popcorn _ and all I could see was smoke.''

Border policeman Kim Samnang said the bombs were distinctive by their sound. ''I suspected there was something different when I heard the pop-pop-pop,'' he said. ''I had heard about bomblets [cluster munitions] in other provinces.

''At 6pm the next day, we turned on the generator to pump water and decided to watch the Sunday boxing.

''Someone came in with this thing with a white string and I put my hand up and told him to put it down,'' he said.

Policeman Cheng Mol put it on the table and it exploded _ killing two, and injuring eight.

Samnang and Mol both lost forearms. They now share a ward at Siem Reap provincial hospital.

''I was injured by cluster munitions,'' Samnang told the Bangkok Post Sunday ''Two days ago, an NGO showed us a photo. It had slightly different colouring, but it's the same kind of bomblet. It looked like a cow bell or something,'' Mol said.

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) arrived on the scene the morning after the explosion.

''I had never seen anything like them before, they're not like the American War bomblets,'' said Saem Ponnreay, CMAC Demining Unit 3 manager.

''People were playing with the things, spinning them in the air by their cords. We sent photos to headquarters and they confirmed that they were M42/46 submunitions.

''We had recently cleared this area. Now we have to come back.''

CMAC issued a statement on Feb 10 claiming that: ''During the cross-fire there [was] identified evidence of heavy artilleries such as 105mm, 130mm and 155mm used by Thai military, and CMAC experts have confirmed that these artilleries contained cluster munitions including M35, M42 and M46 types.''

Cluster Munition Coalition member Sister Denise Coughlin surveyed the situation this week. ''I am saddened by the suffering and displacement of people from both sides of the border. I witnessed with my own eyes, cluster munitions on the ground,'' she said.

''I have also spoken to the victims who identified the M46 as the munition that injured them.

''The use of cluster bombs causes devastating consequences years after the conflict. A friend of mine lost both his arms in 2004, from cluster munitions left over from the 70s.

''I dont want that to happen to anyone else.''

In a statement issued on Feb 10, the coalition, which represents 350 civil groups worldwide, asked both Thailand and Cambodia to clarify whether their armies had used cluster munitions in the recent conflict.

According to the coalition, both countries have stockpiles of cluster munitions, but little is known about their status or composition.

Cambodia has cited an ongoing review of its defence and security situation as the reason for its delay in joining the treaty, while Thailand says it has concerns over its ability to destroy its stockpile although it has said previously it would not use the weapons.

CMAC faces a huge task, even if the fighting stops tomorrow. ''We don't know how many shells landed around here. Some could have fallen in unpopulated areas. There are 72 bomblets in every shell,'' Ponnreay said.

''Before we can let civilians back in, we need to educate them. We have reached 4,000 families in the camps and told them not to touch them, and to call our hotlines if they see one.''

When he appeared before the UN Security Council on Monday, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya categorically denied ''the groundless accusation by Cambodia that Thailand used cluster munitions during the recent skirmishes''.

Mr Kasit added that Thailand has been actively supporting disarmament efforts, including the elimination of cluster munitions.

''We are seriously considering joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions,'' he said. The army also strongly denied the Cambodian cluster bomb allegation.

Cambodian ruler's son enjoys rapid rise

via CAAI

2011-02-20 12:16
By Michelle Fitzpatrick

PHNOM PENH, Sunday 20 February 2011 (AFP) -- When Hun Manet was promoted to a two-star general last month, Cambodia's premier had to defend his eldest son's rapid rise, dismissing claims it was an attempt to engineer an eventual succession.

One expert even drew parallels with dynastic plans in secretive North Korea, where communist ruler Kim Jong-Il has seemingly hand picked son Kim Jong-Un to take over the reigns of power.

Thai-Cambodian border clashes, the heaviest in years between the neighbours, have boosted 33-year-old Manet's military credentials, observers say, a small victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen as the row with Thailand rumbles on.

Described as "a pretty humble guy" by a Phnom Penh-based diplomat who has met Manet on several occasions, the first-born of Hun Sen's six children does not seek out the spotlight.

Much has been made in Cambodia of his foreign education and despite his young age, Manet is already chief of the ministry of defence's anti-terrorism unit as well as deputy commander of his father's personal bodyguard unit.

He was promoted to a two-star general in January, a move that prompted some observers to suggest he was being groomed to succeed his father, 59, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985 -- making him the longest-serving Asian leader.

The premier hit back, saying Manet -- who graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1999 and earned a doctorate in economics from Britain's University of Bristol -- was well-qualified for the roles.

"He has been in the army for 16 years and there is promotion within the army ranks," Hun Sen said at the time.

Chhaya Hang, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, a local policy group, believes the premier is trying to consolidate power by "orchestrating the future of Cambodia's leadership".

"We saw a similar story last year when the North Korean president promoted his son to a four-star general," he said.

When a long-running border dispute with Thailand boiled over earlier this month, resulting in four days of deadly violence, Thai news outlets were quick to point out Manet's role in the fighting.

Some even claimed -- wrongly -- that he had been injured.

Hun Sen set the record straight, explaining in a speech that his son was involved in border strategy and negotiations with Thai counterparts -- from the safety of the Cambodian capital.

"Manet is so famous in Thailand now," said Hun Sen, sounding like a proud father as he took a swipe at the Thai reports.

"The invaders curse you, son," he said, before adding jokingly: "Let's fight, son, your father encourages you."

A few days after the violence died down, Manet travelled to the tense border to meet troops, stepping into the limelight at last.

"He paid a visit and encouraged our troops at the frontline," said a Cambodian field military commander who did not wish to be named. "He also gave some advice to our soldiers regarding fighting tactics and self-defence."

Many of the Cambodian soldiers on the border are thought to be former Khmer Rouge fighters hardened by decades of the now-over civil war.

The visit appeared to serve the purpose of exposing Manet to a "real war situation", said Chhaya Hang, that would help to "legitimise his role in the military as one of the modern world's youngest generals".

But some analysts cautioned that it was important not to overstate the importance of Manet's rapid rise to prominence.

"Ordinary Cambodian people don't feel too concerned" about his career progression and where it might eventually lead, said political commentator Son Soubert.

He also said it was too soon to speculate whether the premier was paving the way for his son to take the top job, hinting at opposition within the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to the idea.

"Many people think he is being groomed to succeed his father but whether he will succeed in convincing everyone in the CPP circle is another question," said Soubert.

If Manet is to rise to the top, he may have to wait a long time -- his father has vowed to stay in power until he is 90.

"I think for the moment that we should take Prime Minister Hun Sen's statements about staying on in his role for many years to come at face value," said Milton Osborne, a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

MySinchew 2011.02.20

Thailand calls on UNESCO to postpone temple's listing

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/

via CAAI

Feb 20, 2011

Bangkok - Thailand has asked the United Nations to postpone the World Heritage listing process of a millenial temple on its common border with Cambodia until a territorial dispute has been settled, the prime minister said Sunday.

Abhisit Vejjajiva in his weekly television broadcast said he made the request by telephone to Irina Bokova, director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

'I think UNESCO now understands our position on the problems with Phra Viharn becoming a heritage site,' Abhisit said.

UNESCO will reportedly send a representative to Bangkok and Phnom Penh soon to hear both sides of the row over the 11th-century Hindu temple - called Preah Vihear by the Cambodians and Phra Viharn by the Thais - which broke out into a border clash on February 4-7 that claimed at least 10 lives.

Thailand has blamed UNESCO for escalating a territorial dispute over land adjacent to the temple when it decided to declare Preah Vihear a World Heritage Site in mid-2008, despite Thai objections.

Thailand is petitioning UNESCO to shelve plans to approve Cambodia's management plan for the site at a World Heritage Committee meeting in June, until the two sides have settled their joint clams to land north of the temple.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but stopped short of determining the border demarcation in the contested area.

Both countries claim a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land near the temple, which has been included under Cambodia's management plan for the World Heritage Committee.

Both sides have beefed up their forces in the vicinity of the temple, 450 kilometres north-east of Bangkok, since July 2008, leading to several border skirmishes over the past two and a half years.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called this month's clash a 'war' and called for UN Security Council intervention in the issue.

The council listened to the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers on February 14 in New York and urged a ceasefire and to resolve the matter through talks in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN foreign ministers will meet in Jakarta on Tuesday to address the conflict, but the association's role in a settlement process remains unclear.

Cambodia wants ASEAN to play a mediating role while Thailand insists that organization should merely facilitate bilateral talks.

'ASEAN will be a facilitator and witness to the talks, but will not interfere,' Abhisit said Sunday.

Thai and Cambodian troops have agreed to a temporary ceasefire on the border until the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta.

PM: Thailand won’t lose territory


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011
The ceasefire agreement between Thailand and Cambodia will not make the country lose its territory as some fear, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insited on Sunday morning.

In his “Confidence in Thailand with PM Abhisit” weekly programme on NBT, Mr Abhisit said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) believed that Thailand and Cambodia can settle the border dispute trough bilateral talks.

The UNSC also allowed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to hold a meeting on the border conflict this Tuesday, Feb 22, he added.

On the concerns that Thailand could lose its territory if the government signs a ceasefire agreement with the neighbouring country, Mr Abhisit said any agreement to be made by the government will be only fore bringing about peace.

“The agreement will not lead to any lose of Thai soil as speculated”, he said.

Interview: Cambodia, Thai border row harms ASEAN security community efforts

via CAAI

February 20, 2011

Cambodian and Thai border row near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple could harm the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toward a community by 2015, said analysts here on Saturday.

"ASEAN will be difficult to achieve its security community by 2015 if it cannot mediate to resolve the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand," Chheang Vannarith, executive director of Cambodian Institute of Cooperation and Peace, said in an interview with Xinhua on Saturday.

ASEAN will have communities including economic, security, and socio-cultural ones.

"By 2015, I believe that it can achieve only the economic community and social and cultural community," he said.

However, he said that it depends on ASEAN itself if it will create any new mechanism to resolve dispute or not.

The ASEAN's foreign ministers will hold a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb. 22 to discuss the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

"Now we wait and see the result of the upcoming meeting," he said."It can be a turning-point for ASEAN if it decides to establish an effective mechanism of dispute resolution for its members."

The dispute between Cambodia and Thailand is the first time that ASEAN meets, so it can be an experiment for ASEAN.

"If ASEAN has no any resolution or measure on this dispute, the ASEAN's security community will be worthless," he said.

Cambodia is expected to ask Thailand to sign a permanent ceasefire under the witness of ASEAN chair or representative during the ASEAN foreign ministers'meeting, and it will also ask ASEAN observers to come to the disputed areas to ensure the permanent cease-fire.

Sok Touch, deputy director general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia's International Relations Institute, said that Cambodia' s suggestions will be failed.

"It will not be successful, I guest. Currently, Thailand increases its military forces in order to put pressure on Cambodia to return to bilateral negotiation table," he said.

"Thai government uses the issue of Preah Vihear temple to treat its internal conflict," he said. "Also, Thai's war against Cambodia is for budget--when there is war, Thai government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be able to withdraw budget from its national coffer easily and legally."

"Another reason, Abhisit uses the war against Cambodia as his excuse to postpone the election in Thailand," he added.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, had killed and wounded some soldiers and citizens of both sides, and also caused tens of thousands of the two countries'villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint and to establish a permanent ceasefire. It also expressed support for the active efforts of ASEAN in the matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

Governments bluster, people suffer


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011 

I don't understand why the Thai government should reject every proposal put forward by the Cambodian side _ especially inviting Asean observers into the disputed area in order to ensure that a permanent ceasefire is duly observed by both sides. Currently, Cambodian and Thai troops are within small-arms range of each other. That is very dangerous.

If both governments really put the safety of their peoples first and foremost prior to this, the recent clashes would not have happened. We haven't seen any generals or government ministers from either side die; it is only low-ranking soldiers and some poor souls in the area who have suffered severely.

Both the Thai and Cambodian governments must strive to make sure this foolish, uncivilised situation is resolved immediately.

Chavalit Van
Chiang Mai

'Cambodia, Thai border row harms ASEAN security community efforts'

via CAAI

(philstar.com) Updated February 20, 2011

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Cambodian and Thai border row near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple could harm the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toward a community by 2015, said analysts here on Saturday.

"ASEAN will be difficult to achieve its security community by 2015 if it cannot mediate to resolve the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand," Chheang Vannarith, executive director of Cambodian Institute of Cooperation and Peace, said in an interview with Xinhua on Saturday.

ASEAN will have communities including economic, security, and socio-cultural ones.

"By 2015, I believe that it can achieve only the economic community and social and cultural community," he said.

However, he said that it depends on ASEAN itself if it will create any new mechanism to resolve dispute or not.

The ASEAN's foreign ministers will hold a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb. 22 to discuss the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

"Now we wait and see the result of the upcoming meeting," he said."It can be a turning-point for ASEAN if it decides to establish an effective mechanism of dispute resolution for its members."

The dispute between Cambodia and Thailand is the first time that ASEAN meets, so it can be an experiment for ASEAN.

"If ASEAN has no any resolution or measure on this dispute, the ASEAN's security community will be worthless," he said.

Cambodia is expected to ask Thailand to sign a permanent ceasefire under the witness of ASEAN chair or representative during the ASEAN foreign ministers'meeting, and it will also ask ASEAN observers to come to the disputed areas to ensure the permanent cease-fire.

Sok Touch, deputy director general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia's International Relations Institute, said that Cambodia' s suggestions will be failed.

"It will not be successful, I guest. Currently, Thailand increases its military forces in order to put pressure on Cambodia to return to bilateral negotiation table," he said.

"Thai government uses the issue of Preah Vihear temple to treat its internal conflict," he said. "Also, Thai's war against Cambodia is for budget-when there is war, Thai government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be able to withdraw budget from its national coffer easily and legally."

"Another reason, Abhisit uses the war against Cambodia as his excuse to postpone the election in Thailand," he added.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 4.6 sq km of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, had killed and wounded some soldiers and citizens of both sides, and also caused tens of thousands of the two countries'villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint and to establish a permanent ceasefire. It also expressed support for the active efforts of ASEAN in the matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

Bangkok set to slide again

via CAAI

Sunday February 20, 2011

BEHIND THE HEADLINES WITH BUNN NAGARA

Mounting problems confront an embattled Thai government, as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to slide into meltdown mode.

IF there ever was a sitting government steadily painting itself into a corner, Thailand’s Democrat-led coalition is it.

Time was when it was broadly welcomed into office in late 2008, at least by Thais other than former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s followers after colourful years of sleaze and controversy. Free from the taint of corruption and unlawful violence, the new government had an opportunity to avoid several wrongs, if not also set things right.

The government itself emerged from neither an election nor a vote in the National Assembly, which Abhisit Vejjajiva had lost to Thaksin’s relative. The winning coalition led by Thaksin’s associates was then banned for election fraud, paving the way for an election by parliamentarians, a reworked coalition led by the Democrat party, and Abhisit’s premiership.

Thaksin’s supporters, broadly grouped as the Red Shirts, have since been trying to unseat Abhisit with appeals to his lack of electoral legitimacy. But a public grown weary of billionaire tycoon Thaksin’s self-centred ways gave Abhisit the benefit of the doubt, if not outright support.

Thaksin had upset royalists, broadly identified as Yellow Shirts, with his slapdash and arrogant style. The Yellows had staged massive demonstrations, including taking over both of Bangkok’s international airports.

Much of the early support for Abhisit came from popular faith in his plans to remake Thailand in a clean and accountable manner that respected human rights. If anything, his promises outnumbered his plans.

But even that would be short-lived. Allegations of corruption grew, involving certain procurement officials, although nothing on the scale of Thaksin’s exploits.

Abhisit’s promise to prosecute 21 protest leaders who had occupied the airports was not realised years into his premiership. One protest leader even became a Cabinet minister.

Thaksin’s base of support originated in the northern provinces while Abhisit’s came from a largely anti-Thaksin Bangkok and Democrat party strongholds in the south. But Abhisit and his party did hardly anything to consolidate support in those regions, much less extend that support elsewhere in the country.

Then as the Reds and Yellows took over the streets, the latter’s preference for Abhisit and the Democrats was a given. But that was also taken for granted, and it has now slipped.

Today the Yellows and Reds, despite their differences over Thaksin, share the aim of removing Abhisit from power. Once more, Abhisit has lost a key constituency determining his political future.

Apart from opposing Thaksin, the Yellow Shirts portray themselves as diehard royalists and therefore nationalists and patriots. They became critical of the Abhisit government after seeing it as soft on Cambodia in a bilateral dispute over contested territory.

A strip of land around the Preah Vihear Hindu temple near the common border is jointly claimed by both countries. The dispute has alternately raged and cooled over several years, but Bangkok has lately seen it deteriorate.

At one point, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had allied himself with an ousted Thaksin, to Thailand’s consternation. Then Hun Sen suddenly turned around and bilateral relations improved.

Again, Abhisit’s government failed to capitalise on the moment. With the latest skirmish leading up to and including the deadliest shoot-out in years, an already slippery situation has slid from bad to worse.

Hun Sen has reportedly called the incident earlier this month a “war”. But it takes two to tangle, with both sides claiming that the other started shooting first.

Seven Thais had ventured into the disputed territory and were promptly arrested and jailed by the Cambodians. Five have been released, with the remaining two sentenced to a total of 14 years between them. They then sought a pardon from the Cambodian king through their lawyer, but their Thai Patriots Network NGO rejected that option. Now Hun Sen has said they would not be eligible for a pardon before serving at least two-thirds of their sentence.

Cambodia wants the UN to settle matters, but Thailand wants bilateral negotiations instead. Besides the dispute over territory, there is also disagreement over how the dispute should be solved.

Sceptical Thais note that when people have already died as a result, it is improbable – or beyond the capacity of Abhisit’s government at least – to negotiate satisfactorily without an international mediator. Meanwhile, Abhisit has won no international plaudits for reportedly offending Hun Sen and accusing France, India and Russia of bias.

Several countries in Asean have also signalled a willingness to help in negotiations, while Abhisit and Hun Sen seem intent on outdoing one another in stubbornness. It takes two to tango as well.

Military officials from both sides held a secret meeting yesterday morning, but little has come of that. Hun Sen has instead massed 1,600 of his most loyal troops at a vantage point near the disputed area.

In Bangkok, deadly Red Shirt protests reached their height last year at the busy Rajprasong intersection, striking at the heart of Thailand’s business district. Yesterday, the Reds gathered again at Rajprasong, forcing the closure of roads to traffic, albeit at a lesser strength than before.

The Reds have now found a new angle in attacking Abhisit’s legitimacy – that the British-born premier has British citizenship, and is therefore ineligible to be prime minister. They claim to have “solid evidence” of that.

With Thaksin in self-exile abroad and his associates in Thailand sidelined, it is Abhisit and his government that occupy centre stage. This stage has now become a common target of both Reds and Yellows.

The moment they realise their common goal of removing Abhisit can be achieved if they joined forces, they would do so in what could be an unstoppable wave – regardless of whether rumours of a coup prove true.

European Parliament resolution of 17 February 2011 on the border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia


via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 - Strasbourg

The European Parliament ,

– having regard to its resolutions of 13 January 2005, 10 March 2005, 19 January 2006, 15 March 2007 and 21 October 2010 on Cambodia and its resolutions of 20 May 2010 on Thailand and of 1 December 2005 on the human rights situation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam,

– having regard to the judgment of the International Court of Justice of 15 June 1962 in the case concerning the temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand),

– having regard to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which has been signed by both Thailand and Cambodia,

– having regard to the statement by the Secretary-General of ASEAN of 5 February 2011,

– having regard to the statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, of 7 February 2011,

– having regard to the statement by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, of 7 February 2011,

– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas, since the beginning of February 2011, there has been fighting between the armed forces of Thailand and Cambodia on the Cambodian-Thai border, including near the temple of Preah Vihear,

B. whereas the border clashes started after a Cambodian court sentenced two Thai nationals to up to eight years' imprisonment, having found them guilty of espionage and illegal entry after they crossed into the disputed border area in December 2010, and whereas the sentence immediately followed the successful conclusion of the seventh meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia (JC), on 3-4 February 2011, at which both countries had agreed to extend cooperation in all areas and to hold a meeting of the Joint Commission on Demarcation for the Land Boundary (JBC) in Thailand in the near future,

C. whereas the temple of Preah Vihear has been the centre of recurring boundary disputes between Thailand and Cambodia over the last century,

D. whereas the International Court of Justice ruled on 15 June 1962 that the temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia,

E. whereas the temple of Preah Vihear, which was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site on 7 July 2008, has allegedly been damaged by shelling during the recent border clashes,

F. whereas the international community has a special responsibility to preserve the monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage list,

G. whereas reports state that there have been fatal casualties and injured soldiers and civilians on both sides, and that thousands of civilians in the surrounding area have had to be evacuated,

H. whereas, according to several news reports, cluster munitions may have been used, and whereas neither Thailand nor Cambodia has ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions,

I. whereas the worsening of the situation on the border between Thailand and Cambodia is threatening peace and stability in the region,

J. whereas Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN, has stepped up its diplomatic efforts to help the two sides reach a temporary solution so as to trigger bilateral mechanisms for realising the objectives of border demarcation and general peace in the area; whereas the chair of ASEAN is encouraging the two countries to hold talks under the existing framework of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for the Land Boundary,

K. whereas the ASEAN Charter provides for the establishment of a dispute-settlement mechanism that would increase the scope for assisting in the resolution of bilateral disputes,

L. whereas the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has expressed her intention to send a mission to assess the state of the Preah Vihear temple,

1. Condemns the border clashes between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand and urges all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and take the steps necessary to reduce tension, to resume their dialogue with a view to resolving their differences peacefully, and to accept the assistance of ASEAN and the United Nations;

2. Deplores the loss of life during the recent border clashes and expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims;

3. Urges both governments to ensure that the civilians displaced as a consequence of the armed clashes are provided with the aid they need;

4. Calls on both countries to respect the 1962 judgment of the International Court of Justice and to reach a peaceful settlement of the dispute regarding the border area close to the Preah Vihear temple;

5. Calls on both countries to ensure that their actions do not violate Article 4(1) of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which forbids any use of cultural property situated within their own territory, or within the territory of other High Contracting Parties, which is likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict, and to refrain from any act of hostility directed against such property;

6. Calls on the Thai and Cambodian authorities to comply with the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and, in particular, with its fundamental principles on the settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means, renunciation of the threat or use of force, and effective cooperation among the High Contracting Parties;

7. Welcomes the efforts undertaken by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, as ASEAN chair, to facilitate dialogue between the two countries so that the dispute can be resolved in a peaceful manner;

8. Welcomes the fact that Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to participate in an urgent meeting of South-East Asian nations to discuss the border conflict;

9. Welcomes the decision by the Director-General of UNESCO to send a special envoy on a mission of good offices to Bangkok and Phnom Penh; urges both sides in the dispute to cooperate with any UNESCO mission to assess the damage caused to the Preah Vihear temple;

10. Calls on both countries to find a solution that will allow direct access from their respective territories to the Preah Vihear temple, and not to obstruct one another's citizens entering the temple or the border area;

11. Expresses its concern about the alleged use of cluster munitions and calls on both countries to refrain from using such munitions under any circumstances;

12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service, the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States, the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand, the UN Secretary-General, the UNESCO Director-General and the governments of the ASEAN Member States.

Sign Convention on Cluster Munitions


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011

One of the most disturbing aspects of the renewed hostilities along the Thai-Cambodian border is the reported use of cluster munitions or bombs. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen first made the allegation, as printed in the Feb 11 of The Phnom Penh Post: ''They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash?''


Thailand denied the allegation, and army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that in fact Cambodia had used the controversial weapon. Colonel Sanserd said a Cambodian cluster bomb attack was responsible for the death of Thanakorn Poonperm, deputy commander of the Paramilitary Rangers Company. Cambodia denied this charge.

Cambodian army deputy chief General Hing Bunheang and the director-general of the government-run Cambodian Mine Action Centre, Heng Ratana, backed up Hun Sen's allegation, but several sources, including Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, cast doubt on the claim.

However, the Bangkok Post has obtained, and published in today's edition, new evidence that possibly supports the Cambodian assertion that Thailand did use cluster munitions.

Thus far the Thai army has not produced evidence that cluster bombs were used against its soldiers.

The use of cluster bombs by one or both sides is a very serious issue, and it should be further investigated.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions currently has 108 signatories, has been ratified by 48 states and became international law for the states parties when it entered into force on Aug 1 of last year. However, neither Thailand nor Cambodia has signed the convention.

This failure to sign is particularly perplexing in the case of Cambodia, which was heavily bombarded with cluster munitions by US warplanes during the Vietnam War.

According to the website Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor (http://www.the-monitor.org/index.php/cp/display/region_profiles/theme/572), ''The Kingdom of Cambodia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, despite the fact that it was an early, prominent, and influential supporter of the Oslo Process that produced the convention.''

The website goes on to explain that there is a direct link between the failure to sign the convention and tensions with Thailand over Cambodia's application to Unesco for world heritage site status for Preah Vihear. The report quotes a Cambodian government spokesman as saying: ''Due to the fact that Thailand does not yet sign the treaty ... we can delay a bit our adhesion to the treaty.''

Both sides deny using cluster bombs, but neither side denies having them, and it is likely that the border tensions have also influenced the Thai government's decision not to sign the convention, which requires that parties ''destroy their stockpile of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force'' of the convention.

Destruction is absolutely, without a doubt, what should happen to the many large stockpiles of these cruel weapons scattered around the world.

All weapons of war sow horror, but these are perhaps on another level because they are so dangerous to civilian populations.

After they are dropped from the air or fired from mortars, they are designed to break open in mid-air, releasing bomblets over a wide area. In places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, where cluster bombs have been widely used, the menace is compounded because the small objects are sometimes mistaken for toys by children.

They often remain deadly and undetected for many years. In that sense they are similar to land mines, which are still killers in Cambodia and to some extent in Thailand, where some border provinces were mined during the 1980s to keep the Khmer Rouge out. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre states there may be as many as six million mines still laid in Cambodian fields and small villages.

Thailand and Cambodia have officially prohibited land mines as signatories to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and both countries should follow up on that action by signing and ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The fact that Thailand and Cambodia are adamant in their insistence that their respective militaries have never used the repugnant weapons against the other is proof that they view such behaviour to be unacceptable, even in a battle zone.

Why not make this position official?

Memorandum of misunderstanding


via CAAI

The Thai government is ignoring external pressure and insisting on a bilateral solution, but the best hope for that is under fire

Published: 20/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum

The renewed fighting along the Thai-Cambodian border only hours after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a statement last Monday calling for a ceasefire was a clear challenge to the authority of the international body. The UNSC also called for the involvement of other Asean nations to help resolve the conflict. While Cambodia has all along urged intervention by a third party, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insists that the border dispute can and must be solved through bilateral negotiations.

Of late, however, the chief instrument for a bilateral solution to the boundary dispute at the heart of the Preah Vihear temple controversy _ the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary _ has been marginalised and largely ignored. This is very much to the liking of the nationalist yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy, which has called on Prime Minister Abhisit's's government to revoke the MoU.

The 2000 MoU provided a framework for negotiations and gave birth to the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), which is charged with supervising the surveying and demarcation work along disputed portions of the 798km border between the two countries.

The MoU also requires that both sides refrain from carrying out any work that might result in changes to the border environment, and stresses the need to work out any disputes via consultation and negotiation.

Importantly, the MoU addressed the commitment to work together on the demarcation with reference to old documents which previously suggested the borderlines.

These include maps drawn up by the Franco-Siamese Mixed Commission of Delimitation of the Frontiers in 1907, when Cambodia was a protectorate of France. One of these, known as the Annex I map, delineated the borderline through the Dangrek mountain range where Preah Vihear sits. This map, which had a scale of 1:200,000 and did not correspond to the natural watershed of the area, was used in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962 by Cambodia to claim sovereignty over the temple. The ICJ ruled in favour of Cambodia in the absence of any opposition from the Thai side to using the Annex I map.

Since Cambodia won approval for its listing of Preah Vihear and a disputed 4.6 square kilometre perimeter as a Unesco World Heritage Site in July 2008, the PAD has been squarely in the middle of the controversy. Thailand says the disputed area is a part of Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district. Due to the simmering tensions that have several times led to hostilities, Cambodia has not managed to have its management plan approved by the World Heritage Committee.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said "The MoU has posed a disadvantage for us because it refers to and acknowledges the 1:200,000 map and makes it legitimate." He also said that Cambodia has not fully complied with the rules agreed to under the MoU. Specifically, he said, Cambodia has undertaken developments in the disputed 4.6 square kilometre area that have changed the environment, in violation of Article 5 of the MoU.

Mr Parnthep also said Cambodia was responsible for starting the latest round of fighting, which proves it doesn't respect the the spirit of the MoU, which calls for negotiation and consultation.

Mr Parnthep said Cambodia was clearly trying to get the UNSC to recognise the MoU and the validity of the Annex I map at the meeting last Monday. This raises questions about Cambodia's motives in bringing the case to the UNSC, which has authority to refer the dispute to the ICJ for reinterpretation of its past ruling.

With the MoU intact, said Mr Parnthep, Thailand can't prevent the UNSC from getting involved, as it cannot lay clear claim to its boundaries and its domestic jurisdiction. Under the UN Charter's Article 2 (7), it is suggested that the UNSC should not intervene in matters inside a country's domestic jurisdiction.

"If we revoke the MoU, we will not be at a disadvantage," said Mr Parnthep. "Without the MoU, we can declare our borderlines following old treaties and this will prevent the UNSC from getting involved [in accordance with Article 2]. Cambodia has violated the MoU and we can abort it and return to what was agreed under old treaties."

The government has so far not paid any heed to the PAD's demands. Rather, it sticks by the MoU and the establishment of the JBC as the main channel to reach an agreement with Phnom Penh to settle the conflict.

Cambodia, meanwhile, is further distancing itself from the bilateral approach offered by the MoU. At the UNSC meeting, Cambodia not only called on the UNSC to take actions such as peace-keeping operations, it also called on the body to refer the matter to the ICJ for interpretation of the 1962 judgment.

The only thing that may be preventing the UNSC from taking such actions, said Mr Parnthep, is that the recent border clashes have not yet been viewed to be affecting "international peace and security".

A small Cambodian bronze exhibit at Getty is rich with meaning


The 'Gods of Angkor' show of Hindu and Buddhist statuary and ritual objects is of great cultural importance.


Unknown Ganesha, 13th century Cambodian. (The J. Paul Getty Trust)

via CAAI

By Suzanne Muchnic, Special to the Los Angeles Times
February 20, 2011

In numerical terms, "Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia" — opening Feb. 22 at the J. Paul Getty Museum — is a small exhibition. It consists of a mere 26 sculptural objects, about 4 inches to 40 inches tall, displayed in a single gallery.

But the cultural significance of the show is beyond measure. The selection of Hindu and Buddhist statuary and ritual objects includes some of the finest examples of historical Cambodian bronze work at the nation's primary art museum in Phnom Penh.

Elegantly refined and intricately detailed, the sculptures include a 10th-century likeness of Maitreya, a Buddha-to-be with eight arms, a lustrous patina and eyes of silver foil and black stone. A triad of figures made in the late 12th or early 13th century features a Buddha seated on a serpent coiled into a chair, with human embodiments of compassion and wisdom at his sides.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Get the monthly that has L.A. talking. Subscribe to Los Angeles Times Magazine at a special introductory rate.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The animal kingdom also has a strong presence. A statue of Ganesha depicts the elephant-headed son of the Hindu god Shiva decked out in elaborately ornamented attire but posed in a meditative state with his arms raised. A sleek sculpture of Shiva's bull, Nandin, portrays the beast at rest, legs folded alongside his powerful body.

"The sensuousness and beauty of this material, the great range of color and texture, was really a surprise to me," says Louise Allison Cort, a ceramics specialist at the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Galleries in Washington, D.C., who has done extensive research in Cambodia. She co-organized the Sackler's inaugural version of the show with Paul Jett, the galleries' head of conservation. The Los Angeles presentation, pared from 36 to 26 objects, was coordinated by Getty curator Jeffrey Weaver, in collaboration with the museum's former director, Michael Brand.

"I think the high point is the 10th, 11th and 12th century pieces," Cort says. "There is such a wonderful sense of skin and bones and muscle represented, a kind of warmth in the material that I had never felt before I started working with these bronzes."

Meant to be viewed in the round, the sculptures are often as intriguing from the back as in the front. As Weaver points out, a garment wrapped around the hips of a late 11th century or early 12th century statue of Vishnu, the Hindu god of stability, is tied in the rear in a fashionable butterfly shape.

The museum that is home to the artworks is a miracle of perseverance and regeneration. Designed as a central repository for the storage, protection and display of Cambodia's artistic heritage, it opened under French patronage in 1920. The Cambodian government took charge of the museum in 1966. A few years later, when civil war broke out, the Phnom Penh institution also became a refuge for treasures from the provinces. Then came the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, in 1975. The once-proud National Museum of Cambodia was abandoned and its staff dismissed.

It could have been worse. As danger approached, the collection was packed into underground storage and the building shut tight with its doors sandbagged. Against all odds, most of the artworks survived intact and the museum reopened a few months after the liberation of Phnom Penh in 1979. But reassembling and conserving the artworks was a daunting challenge. The building needed help too. Among other problems, a colony of bats that had settled into the roof had to be removed to protect the art, staff and visitors from falling guano.

But a new day has long since dawned at the museum — a picturesque architectural hybrid with traditional Khmer elements applied to a French colonial structure. Examples of the 17,600-piece collection of archeological and ethnographic objects are displayed in galleries surrounding a central courtyard.

"We are planning a celebration of the museum's 100th birthday," says its director, Oun Phalline, during a recent visit to the Getty. A 32-year veteran of the Cambodian museum, she began her career there as a guide and moved into the top position last year. She now presides over an institution with a staff that has grown from 20 to 120 — a cultural jewel of Southeast Asia that attracts 90,000 visitors a year.

Cambodia's major tourist center is Siem Reap, a town about 200 miles north of Phnom Penh, which serves as a base for visiting Angkor Wat and many other ancient temples and archeological sites. But thousands of tourists also seek out the museum. "After people see the temples, they want to see the art," Phalline says.

The two-venue American exhibition is the result of a collaboration that began in 2003 with a request for the Smithsonian Institution, which governs the Sackler and Freer Galleries, to help conserve bronze works at the Cambodian museum. The Getty Foundation joined the effort in 2005, providing funds to study the 8,000-piece holding of bronzes, treat the objects at greatest risk and develop a long-term conservation plan, including a training program for Cambodian conservators. With additional aid from organizations around the world, the museum in Phnom Penh now has conservation facilities for stone, metal and ceramics.

Most of the objects surveyed by the Getty-sponsored study have been in the collection for decades, accompanied by precise documentation. A sculpture of a crowned Buddha in the current exhibition was excavated in 1931 on the grounds of Angkor Wat. A kneeling female figure thought to have held a mirror on her head was found in 1921 near a Buddhist temple in the ancient city of Angkor Thom.

But one of the first projects in the new metal conservation lab focused on an astonishing discovery made in 2006. As Cort tells the story, a woman who lives in a village northeast of Phnom Penh was digging a hole in her yard to plant a tree when she unearthed seven little bronze figures made in the 7th century. She notified authorities and her improbable find joined the collection of the National Museum.

"All the pieces are related to Buddhist tradition," Cort says, "but they represent different styles and probably different sources. Two are in a style associated with the capital city in Cambodia in the 7th century. Three others are more closely related to an area in adjacent Thailand. The last two are Chinese. They raise all kinds of questions about how the Chinese pieces got into Cambodia, the grouping of different styles of Buddhist deities, who owned these pieces and why they were there. The exhibition was already underway when they were found, but they became one of its focal points."

In another case, a mystery was solved by in-house detective work.

"The museum staff is in the throes of constructing an electronic database and photographing everything, so they have been going through the collection in great detail," Cort says. "A statue of the crowned Buddha, which had been broken into multiple pieces and repaired, at some point lost both its hands. In the course of reorganizing the museum, the statue ended up in one place and the hands someplace else. A young researcher who was carefully studying everything in storage noticed the hands and made the connection. Just in time for the exhibition, the conservation staff put the hands back on the figure. We now know the gesture the Buddha is making and the meaning of it: Do not fear."

PM: UNESCO special envoy to visit Bangkok, Phnom Penh next week


via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 19 - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday said the UNESCO chief agreed with Thailand that the management plan of the ancient Preah Vihear temple should not proceed until the border demarcation is concluded and that its special envoy will visit Bangkok and Phnom Penh next week to discuss the renewed border conflict.

The Thai premier made remarks as he talked with Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by telephone over the tension between Thailand and Cambodia as a result of the listing of the Hindu temple as a World Heritage Site.

Mr Abhisit said the world body chief understands the situation and agreed with Thailand that the Preah Vihear management plan should not be conducted now as long as there is no conclusion to the Thai-Cambodian border conflict and clear demarcation which should be reached under the framework of the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC).

The UNESCO director-general will also send Mr Koichiro Matsuura, former UNESCO Director-General, in the capacity of the agency's special envoy on Thai-Cambodian dispute, to Bangkok and Phnom Penh next week to hear clarification from both sides, but will not visit the disputed border area, according to Mr Abhisit, who said he will talk with the Japanese envoy by himself.

The Thai premier stated he believes UNESCO does not want the conflict to be prolonged until the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee which is scheduled to be held in Bahrain in June. He said Thailand also urged the world agency to listen to the kingdom as it had no hidden agenda but wasconcerned about the well-being and the peace of people living along the border.

Following rumours that China and Vietnam had sent their troops to help Cambodia, Mr Abhisit dismissed the notion, saying no country wanted to intervene to worsen the situation.

As the Cambodina Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed Thailand to sign a permanent ceasefire agreement under the witness of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN chair, the Thai leader reasserted there is no clear detail on the matter and he still does not know how such a permanent ceasefire would be initiated.

The Thai prime minister reiterated that Thailand has never started shooting and that it has the right to protect the kingdom's sovereignty when being invaded. (MCOT online news)

Which one is Thai, Which one is Cambodian?


via CAAI

Villagers on both sides are suffering _ and if claims that cluster bombs were deployed prove true, then the pain could be felt for years to come

Published: 20/02/2011

Two weeks after the shelling began, life has yet to return to normal in Svay Chrum village, four kilometres south of the frontline on the Cambodian side of the border dispute.

FELLOW SUFFERERS: Rany and her child, left; and a Thai woman in Si Sa Ket province

Dwellings sit empty, leaving evidence of a quick departure along with clothes hanging on fences and abandoned bicycles.

There were 250 families in this area; now there are five, said shopkeeper Rany who came back two days after her home was nearly hit by conventional artillery on Feb 7.

''We are the risk-takers, the people who have property to protect. I hear from the camps that everyone wants to come back, but they are still afraid of the situation here,'' she said.

There are still people in Svay Chrum, in Chuam Khsan district of Preah Vihear province, but most of them are in uniform.

Soldiers either walk or catch a ride down the mountain to buy supplies and maybe get a drink at one of the two places that serve them.

Some of the Cambodian troops live only 50m from the Thai troops, and relish the opportunity to take a break.

For women like Rany, her concerns are more mundane than those of the politicians and generals in Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

''It was announced on Feb 3 that we must register our property. Then the war started the next day. I had to come back because I was afraid somebody would take my inventory and my house. At least if I stay here nobody will take it apart,'' she said.

On the Thai side of the border, the uncertainty for villagers is just as real.

Si Sa Ket Governor Somsak Suwansujarit has announced construction will start tomorrow of 450 bunkers in Kantharalak district and repairs of 300 others damaged during four days of fighting which started on Feb 4.

Tens of thousands of Thai villagers fled their homes during the height of fighting as Cambodian troops fired artillery into the area.

Rachanee Phongsin, a Kantharalak villager, said she still hears the sound of firing from time to time and fears the artillery and mortar shells could strike her village again.

Samroeng Charoenchan, from Phum Srol village, said he was happy when authorities allowed villagers to return home a week after being evacuated.

However, villagers were still worried about attacks after several homes were damaged and one person killed.

''The sound of bombs at night flying over my head scared me very much, I can still remember it,'' said Tat Kanchanachart, from Ban Somboon in Kantharalak district.

Aside from anxiety about returning to a potential war-zone, displaced people now face a new fear.

Cambodia has accused Thailand of firing an unknown number of shells carrying cluster munitions into Cambodia. Thailand strongly rejects the claim. Neither country has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Thailand, Cambodia agree to border truce


via CAAI

Published: 20/02/2011

Thai and Cambodian troops signed a ceasefire agreement effective from noon yesterday.

MEMENTO OF VIOLENCE: A novice at Wat Siriwarawat in Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district strikes a ‘‘mortar shell bell’’next to the temple’s traditional brass bell.

"All is well," said Second Army commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon after the agreement was sealed at a restaurant at the Chong Sa-ngam Pass border crossing in Si Sa Ket province.

The ceasefire is a breakthrough in the raging border conflict following clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops in a disputed area near Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district earlier this month.

However, it is unclear if the ceasefire will be permanent. A previous truce had been called on Feb 5 but violence flared up again the next day.

An army source said Lt Gen Thawatchai was part of the ceasefire-signing delegation led by Army chief-of-staff Daopong Rattanasuwan, who represented the Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The delegation also included armed forces specialist Nipat Thonglek and Suranaree Taskforce commander Chavalit Choonprasarn.

The Cambodian side was led by deputy army commander Hun Manet, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The ceasefire was inked after more than two hours of meetings, which ended at 12.30pm yesterday.

The ceasefire took effect yesterday and the agreement contains seven other binding points.

The other points are; no more troops are to be deployed in the conflict zones and the existing troops stationed there must not move; no heavy armaments and artillery in the conflict areas may be moved; neither side may attack the other using heavy weaponry; no building or structure of any kind may be constructed inside the disputed 4.6 square kilometre border zone; no more military bunkers are to be built; no more road construction is allowed; and the senior military officers of both countries are to communicate via a dedicated mobile phone hotline in discussing border issues.

The arrangements over troops and weapons under the ceasefire agreement are pending future border negotiations at government level or until the next Asean ministerial meeting on Tuesday, which will be attended by all 10 member nations' foreign ministers.

"What the soldiers must do now is observe the ceasefire," said the source.

"The longer-term problems are for the respective governments to solve."

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and his Cambodian counterpart, Teah Banh, will meet at the Thai-Camobodian General Border Committee session in the middle of the year.

Lt Gen Hun Manet's involvement has raised Thailand's confidence that the ceasefire will be respected. But Thai security authorities have not ruled out a breach of the ceasefire as Cambodian troops do not always obey orders, the source said.

The source added both sides were in agreement that neither country benefits from the prolonged fighting.

The ceasefire meeting yesterday highlighted concerns over the precarious state of border security on Phu Makhua mountain in Si Sa Ket, which was the hotspot in the recent troop clashes.

The source said that during the meeting yesterday, Lt Gen Hun Manet asked why the Thai government has allowed certain media outlets to attack Cambodia over the border violence.

The outlets were understood to be controlled by the People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been highly critical of Cambodia in recent months.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday Unesco was sending a special envoy to hear both countries' take on the border dispute.

However, the envoy will not travel to the Preah Vihear temple due to "diplomatic sensitivity".

The envoy is expected to arrive in Thailand next week, Mr Abhisit said after a telephone conversation with Unesco director-general Irina Bokova yesterday.

He said the director-general felt the contentious management of the area around Preah Vihear temple, declared a world heritage site by Unesco, should not proceed until the border dispute is resolved.