Friday, 27 June 2008

Cambodian minister drops defamation suit against news editor

Be a man and fight one to one in Paris court so that no more people in jail because of defamation and misinformation !

June 27th, 2008
by Sahil Nagpal

Phnom Penh - A senior Cambodian minister will withdraw a defamation complaint against an opposition newspaper editor who is also a candidate in upcoming national elections, he announced at a press conference Friday.

On June 8, Dam Sith, editor of pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, was arrested as he washed his car in the capital and spent a week in the notorious Prey Sar prison before Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened on his behalf.

His arrest followed a complaint by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accusing Sith of defamation, "insult" and disinformation regarding quotes by opposition leader Sam Rainsy his paper had published.

The quotes concerned claims made by Sam Rainsy in connection with the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime which the minister said were deeply hurtful and completely untrue.

"I was a victim of the regime, not a perpetrator," he said.

He gave no reason for dropping the charges, but a board member for the Club of Cambodian Journalists said later Sith had written to Hor Namhong saying publishing the quotes had been "a mistake."

Hor Namhong said he would continue to sue Rainsy for defamation through the Paris courts. Rainsy holds a French passport.

"Some people claim the Cambodian courts are not independent, so I am taking legal action in France," he said.

Sith's arrest provoked howls of protest from human rights and media activists around the world.

His unprecedented detention on civil charges also came at a politically sensitive time, with Cambodia gearing up for national elections on July 27 which Hor Namhong's dominant Cambodian People's Party is expected to win handsomely. (dpa)

Cambodia says no reason to politicise temple

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong Friday accused elements in the Thai opposition of politicising the disputed 11th century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear and called it "regretable."

"I deeply regret that some political parties in Thailand use Preah Vihear temple to push the Thai government and disrupt relations between our two countries," he told a press conference.

"Thailand has not ceded one centimetre of land to Cambodia there."

Cambodia closed the border at the site of the hilltop temple late Sunday after a rally by anti-Thai government protestors there.

With ongoing political tensions in Thailand and national elections scheduled for July 27 in Cambodia, the government said the closure was a proactive measure to ensure the safety of citizens on both sides of the border and prevent the issue from escalating.

Hor Namhong said Cambodia's application to have the temple, sacred to both countries, listed as a World Heritage site was in no way related to Cambodian politics and had been underway long before national election campaigning began.

The International Court in The Hague awarded the temple to Cambodia over Thailand in 1962.

Hor Namhong's dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is expected to handsomely win the upcoming elections.

Unlike some of its opposition parties, the CPP, which prides itself on universal diplomacy and has particularly close links with Vietnam, traditionally focuses its campaigns on improvements in local infrastructure and shies away from nationalistic rhetoric.

New "Reflections" at Tuol Sleng

Democratic Kampuchea national emblem

Khmer Rouge medical staff preparing medicine.

The Post.Blogs

Posted by Elena in General

From vintage Khmer Rouge magazine covers to descriptions of medical care under Democratic Kampuchea, the new exhibit at Tuol Sleng provides an excellent overview of Pol Pot's regime and daily life from 1975-79.

I finally had a chance to see Reflections: Democratic Kampuchea and Beyond this week.
Although, like most who live in Phnom Penh, I've visited Tuol Sleng numerous times, I would highly recommend the new exhibit even to those already familiar with the museum.

For visitors new to Cambodian history, Reflections provides a solid explanation of the Khmer Rouge's rise to power, ideology and eventual fall. Those already well-versed in the Khmer Rouge story will appreciate the rare artifacts on display and details about life under DK.

Some of my favorite exhibit components: DK's national emblem -- dikes, canals and factories framed by an oval garland of rice ears -- and a medicinal recipe for creating "Rabbit Dropping Tablets" out of human gall bladders, flour and a variety of plants.

The exhibit was organized by DC-Cam and curated by Sarah Jones Dickens, Sayana Ser and Olivia Altaras.

HRP (Human Rights Party) election campaign kickoff

NRP ( Norodom Ranaridh Party) election campaign kickoff

Sacravatoons : " The Royal Sacred Sword of Cambodia "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : " The Coolest Croc-Friend "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

The Price of Justice

June 27, 2008

The Khmer Rouge war-crimes tribunal released its budget wish list Tuesday, and it isn't petty cash. The court is asking for $86 million to stay in business through December 2010 and possibly more if the trials take longer. That's less than they were asking for in February, when an earlier version of the budget stood at $114 million. But donors should still be wary.

The tribunal, run jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government, wants typical Turtle Bay flab: a built-in 15% contingency fund that amounts to $11 million over the next 2 1/2 years. Donors are balking, and so far only Japan and Cambodia have pitched in a meager $4 million. As we went to press the steering committee was debating whether to scale the contingency fund back to 7.5% of the budget.

The tribunal's money troubles this year have been transformative. As the reserves dwindled, the tribunal started petitioning donors for money and the biggest lenders pressed the tribunal to slim down and be more transparent.

The pressure seems to be working. Over the past six months, the tribunal has made audits public, slimmed down its operations and shortened its proposed timeline. An infusion of new management has also helped. In April, Deloitte reviewed the tribunal's human-resources management and found its practices "robust" and "ready to take on the next phase of operations." The team of reviewers said five employees were underqualified for their jobs. They were fired.

There's still a way to go. Some of Deloitte's simplest recommendations, such as strengthening the code of conduct, have yet to be implemented. Deloitte suggested that the code include a pledge to report violations and not to offer or accept gifts or money. (Currently, only accepting gifts is forbidden). More seriously, past allegations of kickbacks have yet to be investigated.

The best thing about the new budget is that it will keep the court accountable to donors by asking for money in phases, instead of receiving a lump sum. The first phase ends in December 2009, at which point the court will have its hand out again. That will give donors the opportunity to examine the court's progress and its use of taxpayers' funds – and ask tough questions. As well they should.

Thai premier survives no-confidence vote

A Bangkok riot policeman, standing in the shade of a pink umbrella, is joined by others Wednesday, June 25, 2008, outside Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. Demonstrators, led by activists from the People's Alliance for Democracy, PAD, launched protests on May 25 and have occupied the area around Government House, the seat of Thailand's government, since breaking through a police cordon on Friday. The protesters say they will not be satisfied until Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's entire government steps down. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej speaks during a no-confidence debate against him at Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Samak's six-party coalition government showed no signs of cracking Wednesday and a pending no-confidence vote in Parliament seemed likely to go in his favor despite a barrage of criticism launched against him. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thailand's opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva looks on from his seat during a no-confidence debate against the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Samak's six-party coalition government showed no signs of cracking Wednesday and a pending no-confidence vote in Parliament seemed likely to go in his favor despite a barrage of criticism launched against him. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thailand's prime minister survived a no-confidence vote Friday, fending off opposition accusations of incompetence, mismanagement and yielding national sovereignty.

The parliamentary opposition's motion against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was rejected Friday in the 470-member lower house of Parliament by a vote of 280-162, with the rest of the lawmakers abstaining or absent. The lawmakers also rejected no-confidence motions against seven other Cabinet members.

The voting results were largely expected because Samak's six-party coalition, led by his People's Power Party, controls two-thirds of the seats in the lower house.

Despite the victory, Samak and his government continue to face political hurdles including street protests that have hounded his government for the past month.

Critics accuse Samak's government, which took office in February, of mismanaging the ailing Thai economy and of being a proxy for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He has angrily denied all the allegations.

The opposition also accused him of bypassing Parliament last week when he endorsed Cambodia's application for UNESCO World Heritage Site status for a disputed border temple. The temple is located on still-disputed territory although it was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962.

The 11th-century temple has been the subject of a territorial dispute between Cambodia and Thailand for decades and many Thais still claim the temple for Thailand.

Protesters led by the People's Alliance for Democracy have rallied on the streets of Bangkok for a month and have occupied the area around Government House, the seat of Thailand's government, since breaking through a police cordon one week ago.

The protesters allege that Samak's government is interfering with corruption charges against Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

The alliance led mass demonstrations before the 2006 coup demanding Thaksin step down for alleged corruption and abuse of power. The alliance leaders have said they will not be satisfied until Samak's entire government steps down.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva accused Samak during debate earlier in the week of mishandling the economy and failing to ease the impact of soaring oil prices, interfering with freedom of the press and violating national interests.

"Even after four months in power, the administration massively mismanaged the country, with no unity, no direction and no efficiency," Abhisit said.

Samak defended the government's economic policy, saying the whole world faced soaring costs driven by oil price hikes.

A Cambodian Temple Roils Thai Politics

Brian McCartan
26 June 2008

Opponents of the Samak government find a new cause in a border dispute with Cambodia

The censure debate against Thailand’s ruling Samak Sundaravej administration is increasingly focused on a red herring -- the government’s support for Cambodia’s application for World Heritage status for a ninth-century temple at the centre of a long standing border dispute.

While the Samak government can be accused of many sins, the controversy over the Preah Vihear temple is relatively minor in comparison. However, in intensely nationalist Thailand any perceived threat against national sovereignty and territorial integrity is sure to provoke an outcry, and opposition parties out to oust the Samak government have seized on the temple issue as yet another way to add to the pressure.

Samak’s government is already in the hot seat due to allegations of corruption, an unnecessary attempt to amend the constitution, claims of proxy politics and especially its inability to deal with rising energy costs, inflation and economic issues, and particularly its perceived closeness to the opposition’s bête noire, the ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Dissatisfaction with the government has led to more than a month of street demonstrations in Bangkok organized by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which was instrumental in Thaksin’s ouster by the military in September of 2006. The current demonstrations begun on 25 May, were initially organized to protest proposed amendments to the constitution that were deemed as unnecessary and aimed only at allowing the reinstatement of banned politicians of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party.

The push for constitutional amendments was eventually dropped by Samak’s People Power Party-led coalition government, but the street protests continued, escalating their demands to the ouster of the Samak regime. On June 20, the demonstrators broke through police barriers to surround Government House, the seat of the Thai government. They have remained there, setting up makeshift tents and vowing to stay until Samak and his cabinet step down.

Rising fuel and food costs have resulted in other protests across the country by farmers, truckers and others that have added weight to the PAD protests. However, as of yet, the PAD has received very little support from the middle class, especially in Bangkok. The middle class, who did come out in large numbers during the anti-Thaksin demonstrations, are deemed to be essential for the successful removal of the government, such as what happened to the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh government in 1997 following the Asian financial crisis of the same year.

The demonstrators have also received little hint of sympathy from the military or the royal family, also essential to their success. Samak appears to have come to some kind of an agreement with Army commander General Anupong Paochinda, who would prefer not to have to call the army out of its barracks. Samak also has strong ties to the royal palace, where his family has worked for generations.

In a nationally televised meeting between Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prime Minister Samak and Samak’s deputies on 19 June, the King appeared to give tacit approval to Samak’s administration. King Bhumibol told Samak, “I expect that you will do what you have promised and when you can do that, you will be satisfied.” The monarch went on to say, “With that satisfaction the country will survive. I ask you to do good in everything, both in government work and other work, so that our country can carry on and the people will be pleased.” That was two days after the cabinet had ratified the Cambodian temple pact.

Samak, however, played into the opposition’s hands when he allowed Noppadon to sign the joint communiqué on the temple. The opposition Democrats and the PAD are aware that the censure debate is unlikely to unseat Samak’s administration without a break in his coalition government.

They are also aware that the protests do not yet have the numbers or the crucial support of the middle classes, the military or the royal court to bring about the government’s downfall. By stirring up nationalist sentiment and painting Samak and Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and by extension their government, as selling out Thailand to Cambodia, the opposition hoped to sway more people over to its side.

The day after the cabinet endorsed the Joint Communiqué, 18 June, the PAD latched onto the deal to whip up nationalist fervor, something that in ultra-nationalist Thailand is sure to win supporters. The opposition Democrat Party followed suite in the censure debate and made the issue a central component of their attack on the Samak government.

The Preah Vihear Hindu temple itself was built between the ninth and 12th centuries. The temple grounds lie astride the Thai-Cambodian border with the temple itself on the Cambodian side, but with the approach and a ceremonial pool on the Thai side. A high, steep cliff on the Cambodian side makes access very difficult making the only entrance through Thailand.

The area has long been contested by the Thai and Cambodian governments. After French colonial troops pulled out of Indochina in 1954, the Thai army occupied the site. In 1959, the Cambodian government protested the Thai presence and took the case to the World Court, whose 1962 decision said that the temple belonged to Cambodia. The decision was based on a map drawn up by French colonial authorities in 1907 as a result of a joint Thai-French border commission.

The map that showed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian side of the border was sent to the Thai government at the time. The World Court cited the Thai government’s lack of objection to the map in the intervening 50 years as proof of their acceptance of the border demarcation.

Thailand, while abiding by the court’s decision, claimed it reserved the right to contest the issue. The court’s decision did not, however, decide ownership of a further 4.6 kilometers of border to the west and north of the temple which remain in dispute.

The issue of ownership of the temple and the disputed border areas around it came to a head again in 2007 when the Cambodian government put forward the site to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for World Heritage status. The attempt resulted in protests from Thailand, especially since the proposal included not only the temple but the 4.6 kilometers of disputed territory. The military-backed government of Surayudh Chulanont, in an attempt to diffuse any possible tensions over the area, suggested a joint application, but this was rejected by the Cambodian government.

Cambodia refiled their application this year and again courted the Thai government for its approval. This time Samak’s government decided to support the Cambodian push for UNESCO registration. After negotiations in Phnom Penh a joint communiqué endorsing Cambodia’s application was signed by Noppadon and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and endorsed by the Thai Cabinet on June 17. UNESCO is due to consider the application at a meeting in Quebec on 2-10 July.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva invoked nationalist feelings in the parliament by telling lawmakers, “I hope that all Thai MPs will show distruct of the prime minister and the foreign minister. And I ask all Thai MPs to be open minded and listen to the opposition’s information, so that they will realize what to do next.” The loss of any territory is seen by most Thais as a grave affront to national pride. In recent years there have been several shooting matches between the Thai and Burmese armies over boundary disputes along Thailand’s northern border. A brief border war was fought with Laos in 1987-88 over a boundary dispute in the northeast.

Preah Vihear temple, however, seems to be a non-issue. Samak certainly seems to think so.
During Monday’s censure debate he cited Article 61 of the World Court’s regulations which states that, “No application for revision may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of judgment.” He further argued that Thailand already lost the case in 1962 and it is time that Thais come to terms with it. Samak and Noppadon have also claimed that both the Army and the Survey Department have looked at the Cambodian map, compared it to their own maps, and have agreed that the deal did not infringe on Thai sovereignty. The army has yet to make a public statement on the issue.

This is something Thais are obviously not yet ready to do. Over 300 distinguished Thais, including several senators, artists and academics, submitted a letter of protest to UNESCO over the decision on 24 June. A petition was also filed with the Administrative Court by opponents of the deal on the same day. The Administrative Court was slated to hold a hearing yesterday to consider an injunction against the cabinet’s decision.

The opposition claims the decision should have been put before parliament first since it could be deemed an international treaty. Article 190 of the constitution calls for treaties to be deliberated in parliament before being agreed to. The opposition alleges that Samak and Noppadon bypassed parliament and the Thai people in agreeing to a deal that could affect national sovereignty.

At issue for some is why did the Samak government rush into the deal and not press for a joint application like the previous government? A joint application, it is reasoned by some Thai academics and politicians, would be advantageous to both sides and defuse land disputes around the temple. Samak and Noppadon argue that the only thing they have agreed to is that the temple is owned by Cambodia and that no Thai land has been given up. Instead they have called for a buffer zone be created out of the disputed 4.6 kilometers around the temple.

The PAD says they have the answer. They allege that the temple was “sold” to Cambodia in exchange for gas deals in the recently found gas fields off Cambodia’s coast and for a deal to construct a casino on Koh Kong Island adjacent to Thailand’s eastern Trat province. Although no real concrete evidence has been presented to back up these claims, the lack of trust in the Samak government is enough for most people to believe it is possible.

Rather than argue about more relevant issues, like the economy, inflation, rising fuel prices, the continuing insurgency in the South and allegations of the PPP government functioning as a proxy for Thaksin’s banned Thai Rak Thai, all of which the government has done almost nothing about, the opposition and the PAD have resorted to stoking the fires of nationalism over an ancient Khmer temple whose ownership was decided 46 years ago and is perched on about seven kilometers of land that has almost no relevance to the lives of the majority of Thais besides those who run tours to the temple or own shops selling food, drink and souvenirs in the area. The ploy is unlikely to work.

Cambodian government MP says small parties no rival for ruling CPP

ABC News, Radio Australia

On July 27th, Cambodians will go to the polls and almost certainly re-elect Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party. Despite a poor record on upholding human rights and combating corruption, the party expects to get a tick for overseeing the emergence of a peaceful Cambodia after years of civil conflict. Challenging will be a range of smaller parties including junior coalition partner Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge

Speaker: CPP spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith

KANHARITH: They don't know how to organise their party and I think that they really don't work hard. You can see many of those people travelling abroad or just you have what you call a one man show of party and in fact the CPP work very closely beside the government and we work hard with the people at the grassroot level. And you know what the rule for the party member. You have to spend one sixth of your time in the countryside, in the rural area.

BAINBRIDGE: You say that the members of the other parties often go abroad. Isn't it also true that sometimes they're forced to go abroad because they're intimidated, they fear for their lives?

KANHARITH: If they really fear for their life or they feel threatened, they don't accuse their CPP leader as a traitor as a thief. You cannot do his work. You really feel intimidated by all the threat that they claim.

BAINBRIDGE: So you're saying that they are not really intimidated?

KANHARITH: No, but I think that most of the time, they don't know how to work with the Cambodian people. They know very well to talk well English or to talk with a foreigner, but to work really with the people they don't know how to do it.

BAINBRIDGE: The CPP has been in power for a very long time now. What new are you offering at this election? What policies will you be taking to the election?

KANHARITH: We can resume in one word better life and we can explain this because word that we expect that in 2012 we can use our gas, oils, mineral and solar, hydro-power. We can show the people a constant price for safety for 30 years.

BAINBRIDGE: What kind of guarantees do the people have that all that large injection of oil revenue that you are expecting in the next few years, will be used wisely? The foreign donors here, the NGO's are very concerned that that money will be siphoned off. It will be taken by a few rich and powerful people and it won't really benefit the people of Cambodia?

KANHARITH: NGO they never understand about the budget law one, Two, they cannot understand about accountability, they just make the claim that in fact you can see in detail what we are spending and what is our income.

BAINBRIDGE: It's not just the NGO's. it's not just activists making this claim though, it's also many foreign governments?

KANHARITH: You know if you had to wait and to see, because this is not even like Africa, it's not what you call it's for the government. This is a democracy. You cannot spend well your money, you cannot (inaudible) your income to lose the election.

BAINBRIDGE: Why is it then that the Cambodian people should re-elect this government which has overseen a country which has so much corruption for such a long time?

KANHARITH: Look, you know we have corruption everywhere, but this they don't have a large scale corruption like in many country one. Two, if you look at the other political parties like the Sam Rainsy Party, in the year 2000, he misused, sold 170,000 US dollars when other member asked for clarification, even they chase those people out of the party. Just so the people understand that there might be a problem, but at least this government is a working and had been working to serve the people better than all the.

BAINBRIDGE: Traditionally this period, this lead up to the election period. There are many reports of political intimidation. Most of those accuse the CPP of being intimidating people at the grassroots level and that at the political level. Are you able to give any kind of guarantee that this election will be conducted in a way that is safe for those who are participating into it?

KANHARITH: You know many political party they have their office everywhere is mean that they feel safe already. Two, the government will not condon any violence during the election campaign. Sure, you cannot avoid that if people because they support this or that political party, get some violent, we could not avoid that. But the people who commit violence must face justice.

Cambodians fear loss of sovereignty

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on June 27, 2008

A group of Cambodians have accused their government of losing rights to sovereignty over the area surrounding Preah Vihear in dealing with Thailand to try to get World Heritage status for the temple.

The group known as the Cambodia Watchdog Council International said in a statement that Phnom Penh was "tricked" into limiting its right to use only 30 metres from the ruined structure of the Preah Vihear to apply for a World Heritage listing.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 to put the Preah Vihear under Cambodia's sovereignty in accordance with the Siam-Franco treaty in 1904 and 1907 - as well as the French-made map.

"The map, which has been kept at The Hague, indicated clearly that the area [considered by Thailand as the overlapping area] belongs to Cambodia," the statement said.

"Taking only the temple and its limited foundation area is a loss of our territory to Thailand," it said.

"Thailand has never dared to put the case to the World Court for clarification of the boundary, but wanted to take over the temple and shut down our economic opportunities from tourism at the site," it said.

The group demanded the Cambodian government recall the new map and insisted it use the original one for the application.

The Bangkok office of Unesco has said it would forward the request, which was supported by more than 3,000 signatures by Thai people, to the Unesco head office in Paris.

The Thai Foreign Ministry is worried the fierce debate in Thailand, both in Parliament and street protests, could cause misunderstanding and hurt relations with Cambodia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the ministry had launched a white paper to answer all questions over the deal with Cambodia on the Preah Vihear. The paper can be downloaded from the ministry's website.

The negative reaction began after the opposition Democrat Party launched a censure motion against Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, accusing him of recognising Cambodia's sovereignty over the foundations of the temple.

The ICJ ruled that Cambodia had sovereignty over the temple but never ruled on the foundation area, according to opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Noppadon said the Cabinet in 1962 followed the ICJ's ruing and handed the ruined temple with 250,000 square metres of its foundations to Cambodia.

As long as Phnom Penh included only that part for World Heritage listing, it had nothing to do with Thai sovereignty, he said.

CAMBODIA-THAILAND RELATIONS: Thai business under threat

The Bangkok Post
Friday June 27, 2008


Thai businesses operating in Cambodia have expressed concern that bilateral relations could be shaken by conflict over the Preah Vihear temple.

The opposition Democrat Party has blasted the government over the past week, alleging that it is ceding Thai territory to Cambodia for supporting the latter's bid to register Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

The World Court earlier ruled that Preah Vihear is Cambodian territory and that Thailand has no claim to the temples.

The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh recently met with Thai business executives operating in Cambodia to discuss the political and social tensions between the two countries.

Business leaders want to avoid a repeat of the anti-Thai riots of January 2003, when the Thai embassy and Thai businesses were sacked. The riots were sparked by allegedly inflammatory remarks made by a Thai actress and resulted in hundreds of millions of baht in damage.

''We do hope that the current arguments will not last long,'' said Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith, chief operations officer for upstream petroleum and gas business of PTT Plc.

''There are several possible peaceful solutions that will be of mutual benefit. But if the situation could not be ended quickly and get worse, it would possibly make the relationship sour and cause the parties to lose trust in each other. [Thai] businesses operating [in Cambodia] could be affected.''

PTT holds a licence to develop an offshore natural gas block off the east coast of Cambodia. It also has been in discussions about petroleum exploration rights in the overlapping area that is claimed by both countries.

Dr Chitrapongse said that the temple issue could complicate discussions over the overlapping claims.

Niyom Waiyaratchapanich, the chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce's committee on border trade development, called on the government and related parties to end the conflict quickly.

''If it is prolonged and intensified to provoke nationalistic actions, Thai businesses in Cambodia would be seriously affected,'' said Mr Niyom.

Thai investors rank third among foreign businesses investing in Cambodia after Korea and Japan. Most Thai investments are in hotels and construction.

Thailand enjoys a trade surplus of 35 billion baht in trade worth 40 billion baht annually, he added.

Thailand's Siam Cement Group has operated a cement plant in Cambodia and plans to expand its logistics and trading businesses. The Charoen Pokphand group has invested in an animal feed and integrated agricultural project there.

Thai Airways International files daily between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, while Bangkok Airway operates daily flights from Bangkok to Cambodia's capital and Siam Reap. Thai Air Asia has seven flights a week between Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

Figures from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) show that 35,796 Thai nationals visited Cambodia in 2007, up 14.5% over the previous year, mainly for tourism and business.

Meanwhile, 108,776 Cambodians visited Thailand, down 13.2%, due mainly to a sharp rise in the Thai baht. Cambodia uses the US dollar as its main currency.

''Conflicts over Preah Vihear are highlighted once again, making the bilateral relationship not so smooth. This could cause Cambodian tourists to lose confidence in visiting Thailand,'' the TAT said in a recent report.

Siam Commercial Bank executives said they were closely monitoring events.

Paspun Suwanchinda, the bank's executive vice-president, said the bank's operations in Phnom Penh had not been affected by the Preah Vihear case.

''Business transactions remain at normal levels,'' she said.

SCB operates branches in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville under the name Cambodian Commercial Bank.

But while the situation appears stable now, Ms Paspun said the bank had contingency plans to cope with ''unpredictable events''.

''We are receiving round-the-clock information updates from the Thai embassy, and we have also held briefings with our staff to be sensitive to the situation,'' she said.

Controversy over 11th century temple inflames Thai politics


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - High on a Cambodian cliff, the Preah Vihear temple has weathered war and territorial disputes. Now it's at the center of a political tug-of-war in neighboring Thailand.

As it has over the centuries, the ancient temple is fueling nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border, and opposition supporters in the Thai parliament are raising it as a reason for why the prime minister should step down.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej last week endorsed Cambodia's bid to register the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site _ enraging opposition lawmakers who say he is yielding national sovereignty to Cambodia.

Never mind that the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it stands on to Cambodia in 1962 _ it remains an issue in both countries.

«The Preah Vihear temple is part of a wounded history of Thailand and Cambodia,» said Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian at Bangkok's Thammasat University. «It was used to stir up a nationalist movement during World War II, and again during the Cold War ... and is now threatening to inflame politics again.

The crumbling stone temple, which is a few hundred feet from Thailand's eastern border with Cambodia, is the centerpiece of a no-confidence motion against Samak. The opposition accuses the prime minister of policy mistakes and of being a proxy for deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

«Preah Vihear is the knockout punch» that could bring down Samak, opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told Parliament. However, Samak's ruling coalition has an overwhelming majority, and he was expected to easily survive Friday's vote.

The dispute comes shortly before the World Heritage Committee starts its annual meeting July 2 to consider bids for special status, which helps attract funds for preservation of a site as well as raising its tourism profile.

Thai senators sent a petition to UNESCO this week asking that consideration of Cambodia's request be deferred until both countries file a joint nomination for World Heritage status. UNESCO has not responded.

Anger is simmering on both sides of the border, particularly in Thailand.

«The Temple of Gloom,» ran one banner headline in The Nation newspaper, under a photo taken in March of Samak shaking hands with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Samak insists his endorsement of Cambodia's bid has no effect on Thai sovereignty, saying the temple belongs to Cambodia and the Cambodians are entitled to seek its listing as a World Heritage site. A stretch of disputed territory around the temple was not included in the request to UNESCO, Samak told lawmakers.

Thai protesters have gathered near the hilltop site since Sunday, singing patriotic songs and shouting that the temple belongs to Thailand, said Hang Soth, director-general of Cambodia's Preah Vihear Authority.

As a result, Cambodia closed the border gate that leads from Thailand to the temple.Preah Vihear, a Hindu-themed temple that reflects the beliefs of the kings who ruled what was then the Angkorean empire, is located on the top of a 525-meter (1,722-foot) cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 150 miles (245 kilometers) north of the Cambodian capital. Reaching it by road is easiest from the Thai side of the border.

«We are the owners of the temple, and it has nothing to do with Thailand,» said Moeung Son, a Cambodian tour group operator and founder of the Khmer Civilization Foundation.

Last week, his group held a rally in Phnom Penh to support Cambodia's UNESCO bid and dispel what he called the «myth among some Thais who say that Preah Vihear temple is theirs.

Built between the 9th and 11th centuries, the stone temple is revered partly for having one of the most stunning locations of all the temples constructed during the Khmer empire _ the most famous of which is Angkor Wat.

As the Khmer empire, which once encompassed parts of Thailand and Vietnam, shrank to the size of present-day Cambodia and the country was plunged into civil war, the temple fell into disrepair. Steps, walls and pillars have collapsed.

Hun Sen has pledged «a serious commitment» to building a road to the temple «whatever the cost.

Associated Press Writers Jocelyn Gecker and Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok, Thailand contributed to this report.

Opinion: The meaning of censure

The Bangkok Post

By Thitinan Pongsudhirak

The government has the numbers to ensure political survival but a major cabinet reshuffle is needed and the coalition partners will want more influential

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.

The concerted movement to bring down the People Power party-led government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej this week shifted its focus from street protests to a parliamentary censure debate. As parliament's current session ends tomorrow, the government initially wanted only to debate the Budget Bill rather than to allow a censure motion, as it has been in power for just four months.

However, the pressure from street demonstrators under the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) prompted the government to concede to a censure debate. While the government is likely to win the vote in the Lower House when the debate concludes today, Mr Samak and a clutch of his cabinet ministers will be so bruised with their credibility shaken to a point that a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle will be needed.

After the censure debate, the PAD will continue to undermine the government's credibility and legitimacy in the streets, stymieing Mr Samak's limited ability to address pressing economic difficulties. His position after the censure debate will thus become untenable.

As the only party in opposition, the Democrat party has decided to focus its attack on only seven ministers from the PPP, leaving aside all the cabinet members from the other five coalition partners. This tactic is designed to isolate Mr Samak and the largest ruling party, opening up the possibility of coalition partners crossing over and the remote chance that Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva will cobble up an alternative coalition and scale to the premiership in the event the sitting prime minister is compelled to resign.

The opposition is now part of a three-pronged attack, led in the censure debate by the Democrats and in a separate anti-government motion by the mostly appointed portion of the Senate, as well as outside parliament by the PAD.

The beleaguered Samak government still commands almost two-thirds of MPs in the 480-member Lower House, with more than 220 under the PPP. Notwithstanding the manoeuvres during the debate, the government's numbers are sufficient to ensure political survival when the censure motion goes to a vote today.

However, the PPP's partners will gain more leverage within the ruling coalition and may try to convert it for better portfolio allotments down the line.

The opposition has had ample ammunition to take the Samak government to task. It has mostly focused on policy missteps, standard-of-living issues and alleged conflicts of interest. Central to the Democrats' censure manoeuvres has been the hot controversy surrounding Preah Vihear temple along the Thai-Cambodian border. The Samak government has inked a settlement that recognises Cambodia's sovereignty over the temple complex and its adjoining parcel of land. A verdict by the International Court of Justice in 1962 indicated that the temple belonged to Cambodia but Thai perceptions insist that its location has been, and should be, on Thai soil, despite growing accounts by respected Thai historians to the contrary.

Stirring up nationalist fervour, the PAD has accused the government of selling out to Cambodia with vested interests hidden behind the deal, an allusion to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's reported business intentions in Cambodia, with particular reference to the development of Koh Kong island.

The Preah Vihear temple affair is being shaped by the PAD and the opposition as the equivalent of Mr Thaksin's sale of his family-owned Shin Corp conglomerate to Singapore's Temasek Holdings in early 2006, which became the last straw that eventually overthrew his regime.

The Samak government did not help matters by pressing ahead without doing the necessary homework and earning public trust to settle the temple ownership, border demarcation, and registration as a World Heritage site.

While this issue is unlikely to be enough for a government downfall, it will continue to erode the government's credibility in the absence of corrective measures and adequate explanations to the public. It is incumbent on the government to take a pause on the Preah Vihear controversy in order to clarify and overcome doubts and allegations of a sell-out.

The censure debate has highlighted Mr Samak's weaknesses and his government's shortcomings. The prime minister is now embattled. He has a narrow base within PPP, which is beset with internal rumblings from different factions. Mr Samak also faces friction with other parties in the coalition. His lack of policy expertise and his ill temper have worsened his lot in the eyes of the public, fanning the PAD's flames.

At minimum, he will have to revamp his cabinet to shore up government performance. Getting rid of cabinet liabilities, such as Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, would be a start, but more policy hands are needed in key economy-related portfolios. More policy coordination between ministries led by PPP and coalition partners is needed. The semblance of policy effectiveness in the face of growing hardships and rising food and energy prices is imperative.

Even if he manages a significant cabinet reshuffle and more responsive policy measures, Mr Samak will still be pressed by the PAD and its anti-government allies in parliament. His endgame will be drawn out but its denouement is likely weeks away. The key now is not whether he will be forced out well before his term ends, but how Mr Samak intends to leave the stage.

Foremost in his mind should be a transition that is within parliamentary and constitutional boundaries, not the detour and short cut that the PAD is demanding in the name of a warped paradigm called Thailand's so-called "new politics" of less representation and more nomination and appointment.

EU preparing for poll duty

Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 26 June 2008

The European Union will deploy 124 observers to monitor the July 27 general election, the head of the EU election observation mission, Martin Callanan, has said. Observers began arriving in Cambodia earlier this week to assess pre-poll preparations. They will later monitor voting and ballot counting, according to Callanan. The mission would remain in Cambodia for several weeks after the election. "Election observation is an important part of the EU's policy of promoting human rights and democracy throughout the world," Callanan said on June 20. National Election Committee secretary general Tep Nytha said on June 25 that 14,155 Cambodian and foreign election observers were registered with the NEC.

Fears for Hmong deported to Laos

Thai authorities insist the Hmong in Thailand are economic migrants

Thursday, 26 June 2008
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Aid agencies in Thailand have expressed grave concern over the fate of around 1,000 ethnic Hmong refugees who have been deported back to Laos.

The refugees were returned across the border last weekend after taking part in a protest over their living conditions in Thailand.

The Thai authorities say that the refugees went back voluntarily.

However, human rights groups believe some, who face possible persecution in Laos, were forced to return.

Rebel army

Thailand's reputation for generous hospitality towards tourists does not extend to refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of people have come here over the years, fleeing war and poverty, from Cambodia in the 1970s and 80s, and more recently from Burma and Laos.

They are accepted - but confined to squalid camps.

UN agencies and journalists are usually denied access to them and at times the refugees are thrown back over the border.

In the 1970s, thousands of Cambodians are thought to have died after being forced back through minefields by Thai troops.

Now aid agencies fear for the safety of the ethnic Hmong refugees who were sent back at the weekend.

The authorities here insist they are just economic migrants who went back willingly but among them are remnants of the rebel army that fought communist forces with US-backing during the Vietnam War.

Some 8,000 Hmong have been living for years in a sealed-off camp in northern Thailand.

The UN's refugee agency has expressed concern that the deportation was carried out in secret.

Some families have reportedly been split up, and little is known about how the deportees are being treated in Laos, which has a record of harsh repression of any anti-government forces.

Couple who fled war wins hospitals' Dream Lottery

The London Free Press
Thu, June 26, 2008


A couple who fled the killing fields of Cambodia more than two decades ago became instant millionaires today when they won the London hospitals Dream Lottery.

Vorn Mak and his wife Soeur Nhek said they were speechless when notified by telephone that they had won the $1.3 million grand prize. After the news sunk in, “we’re were jumping up and down” with joy and hugging each other, she said.

Vorn Mak has worked as a cleaner at the downtown Hilton Hotel for about 15 years and Soeur Nhek works as a Pennysaver flyer inserter at the London Free Press.

The couple came to London as refugees about 21 years ago after fleeing the violence of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

“The war was very bad and we were lucky to get away from it,” Von Mak said.

The couple won a grand prize that included a $650,000 Wasko home in the Buttonbush subdivision near Colonel Talbot and Southdale roads, $204,000 in furniture, appliances and electronic goods and a $55,000 BMW vehicle.

But they said they’ve chosen the cash option of $1.1 million, the largest cash prize in the history of the charity lottery that supports the London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care and Children’s Health Foundation.

The winners said they were going to take their time to decide what to do with the money before they make any life-changing decisions.

Rita Fieder, Dream Lottery coordinator said “it has been a very good year for the lottery. We’ve raised more than $1 million for the hospitals.”

Cambodia: What Happens When Reality Meets Idealism
Posted June 26, 2008

Jennifer Winstanley

I have been writing about the positive experiences that I have had and the personal development that I have enjoyed while working in Southeast Asia over the last year. In order to present a more balanced picture, I wanted to briefly discuss another side of it - the frustrations, the disconnect, and the constant haunting doubt that maybe what you are doing is useless... or worse, maybe it is destructive.

Humanitarian work is controversial - the different organizations, close connection with politics and foreign policy, and questionable motivations that do arise in the field are all things that I had limited awareness of when I arrived in Cambodia. The more insight I gain into this area the more dismayed I am at certain aspects of it. I am by no means an expert on this so I will limit my discussion of it to personal revelation, and in particular a discussion that I had with a moto driver in Phnom Penh early this year.

Driving through the city our casual conversation turned much more serious when I mentioned that I was in Phnom Penh working with an NGO. A polite but passionate monologue ensued, detailing this man's complaints against NGOs and particularly their impact on his life. His opinion of NGOs in Cambodia can be summed up as the following: before the arrival of NGOs, people were poor but there was a sense of community and he was happy; then NGOs arrived, and people started to be competitive with each other, everything became more expensive, and the NGOs had no visible positive effect. He felt resentful of the lifestyle that NGO workers lead and resentful of the change in his life in the decade and a half that NGOs have been prevalent throughout Cambodia and particularly in Phnom Penh.

I didn't have much to say in response to anything he had said, and for the most part I felt that it didn't invite a response. He was sharing his opinion and his experience and I appreciated that he was speaking openly. Listening to him talk did accentuate something that I had already been feeling - some sense of disconnect between the work that I was doing and the community that the work is intended to benefit.

The particular work that I have done with the Community Legal Education (CLE) program was not what I had doubts about. The positive impact of CLE had been demonstrated to me not only through seeing it in action, but also in speaking with co-workers and reading evaluation forms. It is a broader sense of being uncomfortable with the distance between the language and structure of work in the development field and the individuals/communities/countries that the work is aimed at.

The voice of one moto-driver in Phnom Penh is not the source nor the confirmation of this feeling, and I have heard opposing viewpoints from local Cambodians as well - many of whom were grateful for presence of and work done by NGOs. It is something that I think is important to really think about though, as I continue to work in this field - as I hope to do.

Good Morning…Cambodia?
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vietnam, once the darling of international fund managers, is quickly losing its spot to another Asian nation probably best known by the West for political violence and poverty — Cambodia.

Cambodia’s young and inexpensive work force, rising productivity, a pro-business government, and 30 years of an isolating war have made the country "one of the best investor diversification plays around," says Cambodia Investment and Development Fund co-founder Marvin Yeo.

"Cambodia is where Vietnam was some eight to 10 years ago," Yeo says

Managers of at least four new private equity funds clearly agree. The funds are preparing to pour upwards of $500 million into Cambodia as investors flee the troubled Vietnamese bourse.
Marc Faber and Jim Rogers are among those expressing great enthusiasm about Cambodian investment prospects — and both are advising some of the private equity firms that plan to invest there, in reports in the The New York Times and elsewhere.

"Cambodia offers an enormous potential for future capital gains," Faber recently wrote in an investment newsletter. The country, which plans to open stock and bond exchanges next year, also has the potential to produce two things the world now craves: rice and oil.

Twenty-two fund managers, most from the U.S., recently met in Cambodia to evaluate current investment opportunities there.

It’s a struggle. The country posted a miniscule gross domestic product of $8.4 billion last year.
The Cambodian economy would fit in the back pocket of a normal U.S. large-cap stock.

China, in comparison, raked in 10 times that amount in foreign investment alone last year.

"The general principle is to go after those countries and companies that are unpopular and bombed out, and that are good value in terms of price-to-earnings, price-to-book and dividend yield," says Mark Mobius, president of Templeton Emerging Markets.

Some fund managers believe the trick to succeeding in Cambodia lies in staying small to avoid headaches caused by the country’s notoriously corrupt government, weak laws, and business secrecy.

"We want the small and medium-sized investments below the political radar screen," says Douglas Clayton, a managing partner of Leopard Asia, which is raising $100 million for its Cambodia fund.

"Cambodia needs several billion dollars of investment," Clayton says. "The challenge will be to build the businesses. Most are early-stage investments."

Clayton’s fund — which opened to subscribers in April and sees opportunities in food processing, the garments industry, agribusiness, and property — is targeting investments between $5 million and $15 million.

The projected return for the Leopard Asia's initial Cambodian investment, a minority stake in a $2.5 million, 250-unit condominium, is 60 percent — well above its normal 25 percent return target.

"As we dig deeper into this country and connect with the entrepreneurial class we are finding a lot of opportunities," says Cambodia Emerald Fund manager Peter Brimble, who is aiming to raise $100 million.

"Five hundred million dollars is really just a few golf courses and hotels," Douglas Broderick, United Nations Development Program's resident representative in Cambodia, told The Wall Street Journal. "A lot more could be absorbed."

Emerging markets are expected to experience an average gross domestic product growth of 7 percent this year, says Mobius, while developed markets are expected to grow at an average of a little more than two percent.

However, even after their recent tanking, Vietnamese shares still aren’t cheap enough for him to consider.

"If you're going to go there, you better think long-term," Mobius says. "Otherwise you can get stuck with a very illiquid security."

Cambodia opens election campaign

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's political parties kicked off campaigning Thursday for next month's general election, which is almost certain to see the return to power of Asia's longest-serving leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Eleven parties are contesting the July 27 polls for the 123-seat National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, with the winner forming a government for the next five years.

Hun Sen's long-running control over the levers of state and his unmatchable political instincts all but ensure that he will lead a return of his Cambodian People's Party to office.

Hun Sen, once a member of the ultra-leftist Khmer Rouge, has been at the helm of Cambodia since 1985, when he was made prime minister of a communist government installed by neighboring Vietnam. He became an elected prime minister in a democratic vote only after his party won an 1998 election. His party has tightened its grip on power since then, with 73 seats in the National Assembly.

They "must have self-confidence in deciding to choose the political party of their liking without any coercion, pressure and intimidation," Hun Sen said in statement Tuesday. He has in the past been accused of using strong-arm tactics against political foes.

Challengers include Sam Rainsy, the outspoken opposition leader who heads his self-named Sam Rainsy Party. The party, which currently holds 24 seats in the National Assembly, has constantly accused Hun Sen's government of corruption, human rights abuses and mismanagement of natural resources.

Campaigning starts in Cambodia, Hun Sen win likely

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is greeted by supporters during an election rally in Phnom Penh June 26, 2008.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thu Jun 26, 2008
By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A month of campaigning kicked off in Cambodia on Thursday for an election almost certain to give another five years in power to Prime Minister Hun Sen, an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier in charge for the last 23 years.

Thousands of supporters turned up at rallies for Hun Sen's ex-communist but now firmly free market Cambodian People's Party (CPP), and its main challenger, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), led by its eponymous French-educated former finance minister.

Hun Sen, 57, who lost an eye in Pol Pot's assault on Phnom Penh in 1975, did not address the rally, leaving it to party president Chea Sim to unleash the torrents of anti-SRP invective and threats of renewed fighting that typify CPP electioneering.

"Those ill-willed people always pump themselves up by telling lies, deceiving, insulting and agitating conflict in society," Chea Sim, also an ageing Khmer Rouge guerrilla, told the crowd.

Sam Rainsy struck a more sophisticated note, calling for greater investment in health, education and rural development in the southeast Asian nation, which remains one of the region's poorest despite five years of near double-digit growth.

"The current high levels of inflation, corruption and land grabbing are the major issues that need to be resolved," he told his supporters.

With most families still bearing the scars of the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields", in which an estimated 1.7 million people died, Hun Sen's argument to have brought peace and stability, and more recently strong growth, virtually assure him of victory.

The only question is whether the CPP will win an outright majority of seats in parliament, or have to team up with a small third party, such as the once-powerful royalist faction, known by the French acronym of FUNCINPEC.

Despite the angry tone of the campaign rhetoric, the political violence that has marked previous polls -- including the murder of predominantly but not exclusively of SRP supporters -- is way down, human rights groups say.

On the eve of campaigning, Hun Sen called on the army and government officials to remain impartial although as with many things in the nation of 14 million there is a large gap between what the government says and the situation on the ground.

Instead of violence, rights groups say the CPP is using the courts to cow its opponents, with an 18-month jail term hanging over former co-premier and FUNCINPEC leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh should he chose to return from self-imposed exile.

A newspaper editor and opposition candidate was also briefly jailed earlier this month after being accused of defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in an article about the Khmer Rouge.

The European Union is sending 130 observers to monitor the election, which is to be held on July 27. In all, 11 political parties are competing, and there are 8.1 million registered voters.

Viet Nam, Cambodia vow lasting friendship


Ha Noi — Communist Party of Viet Nam General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia discussed neighbourly relations during a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday.

King Sihamoni said he was "proud of having a good neighbour and an honest friend like Viet Nam ".

He thanked the Vietnamese Party, Government and people for their strong support of Cambodia’s past struggle for national salvation and its current development drive.

"Cambodia will continuously strengthen its good neighbourly relations and traditional friendship and comprehensive and lasting co-operation with Viet Nam," King Sihamoni said.

He concluded by conveying the blessings of the former King and Queen to the Vietnamese Party leader and his wife and thanked Vietnamese leaders and people for their fine sentiments to his parents.

In reply, General Secretary Manh warmly welcomed King Sihamoni, describing his visit as an event of primary importance that ushered in a new stage in bilateral relations, as well as bringing the relationship to a new level.

He reiterated Viet Nam’s unswerving drive to attach importance and high priority to relations with Cambodia.

The Party leader pledged to do his utmost to boost bilateral ties for "best neighbourliness, traditional friendship and comprehensive and long-lasting co-operation".

He also asked the Cambodian King to convey his best regards to the former King and Queen.


Cambodian King wraps up Vietnam visit


VietNamNet Bridge - Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni reaffirmed his country’s desire and determination to further consolidate and boost ties with Vietnam before leaving the country on June 26.

Vietnamese leaders also reiterated the country’s persistent policy of treasuring and prioritising the traditional relationship and friendly cooperation with Cambodia under the motto “Good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and long lasting, durable and comprehensive cooperation.”

During his official visit to Vietnam from June 24 to 26, King Norodom Sihamoni met with Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and State President Nguyen Minh Triet and received National Assembly Vice Chairperson Tong Thi Phong.

The King paid tribute to the late President Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum and visit the Bai Dinh pagoda in northern Ninh Binh province.

(Source: VNA)

Making poverty history

A boy holds a baby in a street in a Shanty town in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One third of Cambodia's population live in poverty.

By Matthew Knight

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Oxfam's new book "From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World" is a detailed and vivid account of poverty, its effects and how it can be eradicated. Principal Voices spoke to the book's author and Head of Research at Oxfam GB, Duncan Green about the charity's prescription for change.
How do you think Oxfam's approach to tackling poverty has changed since your last report in 1995?

Two of the big changes are a much greater awareness of the main arena for development is within countries. A combination of providing an effective state that can provide schools, hospitals, roads, energy and which is accountable to their citizens. And at the same time strengthening the voice of citizens so they feel self-confidence and the ability to get together and demand changes. It's that combination of active citizens and effective states which is where the main drama of development is and always has been.

So, one change is that we are much more aware of that and within that the whole issue of who holds power, who decides what, rather than concentrating solely on policies and clever ideas you have to look at the issue of power and politics.

Could you explain what you mean by the terms "active citizens" and "effective states"?

If you look at an economy just in terms of GDP per capita then actually you don't need active citizens that much. What you need is a state that provides rule of law, political stability guarantees property rights, an enabling environment for business -- so that businesses can get access to finance, and they are not closed down by corrupt politicians.

Also, the state has to provide an educated healthy workforce and then there is an ever expanding range of things that the state has to do. There is no substitute for that, you cannot privatize all that and still function.

If you look at South Korea, China, Vietnam, Botswana, Costa Rica -- any of those sort of success stories of which there are dozens -- you can always point to an effective state.

We don't see development as just about GDP per capita. If you actually ask poor people what it is they hate about being poor, they often talk about being at the mercy of officials. They talk about not being able to pay the dowry for their kids, they feel as though they look bad and have anxiety about what will happen tomorrow -- e.g. what happens if my husband gets knocked off his rickshaw and we have no safety net at all?

So there are a whole bunch of questions that revolve around rights and the ability of citizens to have rights and enjoy them.

In terms of "active citizens", can this really be applied to places like China at the moment?
I think China's one of those countries where you've seen an effective state drive growth. There is an increasing sense that they are going to have shift on rights and citizenship. It's interesting that the Chinese Government is aware of the potential problems and are starting to think about how they deal with them, but it is a slow process.

I not claiming for a moment that China's example is the right balance between active citizens and effective states. A good example of this is somewhere like Finland, which has no right to be doing as well as it is. In the 1920s and 30s it developed this social contract between citizens and state which has held the country together and go from being essentially a developing country to an industrialized country.

There are other examples where we've seen active citizenship work -- The Chiquitano Indians in Bolivia where 30 years ago they were essentially feudal serfs and due to their own organization they have gone from there to having their own organization -- electing mayors, senators and eventually a president. And they've just gained the right to a million acres of ancestral land.
Now that climate change is a crucial part of any economic equation, what will this mean for growth in developing countries?

Historically countries like China have developed through a phase of dirty growth -- in terms of general pollution but also carbon emissions. But most countries become cleaner as they get more developed. The problem now is that the environmental limits are such that you can't have the rest of the world following that path now.

The real concern is that our leaders are saying they will do low carbon development but they don't have a single role model to follow. They underestimate the scale of the challenge and they also look in the wrong place for the challenge.

Yes, the challenge is technological, but I'd say it's primarily a political challenge. Take the United States for example. A recent paper by Nicholas Stern says that in the long term we have to get to a world where the allowance of carbon is one ton per year. Current emissions in the U.S. are twenty tons per person, per year.

Yes, technology is crucial if we want to go from twenty tons to one ton, but there is a huge amount of politics to get the U.S. to agree that we should all have the same carbon allowance.
You've really got to convince the U.S. that an Indian has the same right to carbon as Americans. Politically, that is going to be very challenging. And even within India that a rich person has one ton and so does a pauper.

What happens if you don't achieve that? Carbon will be catastrophic for climate change, not for everybody, but it will be for poor people especially in the tropical zones.

What's your opinion on the situation with biofuels?

Biofuels is a really good illustration of what happens in a major scarcity, in that the U.S. and the European desire for energy security is outweighing developing countries need for food.

In general, there are two problems. First generation biofuels aren't much good and the second problem has been not to distinguish both between different first generation biofuels and first and second generation biofuels.

You've got a situation now where some biofuels are, net, worse for the climate. Even ones that are not, there is a huge lack of knowledge as to what their final carbon footprint is.

We need to do far more research, far more quickly, distinguish between different biofuels and be much clearer about their carbon imprint and their social impact.

In the book you talk about concentration of power within markets. What is your prescription for how that power might be dispersed?

A fairly traditional one really. If you have one company negotiating with a million small farmers the company is in a very strong position and the farmers are in a very weak position because they are negotiating individually. If a million small farmers have an organization or a producer co-op they are in a much better position to negotiate a better deal. So it really is about organization of the power of the people who are currently powerless in markets and then the state creating a facility to enable them to benefit.

The classic one is finance. If you can't get credit as a farmer you're stuffed. Lots of small farmers find it ridiculously hard to get credit.

You describe the role of the IMF and the World Bank in development as "hugely controversial" and "in many eyes, profoundly destructive". How are they destructive and how can they improve?

One example of the IMF's destructive role is that they are so worried about inflation in developing countries that they place a salary cap on public employees. At the same time the World Bank is pushing for a greater provision of education and health. It's not coherent. Teachers are paid so little that they have to get second jobs. So you have recruitment problems and you can't deliver on the basic role of the state when you have such tight control.

Part of the problem is that the IMF is very central. It's in the wrong place, it's in Washington.
The World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations were set up as part of a post-war settlement sixty years ago. Things have really changed and there are real growing pains in international system in terms of responding to the rise of China and India and in terms of responding to the shift of economic issues. There are a whole bunch of problems of which climate change is just the latest, where the International system isn't fit for purpose. I think there is agreement that it is not fit for purpose but there isn't agreement about what to do about it.

You say in the book that there are examples of increasing gender equity and that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty. Could you give some examples how increased access to education is benefiting women and girls?

The spread of primary education, both in terms of the whole population, but particularly to girls has a number of really important consequences. It leads to a rapid drop in fertility rates. As a comparison of China's one child policy with Kerala's -- south India -- provision of education. One is coercive and abusive and one is empowering and they both get the same results.

It's not just about fertility rates. The spread of female education leads to changes in domestic relations, women who have been to school are less likely to be abused at home and are more likely to get jobs, manage their own finances and be more independent. There are a huge range of benefits.

Children of educated women are less likely to be malnourished, so it goes on to the next generation as well, breaking the cycle of poverty. It's happened in a number of countries -- Sri Lanka has been really successful in providing universal education even though it's a pretty poor country.

When the next Oxfam report comes out, what do you hope will have happened or have been achieved?

Say we do the next report in 2020. We will look back on today and say; wow, we just got out in the nick of the time. We created a global system similar to the creation of the welfare state or the "New Deal". We now have a global new deal which has enabled us to just get under the wire on climate change and prevent some of the worst impacts. It has allowed for everyone to have a kind of minimum decency -- no one has less than a dollar a day -- and there are some basic minimum standards. That's the hope.

Poll position

Heng Chivoan; The campaign season began today with all the major parties making a showing on the streets of Phnom Penh.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bedecked convoys of trucks and motorbikes honking and hauling flag-waving political party activists further crowded Phnom Penh’s congested streets on Thursday, letting Cambodia know its official election campaign season had begun.

Eleven parties are courting votes for the July 27 general election, hoping to gain position if not power in parliament for the next five years; only the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with insider influence and money to spare, is expected to dominate.

While reports of political violence and intimidation are far fewer than previous election cycles, opposition parties, rights groups and observers all have charged that the CPP’s stranglehold on the media, along with a series of relatively subtle acts of coercion, threatens the election’s credibility.

Thousands packed CPP headquarters early Thursday morning, where the party’s 57th anniversary celebration coincided with the campaign launch. Party President Chea Sim claimed improved stability, economy, infrastructure and standards of living as CPP achievements and urged civility in all quarters during the election run-up.

“I believe the elections will go smoothly and successfully and be free and fair,” he told the crowd, before it broke into droves and took to the streets.

Chea Sim’s sentiment was not echoed among the CPP’s challengers, but, caught up in the roving mayhem that was Thursday’s electioneering, opposition activists spoke optimistically.

“I hope that Funcinpec will get 70 percent in the national election,” said 67-year-old Reach Li Nga, whose party has been racked by infighting and defections since the last elections in 2003.

Traffic snarls aside, Day 1 went without incident.

Lun Chheng Kay, president of the Phnom Penh Election Committee, said that this election cycle has so far progressed more smoothly than those in the past. He attributed the calm to an improved understanding of campaign decorum.

“I hope and trust all the political parties will not make problems during the campaign,” Chheng Kay said.

Raucous Rallies Sweep Through Capital

Prime Minister Hun Sen, a candidate for Kandal province, joined Cambodian People's Party rallies in Phnom Penh Thursday.

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (747 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (747 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Five major parties undertook noisy, elaborate campaigning in Phnom Penh Thursday, sweeping supporters through the capital's thoroughfares and side streets to the banging of drums, shouting of supporters and blasting of songs, new and old.

Party supporters followed their leaders, bedecked in new T-shirts and ball caps bearing party logos, and adorned with face stickers of party symbols or, simply, the numbered slot each party holds on the ballot.

Police sedans, sirens silent, headlights flashing, led the convoys, along with National Election Committee vehicles, keeping the streets relatively snarl free and preventing clashes between opposing supporters.

The major parties, Cambodian People's, Funcinpec, Sam Rainsy, Norodom Ranariddh and Human Rights, hung pictures and slogans on cars and motorcycles, to parade through the capital. No minor parties held rallies in Phnom Penh, reserving their efforts for the rural areas.

The ruling CPP, fourth on the ballot, used around 100 trucks and numerous motorcycles, loaded with activists, bringing together about 13,000 people, a spokesman said. Prime Minister Hun Sen, a candidate for Kandal province, joined, as party loudspeakers broadcast messages of relief for the poor.

"Bravo, nation, religion and king!" people shouted from trucks.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the CPP would only hold rallies at the beginning and end of the campaign period, which runs between June 26 and July 25.

The CPP also mounted large TVs on trucks, which broadcast activities of CPP leaders in rural areas, as well as sports, a new campaign technique this year, Khieu Kanharith said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, festooned in jasmine flowers, stood in the back of a rally truck, his palms pressed in a sampeas to supporters and crowds that gathered outside homes and shops. Sam Rainsy, whose opposition party is No. 9 on the ballot, is competing for a parliamentary seat in Kampong Cham.
(Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, competing for a seat in Kampong Cham province, led rallies in Phnom Penh Thursday.)
The convoy slowly passed Central Market, broadcasting political messages and pop songs with altered lyrics, such as, "Change, change, change." In one song, a woman sings to a suitor, promising to marry him after the SRP wins the election.

Funcinpec held a quick rally of 100 trucks in Phnom Penh, before taking the convoy to Kampong Cham province, where party president Keo Puthreaksmey is competing.

HRP President Kem Sokha, also competing for a seat in Kampong Cham, and other party leaders led about 70 trucks and an estimated 5,000 supporters in yellow shirts and caps.
"What party do you vote for?" supporters called. "Human Rights Party, No. 11 on the ballot!" came the response.

Around 3,000 activists joined the NRP, No. 1 on the ballot, for its rally of 50 trucks, and an official said the campaign showed that even in the absence of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is in exile, the party still had the power to gather support.

"Please vote for Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and vote for the Norodom Ranariddh Party," voices sang to a recorded traditional drum beat.

Election observers said the process in Phnom Penh went smoothly, and no incidents of violence were reported.

Competing Parties Clamor for Rural Support

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Cambodia
26 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (2.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (2.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Campaigning began in earnest in the provinces Thursday, with large and small parties employing separate strategies to capture the attention of voters.

VOA Khmer reporters in Battambang, Kampong Cham, Pailin, Siem Reap and Kampot provinces, reported party rallies and meetings in provincial capitals and canvassing of smaller villages.

In Battambang, the Cambodian People's, Funcinpec, Norodom Ranariddh, Sam Rainsy and Society of Justice parties organized convoys of trucks, cars and motorcycles stocked with supporters, projecting political messages from loudspeakers. Every party campaigned in the province except the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party.

In Kampong Cham, only Funcinpec and NRP held mass gatherings in the capital, driving through downtown Kampong Cham, crossing each other's path once, without incident.

In Pailin, only the CPP showed a presence, holding a meeting at their municipal headquarters before amassing a rally on the street. The CPP's campaign was then divided into small groups to spread throughout villages in the afternoon.

Three parties gathered in Kampot town, SRP, Funcinpec and the Human Rights Party. The CPP planned to hold a rallies Friday in Kampot and Kampong Cham.

Minor parties chose to forego the main towns, holding instead small rallies in villages and communes in Battambang, Kampong Cham and Kampot.

In Siem Reap, the biggest rally was held by the CPP, with loudspeaker convoys, whose vehicles carried slogan banners, passing through the streets of the main town. The SRP held a rally at its provincial headquarters, with small groups afterward passing through villages.

Funcinpec had a limited presence in Siem Reap on opening day, as minor parties distributed leaflets in villages.

10 Parties Promise Anti-Corruption Law

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (1.27 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 June 2008 (1.27 MB) - Listen (MP3)

With the election one month away, 10 of the country's 11 competing political parties have signed a declaration to pass anti-corruption legislation if brought to power in July.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party has not responded to a request from the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations Against Corruption, which was sent to each party and asked for cooperation in passing an anti-corruption law of international standards.

"The Cambodian People's Party has not replied to [the coalition] because we have done a draft law on corruption already," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, accusing the coalition of ignorance of Cambodian law.

The draft law on corruption has been at the Council of Ministers for more than a decade.

The current government is not willing to pass a corruption law because many officials are corrupt, said Mam Sitha, president the Independent Committee Against Corruption and chairman of the Peace and Transparency for Human Rights Group.

"Because of the corruption in Cambodia, we lose $300 million to $500 million per year," she said. "That means we lose $1 million per day."